How to Inspire Creativity and Reduce Anxiety
As a creative, as well as someone with high anxiety, I always felt a strange push and pull with how varied mental states affect my idea generation. When speaking with other creatives, it seems that many of them are also affected by anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. A few years back, I visited Saint-Paul Asylum, where Vincent van Gogh voluntarily sought treatment for mental illness and saw his paintings and inspirations in closer detail. These experiences led me to question if there is a correlation between anxiety and creativity.
Coming from a family of highly anxious musicians and artists, I also began to wonder if there could be a genetic link between mental illness and creativity. After researching what I realized is simply the tip of this iceberg, I found that there is reason to believe both anxiety and creativity traits are influenced by genetics. Whether they influence each other, however, is a much more difficult question to answer.
Through additional research, I found that the part of the brain used to induce focus does not work as well in blocking out extra information when a person is anxious or creative. These divergent thoughts allow people to either worry too much or can induce fascinating combinations of ideas to create something entirely new. Immediately, this information resonated with me. The most successful creatives I know are ones that have the best of both worlds: they are focused in their creative endeavors, but don’t let their worries take control of their mind.
Although I do not have a background in neurological research, I drew some conclusions from my personal experiences. If a creative person with high anxiety lets their worries take over, associative divergent thinking can become stifled. On the other hand, a little bit of stress can help a creative person find inventive ways to take an impending task. So perhaps there is a sweet spot on this scale, but that spot can be difficult to find and keep in balance.
Though I have yet to find the perfect formula of how to keep the balance in check, in my experience I have found a few things that helped me:
- Lists, lists and more lists! I write out all of the tasks I have been putting off and meaning to do (i.e. schedule that dentist appointment, go for a run, buy groceries, etc.) and I prioritize which ones need to be done first. Then I take my planner and schedule my to-do’s for the week.
- Set goals that I have for the long-term (6 months+), the mid-term (1-6 months) and the short-term (today, tomorrow and the rest of the month). I find it’s best to focus the long-term goals to one or two main goals and to set my mid-term and short-term goals as tasks that will help me achieve that long-term goal
- Scheduling in at least a half an hour a day to draw, write, walk or read helps me calm down and regain my center of balance a bit and inspires my creative side. Also, I’ve found that if I plan it for the same time every day, it’s easier to remember to make time for myself. Having a little bit of stability helps with my anxiety.
Of course, these are just some things I’ve found helpful. The hardest part is remembering to keep up with these things because they’re even more important the busier you get. As a creative, it’s important to keep anxiety levels low to stay productive. I look forward to what future studies will conclude about this topic. For now, I think that it’s safe to accept the possibility of a correlation between the two, but perhaps scientists will discover a deeper connection between creativity and anxiety down the road.
If you have any stories or solutions you’ve discovered for how you balance creativity with different mental states feel free to comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image by Liza Goncharova
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