The first Wednesday in November each year is National Stress Awareness Day. There is no one size fits all guidance to help cope with stress. We all experience stress differently and we all need different tools to navigate a path towards emotional wellbeing. Recently, I have been taking some of these tried and tested tools and playing around with them to make them work for me.
One stress tool that is often highlighted is journaling. Releasing your thoughts, worries or concerns on to paper can be really helpful in identifying your concerns and trying to view them from an alternative perspective. I’m not a massive fan of ‘traditional’ journals though. You know the type – usually A5, lined paper and, if you’re really lucky, an inspirational quote.
To me, writing in the constrained lines of a journal feels like homework and I start to feel a pang of guilt if I don’t write in it on a regular basis. In Covid times, I often approach the evening in utter exhaustion and the thought of putting pen to paper and coherently articulating my thoughts can seem a big task.
Indeed, the journal itself becomes an additional source of stress. I have also tried writing in the morning but those who know me well, will know that this tends to be the time when I get my trainers on and run around muddy fields.
I’ve invested in the following: an A4 plain art pad; coloured pens; scissors; and glue. I have been working with my pad each day as I’m a big believer in setting up routines to develop sound reflective habits but, at the same time, I don’t want it to feel like a chore.
My routine each evening is simple. I use my pad to capture doodles, cut out pictures, represent words or anything that symbolises my current thinking. There’s no pressure to create full sentences or to explain. It’s very much a free flow or what’s on my mind. It wasn’t easy! When I first started I wanted my doodles to look arty and was disappointed when I realised how unlike Picasso they were. But it was freeing. Using different methods to express my thoughts helped me break out of my thinking patterns and explore my concerns and worries in a whole new way. Changing the paper space and tools I used encouraged greater creative thinking and helped me feel less trapped in my thoughts.
I then realised how similar this is to methods I use with my clients. I encourage several of them to ‘walk and talk’ with me, as being outdoors in a different environment can help them see problems in a different way
– changing the environment refreshes the thinking. The creative pad is the same – it helps me identify and explore my worries away from the confines of lined paper and the narrowness of words that often don’t fully sum up how I feel.
What tools can you use or adapt to break out of your thinking patterns?
Drop me a line if you need a creative boost!