In the US, we’re seemingly more stressed out than ever before. A 2017 Gallup poll found that 79 percent of Americans sometimes or frequently feel stressed during the average day. Between family obligations, financial situations, and work responsibilities, it’s no surprise that we’re stressed. But struggling with this high level of stress can have alarming consequences, so it’s important that you look for help. Here are some things to consider.
The scary truth about stress
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2017Stress in America Report, Americans are more likely to feel the negative effects of stress than they did in the previous year’s report. Around 40 percent of Americans said they experienced sleepless nights due to stress, while 75 percent said they’ exhibited at least one symptom of stress (such as anxiety, irritability, or fatigue) during the previous month.
The long-term effects of stress can be quite serious. TheNational Institute of Mental Health notes that chronic (or constant) stress can actually suppress the major systems in the human body. In some cases, this causes the immune, reproductive, digestive, or sleep systems from functioning as they normally would. When stress sticks around, it can cause everything from headaches and substantial weight changes to depression and insomnia. Left unchecked, it can even contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and any number of serious health conditions.
The art of stress reduction
Although many of us tend to wear our stress like a badge of honor, it’s clear that too much stress has a profoundly negative effect on our health. Fortunately, there may be an easy remedy: just add art.
Numerous studies found that involvement in the arts can aid in the healing process for those struggling with chronic or serious medical conditions. Creative expression can decrease negative emotions, provide
But you don’t necessarily have to make art to benefit from it —merely viewing certain types of art can ease stress and anxiety, too. OneBritish neurobiologist found that when you view a painting you like, your brain instantly releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical that’s associated with love and desire. Other reports suggest that when patients are able to view the art displayed in hospital galleries, their stress levels decrease significantly. This subsequently allows for improvements in the overall healing process and has practical applications in our daily lives.
Art as a solution
When your stress stems from having too much to do in too little time, it can be tough to carve out even an hour to devote to a creative project. If you’re so exhausted from personal and professional obligations, you probably won’t spend what little free time you have drawing or painting.
But displaying art doesn’t take much time at all. By hanging up a visually appealing canvas print in your home — say, one that involves a soothing nature scene or that’s done in a style that brings a smile to your face — you may be able to literally change the way your brain functions. Instead of staring at a blank wall in your bedroom or at an ugly cubicle space in your office, you could be reducing your cortisol levels by viewing a stunning piece of artwork.
For most of us, stress is a part of daily life. It’s also one that’s not likely to go away anytime soon. Relying on art to completely remove your stress may not work. But it can have a profound effect on your day and help you reframe your thinking. It can make you feel more energized, more creative, and less anxious about everything you’ve got going on. While it won’t eliminate the stress, it can help you feel more positive about it and help you deal with it in a productive and healthy way.