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Is Stress Crushing Your Creativity and Drive? Here’s What to Do

We’re used to hearing about that hustle mindset. You know, the one where every waking hour should be a working hour, and if you’re not on Gmail at 11pm you’re basically slacking? Never quite considering if the stress is crushing your creativity and drive.

The bottom half of a man's face & top of his torso are in view and they're completely covered in sticky post-it notes with scribbles and notes all over them indicating stress & over-working!

For a long time, the US work ethic was a “stress is cool” kinda deal. If you were spending more time at home than in the office, you were doing work wrong. Your pillow was your keyboard, your bed was your desk chair, and having your toothbrush in your pen pot would get praise for you being a true grafter.

And we felt pretty great about it, too. In 2018, a government report spoke highly of the traditional “American work ethic” and it’s been a source of pride across American culture. In truth, our international friends could be forgiven for thinking there was a Don Draper overnighting in every workplace.

The Statistics Are Clear

And we also don’t take all our comparatively scarce vacation time, paying for it in terms of our personal and professional well-being.

Creativity is one of the biggest areas that take a hit when our stress levels rocket too high; some kinds of stress can get things fueled and going, but as writer Judy Martin wrote in an article for Forbes magazine, “I wonder if most workers really have a handle on identifying that ‘sweet spot’ of just enough anxiety that might trigger a burst of innovation or creativity. It seems to me that stress/anxiety are already well baked into the numbers at work.”

To get you feeling balanced, we’ve put together some actionable steps that will help your creativity in any work environment. Because stress, and especially short-term stress, is bound to crop up anywhere you work. Scroll on to see how you can reduce stress crushing your creativity and drive.

Make Things Simpler

Oftentimes, when we want to prove ourselves and create something special, thinking something complex is what we need to strive for. In fact, embracing simplicity can be wonderful for our productivity and creative streaks. Maybe that strategy doesn’t need to rewrite the rulebook, or that report doesn’t need to be your most complicated yet. Writer Steven Savage has pointed out that “Simplicity means less chance of error, less rabbit holes to go down.”

Switch Up Your Environment

It’s official: plants are more than just cute desk buddies. They can actually top up your creativity, productivity, and well-being according to the Human Spaces Global Report. That same report shared that natural light can do wonders too, but if you’re not able to get close to a window, heading outside for a lunchtime walk will boost your creative spirits as well. Music has also proved to be a hit, terrible pun intended!

A desk space completely surrounded by different types of house plants

Switch Up Your Routine, Too

Our brains love variety. Find ways to add variety into your work routine. It could be as simple as taking a new route to work, or finding a new coffee shop altogether. If you’re at home and on a lunch break or if you have a sleep pod in your office, then NASA has spoken and a nap is officially great for resetting your mind for the rest of your workday. Try a new workout at the gym during your weekday routines, or get sweaty with a new exercise at lunch. Have a co-working session with a colleague, and get curious about how to make your days feel fresh.

Speak to Your Seniors and Communicate Your Needs

Last but most important: if you’re feeling that stress is hindering your welfare, make sure that your seniors know. Nowadays, more and more bosses are waking up and getting proactive about their team’s health and happiness, with Gen Z and Millennials making it clear that they want employers who care about their well-being. Know that if you want to feel better at work, you can say so, and you’re not going to be the only one speaking up.

Takeaways:

  • The US’ stress-driven work ethic is well-documented and though we work longer, we are usually less productive than our European peers
  • Simplify. Making a process or deliverable less complex means you’ll get it done and enable fewer errors along the way
  • Add nature to your workweek with desk plants, natural light, and walks outside
  • Switch up your work routine by taking walks, lunch break naps or exercises classes, and finding ways to embrace curiosity
  • Let your bosses know if you are struggling; with younger and more vocal generations entering the workforce, improving work stress is being normalized.

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