We all talk about stress, but what is it really? I remember when my daughter was five years old and so excited about having her own art show, then, when the day arrived her joy turned into a bad stomachache. That was stress. It was an outside show and she relieved her aching stomach by lying on the grass most of the day. Unfortunately, we can’t do that at work. If we could react to what our bodies tell us what they want at times of stress, our stress would not build up. Stress comes from both the good and the bad things that happen to us. If we did not feel any stress, we would not be alive! Stress becomes a problem when we are not sure how to handle an event or a situation and we don’t have a way to relieve that worry or stress. Like my daughter, it could start with a stomachache or a headache. We will always have stress or worry about major events in our life: getting married, changing jobs, or getting divorced. We will always have daily hassles: traffic jams or rude people. We need to find a way to release stress. When you find an event stressful, your body undergoes a series of changes, called the stress response.
Coping with Stress
We store and need to release stress mentally (i.e. worry), physically (i.e. constriction, pain), and emotionally (i.e. feeling sad, depressed). My daughter lay on the grass, which helps stretch out a tight stomach, and gave her a sense of grounding or safety. Physical activity can be a great stress reducer. Go for a walk, take up a sport, dig in the garden, or do simple stretching. Stretching relaxes the parts of the body that hold stress. You may find it helpful to learn some relaxation exercises, deep breathing and meditation. For emotional release connecting with another to talk and share your story is an effective cure. When my daughter’s friends showed up and started laughing and talking with her, she let go her fear and belief that having an art show was scary. If you make a habit of taking pressure off yourself by getting rid of your tension (emotional, physical, and mental), you will find yourself less stressed and more able to solve the problems that caused your stress in the first place. Creating art after a busy day working at an office, teaching or whatever you do is a great stress releaser. It gets your body physically moving; helps you get in touch with your emotions and helps you empty your mind of the day’s clutter. Here is a distressing art therapy exercise:
References for Stress:
Books on stress:
Art Therapy and Stress:
Good blogs slowing down, relaxing, reflecting: