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Reducing your stress is easier said (or written) than done, yet it’s key to unlocking your creativity.

A client shared with me recently a struggle that they were facing.

This individual is a successful entrepreneur. She has the qualities you might expect from someone who’s running her own business: driven, focused and busy.

She is also incredibly caring – attentive to the needs of the clients she works with, her employees, and her husband and child; she’s under stress!

So it was an emotional revelation as she said:

“I spend 80 per cent of my time with my work and clients. I spend 20 per cent of my time looking after my family. And I have 0 per cent of my time for myself.”

As her frustration, anger and tears poured out, there was also a smile. It was a smile of relief in discovering a simple but powerful insight.

Self-care is not selfish.

In fact, I had a revelation too. I was like this client until I started being intentional about creating time to look after myself.

Self-care is not selfish ! Reduce your stress to unlock your creativity. Here’s how!!

Doing more than the laws of mathematics allows: it doesn’t reduce stress!

The maths of this client’s day didn’t stack up. It was impossible for her to utilise more than 100% of the time she had available. And yet, it’s common for people to try and do more than what the laws of maths (and physics!) permit.

We often already have the solutions to the problems we encounter at work and at home. Some problems we have to concentrate hard on. But there are others that require us to be in a state of calm and relaxation – not stress!- to allow our creative brains, to solve these problems. 

Our Default Mode Network – the part of the brain that’s responsible for our Eureka! moments – switches on when we’re resting or in deep play. In others words, not when we are actively engaged in mental tasks, like problem solving!

How many times have you tried to recall the name of, say, a book that you want to recommend to a friend. Or perhaps you’re thinking hard about a problem at work, like trying to offer your client as quickly as possible a solution to a tricky business issue they’re facing? 

You have plenty of knowledge and training, so logically you should be able to come up with the answer right away. But you can’t seem to land on the answer! 

Yet, when you pause and do something else – perhaps you’re having a shower, or you’re taking a break by walking outside, the answer magically pops into your brain.

We humans need to be in a relaxed state to have these creative brainwaves.

We humans need to be in a relaxed state to have these creative brainwaves. Here’s how reducing stress can unlock your creativity!

We need to create space for ourselves

In order to unlock our creativity, we need to create spaces to care for ourselves, reduce our stress and relax.

But it’s difficult, and it often seems impossible.

So often when I speak to people who are busy with work, life and everything else, they tell me taking time to look after themselves is “indulgent”, or “selfish”. 

And so the formula stays at “80 + 20 + 0”.

But when you gain the insight that by increasing the time spent on self-care by a tiny amount, it creates extra energy that changes the formula to “100 + 20 + 10 = 100” – that the maths magically “adds up”. 

You end up being able to do everything with the same amount of time.

Self-care helps reduce your stress, and it also helps unlock your creativity!

My brain is at its most creative, and generates the most ideas, when I’m outdoors hiking, running or when I’m in a meditative state – whether I’m going through some breathing techniques or formally meditating, or lying in bed just after I wake up.

Those are a couple of the examples I’ve found work for me to create space for me in order to unleash my creativity, and be present for those around me.

Creating the conditions to reduce stress ad unlock your creativity

You don’t have to be working in a creative industry to try this. 

Creating space for yourself and fostering the conditions to allow your creativity to shine helps all of us solve of our problems and challenges we face, whether at work or at home.

Whether you’re a lawyer managing a team or a busy entrepreneur, here is my three-step strategy for creating the conditions so that you maximise your creative potential.

Step 1: Acknowledge!

Like my client, acknowledging that self-care is important is the first step to successfully creating a space for you to be able to unleash your creative powers.

To help you think about this, before you go back to what you were doing before you started reading this, take note of your answers to the following questions:

Why is it important to you to look after yourself?

What changes would the people around you notice if you created space for yourself?

What impact would your creativity have? 

How would your 100 + 80 + 0 formula change?

What is the key insight from your answers to these questions?

Perhaps it’s that practising self-care is a generous gift to yourself and those around you? 

Or that it’s a way of bringing more joy and pleasure into your life? 

Maybe it could allow you to solve the big challenges you’ve been facing at work?

Or perhaps, like my client, it allows you to realise that creating space for your own self care is not selfish, but allows you to be present for you, and those around you. 

That’s a WIN-WIN!

Step 2: Create!

So you might be asking yourself, how do I create time to look after myself as I’m so busy? I have “zero time!!!”.

If you’re feeling that self care is impossible, or perhaps selfish, I encourage you to dwell for a moment on your key insight from step 1. 

What is that telling you?

Is it the right time now to make a change?

If it is, then I encourage you to experiment with these two questions and discover what the answers are telling you!

Find a time to look after yourself!

Identify how much time you can set aside to focus on yourself, and when!  

Think of a time-frame that’s almost impossibly small, and work upwards. If you’re setting yourself 5-minutes every day, pare it back to 1-minute for one day. Then work upwards!

If you’re finding it difficult to find small chunks of time, try identifying habits that you’re doing already and add your self-care time to that.

Taking these small steps will help you reduce your stress and unlock your creativity!

So, perhaps it’s two minutes in between showering and putting on your clothes.

Maybe it’s the five minutes immediately after you finish your last call at work.

Or the ten minutes after you brush your teeth at night before you go to bed.

Experiment with how you will look after yourself!

Identify the things that relax you, that you do for joy and pleasure. If you’re stuck for ideas, recall what brought you the most joy when you were a child and carefree.

Perhaps it’s a 5-minute mindfulness practice

Maybe it’s a 1-minute breathing exercise (like 4-7-8 breath)

Perhaps it’s going for a 5-minute walk outside in the park

Schedule!

If you have an important meeting with a client, how do you ensure you show up on time? 

Apply that formula for success to the time you’re creating for yourself! 

Maybe it’s putting it in your diary

Perhaps your secretary reminds you, or you pair up with a colleague and you’re holding each other acocuntable.

Or you set a timer on your phone for the same time each day

Treat yourself as if you’re the most important client you’re dealing with.

Step 3: Reflect

I’ve shared with you a simple strategy for creating time for your own self care to reduce stress, so that you can unlock and tap into your creativity.

It may be simple, but it’s not easy.

As a coach, I know that creating new habits is hard. So one of the ways to help your self-care practices as part of your daily life is to reflect. As yourself:

What has worked? What has not worked? 

What have you learned about yourself? 

What might you do differently next time?

Remember, failure is information! If you set yourself a goal and it doesn’t work out, that failure is valuable information for you to learn from. 

Decide how you want to learn from it. Reflect again on why it’s important for you to look after yourself (see step 1). And try again!

Happy experimenting!

Be wise, be healthy and be well!

Eric


ps If these three strategies resonate with you, you might like to take a look at how you can go from busy to thriving in the way nature intended or how to reduce your anxiety with my five top tips!.