How Stress can kill the Creativity cells

You may have noticed that my Blogs have become somewhat infrequent recently. The truth is I have had to drag myself to the keyboard to write this one.  Normally I bang one out in about 20 minutes, and have to restrict the frequency lest I overload you.  Now I am having to work really hard to find my theme, and it feels a bit like pulling teeth.  It feels like someone has extinguished my Creativity flame.

Rufus on cliffHow come?  I know exactly.  I am stressed, probably more than I realise, by the ongoing illness of our beloved Cocker Spaniel, Rufus.  He is like child number three to us, and he has  been struggling with an immune system which as gone bananas for the last 6 weeks.  He made good progress initially with steroids, then had a major relapse and was dangerously anaemic, and is now rebuilding very slowly.  Because he can’t do his usual exercise he is not so hungry, so has lost weight and muscle, which makes him weaker.  We are on 7 different medications and several new types of food, all of which are unsettling him, and unless we can find the right combination fairly soon we are worried that we may lose him.  The Grim Reaper is lurking out there in the garden, and it is very stressful.

My wife and I are both exhausted (we have to tend to him at 2am and 5am) physically, and feel life is on hold.  Meanwhile I have a training business to run, requiring my creativity cells to be working as usual.  Which they are not.  I have a simple role play exercise I need to develop for one client, which I’d normally have done in an hour.  I’ve been struggling with it for over a week now.  I guess it’s one of the few downsides of being self employed.  You don’t get ill, and you work out your own solutions to your problems.

If I were coaching someone with this issue, one approach I’d take is to use Myers Briggs GRIP theory.  I’d find out their MBTI profile, work out what their Dominant function is, and thus what their GRIP (stressed) profile is, and then coach them to regain their Dominant function again.  In my case, Extraverted Intuition (externalised big picture thinking) becomes Introverted Sensing (inward sensitivity to detail).  I become overwhelmed with minutiae, and get stuck unless I have all the detail at my fingertips.  So I need to get myself back to my Dominant, which is to remind myself of the Big Picture.

Easier said than done, I’m finding.  The equivalent of pulling your own tooth out (which I have never successfully done, but did try once as an experiment.  It failed.)

Sorry, I think that’s all I have to say on the subject.  The well has run dry.  Creativity and Stress do not a happy couple make.  I wonder how the current economic climate is depressing creativity levels across the globe?

Rufus sledge small

I hope to be back in a more balanced frame of mind next time (all it would take would be for Rufus’ blood count to have gone up to 30 plus at his next vet’s visit).  If so, I’ll think up a creative way of making it up to you that will astound you.

By the way, I just realised: isn’t today meant to be Black Monday or something – the most depressing day of the year?  In which case this Blog can add to your personal gloom, and I have the perfect excuse for feeling this way.  You mean I’m not alone?  Oooh, I feel better already.

Thanks for listening.

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at
This entry was posted in Coaching Skills, Personality types and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to How Stress can kill the Creativity cells

  1. Sher says:

    I feel for you about your dog. Currently ours is experiencing some form of paralysis of a hind quarter and while worrisome and heartbreaking, she still gives and receives love and loyalty. Give yourself permission to take a step back from the stress to be still. Give yourself permission to take the time you need and the words will come when you are ready. Your words will come again, no need to double your stress. Loyal readers will be there with understanding and patience, as the loyalty is from your beloved Rufus.

    Wishes for a strong recovery to Rufus and much inspiration to you.


    • Thank you so much for your thoughts and your support, Sher. I am pleased to report that Rufus is making progress – his blood count is up 10% on last week, and we think we are no longer on the danger list. As his energy and cheekiness returns, so is mine!


  2. Michael all the best to Rufus. Thanks for sharing and yes, we are all behind you. BTW, not sure about this Black Monday thing. I did hear though that today is National Hug day. I looked it up and it is recognized (of sorts) in the US and also apparently by the Hugging Committee in London (whatever that is). Let’s go with it – go hug your dog!
    – Michael


  3. We’ve gone through this with our springer spaniel and I empathize. Very painful, stressful time. So sorry.


    • Thank you for your understanding. So many supportive comments today, what a wonderful place the blogosphere is!

      Rufus has improved today, just had a vigorous cliff walk and done a respectable looking poo, so fingers crossed his latest diet may be agreeing with him, in which case he will get his energy back. It’s almost worse than having a sick child, as he can’t say how he is, and of course they mask the illness to protect themselves.


  4. Dave Loewy says:

    Hi Mike. Very sorry to hear about Rufus. Our old dog is about 13, nearly blind and deaf as a post. Just recently, he decided that he no longer wants to walk, so I am missing my exercise, and worried about how much longer he’ll be with us. And of course, missing that regular exercise also reduces creativity, as do the cortisol and adrenaline levels caused by stress. The endorphins released by exercise are a great counter to stress.
    I hope Rufus recovers and that you can find a way to have a goiod laugh on “Blue Monday”.


    • Thanks so much for your empathy and insight, Dave. Have I managed a laugh on “Blue Monday”? Not yet. But I am more relaxed now that Rufus has gone for a walk on the cliffs in the sunshine with Charlotte, and that he has eaten three portions of high vitamin food today so far.


  5. Michael, I’m sorry to hear about Rufus’ ailments. Here’s to a speedier recovery (his and yours). Not sure the blogosphere can manage for long without your sage and snappy penmanship and followership. All the best. Dave


  6. Hi Michael

    Sorry to hear about Rufus, I do know how worrying it can be when a valued family member is seriously ill.
    However I’d just like to say I felt there was a major omission from this week’s blog. If you’re truly creative but having trouble preparing stuff for work – you use the same skills you normally do when problem solving – you look round for resources that will help you achieve what you’re trying to do.
    In this case you simply share your difficulty by asking your colleagues (who you know really well!!!!) to assist you. Want some help getting your head round a training exercise – just ask! It’s ever so simple, and you might be surprised to find your colleagues actually want to help out because they feel its something they can do – for you…


    • Thanks so much David. You’re absolutely right, if truly stuck one collaborates. Funny, that’s obvious if you’re thinking straight, but when you’re not, maybe not! I am going to force myself to have another go tomorrow, when we’ll be a day further on and might have had a better night than last night. If not, you’re top of my list for a call!


  7. Hi Michael

    Thanks for sharing. I sincerely hope Rufus is better soon, I feel your anxiety, and understand how it affects what you do.

    When I led teams I never underestimated the impact of stressful situations at home and how it affected performance, much to the frustration of others in the organisation who always believed work came first.

    I remember a time when I was happily working 50 hours or so a week, hammering out great results and working on a wing and a prayer.

    Then our beloved cat went missing. It wasn’t just the emotional impact of worrying where she might be, it was taking time with the kids to deal with their emotions and fears, and the practical impact of ringing around shelters, visiting them because there were cats which matched her description, making and posting leaflets.

    I remember feeling the stress of the momentum which I had created at work coming to a standstill and the frustration of others because suddenly I was missing deadlines and working a more normal 35 hour week. It only lasted a couple of weeks until we gave up in the realisation she wasn’t coming home. Yet if I had explained this to the powers that be, that taking my foot off the accelerator was because I had lost my cat, many people just wouldn’t have understood how sometimes these things can be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.

    I guess you just have to do what I did at that time, and gave myself a break. Because we aren’t superhuman, we are just human, and we care about our living companions, and sometimes they have to come first.

    Fingers crossed Michael…….


    • Thanks so much Christina. You’ve brought memories of losing our cat back from years ago, and I so remember the point at which we too had to conclude he has gone for good. What is harder this time is that he is so strong and fit, and yet we are looking at the possibility that he won’t make it. It is on a knife edge. We were particularly anxious last night because he has had an upset stomach, which we think is a rejection of the medication. He was sick at 2am and we spent most of the night watching his every move in case it got worse. However today he seems much brighter and is demanding more food! So as you say; fingers crossed, one day at a time.


  8. Mandy Green says:

    Hey Michael,

    Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for poor Rufus. Stress has been much underestimated I think. The nasty cocktail of hormones it produces have a dramatic effects on the brain, the body, and the emotions. Reducing creativity is just one of its effects, others include constant anxiety, lethargy, stomach and skin complaints, susceptibility to any germs going, not sleeping, indecision, mood swings….. the list goes on! Last year I worked on a public sector contract in a climate of aggressive downsizing and uncertainty. The absence levels from those who still had jobs was around the 30% mark. This was the result of rampant levels of stress. Imagine the impact of this on business productivity and morale! A fun job not.

    Stress can be a serious issue and the “pull yourself together” approach invites us to feel guilty and weak if we can’t. So yes, using MBTI can be really helpful in just helping us to stop and take stock of what’s going on. Other thinking and talking approaches which can be helpful are CBT for long term problems, mindfulness (been working with this myself and it’s amazingly powerful) and generally eliciting support from those around us. So thinking of you all and fingers crossed that Rufus will be on the road to recovery really soon.



  9. Colin says:

    Hi Michael, thank you for sharing.

    Whilst I have never been an owner of a pet, I do have a very close friend who has a cat which has diabeties and has been this way for the last couple of years. I know from watching her, how all consuming this little one can b. You are so right, even though she is childless, her cat is her child.

    I do wish your dog well and that the Grip Reaper can leave your garden.

    Take care



What do you think? Please leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s