Thursday, November 4, 2010

Therapeutic Thursday: Talking about Stress

 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.
Stress Painting

Stage 1 - Mobilizing Energy
At first, your body releases adrenaline, your heart beats faster, and you start to breathe more quickly.
Stage 2 - Consuming Energy Stores
If, for some reason, you do not escape from the first stage, your body begins to release stored sugars and fats from its resources. At this stage, you will feel driven, pressured and tired. You may drink more coffee, smoke more, and drink more alcohol than is good for you. You may also experience anxiety, memory loss, catch colds or get the flu more often than normal.
Stage 3 - Draining Energy Stores
If you do not resolve your stress problems, the body's need for energy will become greater than its ability to produce it, and you will become chronically stressed. At this stage, you may experience insomnia, errors in judgement, personality changes and maybe a serious illness, such as ulcers.

Stress Painting
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:

Take a large piece of paper. Have lots of paint. Start by doing some deep breathing and centering. Standing and moving the whole body, make large arm movements and paint large circles. Work big until your body feels relaxed and stretched, then start coming in smaller by making smaller shapes while saying out loud or to yourself things you want to release about the day. Keep working smaller until you reach the size you want to continue working at. Then paint one thing that you enjoyed about the day. This painting usually is abstract with lots of colors and feelings. It is a good stress releaser, try it.

Stress Painting

References for Stress:

Books on stress:

Art Therapy and Stress:

Good blogs slowing down, relaxing, reflecting:


nacherluver said...

I love this post! How very therapeutic, cleansing and helpful your exercise is. Thank you for this post. I will have to free myself and try this.

nancy said...

some great ideas here for relieving stress. I also find that focusing on a painting intensely is a great stress reliever too as it becomes almost meditation.

Karen Wallace said...

Thanks for the great comments. Hugs to you both. Karen

Jennifer White said...

This post is perfect timing, Karen...I think that a little tiny bit of stress keeps us on our toes, but I am also one of those people where stress creeps in to the physcial...manifesting itself in a migraine or stomach issues. I think you hit the nail on the head when you emailed me earlier this week... with the advice of how to channel it in to something constructive like journaling or painting... I need to get myself a new journal and start putting these things onto a page... xo

Anonymous said...

Wonderful timing--this is just what I needed. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I needed to read that.
Biting back words over a dog-neglect issue has resulted in some cool tmj stuff.
Just did a huge dog walk and some relaxing blog hopping to land here and be gently reminded...

breathe in and breathe out..

TOMAS said...

While reading your wonderful post, I was put under a charm, closed my eyes and imagined that I have lots of paints...I didn't delay to take the largest piece of paper and the real miracle happened indeed - what was just a dream started to sparkle with fabulous colors. Peace overfilled my heart and the beauty of my surroundings sat me back in an awe...
Unfortunately, that miracle didn't last for a long. I awaken and the reality reminded the cost of art materials to me.
Does that mean that art therapy is available just for few elected? While the multitudes thirst literally just few can allow themselves to relax through drawing.
All you are writing about is true, and that grieves the most. While art therapy offers the drugs, it's not personal consciousness but the politics of our countries that make our choice to use or not to use the wise prescriptions.

Karen Wallace said...

Tomas, hello. It is not hard to buy cheap art materials for low prices. There are many Art Therapy programs through different agencies that make Art Therapy available to those who could not pay for therapy. Art Therapy is widely by all, not a select few. Warmly, Karen


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