Converting Pain Into Creativity

I hurt therefore I am.   

For much of my life, it’s seemed as if pain has been a measure of whether I’m alive. Pain is not always pleasant but it’s better than feeling nothing at all. I’ve swung on both sides of the pendulum, either worrying about the slightest bit of pain to excess, or ignoring pain entirely.

For me, emotional pain and anxiety don’t just exist in my head, but often turn into physical aches and pains. Can you relate to this? 

Is stress causing you tension? Is anxiety marked by stomach aches, indigestion, headaches and muscle spasms? It’s not bad enough that you’re not feeling great in spirit, but now you can’t even keep down any food without the burn that comes with acid travelling up into your oesophagus.

I’ve often dealt with this excess of pain simply by trying to ignore it. I feel like this is more common than one thinks.

You know how people use the phrase “listen to your body”? I would do exact opposite. I’d feel nauseated from my anxiety and instead of making myself a cup of ginger tea to calm myself I’d crack open a beer or stuff my face with noodles. Now beer and noodles are both delicious (and I still enjoy both enormously), but they were not what my body was asking for at that very moment. Not what my body needed. All I was doing was trying to suppress my anxiety rather than deal with it.

I think a lot of folks deal with both physical, mental and emotional pain similarly, by trying to bury it. It’s a habit that, once started, is hard to get out of. These days, though, after decades of these types of pain, I’m trying to be more strategic about pain management. Creative, if you will.

So Here’s some tips I’d like to share with you for how you can convert your pain into creativity:

1-Keep a journal handy, always.

I have several types of journals for different purposes. I have one where I simply record the food I’ve eaten and how it’s made me feel. This helps me if certain foods trigger pain or inflammation for me. What food is soothing and what upsets my stomach.

I have another journal simply for mental health. It helps me see my anxious thoughts for what they are-just thoughts, not an actual indication of how I am doing.

A third journal is more of a sketchbook, it helps me draw out some emotions that I’m feeling and keeps me balanced and inspired by the world around.

Maybe journaling is not for you but even writing down a couple of words a day can help change your perspective. It’s taking that bottled up pain and turning it into something tangible and possibly helpful. 

2-Feel your body

I’m not saying you need to grab every limb of yours and access it’s strength, but I find that when I’m feeling physical and mental pain sometimes just being mindful of my breath and body helps. This can be in the form of deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or any other form of exercise. You don’t need to go to a 45 min class to get the benefits. Simply rolling out you mat and stretching for a couple of minutes can help you rest.

3-Change your scenery

So often any form of pain can make us feel stuck. Stuck in bed, stuck in our homes, stuck in our heads. I often marvel and the healing powers of simply feeling the sun against my face. Sometimes my body can feel so tired that the last thing I want to do is go out and see friends or take a walk, but the thing is I always, always, always feel better afterwards. And walks can often inspire my writing, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. I love going out too, especially to organized events like group painting sessions, because not only can you socialize but you are also refocusing all your nervous energy on something that gets your creative juices flowing, no matter what the result is.

What do you think you could do more of in your life to convert your pain into creativity? Is it being out in nature more that will help you reset and invigorate your life? What about learning a new language? Taking a cooking course? Writing down some positive observations in your journal? These techniques are nothing new and are related to mindfulness, but I truly find them effective in managing pain.

 These days I’m trying to think less in terms of “I hurt therefore I am” and more in terms of “I create therefore I am.”