Dealing with stress the constructive way

A friend told me a very interesting thing yesterday; she said that every time she got into the kind of conversation where a heavy subject matter was being discussed, she’d get this mysterious urge to smoke. The kinds of conversations she meant was the kind where it was late at night and you and another person – perhaps a close friend, perhaps someone with whom you share a sexual tension – ponder about the things in life.

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When I see other people smoke, it’s to blow off steam, or when they can’t be dealing with the tension. It’s a temporary break, and I can understand the appeal of that. But my own position on smoking is pretty hostile; sometimes I feel like my immediate rejection, the almost disgusted face I automatically pull when I smell smoke or if someone mentions their addiction to/dependence on it ostracises people. It’s not a pretty face, that’s for sure.

Stress has recently really been a thing – and I’m sure that’s something many people have in common. It’s a hot topic, one that all ostensibly caring welfare agencies/ads/workers express concern about. It’s an ‘issue’.

There is such strength in some people, in the way they deal with hardship. As sad as it sounds, I think every single person who doesn’t turn to some chemical form of rest or respite (e.g. drugs, including tobacco and alchohol) should be celebrated.

Some social theorists think that in modern (capitalist) life, lots of people can’t really see any way to express themselves other than by buying things. Maybe it’s the capitalist system that causes this consumerist desire, or maybe it’s the fact that this desire existed already that the system came to be; chicken or egg? I don’t remember whether it was the Frankfurt School theorists or Kant who thought this, but according to one of them (or someone else entirely, my memory’s terrible), art is an alternative way in which human beings can express themselves.

People who choose not to see the world beyond their little blinkered bubbles, the ones who – whether due to their upbringing, social position, social history or otherwise – do not allow their considerations to transcend beyond their own very limited conception of the world, unfortunately don’t possess the capacity to see that art is the perfect way to express yourselves.

As naively optimistic as it sounds, I staunchly believe that everyone has the capacity to be creative, and to transcend in the way I described above. I believe everyone has taste, but this differs, and people sometimes have trouble reaching their true potential and truly realise their taste. I believe that everyone has the ability to express themselves in the ‘purer’ way that Kant or the Frankfurt School outlined, one that didn’t depend on the perpetually unattainable, consumerist promise that money represents.

The point I’m trying to get at, is that I think engaging with art, and the beauty of the aesthetic form, whether that’s in the form of music, theatre, literature, film, dance, fine art, photography, whatever! is the best way to deal with stress, or the weary loads that life sometimes lays on you.

I feel like engaging with that sort of brain activity is almost the abstract solution to everything; it’s a stress reliever, and it works by building up your enjoyment of something without necessarily comparing your performance to others (that’s only if you’re doing this for enjoyment, and not for a living, obviously). It helps you to gain a better sense of self, a better of self-confidence, and anchor you to your present situation. It’s at the same time a kind of distraction, but a distraction that allows you to directly address the root of your problems, it’s running away from something by heading straight for the culprit.

This is something I’ve come to realise lately. I’m at a period where I feel like my permanent self-confidence and self-security has been lower than it ever has been, because I have stakes in somebody now, and I’ve started to compare myself to every single person I see; I never used to do that.

So put some time aside for an artistic activity that you enjoy, or be brave and try to get into something new – something good, something you can connect with on a deeper level. If you manage to get over any mental blocks you might have, you won’t regret it.

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