Much of the stress of being creative is actually created in our minds. Oh great! Another thing to manage! You can find yourself in a totally wonderful situation and be stressed off your nut. Or, you can be in what seems to be a killer environment and be having the time of your life.
As Professor Sumner Miller used to ask in the Cadbury chocolate ad: ‘Why is it so?'
It's the mind. Ah! A magnificent and treacherous contraption. A monkey. A rabbit. A chaser down wormholes. Able to leap tall buildings in a single thought!
To develop the mind so that it doesn't run rampant is one of the great challenges for a Creative. The same mind that can come up with a great departure point for your fiction can do exactly the same thing for your everyday life - invent tragedy where there is a hiccup, race ahead of a confrontation to the images of complete and irretrievable mayhem, suspect sabotage where there is innocent enquiry. . .
Where do I begin?
You do just that. You begin. And do some calming and re-nourishing practice regularly. Just as regular practice of your craft strengthens it and allows you to rely on it being more easily accessible, so too does regular practice at being calm and centred strengthen your mind's ability to call on those skills more readily.
How might it feel to have a mind that is quieter, focused, able to be drawn back from the precipice of stress?
Yes, you need some adrenalin and flights of fancy to do what you do. But do you have to suffer that much?
Some starters for the newbie de-stresser.
1. Find a relaxation practice that you can do regularly.
2. Take a check of your stress boosters and limit them. (Stimulants are a killer. The last thing you need when you're stressed is to further stress out your adrenals with coffee, coke, smokes, booster drinks and em little druggie things. )
3. Limit gossip and other similar practices of speech that encourage the mind to run away carelessly.
4. Breathe through your nose rather than your mouth. It stimulates nerves in the face that centre you and ground you.
5. Be simple with yourself. Do all you can to be in a containable situation. Get help where you can, negotiate for decent wages and work conditions and organise your schedule so that you are not attempting the superhuman in 3 days for $4.54. (Oh yes, it will be rounded DOWN!)
But we all know that our creative environments aren't always containable. And how freaked out you get is a point of choice (backed up by the biggest chorus line of fear you've ever seen live on stage!) It's worth practicing a calming method regularly so that as you feel your freak thermometer rising you can intercept it and chill.
It's not an easy path, but there are choices and you CAN lessen the stress by adjusting your perception and limiting the replays and internal arguing that can go on for days after the event. (You see! You're not the only one that does that! Sigh! Not even your worrying is original!)
How can I start to meditate?
Well, if you're anything like me, your mind is going to run you ragged just trying to avoid sitting quietly for any length of time.
I've found that beautiful audio guided meditations are really powerful, especially when I'm working on new material. My mind's too wandery and wavey to get the job done alone. So I pop on a CD, hole up for an hour and get the calm muscle toned, guided by a voice. Absolutely recommended!
If activity is more what's needed try a walking meditation
Standing upright and still, right hand in left hand near the navel (hands clasped loosely) place one foot forward s-l-o-w-l-y on the ground saying gently ‘Heel, ball, toe’ as you place that part of your foot on the ground. It's r-e-a-l-l-y slow. Do this type of walking for around 15 minutes. You'll know when your mind is wandering and chattering because you'll stumble! Pretty obvious, eh?
Keep the focus exactly on the foot you are placing down. The breath may want to release as you place the the foot down. Just let it, but keep the main focus on the foot. Keep eyes on the ground about 2 metres in front of you. I swear, this will really wind you back!
A mind able to focus is a powerhouse of creative energy. Get started well before you need to and you'll have a great companion in your expressive work - not a monkey on your back!
Andrea rieniets is an Indie musician living in Melbourne and Adelaide Australia. For fabulous free tips on being creative visit her blog at http://www.crikeymoses.com Listen to Andrea's gorgeous music at http://www.gorgeousworld.com ‘Intensely tuneful songwriter with a swag of techno savvy’ Rolling Stone