How I Manage Stress Through Writing
Stress is something that I've struggled with my entire life. For me, managing it has been a difficult task that requires various methods depending on the source. There are times when all I need is a quiet hour to myself and the tension will melt away. Then there are weeks where the stress builds and builds until I pop like a balloon. Managing stress can be a difficult task, one that even seems like it is impossible at times. However, recently I've been trying a new stress management method that I never would have expected to work so well, writing!
I've never been a writer. I always leaned more towards reading what someone else has written rather than doing the writing something myself. I did a little bit of writing in college, but most of that was required work and didn't stray too far outside of an academic setting.
During the past few years, I've explored writing in various forms. Many attempts at a daily journal were made, I tried bullet journaling for several months, I even got a writing prompt book that had me write down a list each night. While these were all valiant attempts, I never found one that stuck. Then someone suggested I try writing poetry. This opened an amazing door to me that I had never thought to explore.
The freedom that poetry holds is an escape without limits from the challenges and confines that are held within my mind.
I am someone who tends to bottle up their difficult emotions, letting them linger until they boil over. While I wasn't sharing my work with anyone, just the act of putting everything down on paper and exploring the beauty or pain in what I was going through was a weight lifted off of me. I was able to take the poems wherever I wanted, whether that be a personally reflective work that was more specific or an exploration of the nature of the feelings themselves. I could connect the emotions to anything, be it myself, or the sky, or even a color. There was no judgment attached to my feelings.
Something that I have found very helpful specifically when it comes to writing to process difficult feelings has been the ambiguity that is possible through writing poetry. It is possible, even somewhat expected on some level, to remove yourself from whatever emotions you're writing about and place them onto a different subject. For example, I wrote about the feeling of being insecure by writing about a sea anemone that retracted when something came near it. I could still feel the emotion, but the act of taking a step back and experiencing it through something other than myself involved a sort of relief.
This, of course, isn't me saying that writing poetry is for everyone, but rather a gentle nudge in the direction of trying something new to work through emotions. Whether they be wonderful or difficult in nature, writing could be a new way to explore and process them. I'll end with a quote from one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver.
"Poetry isn't a profession, it's a way of life. It's an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that." - Mary Oliver
Maddie Dauterman lives in Issaquah, WA
with her husband and cat. On most days you can find her reading, baking, or exploring in nature.