Well, another week is upon us and–if you’re anything like me–you’re probably feeling that familiar hint of anxiety that precedes the start of the Monday routine. We’re not alone. In fact, many people suffer from this type of anticipatory anxiety and stress. Thankfully, we have a choice to shift our approach.
How do we go about changing our perception of this stress and anxiety? It’s important to remind ourselves that we experience this particular type of anxiety because it seems almost reasonable and logical. After all, we worry about the things in our lives we can’t see, know, or face directly. The night before a big speech, the instant before opening a gift, the heavy silence in a waiting room, or even the unsettling quiet of a Sunday evening—all share a similarly common psychological origin.
Uncertain of our ability to know the outcome, we feel overwhelmed. The first step in changing this pattern is to actively disregard expectation. That is, it is not so much the event that causes distress, but more so the speculation surrounding it. I know this is easier said than done, but I won’t leave you to go about the task without offering some friendly ideas to get you started on your journey to calm:
1. Let Go of the Story
Expectation is about the stories we tell ourselves. Sometimes we find ourselves building stories around the events in our lives that otherwise would be difficult to understand or rationalize. Storytelling is a valuable skill because it helps create order out the unfamiliar. However, these very same stories can involve unreasonable expectations that set us towards disappointment or anxiety. Today, try to let go of the aspects of your story that you cannot fully know or change yet.
2. Learn to Embrace Simplicity
Don’t forget to breathe. We hear that advice frequently, and for good reason. It just so happens that now more than ever it’s easy to get caught up in the details and miss the big picture. Identifying stress triggers can help us set clear boundaries that streamline our daily tasks and interactions (i.e., e-mail, networking, commutes, etc.). Be sure to create space to openly communicate your needs, rework the degree to which you give of your time, and concentrate on the beauty of a single moment.
3. Cultivate Your Happiness
As we set out on the path to reduce our stress by bringing attention to triggers, expectations, and our present experience, let us not forget to augment our newly acquired peace of mind with habits that engender joy. Try not to replace anxiety or expectation with yet more anxiety and expectation—I know that seems obvious, but (trust me) it’s worth repeating. Happiness can be a mercurial thing, don’t spend another moment trying to limit it or force it. Explore the absence of unnecessary stress as an opening for new means of satisfaction.
Whether we’re just starting on our path to serve in the health care industry, or already in service to our communities, there’s no better time than now to remember that taking time to nurture our creative sides can be an asset to our careers. I don’t know about you, but there’s plenty of “I can’t…won’t…shouldn’t” when it comes to the idea of cultivating our creative lives. It’s easy to make excuses for why we aren’t developing that potential; however, with a little time, a little patience, and a whole lot of fun, we can make room for creativity’s positive influence on the mind, body and spirit within our admittedly hectic schedules.
1. Remember: it’s a process!
When we set out to be creative, it doesn’t have to be a chore. No matter the medium, exploring your creativity is an activity that gets you out of your daily routine. Start simple: are you interested in dance, painting, crafts, or writing? Stay open to the possibility that your creativity might or might not be at all like you imagined (or how someone told you it would look). Many people find they can get great personal satisfaction from creating within a wide range of pursuits. Feel free to get as involved as you want in your exploration; after all, the most important thing we can do to be more creative is express our life, loves, and interest in unique, artful, or expansive ways.
Top Tip: Try keeping a daily journal to catalog your progress. Be sure to note what you’ve tried, where you succeeded, and what drew you into the activity the most.
2. A little organization goes a long way.
Even though we might associate creativity with free-flowing effort, the creative process can be made more enjoyable and productive by implementing a few key organizational methods:
Keep supplies on-hand and readily accessible for your creative endeavors.
Set up a space and time to be creative.
Save your work: nothing can be more frustrating that losing that newly written poem, forgetting the motions of an inspired dance, or misplacing the draft to a painting.
3. Expand your definitions.
Art and creativity are without boundaries–no matter who you are, you’re free to create. What we were taught in school, by parents or our peers may or may not be the criteria that best fits our personal connection to creativity. Forge your path knowing that there’s no right way or wrong way to do it.
Top Tip: Take a cue from your “inner kid,” be willing to color outside the lines.
4. Identify the sources of inspiration.
Knowing what it is that sparks your own creativity is critical. Do you find that being around others motivates you, or perhaps a moment of solitude drives you to create? Each of our five senses can be a starting point for getting the gears turning. If you’re typically moved by visual input, what happens when you focus on tactile experience? Try keeping track of those tangible and intangible things that move you deeply.
Top Tip: Create a real-life Pinterest board, using images or words that inspire you. Be sure to place it in a visible area, preferably in your new creative space (see: Step 2).
5. Be bigger than yourself.
Creativity can lead us to new and challenging perspectives on the world around us. Not every creative act needs to be meaningful, but it can be rewarding to let your creativity engage with the social issues that matter to you. If you find that you are passionate about your career, your family, or a social cause outside of your own experience, your creativity has the possibility to express all or any of those things.
Top Tip: Offer to volunteer your time or knowledge to others who similarly are looking to express themselves creatively.
6. Invite others to share in your journey.
Creativity rarely exists in a vacuum. Often, those that find the most joy from their creative lives find ways to bring their creativity out into the world. Whether within your professional network, family, or neighborhood, share your creative work. This can be a welcome addition to our relationships, further allowing us to incorporate our creativity with the very real things, people, and places that we care about.
Top Tip: Take a moment to find resources in your community that offer either creative learning opportunities. You can even find space for you to share work you’ve created within your communities.
7. Don’t forget: Creativity is a community activity.
“Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.” – Seth Godin, author and entrepreneur
Science has shown us that being creative, to encourage and nurture the artist within is a truly miraculous part of what makes us human. Art and creativity affect our moods, stress, and outlook on the future. Just as we tend to others in times of need every day, we owe it to ourselves as health care practitioners to spend a moment exploring our own potential to be happier, healthier, more creative individuals making a difference.