Doesn’t stress feel like the plague? Everyone is always on the go, chasing after an endless to-do list. There’s work, family, and everything in between. Throw in recent world events and suddenly, you’re a big ball of stress. Stress management has never been more important.
Self-care is the key to wellness. Without your head on straight, it’ll be harder to eat well and stay active. Even relationships and social health will suffer. Stress is also a gateway to chronic disease. High levels are linked to heart disease, poor immunity, and inflammation.
Are you already sick? Stress will worsen symptoms, but self-care makes it easier to cope. And this goes beyond yoga and meditation. To pump the breaks on stress, try these 7 creative outlets. You don’t even need to be a pro for this.12
1. Use Coloring Books
Who says coloring is just for kids? Lately, adult coloring books have become all the rage. These often feature intricate, beautiful designs. It also counts as a form of art therapy. This means it’ll reduce both stress and depression, lowering the risk for other diseases.3
Plus, coloring is convenient. All you need is a coloring book and a pack of markers. You can even use a few sheets! The Internet is teeming with free, printable coloring pages.
2. Grow A Garden
In a study in the Journal of Health Psychology, researchers found that gardening is amazing for stress. It reduces cortisol, the “stress hormone” that harms immunity and metabolic functions.45 What a great reason to start a garden!
However, don’t limit this to the outdoors. Houseplants work just as well if you live in an apartment or city. Take advantage of windowsills, porches, and steps. Are you a beginner? Start with low-maintenance plants like succulents or pick up a DIY herb garden kit.
3. Play With Paints
The simple act of painting is so relaxing. Plus, like other creative activities, painting enhances your “psychological resilience.” This is the way you handle outside stressors, whether it’s caused by work or the news. You don’t need to be Picasso. Paint patterns, shape, and lines. Let yourself zone out and just play.6
4. Doodle On Paper
For a similar effect, try doodling. It’s an easy and mindless activity with zero rules. All you need is a pen and paper, or even a napkin. Doodling doesn’t seem creative, but it is. Every line takes brainpower and creativity. Over time, this increases control over anxiety, depression, and emotional pain. It’s also prime time for self-reflection.7
5. Listen To Music
De-stressing doesn’t stop at making something. According to the American Journal of Public Health, observing creativity works just as well. For example, listen to more music. It reduces heart rate and anxiety immediately after and an hour later.8
Better yet, you can do it while commuting, cleaning, or making creative projects. If you love an artist or band, catch a show on their next tour. Spending the money on a memorable experience will be worth it.
6. Write In A Journal
Journaling is a simple way to de-stress. It gives you a chance to vent without judgment. You don’t even need to sound poetic because no one will see your words! So, be emotional. In a study by the University of Washington, researchers found that expressive writing decreases anxiety levels. It’s also an opportunity to practice gratitude, a habit that decreases inflammation.9 10
7. Take Up Knitting
Knitting seems intimidating, but the challenge protects emotional and mental health. In fact, a 2013 British study found that frequent knitters were more calm and happy.11
Creative tasks like knitting also improve the brain’s connections. This keeps cognitive deterioration, like dementia, at bay. It’s just what you need to thrive during old age. To learn how to knit, watch how-to videos or attend classes. You’ll get stress relief and a new accessory.12
Don’t focus on making a masterpiece. All you need is curiosity and an open mind. For even more benefits, do these activities with a friend.
|↑1||Pongratz, Georg, and Rainer H. Straub. “The sympathetic nervous response in inflammation.” Arthritis research & therapy 16, no. 6 (2014): 504.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑7, ↑8||Stuckey, Heather L., and Jeremy Nobel. “The connection between art, healing, and public health: A review of current literature.” American journal of public health 100, no. 2 (2010): 254-263.|
|↑4||Moreno-Smith, Myrthala, Susan K. Lutgendorf, and Anil K. Sood. “Impact of stress on cancer metastasis.” Future oncology 6, no. 12 (2010): 1863-1881.|
|↑5||Van Den Berg, Agnes E., and Mariëtte HG Custers. “Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress.” Journal of Health Psychology 16, no. 1 (2011): 3-11.|
|↑6, ↑12||Bolwerk, Anne, Jessica Mack-Andrick, Frieder R. Lang, Arnd Dörfler, and Christian Maihöfner. “How art changes your brain: differential effects of visual art production and cognitive art evaluation on functional brain connectivity.” PloS one 9, no. 7 (2014): e101035.|
|↑9||Redwine, Laura, Brook L. Henry, Meredith A. Pung, Kathleen Wilson, Kelly Chinh, Brian Knight, Shamini Jain et al. “A pilot randomized study of a gratitude journaling intervention on HRV and inflammatory biomarkers in Stage B heart failure patients.” Psychosomatic medicine 78, no. 6 (2016): 667.|
|↑10||Doherty, Jennifer H., and Mary Pat Wenderoth. “Implementing an Expressive Writing Intervention for Test Anxiety in a Large College Course.” Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education 18, no. 2 (2017).|
|↑11||Riley, Jill, Betsan Corkhill, and Clare Morris. “The benefits of knitting for personal and social well-being in adulthood: Findings from an international survey.” British Journal of Occupational Therapy 76, no. 2 (2013): 50-57.|