BALANCE

Looking for ways to de-stress?

Tap into your creative side

woman painting

BY NICOLE NEAULT
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2016

Stress is a normal part of the human condition.

There are times when we may invite stress into our life – when we start a new job, learn a new skill, move, or decide to become a parent. The stress from these situations or experiences can bring meaning and purpose into our lives and support the development of self-esteem and life satisfaction.

There is also stress that is uninvited – a loss, an injury or accident, a physical or verbal assault, or an unexpected financial expense. Along with all the day-to-day stressors that impact us, like snarls in traffic, family responsibilities, or pressures from work or school, we may at times end up feeling empty, frustrated, tired, and resentful. 

We often underestimate the amount of stress that we are experiencing and ignore the signals that our body is giving us. It may be trying to tell us that our battery is being drained and that we need to re-charge. Perhaps, we are so used to the stimulation of stress, the tension and strain, that it seems normal.

How we respond to stress is unique for each of us. Depending on our personality, life experiences, coping strategies, and level of support and connection, we will respond, adapt, and recover from stress in our own way. So, it makes sense that we need a variety of ways to re-charge our battery. There is no “one size fits all” approach.

Of course, there are some key ways we can care for ourselves that strengthen our capacity to deal with stress: eating healthy, physical activity, adequate sleep, and talking with someone you trust. However, it is also important to look at what strengthens us on a more personal level.

Tapping into the creative side of our personality can benefit all of us and can improve overall health and well-being. Exploring and finding creative pastimes can reduce stress, induce relaxation, support a sense of identity, and even create social connections that may not have existed otherwise.

People do not always consider connecting to their creative self to help them de-stress. They are unaware that a creative outlet or activity could provide them with the strength to persevere when life gets tough. Others may believe that they have no talent or that they need a high level of skill to benefit. Perhaps there is a fear that they will be ridiculed or criticized, as they may have been in the past.

We all have a creative self within us at some level – it just might need a little attention. Finding out what is meaningful and enjoyable and exploring our own perspective of creativity is what matters. It might mean that we pursue a new skill or further develop an existing one. Like a child, we can be curious and open to new discoveries.

The range of possibilities to strengthen and connect to our creative side is extensive. It might be helpful to ask yourself a few questions: What kind of activity would you like to pursue? Would you like to try something new, or is there a hobby or interest that has given you satisfaction in the past? Or perhaps, someone you know participates in an activity that looks interesting or fun? Do you want to pursue a group activity or pursue something on your own? What is the first step you need to take in order to try that new activity?

Not sure where to begin? Consider these possibilities.

Embrace your inner artist:  Creative activities to strengthen our mental well-being and increase our sense of competence could include activities like writing, crosswords, drawing, video filmmaking or improvisational comedy. You may also want to try journalling thoughts and feelings, painting, colouring, photography, or playing musical instruments.

Get crafty: Making things with your hands can also help relieve stress. Try building with wood, wire, clay or metal. Knitting, sewing, or cooking are also great options.

Get physical: Physical movement has been known to strengthen our immune system and reduce anxiety and depression. Creative movement activities could include yoga, dancing, skating, or community theatre. Organizing a closet, painting or decorating a room are activities that can make us feel better and reduce stress. Even everyday walking can be rejuvenating when we allow ourselves to take in the surroundings with all of our senses.

Connect with oneself or nature: Meditation or prayer may be a fit for some people looking to relieve the pressures of the day. Others may enjoy connecting to nature through birdwatching, gardening, or spending time with animals. 

Teach others: Sharing our talents with others by teaching someone else a skill can also bring fulfillment and a sense of dedication. When we participate in creative arts groups or spend time with other creative people, it can enhance our sense of belonging. An opportunity to develop new friendships and meaningful connections and emotional support in times of difficulty is possible. 

As you can see, the options are endless. Why not make a decision to discover or re-discover, explore and incorporate more creativity into your life? Think about what offers you peace, joy, and satisfaction and then shift your energy into doing more of whatever that is, if only a little bit each day.

Nicole Neault is a Mental Health Promotion Facilitator with the Winnipeg Health Region.

Wave: November / December 2016

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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