We’ve all been there. We all have to deal with stress in our lives. More often than not I feel at least a bit stressed although usually it’s just the normal everyday kind that ebbs and flows with my mood. Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s stress or simply worry, but categorizing these feelings doesn’t typically help make anymore sense of them.
I’ve heard tales about people who are never stressed and I cannot wrap my brain around that concept. Everyone has stress triggers in their lives: work, money, kids, relationships, and the list goes on. They may cause us pain at the time but much of this stress makes us better. It pushes us to grow. It helps us learn. Understanding how we deal with the stress aids us in bettering ourselves by providing the tools to reduce that all encompassing shut-down the factory stress so many of us have experienced too often.
My biggest stressors come through as nagging worries repeated over and over in my mind. Did I do the right thing? Will I meet my deadline? Can I afford it? Usually the worries pass relatively quickly either because there is something else to worry about or because my rational voice squashes the worry with reason and logic. Anything I worry about causes me stress and when the stress reaches a certain level I don’t want to do anything except worry. Being paralyzed by stress is not helpful.
Shutting down, worrying and waiting for the stress to pass used to be my primary approach because doing anything remotely enjoyable in the midst of a bout of extreme stress only added more stress and worry. Upon reaching this stage I knew I needed to learn new more effective ways to deal with the stress or it would fester and become debilitating.
Stress Relief through Writing
Lately I have turned to writing when overwrought by stress. It is something I have wanted to do for a while and provides an outlet for my creative side. Writing allows me to escape from my worries through a form of physical expression that must occur outside of my own internal voice. I implemented three effective writing techniques to help me alleviate the stress.
Writing down my thoughts and feelings in a journal places the emotions enabling my stress into perspective. By expressing myself in a journal I can add a rational viewpoint to the stress encouraging voices in my head that constantly work against me through a circle of worry-doubt-panic-frustration thoughts. Approaching the cause of the stress from a common sense perspective helps me to set aside the emotions which fuel the stress and allows me assess the situation with from a pragmatic point of view.
Generally my blog posts do not directly address the causes, symptoms or the effects of my stress. Even this post discussing stress lacks specifics of the work stress I am currently experiencing. Blogging provides a creative outlet to get my mind off specific issues by approaching them from a wider angle. My logical thinking rushes to the forefront as I craft my supposition and support. For example, looking at stress in general, without focusing on any one specific stressor, has helped me compare the various ways I see myself and others handle stress effectively and ineffectively so I can determine current or new approaches that may work for me.
Working on short stories, novels or any other creative writing helps me to escape from stress into a world of my own creation. Letting go of reality when stress is at its worst can be more difficult, yet at the same time the effects can be so rewarding. The options available with this avenue are truly unlimited. I’ve imagined a character going through the same situation or something even worse and we’ve worked through the issues as a team. I’ve jumped forward to work on the happy ending where everything works out for the best and happiness prevails. Determining what will work in each situation has to feel right to you. I try not to force myself to actively deal with the stress creatively if my brain tells me it would be better to disappear into a world where nothing is wrong.
Moving from shutting out the world to taking deliberate action has been a challenge that is helping me approach stress with a rational and realistic mindset. Directing my emotions into writing refocuses the voice in my head away from negative thoughts to positive and productive ideas. Journaling, blogging and creative writing have all helped me take control of these situation. Engaging in something I enjoy during these times of trouble has been a successful first step to taking back control.
Writing is not my full-time job, so for now writing has not a source of stress for me. For those of you who write either full or part time, can writing help you or do you engage other outlets you rely on to combat stress in your life?