There are traditional models and modes of understanding established through research about creativity and stress. The difficulty is, over time, these models have begun to contradict each other.
What is True About Stress and Creativity?
You may have heard the one theory, that, stress is the enemy of creativity. Conversely, it has been said that creative ideas are born and evolve under pressure. Which of these is true? They both seem logical. That is because- they both, in fact, are true at different times for different people.
How Does Stress Impact the Creative Process?
I recently stumbled upon a wonderful article by Daniel Kuntz1 in which he succinctly summarizes some of this research, and a more moderate conclusion in Creativity Research: “The trick, then, is knowing your stressors—though it is also a matter of knowing how much you can take" (M. Runco, University of Georgia, by D Kuntz). In other words, what Kuntz describes that Runco found, is that knowing your optimal stress level, as well as what your stressors are, are the most important features in knowing how pressure and stress impacts your creative process.
Thriving in High-Pressure or Low-Pressure Spaces
Human Sciences have increasingly moved towards behaviors, emotions, experiences and more as existing on a spectrum, more than previously-used stand-alone diagnoses, terms, etc. This has also been an increasingly accepted definition for stress. It makes sense that not the same amount of stress or pressure would affect a Creative Person in the same way. Some Creative People thrive with deadlines, in competitions, and with high levels of pressure (like our earlier example of research: necessity as the birth of creativity). Other Creative People thrive with low to no stress or pressure in order to generate new ideas (like the models stating stress is the enemy to creativity). And- of course- examples abound in between these two points.
Different Strokes for Different Folx
A second important factor noted in Creativity Research is that what is considered stressful is not the same for everyone. Events, for example, generally labeled “good” by society, science, etc, may be experienced as stressful by some, and non-stressful by others, and vice-versa. Similarly, adopting a spectrum approach to how stressful events and conditions are to you, and getting to know yourself well as an individual is imperative. There are vast differences between levels of stress, for example, between living environment conditions, social conditions, noise levels, social events, life events and many, many more.
Drop the Labels
As you develop clarity about your optimal level of pressure, and what conditions create this pressure and stress for you (and a separate debate could be had to emphasize the importance of shedding the label of “good” or “bad” for the terms “stress” and “pressure,” for, in these equations they are merely formulaic and descriptive), your next task is understanding how to mitigate your levels of stress. Have you evaluated generally what levels of stress and pressure exist in your life? How does that compare to what you find optimal for your creativity? Now, as creative people, we as ourselves, what factors help us change that level of stress and pressure more towards what we find is optimum?
Optimal Creative Conditions: Stress and Pressure Included
Understanding how to mitigate your stress and pressure in order to be optimally creative is hard work. Implementing is even more difficult. It demands that you reflect and know yourself as a Creative Person, including the strengths and weaknesses of your Creative Personality, and well as knowing yourself and your intentions as an artist including your creative process, and what is beneficial or disruptive to that.
Consider Coaching or Counseling for Creative People
Considering stress and pressure as factors you can understand and manipulate in order to benefit yourself and your creativity is a new way of looking at your Creative Self. If you are interested in empowering yourself in this way, I would love to talk to you. Here are some steps you can take right now, to start your journey as a healthy and successful Creative Person:
Other Articles Like Intense Pressure for Creative People
Creative People and the Urge to Shop, Creative People Who Don't Know Who They Are, Concierge Counseling for Creative People, Creative People with Headaches and Stomach Aches, Creation Translation, Crisis of Meaning: Creative People Lost, Coaching Creative People, A Creative Personality Snapshot,
© 2022 Creatively, LLC
the Creativity blog
Creative exercises, psychoeducation, therapy skills, practice updates and more. Want updates in a newsletter? Go to the homepage to subscribe, and don't miss a thing.
is a Creativity Coach, Creativity Counselor and Professional Artist in Sykesville, Maryland. She provides Online Creativity Counseling in Maryland and Virginia, and Online Creativity Coaching throughout the USA, Canada and the UK.
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.