The topic of self care has been fairly ubiquitous on the internet lately. You’ve been inundated with it, but what does it actually mean and what does it have to do with creativity?
Well, everything, it seems.
It turns out that stress and health – and by extension creativity – are inversely related. The more stress you carry, the more damage you can do to your body and soul over the long haul.
Here’s how it works.
When your body is put into a stressful situation, it triggers a release of hormones. This is the classic “fight or flight” you probably learned about back in school. Those hormones flood your system, giving you a burst of energy that can either be used to ward off potential danger, or run from it.
Stress hormones are flushed back out of the body through exercise. If you’re fighting or fleeing, they diminish naturally and bring you back into a balanced state. If you’re not, they don’t.
Most of the time, creative work requires neither fight nor flight. Short of using power tools or breathing in harmful dust, there usually isn’t much that’s outright dangerous – and even less that requires an intense response.
But creative work can be stressful. And emotional stress triggers the same hormonal response as physical stress.
Which means that fight or flight is really fight, flight, or fret.
The problem with fretting is that there’s no related physiological way to get rid of those hormones. The floodgates open, the hormones rush in, but there’s no way to quickly flush them back out. They’re left surging through your system, and they stick around like an unwelcome guest.
Put another way, when we fret about a project that isn’t going as planned, get upset about a creative dilemma, or get stressed about a deadline, we’re pouring unhelpful chemicals into our systems. They’re not inherently bad – if we needed to literally arm wrestle a project or outrun it, we’d be set.
But we don’t. We need to creatively think of a solution.