The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit Part 4: Fabricate/ Track

Here is the link to part 1, the Stress Test

After 1,2 & 3 your stress level is so under control you might not need to read this last post on The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit. 

4. FABRICATE! YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE

HOW IN THE WORLD DOES CREATIVE EXPRESSION HELP STRESS?

During creative states of intense concentration your brain wave pattern changes, much like hypnosis. It can be any creative activity -writing a poem, dancing, playing the piano, knitting, sewing, singing . . .

When engaged in creative expression your brain filters out extraneous information and mind-chatter diminishes, lowering the stress response. When the stress response goes down a change in your physiology takes place: cortisol levels lower, heart rate slows, immune responses elevate. It’s not just your muscles that relax!

Here are two exercises to create those calm cues by making up situations and images YOU control. Now that’s incredible!

CALM DOWN COLLAGE

Calm collage by Lucy, age 8

Magazine cut-out collage using just 3 pictures

Here is an incredibly fun, easy, visual way to signal your brain it’s time to cool down and not continue keeping your neurochemistry on a fight or flight course. And don’t forget that CONCENTRATED awareness while you are creating your collage!

ALL YOU NEED: magazines, a scissors, glue and a sheet of paper, file card, a journal page or even cardboard (you choose the size).

WHAT YOU DO:

  • Cut or tear out serene peaceful, calming pictures.
  • Cut or tear out pieces of color that represent calm to you. For example, if there is a sky-blue dress, just tear out the color from the dress so that the dress isn’t recognizable—just a piece of the color.
  • Arrange the pictures and pieces of color on you paper in a way that pleases you.
  • Paste all the pieces down.
  • Put your collage up in a place where you will frequently see it to give your brain a calm cue.

You will feel pleasantly calm, just like the collage you have created.

If an 8 year old can learn how to do this YOU CAN TOO!

When you lead a stressful life it is often necessary to creatively give your brain cues it needs to:

  • Interpret peace, calm and serenity
  • Know that you’ve dealt with a difficult situation or person
  • Hear that you are safe and not in danger

Stacked Writing

Stacked writing by Lucy Arndt, age 8

Generally we don’t advocate thinking about, ruminating on pain, discomfort, or negativity as it only strengthens the stress response. Stacked Writing, however, is a way of “releasing” negative thoughts and feelings and decreasing stress levels.

What you need: A piece of paper and a SMOOTH writing pen. If you have a journal use that. When you are done no one can decipher what you wrote so anything goes!

• Write non-stop for 15–20 minutes (set a timer so you aren’t constantly watching the clock).

• Write on top of what you’ve written. Keep turning the paper as you write. Fill the page with sentences, phrases all on top of each other so that what you wrote is indecipherable.

The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit, part 3: Eliminate/Concentrate

Here is the link to part 1, the Stress Test

In this part 3 we continue with ways to reduce your stress:

2. ELIMINATE STRESS CUES

Get rid of stress cues in your life: Move to Tahiti, become a Monk, get a chauffeur, calm down—this category is more difficult than we originally thought . . . but not impossible.

Your bodymind wants you to live and prosper. It’s smart but limited. It can’t tell the difference between what is actually happening to you and what it perceives from the cues it receives through your sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, thoughts and mental imagery. Remember the rhino-cars?

So you need to eliminate, or at the very least avoid, cues that your smart but limited brain might perceive as threatening or dangerous.

Stress cues in your control to eliminate:

  • Reading tragic news stories (full of sight & sound stress cues)
  • Watching TV news or crime programs (particularly before bed)
  • Listening to certain rap music
  • Spending time with “toxic” or negative people
  • Worrying about what you can’t control (like earthquakes)
  • Thinking negative thoughts

You control what images, sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and thoughts you expose your brain to. Even if you live in a war zone or are a police officer on gang patrol, with no control over the images and sounds that surround you, the one thing you do have control over are your thoughts.

3. CONCENTRATE! ON CALM CUES

When stress is chronic, it’s most effective to periodically give your brain a calm cue though-out the day and evening. In other words, you “chronically” cue your mind that it no longer has to keep you on alert, ready to flee or fight, because you’re not in danger.

CONCENTRATE

These two favorite breathing cues of ours are quick, simple and can be done anywhere, anytime.

Super Simple Signal Breath

In order to do this anywhere, anytime keep your eyes open and breathe through your nose.

  • Take a deep breath, expand your lungs and hold the breath for a moment before releasing it slowly, gently through your nose.
  • Let your body relax, deepening a sense of comfort in any way that’s best for you
  • Breathe normally and naturally…until your next Super Simple Signal Breath.

Because our autonomic nervous system has our breathing on “automatic pilot” we easily can forget to take this purposeful Super Simple Signal Breath.Here are some reminders that have worked for others to take a Super Simple Signal Breath:

  • Every time the phone “rings” or you text
  • Wear a bracelet or your watch on the “wrong” wrist
  • Put a post it note on your bath room mirror, car dash board
  • Write “B” for breathe in your appointments calendar

One Breath Cue with Safe Thought Cue

Try it NOW as you follow the instructions:

  • Take a deep, full breath, expanding your belly outward. 
  • Hold the breath for a count of 5.
  • Very slowly, gently release the breath through your nose and relax your body in any way you choose contracting your belly inward.
  • Tell your brain (silently) “I’m safe, right now.”

Don’t wait to feel stressed to purposely breathe. The more you practice the breath cues when you’re not stressed the easier it is for the brain to respond automatically and the quicker it will work when you are stressed. We’ve taught many people with severe anxiety disorders to do these one-breath exercises. Everyone reports it is one of the most effective things they have ever tried.
The hard part is remembering to do it.

You already know how to breathe. It’s free and in your control.

Important things to know about COPING so you aren’t more anxious

During our 30+ years as psychotherapists we never had to address the fear and uncertainty the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic has created.  The disruption to individual lives and society is surreal.

There are coping truths that we know are real:

  1. Everyone copes with horrible situations differently.  Some use humor (even gallows humor), some become immobilized or depressed, for others anxiety explodes, some grasp at things that are seemingly frivolous but under their control (like hoarding toilet paper).  I watch the news obsessively since I find comfort in information.
  2. We want our family & friends to cope in the same way we cope. “Why aren’t you acting more worried?”, “Don’t be so obsessive”.  “Do something productive.”  “Calm down and slow down.” There’s comfort in thinking we are connected and not alone in our own way of seeing and responding to threats, real or perceived.  When other people don’t cope the way we cope it makes us nervous, as if something is wrong with them.
  3. The higher the stress the more the brain reverts to automatic, old, tried and true patterns and coping mechanisms that are basic to who we are and how we are in the world.  Our mind-body stress response says this is NOT time to change our normal behaviors and natural tendencies because doing something new creates more stress.
  4. It’s normal to feel productiveanxiety right now,and while we need to allow ourselves to feel these feelings.  Some anxiety is productive—it’s what motivates us to wash our hands often and distance ourselves from others when there’s an important reason to do so. If we weren’t reasonably worried, no one would be taking these measure to help reduce the viral spread.
  5. Unproductiveanxiety— unchecked rumination—makes our mind spin in frightening directions. Our anxiety is actually trying to keep us safe by focusing on potential threats preparing us for fight, flight or freeze. However, anxiety when constant elevates our stress response chronically which dampens the immune response which is the last thing we want during a pandemic.

    Click here for your FREE Incredibly Creative Stress Kit PDF

In recent weeks we have been doing daily posts on coping with stress, anxiety and social distancing.

Scroll down to see these posts.