A lot of this blog is about finding balance. I focus a lot on how creativity and happiness can reduce stress levels, but sometimes you do need to seek professional help. With everything going on in my own life, my anxiety levels have been soaring. I talked to my doctor and we are trying the med route to see how it goes. It is not instant, magic, you are cured. It takes patience. I have been borderline anxiety attack mode at least three times this week, but managed to talk myself down from it. Since I am a researcher, I know that this can be a side effect during the first couple of weeks. Unfortunately, too many people stop taking meds when the side effects kick in. This is never a good idea. It is important to talk to your doctor and never stop a med without medical advice.
So what has my anxiety flaring? Well, we are moving to a new rental in the next couple of weeks which is never fun. Our landlord has decided to sell the house rather than extend our lease. This is the second time this has happened to us in the past three years. Finding a rental in our price range that also lets us have the two dogs was a daunting prospect, but thankfully it all worked out for us. I am in the field research stage of my dissertation study and scheduling all the interviews that are needed will now probably not happen until after the move. We are also moving on to the hearing stage of the disability process for my husband. So of course money is tight on the one paycheck, thankfully I have side hustles to help supplement the income. Oh, and we have a teenager at home with all the mood swings that come with him. Yay!
So if you are feeling overwhelmed in life, know that you are not alone. Reach out to some to talk be it a friend, relative, or professional. When stress builds up, it can manifest in physical symptoms as well as mental ones. It is important to take care of your mental health just as you would your physical health.
I haven’t posted an update in almost a month, but I have been busy. I am currently halfway through the current quarter and trying to keep up with all my course work. In fact, I will have a post up later this week as part of an assignment for my Social Media course. It will be all about Personal Learning Networks.
I did have a post ready to go about how much I love the micro investing service Betterment, but then the Dow dropped 666 points and then over 1000 points. Not that I had a lot invested as it was, but I really was not liking the feeling of losing $20 in the a matter of a week. It is one thing for it to dip into my interest, but now it is dipping into the investment deposits. I am not liking this feeling, but with any type of investing, you need to be in it for the long haul as the market will have its ups and downs.
I do have good news! In fact lots of good news…the first one is that my dissertation proposal finally made it past my supervising professor and I am now waiting on committee feedback to see if I am really to defend the proposal. Once that happens, I will begin the field research stage of my doctoral dissertation process. Yay! One step closer to being Dr Jen.
The second piece of good news I have is that my husband has just launched a website called Life-ing 101 which will be a collection of life hacks, tips, and so much more about well… living. It is more than just adulting, it is about thriving. Stop by and check it out!
February is a short month, but I have plans…I hope to get some more recipes up and I am also working on a couple of review posts, my goal for the month is to read at least a book a week. Honestly, my to be read pile on my kindle of advance reader copies is getting kind of overwhelming. Make sure to check out the Recommendations tab for book and product suggestions.
If you have found this blog, then welcome. Currently, the site is undergoing some renovations as I upgrade and import my old blog to a new host. It has been a while since I have posted an entry, but with everything going on in my life, I decided that I needed a creative outlet. I should know a lot about creativity, I am getting my doctorate in it!
So why do I need a creative outlet? Well, the doctorate for one. On top of that, for the past couple of months, my husband has been on medical leave as we tried to figure out what is wrong with him. Did I mention that this was unpaid leave? So, yeah, finances have been a little tight. Thankfully, I do have a full-time job. But I have also had to take on a lot of other responsibilities that were usually handled by him since now his illness makes him a little brain foggy and forgetful. Cue Twenty One Pilot’s Stressed Out!
So why blogging as a creative outlet? Well, here is the research (doctorate, remember?)
According to a study conducted in 2014 by the American Psychological Association (APA), 77% of the people surveyed reported regularly feeling stressed. An almost equal percentage of 73% reported experiencing psychological symptoms caused by stress. Half of those responding reported experiencing a negative impact to their personal and professional lives. The cost to employers for stress related health care or missed work is over $300 billion (American Institute of Stress, 2016). Stress is an epidemic plaguing many Americans. It can affect their relationships, their work, and their health. However, through making small “c” type creative endeavors part of their daily routine, an individual can see a positive return on their emotional well-being that can lead not only to a lessening of stress levels, but also prevention.When we are stressed, the body goes into protection mode. Our blood pressure rises, heart beats faster, and our senses become more alert. According to Abbott (1998), “our hormones can also
When we are stressed, the body goes into protection mode. Our blood pressure rises, heart beats faster, and our senses become more alert. According to Abbott (1998), “our hormones can also rise the levels of fat, sugar, and cholesterol in the bloodstream” (para. 5). When we are stressed, it can affect our mood and interactions with other people such as being short-tempered and irritable. It can also lead to sleep disturbances, constant colds, and in some extreme cases: death. Overall, being in a constant state of stress is unhealthy for us physically as well as emotionally.
According to Runco (2014), “[c]reativity can help the individual maintain both psychological and physical health” (pg. 110). While many creatives face a stigma of the “mad genius” where the creative is believed to be so immersed in creative work to the point that they let their mental and physical health suffer, that example has more to do with manic type states and does not actually categorize every creative. Actually, creativity can help to alleviate stress and build a more positive mood. Nicol and Long found that music hobbyists with low levels of stress were among the group that had the highest amount of creativity (Runco, 2014). Creative endeavors are one way to cope with the buildup of emotions that need to be let loose.
Maslow (1971) also describes a need for creativity as being part of his Hierarchy of Needs. Creativity is part of the highest tier of the pyramid because creativity is part of what is needed for the individual to reach that stage of Self-Actualization. Artist and author, Julia Cameron (2002) refers to this as “discovering a sense of perspective”. She recounts the story of a woman named Sarah who was described by many to be high-strung, crazy, and nervous. This woman went from therapist to therapist, treatment to treatment. It wasn’t until she began to use creativity tools as part of her daily routine that she began to find balance in her life.
A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who do small creative projects report feeling happier and more relaxed (Lewis, 2016). According to the study, “[i]ntervention designs are still relatively rare in creative research […], but research suggests that art-making interventions can reduce stress and anxiety” (Conner, DeYoung, & Silvia, 2016, pg. 2). In fact, the study found that the effects of small creative endeavors, small “c” tasks, could induce states of “flourishing”, as described by Csikszentmihalyi theory of flow states. These states were recorded as lasting longer, up to a day longer, than the time the participant invested into the activity. If emotions can have an effect on levels of creativity (Runco, 2014), then it makes sense that the inverse is also true where engaging in creative endeavors can have a similar effect on emotions resulting in a more positive mood and therefore reducing stress levels.
Stress Reduction Strategies
One suggestion on how to beat stress is to play music; however, music alone is not enough to beat stress. Researchers from the Stanford School of Medicine found that when played in conjunction with stress-reduction techniques, stress levels dropped for the participants in their study. They found that upbeat music was also the best selection to play during the activity (Harrar, 1999). A study of the relation of knitting towards stress reduction stated that many people choose hobbies as a way to reduce stress because these types of activities can provide a distraction from the stressor and also provide the individual with a feeling of control in the situation (Utsch, 2007). While avoiding a problem is not healthy, immersing the self into an activity like knitting can induce a feeling of concentration that allows for a more mindful and present sense of being. There may also be connections to Csikszentmilhalyi’s concept of flow and Torrance’s studies of Japanese satori (Runco, 2014). Similarly to knitting, baking is another small creative activity that can provide focus and control (Lewis, 2016).
Journaling and creative writing are another method for relieving stress and contributing to positive mood building. Building on the work of Maslow’s self-actualization, researchers have found that if an individual participated in positive-writing, this was followed by an increase in mood and well-being. The study also found that writing created an outlet for solving problems and working through difficult experiences. In addition to affecting mood, there was also a documented increase in immune function as well (Lowe, 2006). As was mentioned in the work of Lowe (2007), positive-writing can increase mood and well-being. However, it is also important to record moments of triumph or success. Dr. Stacy Shaw Welch, Director of the Anxiety and Stress Reduction Center of Seattle recommends keeping a folder of past successes and referring to that folder when struggling or feeling anxious about a current project. By doing this, it can lay waste to the internal squelchers that distract us from believing that we are capable of accomplishing our goals (Weiner, 2007). According to Runco (2014), it is important to not only stimulate a good mood, but also to know why one is in a good mood. Therefore, it is important to keep notes or some type of journaling for reflection purposes as well as being able to analyze what task or routine was being completed that lead to the good mood.
Runco (2014) also suggests as creative tools the idea of shifting the perspective of a problem so you can see it from another angle or turning it upside down. The benefits of looking at something from a new angle is that it can inspire renewed interest in the problem which can generate new ideas and it also can change the perspective enough that new ideas will be generated because things will no longer be looked at as obstacles. A major way of changing your perspective may be leaving the problem entirely, taking a break and trying something new or even traveling. Runco (2014) states that traveling produces excitement as it can be stimulating. This change in mood can facilitate creativity as well as help people to be more grounded. They may even produce those aha moments because the individual is no longer so focused on the thing that was stressing them that they are finally able to think clearly.
So that brings us to the blog…this is actually part of a creativity project that I came up with a couple of quarters ago for one of my classes. I just never put it into action. The idea was to blog about things like gratitude, productivity, recipes, books—all the things that I am obsessed with. By writing about these things, I would be participating in a form of journaling. Maybe in the process of reducing my stress levels, I can also help you reduce some of yours. So welcome on this journey with me and I hope it can bring you some inspiration.
PS—If you are wondering about the Orange Frog, then I suggest you check out this training. Highly recommended if you are interested in spreading gratitude and flipping the social script to be a more positive one.
Conner, T.S., DeYoung, C.G., & Silvia, P.J. (2016). Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing. In The Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049
Cameron, J. (2002). Walking in this world: the practical art of creativity. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam.
Diener, E., Wirtz, D., Tov, W., Kim-Prieto, C., Choi, D., Oishi, S., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2009). New measures of well-being: Flourishing and positive and negative feelings. Social Indicators Research, 39, 247-266.