Growing up, I loved to create and make new things. I tried my hand at painting, drawing, singing, sculpting, and creating music with different materials and mediums. I found joy in drawing landscapes, shading sunsets, and placing each individual petal of a flower I painted on a page. I would improvise on musical instruments, making new sounds and chords that interested me. Creating allowed me to focus on a task, let my imagination run wild, and control the elements I was manipulating. It allowed me to relax and unwind from my day.
However, as I got older, I forgot what it was like to create, as my creativity was funneled into other tasks, including homework assignments, written reports, and creating for school and work. When I did create for fun and relaxation, I began to put pressure on myself to create brilliant pieces of art without flaws or imperfections. This accomplished the exact opposite of relaxation, as I would become frustrated with myself for not completing my best work. This experience left me upset, tense, and unhappy with myself.
As I have continued to study and work, I have found myself wanting to tap into my creative side again. Maybe this experience has happened to you, and you are unsure of where to start or what to create. Maybe you have found yourself wanting to be carefree and creative but feel like you should make a perfect and infallible creation for it to be valuable or worth your time.
So how can you use creativity as a way to de-stress from your day without putting pressure on yourself to create something perfect? Take a moment to think about the process of creating. While you do have a finished product at the end of the experience, the process of creating and using your imagination is what encourages relaxation and reduces stress. It is the creativity, not just the product, that can lower stress and provoke positive emotions.
Research has shown that using creative skills as a way to cope with stress has been helpful in a number of ways. It has also been studied with multiple populations, including people living with anxiety, depression, a traumatic history, intellectual disabilities, and dementia. While the possibilities are endless, here are a list of creative activities to get you started:
Drawing your emotional experience
Creating line art
Drawing or painting using colors you find calming
Creating with LEGO's
Drawing or painting a place where you feel safe
Singing or playing a comforting song
Listening to a playlist of your favorite music
Choreographing a dance that expresses your emotions
Noticing how you feel when dancing
Creating or playing with clay
Designing textured jewelry
Creating a sculpture
Choose an activity that is right for you and start creating! If you find that you do not feel relaxed while creating the activity that you chose, feel free to stop and find something that works for you. Remember that the goal of using creativity is to relieve stress, not to create stress. Even if you find that you do not experience relaxation in an activity, this does not mean that the activity was unsuccessful. You have greater knowledge of yourself and what not to do in the future, which is successful in and of itself.