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Monday, July 4, 2016

Stress is the Ultimate Creativity Killer

I see a lot of articles on what makes us more creative and what steps we can take to make ourselves as creative as possible. I see a fewer on what stops us from being creative. What advice is available is usually in the form of diet advice for thinking more clearly or how to avoid work place distractions.

So what really causes us to lose our creativity. There are a lot of reasonable answers to the question. But at the top of the list has to be "stress". In fact it may be surprising at how many of the other reasons for losing ones creativity could be reverted back to stress as the root cause.

Stress is both a creativity killer and a body killer. There are more than a few studies about how bad stress is physically for us. So it would stand to reason that stress would also impact our brains and our creativity.

We know stress can cause heart attacks, strokes and a host of other physical problems. But we tend to overlook the fact that we also lose our ability to think when we are stressed out. In fact we may lose our cognitive abilities first before we our physical structure degrades to the point of breakdown.

Take for example a man or woman who is extremely stressed about a home situation. Gradually over time it begins to effect their job. Their abilities to think through situations to conclusions or to operate at a higher cognitive level begins to degrade. Some bosses will notice this degenerative effect and question the employee, knowing this is not their typical work flow. If left long enough it will begin to effect the employee in physical ways that become more drastic over time. But the mental abilities are often the first to go. 

It is logical that this breakdown due to stress effects our creative abilities quicker than everything else. Some may argue that its even the first signs of the physical degeneration to come.

If we can stay conscious of this fact then we may be able to identify and take steps when our creative process begins to breakdown. We may not even realize we are stressed out about a situation until much later, but our mental output notices far before hand. 

Sometimes there is no cure for stress except to wait out a situation. Take our employee from above. What if the stressful situation involves a physical illness in loved one. There are few options for curing the stress until the illness either passes or the loved one passes from that illness. 

But if we are at least aware of this mental breakdown, there are things we can do help it a bit. We can meditate more, get extra rest and create mental walls to push aside the stress for short periods of time, strengthening our creativity for short time frames.

Also consider that creativity in itself can be a stress reducer. When I am in my worst stressful moments, if I can just get into my studio and create I can often effectively reduce the stress after I am done creating. It calms me and focuses me because I am no longer focusing on the stress and worrying about solutions. 

This may look cold to some observers. If you are stressing over the sickness or troubles of others then it may look to some as if you are ignoring the problems at hand. But the opposite applies. In reducing your own stress you may be reducing the stress of the situation a bit also. 

Hopefully in many cases the stress is not as severe as an illness or family death. It may be something like a broken down car or lack of funds to pay the rent. Both are never good situations to be in, but are often exactly the situations struggling artists find themselves in. 

Short term stresses like that can build up long term consequences both physically and mentally. But if we can train our minds to set aside such stresses and still create, we can solve our problems easier and with less effect. But if we never get ourselves to the point of thinking logically, then often the problems snowball. So being able to focus on our creativity during these times can sometimes yield unforeseen solutions. 

There is also a theory that if we can train our minds to create even at the worst of times, then we can become masters of the creative process because we can think through any situation at any time. 

So the next time you are stressed. Take just a moment to see how its effecting your cognitive and creative abilities and force yourself to create anyway. Put all your focus on your creativity even if you feel everything you are creating is total crap and after awhile you will be so caught up in what you are doing that the problems begin to recede. Its better for your situation and better for your health.

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