by Karen J. Gerrard is a leading skin expert. She is the founder of SEAMS

Ways stress affects us and what we can do to reduce it by being creative.

How many times have you been told that your symptoms are related to stress?  From moving to a new house, exams, deadlines, worrying for others, getting to work on time the list goes on and don’t think your problems are any less important than anyone else’s,it’s all subjective to your situation and level of breaking point.  Some of us suffer in silence but holding it in is no good as it has to come out in one way or another. For many, adrenalines keep us going then as soon as we relax or go on holiday bam a headache comes on.

The signs of - 

Suppressed immune system leaving you susceptible to ailments.

Tension in your muscles causing aches and pains.

Ranting, speaking about something repeatedly to everyone you meet.

Eating too much or too little, grabbing sugary snacks leading to stomach or digestive problems

Sleeping or rather not getting enough sleep and clenching teeth.

Skin breakouts dull skin, red eyes, wrinkles, acne.

But stress can also have some good outcomes, it makes us more mindful, focused on the problem and so more  able to come up with a solution. A nervous actor can give the best performance, and a fantastic way to de- stress is to  learn a new skill and be productive at the same time.

Whether you choose to observe it or create it  yourself it’s a relaxing activity for anyone, focusing on making something blocks the mind from thinking about your problems even if only for a short time and you should have a clearer head at the end.

Cooking is a creative outlet that touches every sense, cooking healthy foods helps heal the body and mind. There are foods that can cut levels of cortisol and adrenaline so decreasing anxiety and there’s something very satisfying about cooking and enjoying a good meal so increasing self-esteem. Baking bread became very popular during this pandemic. Just the act of kneading is very therapeutic, and the aroma of bread cooking can give a feeling of comfort. It's said that if you are trying to sell your house, have some bread baking in the oven to give a homely feel.

Relief – For some people it's difficult to express your emotions and trauma can be held in for years. Creating can be used to relax the mind and body. Having a hobby gives you a reason to have down time, breathing can slow down which in turn helps to tone the Vagus Nerve, our secret weapon to fighting stress! It controls many of our bodily functions. The longest nerve in our body runs from the brain to the abdomen which could be why when we are stressed it goes straight to our stomachs! 

Embroidering and sewing can be meditative, the repeated action of stitching can be calming and improve hand-eye coordination. There are many social sewing groups around the country both online and in person, so you get to meet a whole new community of like-minded people. If you don’t want to go out, joining a Sewing group on social media gives you a chance to share the things you have made or just view other’s creations and engage with virtual comments giving you a sense of connection and not feeling alone. 

Art therapy is proven to help with mental health, especially depression. Expressing yourself through painting can be a way of letting out your emotions. Draw what you feel instead of talking, take your anger out with bold brush strokes and strong colours. 

Adult colouring books can be very relaxing for people who are not artistic but still want to create lovely pictures.

Tactile-using your sense of touch can jolt you back into the present moment and take you out of faraway thoughts, the feel of wool through knitting or crocheting can keep you present, there are many actors and actresses including Julia Roberts, Sarah Jessica Parker, Audrey Hepburn and Ryan Gosling who knit to help them relax between scenes, the clicking of needles can be quite therapeutic. 

The tactile art of pottery is great for all ages and a time when you can be messy and get a feeling of freedom. There’s no right or wrong, just a great way to express oneself and also make something useful. It’s known to reduce anxiety and even if done in a group there’s still a quiet atmosphere in which to be calm. 

Engineering and woodworking are often suggested by therapists to people suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It requires attention to detail and so totally engages the mind and many people say it is soothing and relaxing. We hold most of our tension in our hands and shoulders, woodworking engages lots of muscle groups helping to relieve tension in the hands and easing shoulder pain. Studies also show that just being in an environment with or touching wood can have a calming effect causing a drop in blood pressure and pulse. 

There can be such a sense of achievement in completing a project even if you don’t want to show anyone else and engaging in a new skill can set you on a lifetime path of purpose,  expanding your energies in a positive direction, but this all said if you are having unusual health symptoms don’t self-diagnose always go to a doctor although that in itself can be stressful!