Removing Stress from the Process
We all have worries. Big or small, they get in the way of our lives constantly, either by creating moods and emotions or by directly interrupting our concentration. Today’s lesson looks at a technique for stress removal that has worked very well for me personally.
No notebook for this one. It’s better if you have a little pile of scrap paper, maybe the back pages of old print-offs that you no longer need—basically, something you can throw away at the end of each day.
For me, this has become a daily practice, but I know some creatives who will only use this technique on their “bad days,” when creativity is blocked. You’ll need to work out for yourself how often you want to do this, perhaps based on how well you handle stress in other areas of your life. So, keep your piece of scrap paper handy throughout the day, and this is what you’ll do with it.
Every time a worry comes into your head, write it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s silly or serious, large or small, relevant or irrelevant to your current project. If any negative thing pops into your head that stops you concentrating on what you’re doing, put it down on the scrap paper.
Then (this is essential): Let it go for now. Once it’s down on the page, you have made a commitment to address this worry later on in the day. For now, it’s on the list, and that means it’s going to get taken care of.
At the end of the day, you’ll have a list of the concerns that have been bothering your mind while you’ve tried to get on with your life. Some of them might have happened several times during the day, while others may have only been fleeting concerns that bothered you for a minute or two. Either way, the main activity is to set yourself Worry Time. This is an allocated slot of ten, perhaps 15, minutes where you will allow yourself to address the worry list and think about solutions to some of the problems you’re facing.
The good news is, much of Worry Time is often spent realizing how silly you were during the day. On reflection, I usually find that the things I was worried about first thing in the morning have already changed or resolved themselves by the time I get to look at my list.
You’ll also find many hypothetical worries, characterized by the word “if.” For example: “What if there’s a problem with my train today?” Hypothetical worries are things that you cannot control and things that haven’t actually happened, and indeed, they might not happen at all. Acknowledging these two facts lifts a great deal of weight off a stressed brain!
While it might look like this activity isn’t directly focused on your creative project, anyone who suffers with stress will tell you how valuable it is to get it out of the way. Working creatively for a living can put a huge amount of pressure on the mind, and a vicious cycle begins where that pressure inhibits the creativity you need in order to earn your daily bread.
The Worry Time principle comes from cognitive behavioral research, and doing it regularly acts as a kind of therapy to teach you which problems are really worth thinking about and which are just getting in the way of your brain’s capabilities.
As I said at the opening of the lesson, it’s important to be able to throw these lists away at the end of the day too. Physically watching your day’s concerns fall into the trash after you’ve dealt with them is an empowering feeling, which proves to me that I can overcome any concerns and free myself up for powerful creativity. You’ll also discover there are some practical worries on the list, and Worry Time allows you to think of real solutions to those problems and assure yourself that you will put those in place. All of this activates the logical, problem-solving part of your brain!
Tomorrow, we’ll explore the power of play. As children, we play to enrich our imaginations and experience free creativity. So, we’ll be exploring how you can bring play back into your life to awaken that exciting part of your brain once more.
See you then!
If you’re interested in the cognitive behavioral methods behind the concept of Worry Time, check out Anxieties.com for a more scientific approach.
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