Recently a journalist contacted me about how I create art as a way to relieve stress.  She had known about me through a community art class I had taken several years ago, and we both agreed that art was definitely not limited to the canvas.  Art can be defined as anything you create that is beautiful or thought-provoking.

'Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.'

- Roy Adzak

Whether it's for others, for my family or just for myself,  I often create art to relieve the stress in my life.  So for me art is writing, painting, jewelry making, dried floral arrangements, other crafts, along with some of my photographic work.
I do have stress at certain times in being a support to very vulnerable women who are trying to have a normal life. But funny enough, modelling and acting can also be stressful because they full of last-minute projects, travel, constant waiting and schedule changes, 'rejection', or the feeling that everything is based on your appearance or talent.  I even have 'good stress' with family responsibilities and various career opportunities.  So having artistic outlets helps keep me sane and hopefully a more well-rounded person.

How does creating art relieve stress?

1) If I have emotional stressors in my life such as a financial crisis or tragedy, when I take time to create, I feel more 'settled'.  There is pent-up energy that needs to be released somehow, and when I'm in a negative situation, producing something that gives me 'life' helps ease the tension and calm the soul.  I think the distraction of a project helps take what's momentarily negative and give it a positive focus.  Creating art can shift moods almost instantaneously.
In a previous blog entry I wrote about a challenging time in our family's life and how I used art:
'My daughter and I wanted to make something as a gift for my husband for his return, but more than that, we wanted to both have a time to create.  For two hours we scribbled and scratched and rubbed in pastels and charcoals while we listened to music.  My soul settled, and my daughter’s mood improved after being rather grumpy.  Because I found that when I create something, it’s healing.'
2) As an introvert, I find having a solitary project refuels my soul.  When I write, paint, or make a piece of jewellery, I am usually alone.  Granted, the kids may be outside playing or I might be sitting in my favourite coffee shop, but I get into a 'zone' when I create.  Sometimes I get a bit bored and have to take breaks, but often I will go for several hours and not talk to anyone.  Introverts get energy from being alone, which enables us to then be around others.  For my sanity's sake, a project is a great and valid excuse to get the alone time that I need.

One my favourite places to write in town is Cocoa in Sheffield.

3) I create to have a voice and feel empowered.  I've decided I cannot afford to stay in a victim mentality.  Maybe because I've had a few traumatic events in my life, and I've worked with those who have had very painful journeys - I think that we can move out of that victim mentality and one of the ways is to use our voice. That voice doesn't need to be verbal or even direct.  I use my voice by writing short stories, creating an emotional piece of art or even writing blog posts.
A great example is the recent posts on classic modelling.  I've gotten a tremendous amount of support as I've re-entered the industry in my 40s after years of being a stay-at-home mum.  But I've had a few, and really just a few, who have not understood.  So I used my 'voice' to try to dispel misconceptions about what I do and what it is like.  Of course, if people continue to have their own ideas, that is their choice but I felt I had the opportunity to communicate in a creative way what that life is really like.
4) Another way creating art relieves stress is it helps me grapple with complicated issues I encounter with other people.  It is a way I can express the things that are inexpressible with normal words.  When I was first exposed to a book on trafficking it contained graphic stories about girls as young as five forced into the sex trade.  One of my first responses (besides wanting to throw up or cry) was to write a poem.  It was gritty but appropriate.  I'm not including it here as I'm actually submitting it as part of a story to a publication, but something in voicing my own pain as I read their stories brought healing and then later moved me to action.
art and healing
5) Along the same lines as number 4, creating art has helped my own personal journey of past hurts or current pain.  It gives me the ability to tap into emotions, feel and then release them.
In another blog post I explained this in more depth:
 'For my personal journey, writing about numbing or painful events has brought about shame resilience to a greater degree.  It gives me a voice, when all the tapes inside my head scream that I have no voice.  It exposes the secrets that keep me in a web of shame, and  it is freeing.
I also write about things, especially in the form of poetry, that are too difficult to explain.'  
When I am writing a character in a short story, tapping into pent-up emotion is incredibly cathartic.  A great example is when I wrote a short story last summer.  The story itself had nothing to do with the current situation but the it helped me tackle the emotion of two friends dying tragically in a car accident.  Tapping into that emotion I believe created something powerful in this story.
Here is the revised (shortened) version of the story I wrote:
At this point I don't create art in any capacity as a paid job, but I find it is essential for a well-balanced life and stress relief.

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