"I don't believe in art. I believe in artists." Marcel Duchamp

Stressed? Who, Me?
© 2000 Nita Leland

You have three commissions to finish, two submissions due for exhibitions, a demo to prepare for the local art group, your studio is a mess, you have to carpool Little League today, your driver's license has expired and it's past time for the cat's shots. Who ya gonna call, StressBusters?

Everybody has to deal with stress at some level on a daily basis and most people can cope most of the time. Even good stress takes its toll: weddings, graduations, openings. When you recognize that stress is inevitable you can prepare yourself to deal with it more effectively, no matter what form it takes. Here are some ideas that might help:

  1. Set realistic goals and priorities. What really has to be done first? Shouldn't you get that driver's license taken care of before you drive the carpool? And what about that carpool? It's important to make a family outing a top priority. Make sure your goals are realistic and doable. You'll never stop procrastinating if you've taken on more than it is humanly possible to do. And there is no master list of priorities--everyone has a different idea of what should come first.

  2. Once you've set your goals and priorities, organize your time accordingly. Choose the tasks that will help you accomplish your goals and put them at the top of your to-do list. Start with cleaning your studio if you find yourself avoiding work on your projects because the studio is a disaster area.

  3. Make sure YOU are high on your list of priorities. Take some time every day for yourself--no matter what else you have to do. You'll function much better if you schedule some downtime to read a book, putter in the garden or take a bubble bath. Take a walk--nothing you can do for yourself will give you a better return. You'll be more fit, your mind will clear as you improve your circulation, and you'll have a better perspective on what you need to do just by giving yourself some space.

  4. Stand before a mirror and practice saying, "No." You need to be really good at this. And what is more important, you don't owe anyone an explanation. A simple "no" will suffice. But it does take practice to do this with conviction.

  5. When you're stressed over something you can't control, deal with it and get over it.

  6. If you're stressed over something you CAN do something about, deal with it and get it over with.

  7. Ask for help. Don't be afraid to ask for suggestions, trade tasks, whatever it takes. Years ago I accepted the job of publicity director for our local art association at a time when I was extremely busy, but I knew they were desperate because they didn't have anyone who could write a press release. I said "yes," but with conditions--I would write the press releases, but they had to supply me with someone to do mailing labels, stuff envelopes, lick stamps, and do the mailing at the post office. Worked like a charm, and the next year my assistant was ready to take over the job.

  8. Learn to recognize stressful situations before they take their toll on you. Assign a stress level to a situation from one to five. The highest level fives need to be addressed assertively, broken down into doable tasks and overcome. You reduce stress by reducing the power of the situation to have a negative effect on you.
  9. Use your creativity to relieve stress: write in your journal, play with crayons or finger paints, or, as Fred Babb says: "Go to your studio and make stuff."

See The New Creative Artist for a great variety of projects that can help relieve stress.

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