The Root Cause of Stress
Let’s think about what we are doing when our feelings of stress and anxiety are absent. We tend to be focusing on an objective. When immersed in a work project, we tend to forget about our problems. When pushing weight off our chests, tumbling on a mat, practicing vinyasa or any other form of focused exercise, our problems leave our minds. If we are playing with our children, laughing over drinks with friends or making love, the overwhelming challenges of our lives are gone briefly. It seems that concentrated focus relieves stress naturally. The problem for most of us with focus being a solution to anxiety is that we are only capable of it for brief periods of time.
While at work, you are bound to hit speed bumps that break your concentration. We get interrupted by meetings, phone calls and the need to eat lunch. Some people are better at maintaining focus at work than others. Ever notice that while ultra productive people tend to be emotional and animated, general anxiety does not seem to be one of their top problems? When it comes to working out, we can only do it a couple of times a day at most, so that is a very temporary solution to stress and anxiety. We reserve Friday and Saturday nights to socializing and drinking. Consuming alcohol anymore than that is not a solution to anything anyways. So, if finding concentrated focus is a practice that allows us to relieve stress, what can we do to maintain that focus?
Concentration and Creativity
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The one thing involving focus that all people seem capable of doing for extended periods of time, and that is not harmful to our health, is being creative. Whether you are a painter, writer, musician, sculptor, or embrace some other form of artistry, being creative can help you fend off stress and anxiety. The details that go into making a piece of art worth ogling over, takes tremendous amounts of concentration. The famous impressionist French painter, Charles Angrand, used a painting method known as pointillism. He would actually paint a massive canvas with nothing other than small dots of paint, but when he stood back, an entire scene full of much larger details unfolded before him. You can imagine how long it would take to make a piece of art with such detail.
Now, having explained that, I know artists are notorious for having stress and anxiety. Like so many techniques to relieve stress, this particular strategy also requires perspective. Trying to make a career as a painter, author or sculptor is an entirely different discussion. However, if we are talking about being creative as a hobby, then the stress of meeting deadlines and being able to pay bills are subtracted from the equation.
What about simply observing someone else’s art? I have always been struck by the blank stares I see in many people’s eyes when they enter a museum, as if being there is a boring and tedious chore. To appreciate art, you must take a close look at it. If you do, you can then see the techniques the artist put into the piece, you can see how they were feeling when they made it and you also see who they are as a person. If you can get your brain to see art the same way you would watch a movie or read a book, art becomes something entirely new. It has a calming effect.
Most people though, enjoy making art of some sort. They make food, build legos, landscape, quilt, and dive into all sorts of artistic work. While trying to comprehend someone else’s creativity can be a therapy, the desire to make art of our own is even more alluring. I have a cousin that became obsessed with classical sideshow strong men that could bend railroad spikes with their bare hands. He spent all of his time trying to bend these spikes himself until his forearm muscle became so large that he could bend these thick spikes easily, and eventually could even do the same to crowbars. He turned bending thick metal into art and created massive sculptures of trees and ravens. The point is that whatever drives you to be creative can become a lifelong therapy technique for stress and anxiety.
If you are sitting at home feeling bored or if you are anguishing over missed opportunities and past mistakes, find that inner artist. Get creative and push yourself to set up your materials and dive into something. Let the creative juices flow. It does not matter if you produce something magnificent. It is only important to always find something of value in anything you do. It may be that when you are done, you’ve become inspired to do something else, or found a slew of ideas for something unrelated to art. People that make a living being creative often fill their work space with things that are drastically different. They may have some odd figurines they collected in their travels in some places, starkly different pieces of artwork in other places and unmatching furniture. They set up their work space in this way because all the different colors and designs make the neurons in their brains fire randomly helping them with creative thought.
See, it’s science. Familiarity subdues our creative side. If you are stuck at home, if you never change your living or work space, then there is nothing surrounding you to inspire new ideas. Finding new ideas and focusing yourself on creativity can lead to producing worthwhile work. It also happens to be something that can distract you from your anxieties and stress. Creativity helps you be the best you that you can be by focusing your mind on something you are passionate about and giving you purpose. It is in this way that creativity can help with stress. It distracts you from your problems and instead focuses your mind on the future and finding solutions.