Friday, September 9, 2016

Art & Reducing Stress

It is a given that life is full of stress. In is expected in our hectic lives. More than any other time, people struggle with anxieties. Though we know emotional turmoil is harmful to our well being, it can be a kind of norm. Stress can become an ever-present undercurrent, at times intensifying and becoming unbearable, robbing us of physical or mental energy.

Moments of relief do not happen by accident, we need to make a choice to pause. Rest will never come if unworthy of our time. By stepping back for a well-needed break, we have more control over the pace of our lives.  In a culture driven by a can-do, or perhaps a must-do attitude, it is helpful to come to grips with why we are so driven. Rather than inviting disaster in wasted time, with moments of calm reflection we rejuvenate ourselves with meaning. Life without meaning can be one of the most hopeless experiences.

We are bombarded by images of every kind with TV and the internet. Craving information and activity, our minds have become overloaded with intense input. If we have leisure time, it has become an obsession in which we try to cram as much as we can. In an ironic sense, relaxation has become work. Whether at work or rest, the abundance of activity in all we do avoids quiet and deeper reflection.

In contrast, art gives moments of peace as we pause to contemplate. Art edifies the mind, requiring our attention to enjoy. This is best experienced in person, rather than flying by in seconds on social media. The work I create has a sense of calm. There is an expression of peace and tranquility, focusing our attention on things around us in Creation. As the mind appreciates creativity, we enjoy this gift God has given us in its varied expression.

Allowing time for ourselves might seem selfish or lazy. Yet, our lives touch others. A parent, spouse, teacher, or pastor at peace in their hearts, spreads this smile to those around them. Stress is very harmful to our mental and emotional health, and can be to others when we take it out on them.

There is a peace that surpasses all the world has to offer. It is free, given in wonderful mercy. The storms of a hundred anxieties are calmed by the pages of His love letter to us, the Bible. God, who is awesome with unapproachable power and holiness, is near in grace through His Son Jesus Christ. Here too something is required of us. If we pass it by, we miss true life. We bring our full attention to God, emptying our hands of ourselves to receive and come to Him. Profound meaning, joy, and purpose, are fulfilled in His love for us.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Sunset Over Barnegat Bay", 15 x 22", colored pencils.

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