Thanks to the ongoing stress of the pandemic, it’s no wonder many of us have been feeling more tired and uninspired than creative recently. When we understand how the brain functions when we’re under threat or dealing with potentially frightening challenges, it becomes easier to design specific strategies to alleviate the fears that arise both consciously and unconsciously in the face of disruption, thereby supporting creativity.
How to be Creative When You’re Feeling Stressed
According to research, creativity doesn’t just improve our well-being; it can also reduce our stress levels. Recent studies tell us that creative tasks can unlock our imaginations, distract us from our feelings of stress and anxiety, and even prompt our brains to secrete feel-good chemicals
Studies have shown that workplace stress can actually lead to less creative output. So, if you’re feeling stressed, it doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. A minute of stress can be pretty beneficial, But, to be sustainable and keep the ideas flowing tomorrow, it helps to step back and take a different method or style.
Creativity is like a muscle. It must be stretched, challenged, and occasionally pushed past its comfort zone.
Now it’s time to stretch your creative muscles again.
Create a sense of mental safety
Help yourself get into a safer state of mind to be creative with some positive self-talk.
According to research by psychologist Marieke Wyeth, associate professor of psychology at Albion College, we are more creative in the afternoons or other times when we are a little tired.
Avoid saying like
- “I have to be creative”
- “This must happen now”
Try saying like
- “Let’s see what happens”
- “I’m going to explore some potential”
- “I’m going to play with a few thoughts”
Give yourself permission to make mistakes and explore new ideas without judgment.
Trigger a “diffuse-thinking” state
It occurs all over, allowing your brain to connect seemingly unrelated ideas, and opening your mind to new possibilities. Really anything to take a break and take your mind off work. Avoid multitasking to make the most of this mind state
all designed to boost anyone’s creativity in different ways.
Everyone’s different, so you might find that none of these activities help you, but they’re all worth trying.
Try these activities to trigger a “diffuse-thinking” state
Go for a walk
The average person sits between 7 and 15 hours every day.
That’s terrible for your health and your mood, which means it can be terrible for your creativity. Stanford has indicated that walking improves creative thinking. In a follow-up study, HBR found that people who take part in walking meetings are more creative and engaged. Get outside, go for a light walk or take in the view of the trees on the back deck. And I also use that time to spark the next creative project.
I lumped these two together because I do both at the same hour. A few stretches and even 5-10 minutes of meditation gives me a huge boost when I’m running low on sleep. There is energy all around you, giving life to everything on this earth. Meditation is a great way to tap into it. It can’t completely replace sleep but it helps
Certain Types of Consciousness can help us get into a creative state more easily. Consider meditating for just a few minutes a day or, if that’s too intimidating, just spend a minute carefully observing something. You’d be surprised how at the moment you can feel after studying a flower for 60 seconds, and that awareness can help you bring fresh eyes to your work
Read a book
When you haven’t slept much you don’t want to do much walking. Or much that requires physical energy. So you should curl up with a good book, usually in the backyard if it’s a nice day. You can use a meditation app like Headspace to get started and keep you on track, or you can read more about meditation in books like How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Take a short nap
“Short (less than 30 minutes or so) naps have been shown to increase alertness, improve cognitive performance, and improve mood for the rest of the day.
Go to your happy space
Where is your happy space? Is it the lake? art gallery? The garden? Go there! Immerse yourself in an environment where positive thoughts can arise freely.
Indeed, collaborating with and learning from others may be just what you need to give your creativity a boost. Reach out to a friend to talk through your challenges and ideas over coffee, hold a brainstorming session with colleagues
Get some rest
Once you’re feeling a bit more refreshed, your brain will be more functional, allowing your mind to make the necessary connections to effectively solve problems and come up with that new, winning idea
Do Something You Love
Love and creativity are intertwined. A hobby, such as playing an instrument, running, or collecting memorabilia, can help you relax and fight stress while giving your creativity a boost.
Rearrange Your Home
Look around you. Do your surroundings make you feel good? Look up basic Feng Shui principles and consider moving furniture or objects around. Add fresh flowers to your space. Think about what inspires you in a physical sense, and try to make sure it’s reflected in your living space. Especially with as much time as we’ve been spending at home lately, changing up your environment can help unearth some new thoughts.
Listen to New Types of Music
Venture out from your usual genre of music this week. If you usually listen to classical music, what about switching it up for some jazz or an instrumental movie score? You could also check out binaural beats, which are reported to reduce anxiety and increase focus.
A bit of pressure is good, but you don’t have to act the tortured creative to come up with new ideas. Be kind to yourself, focus your attention on easing stress, and create the right conditions for your mind to make new connections to fuel your creativity. To keep creating, we must make sure we stay in balance. Being creative is a constant negotiation between input and output, and staying inspired requires being attuned to the world around us and being thoughtful about how we feed our creativity. We hope you’re more encouraged than ever to try some of these tips!