In all walks of life, among all age groups, stress is a very real issue and unless addressed and dealt with it can become a very destructive force in our lives. All of us, from time to time, experience the harsher realities of life and people deal with these in a variety of different ways, some positive and some negative. After a brush with serious illness a few years ago I realised how stressful my working life had become, and, although I worked with a great bunch of people and loved my job, I decided that a change of lifestyle was required and in some ways it’s only by leaving the stress behind that I realise how stressed I was and I appreciate my new freedom all the more.
More and more people are experiencing mental health issues due to the impact of an increasingly highly pressured world and it has become imperative that we find ways to counteract this pressure. The popularity of walking groups, running groups, yoga and mindfulness practices, and meditation groups, among many other things, are all attempts to find alternative supports in our lives that will nourish the body and help create more healthy minds. Creative arts, especially when pursued for pleasure rather than profit, have a part to play in improving our mood as they help us to get lost in the creative process and forget our negative thoughts. Creative writing, painting, cooking, gardening, playing an instrument, photography, are all pursuits that can absorb our attention and bring enjoyment and fulfilment. Regular exercise, particularly when combined with being outside, brings about chemical changes in the brain that can help us relax and sleep better.
I like to combine exercise with being in nature. Photography offers us a hobby that allows us to use our creative talents while motivating us to get outside, explore the world, capture some of the beauty that is all around us and show that beauty to others. I find that I don’t have to please anyone else with the pictures I take and show, and my progress is at my own pace. Photography is a pursuit that I can take with me wherever I go, as I have my ever ready phone camera with me, and I can train my eyes to seek out photo opportunities even without a camera, an enjoyable activity in itself.
January provided many dramatic sunrises and sunsets, which I love to capture
I think that the silhouettes created against a colourful sky are strangely calming!
Strolling around my local park in the evening is something I look forward to doing
Perhaps one of the most powerful ways in which photography can aid as a stress buster is through the beauty of the images themselves - images that create a positive energy in those who view them and provide a sense of peace, calm and even gratitude in our lives. As well as taking photographs, I love to view the work of other photographers and see how they view the world around them. Some of these will be gifted amateurs while others will be those for whom photography is a way of life. In many cases their works are truly inspirational!
Last year I visited the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin to view the Moment in Time: A Legacy of Photographs | Works from the Bank of America Collection, and View of Ireland: Collecting Photography exhibitions, where photography masters, and not so well known photographers, took me on a journey of discovery and led me into the world of their beautiful creations. I had vowed to seek out and visit more live exhibitions but unfortunately a world pandemic intervened! However, I am grateful for the many photographers whose work I have discovered online and who often share their expertise generously to others who want to improve their craft.
While it may be true that we have to curtail many of our activities in the current circumstances, and while some of our aims in life cannot be realised during lockdown, the ambition to become less stressed in life is one that I, for one, can continue to pursue. After all – the mind matters!
Hydrangea in winter
The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. – Tony Robbins
This post was updated in February 2021