Your stress is preventing your creativity

Emily Thornton models this painting in front of a creative background of our studio

Reagan Rinehart

Emily Thornton models this painting in front of a creative background of our studio

Reagan Rinehart, Student Life Editor

Stress is a clenched jaw, a wrinkled brow and a throbbing headache. Stress is pressure, hormones and adrenaline. Some say they work better under pressure, are more motivated, and get more done. While a deadline might be met, it actually makes you less creative. According to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review the more pressure, or stress, equalled less creativity, unbeknownst. “People seem to be largely unaware of this phenomenon … the participants in our study generally perceived themselves as having been more creative when time pressure was high.”

So why does stress have this effect? Noise.

David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work and co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute said that “even a small amount of stress is noisy in the brain.” Technology, multitasking and daily stresses add to the noise of the brain which crushes creativity.

Creativity is defined as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, interpretations, and etc. When subjected to stress, pressures of the job, school, relationship or family troubles, the brain’s fight or flight responses interfere with one’s normal physiological equilibrium.

So how can we combat stress in life to remain creative? The answer might be that despite the fact that the presence of stress chokes creativity, being creative may alleviate stress.

Conquering my personal stresses have challenged me this entire school year. As a senior, I’ve been amazed by my own ability to deal with the demands of my every day life. Each day has been a whirlwind of applying to college, digging up scholarship opportunities, writing papers, keeping my grades up, driving back and forth to my concurrent enrollment classes at TCC, working long hours, and family crises. In the midst of all the stress I’ve felt, creativity has also been a huge challenge for me.

Psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD says, “stress is a well known creativity killer.” According to his research, stress management skills can be extremely helpful overcoming difficulties. His research indicates that more creative people often seek out challenging situations, seeing failure as an opportunity to grow. In a process Epstein calls “resurgence,” challenges can help to form new connections in the brain.

Another way to stay creative is to continually change your work space. Companies like Zappos understand the value of a creative environment in relieving stress and increasing productivity. At Zappos, employees are encouraged to be themselves from the way they dress to the surface of their desk. By putting unusual objects on one’s desk, creativity can flow more easily. According to Dr. Epstein, boring environments typically dampen creativity.

Creativity is something to strive for, whether by painting, drawing, singing, playing a musical instrument, building something, or even cooking. Even if you’re very busy, you can still take the time to do some quick creative activities like coloring in a coloring book or actively listening to music you enjoy. Try some of these creativity tips and see if you notice a decrease in stress in your day to day life.