When Your Brain Hurts: Reflect, Laugh, Create

I’ve been under a ton of self imposed stress the last couple weeks. Several deliverables due all around the same time for work, teenage boys with traffic court appearances to wrangle, trying to sort out multiple schedules between now and August, booking flights, canceling flights…

It’s made my brain hurt.

One of the things I find happens when we get under stress is that our focus, our thoughts, tend toward the negative: “I can’t do this”, “I can’t possibly get this all done”, “This is killing me”, “I just need a break”…and it can start to spiral downward from there.

A lot of time I’ll exercise when I hit that kind of stress level. Endorphins are our friend and they can really help. But it was over 100 degrees yesterday and there is a LOT of smoke in the air from wildfires in Colorado just now so exercise wasn’t a great option.

Thus requiring an indoor pursuit, after completing one of the major chunks I needed to get finished, I took some time to “goof-off” in Photoshop. I’ll confess this is one of my favorite pass-times, but I stumbled across a combination that relieved stress incredibly well.

I randomly decided to create a series of pictures based on the theme, “The music I grew up with.” This resulted in several things happening all at once:

1. I had to think through music genres. Music ALWAYS sparks memories so while listening to some of the music I grew up to I was taken back through some great memories. Taking that time to reflect on memories from my younger days helped me to relax greatly.

2. I had to go through pictures to find head shots I could cut out and use. This meant finding funnier facial expressions which meant I was looking at pictures of fun times. Looking at the pictures reminded me of those good times and pretty soon picture after picture caused me to laugh out loud. Fortunately no one was home to wonder which deep end I’d gone off.

3. Once I had the raw material I started to create the pictures, one of which is above, and found myself in a cycle of reflecting on good memories and laughing at past adventures. Suddenly life didn’t seem so stressful or negative, suddenly thing were going to be ok.

Is this a prescription for 100% stress relief? Not sure, but I do know I’ll try it again because it worked so well this time!

What do you do to relieve stress and the negative spiral that often times comes with it?

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3 thoughts on “When Your Brain Hurts: Reflect, Laugh, Create

  1. I use exercise for the most part. Like you said, it gets the endorphins pumping and the attitude raised.

    Once in awhile, I’ll go towards movies or video games. Not the most productive use of time but something that creates good memories for me.

  2. I’m with you on all three Joe.
    What I like about what I seemingly stumbled across yesterday is it results in a tangible end product…in this case the pictures.
    When I do movies or video games I can get even more stressed out because of those continuing negative thoughts pound me for “escaping”.
    In this case though, with the product of my creativity in hand and the happiness associated with the laughter while creating, the approach seems to be one that keeps on giving positively.

  3. Here are some of the things I do: Read. Watch favorite movies I have seen 100 times already. Hang with my boys. Go to the coffee shop and/or bookstore. Run. Ride bike. Box. Watch “Friends” episodes in dvd with my husband. Play Scrabble with my husband. Take a nap. Read highlighted scripture in Isaiah. Gotta have some “go to” things when life gets overwhelming.