Category: Stress management

Get in touch with your creativity

Although everyone has a creative side, (known as your ‘right brain’), and a logical side, (known as your ‘left brain’), some people find it a challenge to get in touch with their creative side because they are conditioned to remain on a path which is conventional and proven.
Being creative means being prepared to think ‘outside the box’ and think of new and original ways to do things.

You may wonder how you could get in touch with your creative side. Here are three ways to do this:

Relax
When you want to be creative it’s very important to release any tension from  your body so that your mind can be open to new experiences and not be pre-occupied with dealing with tension or stress. It’s possible to relax very quickly if you take three or four deep breaths while consciously thinking to yourself that as you breathe out you are releasing tension and as you breathe in you are taking in relaxation.  In your relaxed state pick up a pen and start to write down all the potential ways forward you could take to achieve what you want. You might instead find that you would like to use paints instead or a musical instrument to express your new found creativity and explore where it leads you.

Visualise
Once you are fully relaxed  begin to think about the project you are attempting to complete and allow your mind to wander over various possibilities rather than immediately going for the obvious logical way to do it.  Close your eyes ask yourself what ways there might be to solve or succeed with your project and notice the scenarios which appear in your mind as you do this. You may notice pictures sounds or emotions or a combination of all three. Then imagine yourself moving into the scenario you are thinking about and in that way discover for yourself what might or might not work for you and others. While you consider each possibility and visualise or daydream as if you were already there, you can discover what other people might or might not be doing in relation to you if what you imagine actually happened, and what they are saying to you and others. Be aware  of any emotions that come up for you when you visit the various scenarios. Keep a notebook handy to jot down your experiences and insights as a result of your visualisation.

Experiment
It’s easy to dismiss unusual or different solutions which you haven’t tried  before but it’s important to be prepared to experiment and play with them. Sometimes what is needed is just doing anything even if you are uncertain of the potential outcome.People often think of all the possible ways that something won’t work and as a result dismiss the idea of trying as an experiment to see what would happen. The reality is that we can’t foretell the future however much we’d like to, so it’s useful to go forward into it in a creative and exciting new way.

How do you unlock your creativity? Add your comments in the box below.

Get your stress levels under control

By Susan Edmunds

Whether it’s caused by the demands of a full-on job, the struggle to balance family and work commitments or a one-off event such as moving house, stress is familiar to most people.

Good or bad, when you face pressure, your body’s instinct to defend itself kicks in. Stress is a natural response but if it goes on too long it can become a mental and physical problem. A lot of successful people say they are driven by stress – but how do you know when stress is changing from a positive, motivating force to a negative one?

Mary Grogan, of Change It Psychology, says psychologists refer to eustress (that results in increased productivity) versus distress (a long-term drain on your system).

“Eustress might be felt before an important performance – it can help us focus and perform well under pressure,” she says. “Typically stress becomes a problem when it is affecting one or more areas of your life; for example you might be tired and irritable most of the time, which affects those you live with, so there are more fights, and this has become a regular pattern. The optimal amount of stress differs for each of us so we need to define it individually and not compare it with others.”

The first step is to recognise you are stressed, and what you think might be causing it. Then work out what, if anything, is in your power to change. Can you break down a seemingly insurmountable problem into a series of more realistic ones, do more planning for an upcoming stressful event, resolve conflicts that are playing on your mind, increase the amount of exercise you do, or sleep and eat better?

Grogan says people should recognise the impact stress has on their lives and consider what it could be like in three or six months, if nothing changes.

“For most of us to change our behaviour, we need to recognise the current methods aren’t working and it’s worth spending time and energy figuring out methods that might be better,” she says. “For example if you’ve noticed your hours of work have crept up in recent months, and your ability to exercise, eat healthily, and catch up with friends and family has decreased, ask yourself how long you think that is sustainable.”

Once you know something has to happen, the next move is easier. If you know your job is causing your increased stress, for example, you can start making changes to fix it. Talk to your boss about limiting your overtime, or see if there are ways to make your workload more manageable.

But it can be easy to feel powerless if the thing causing most of your stress is out of your control. Grogan says this sort of stress can benefit from professional intervention: “Figure out which parts of a problem you might have to let go of. Remind yourself of the saying: ‘Grant me the ability to change the things I can, serenity to accept the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference’. You may need help coming to a point of acceptance with some thorny issues, such as people dying or being made redundant from your job.”

Keeping an eye on the way you feel throughout the day can help you keep on top of stress. “Awareness of your moment-by-moment daily experience is something we teach to prevent stress. You can do this by being aware of small things throughout the day that change your mood from feeling okay to feeling down/anxious/stressed/angry. Notice the thoughts, body sensations and feelings that accompany these changes so you don’t react, but respond effectively to whatever comes up.”

Diaphragmatic breathing – deep breathing that expands your abdomen rather than your chest when you inhale – is a good way to calm down when you feel your stress levels increasing. Change the way you think, too. Grogan says. “Challenging catastrophic thoughts can be useful. If you think ‘I will look like a fool doing this speech’, try telling yourself, ‘It’s natural to be a bit nervous and that can help performance. Most people won’t notice’.”

Combat stress

* Work out the source of the stress.

* Identify the aspects that you have control over and take action, however small.

* Eat well, sleep well and get more exercise.

* Focus on details and slow down.

* Consider professional help to get over stressful things that are beyond your control.
By Susan Edmunds
Copyright ©2011, APN Holdings NZ Limited

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