Hobbies can be more stressful than fun - GulfToday

Hobbies can be more stressful than fun


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Forget medication with its terrible side effects and forget therapy that could cost you an arm and a leg because, according to some experts, the best way to protect yourself from stress and various types of burnout is to take up a hobby. Mmm, I don’t know about that one…

I should just say right off the bat that therapy and medication should never be completely discounted if your state of mind is beyond the lifestyle change stage. In some cases, no hobby in the world is going to help your recovery unless the hobby itself changes your life for the better, especially if it’s a hobby about which you are passionate.

I’m not dismissing hobbies either. Normally, they give you something to look forward to at the weekend and something to do in your spare time. You might find that work and responsibilities that are essential to sustain you and your family will pass by a lot more easily if you have something else on which to focus your mind, even while you’re doing the work.

You can take up anything. It could be exercising, music, singing, dancing, cycling, cooking or art. Of course if you’ve had a hobby in the past but gave up on it because you didn’t have time for it, you might like to think about taking it up again. On the other hand, if you’ve never had a hobby, maybe you ought to look into what you enjoy doing, apart from work and the things you must do to keep the house running. I’m not saying that you might not enjoy working or keeping your home running, but everything has its limits. You might enjoy your job but even a great job with an understanding boss and friendly colleagues can become stressful; it might not be the people causing you stress but the demands of a specific project. Even at home, you might love your spouse, your children or your siblings but even they can get on your last wick.

Some people might say that a hobby can be equally stressful, especially if you are trying to be good at it.

Take me and my art, for example. I started this hobby back in the UK after a business trip to Edinburgh in the mid-90s during which I visited an art gallery. When I started it I was very bad at it but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I carried on painting every weekend for at least 2 years during which time I did see some improvement. Every weekend my room looked more like an art studio than a bedroom. I had something to show to my friends and family and I also looked forward to the weekends. During the week I’d plan what I wanted to paint, go to art shops to browse art materials and I’d get the odd request from colleagues. It was fun and exciting for me and no matter how bad the art turned out, I was happy with it. It gave me something to think about other than work which, though stressful, never got to me.

Then, after we moved to Dubai, for various reasons, most of which had to do with Dubai and my jobs, I stopped painting, for almost 15-20 years, and whenever I did force myself to start again the results were worse than they’d ever been and I promptly gave up again. I had stopped because it wasn’t distracting me from the distress I was in at my workplaces. Moreover, any attempts at trying to paint yielded such terrible results that I often told myself I couldn’t even paint.

So this point brings me to a critical question. Is a hobby really relaxing? Well, it depends upon what you wish to gain from it. If it is just to take your mind off your troubles, then no matter how bad at it you are and how little or no improvement you see, it should make no difference to whether or not you should enjoy it. Remember, the whole point of taking it up in the first place was not to improve, although that would be a bonus, but to keep your mind occupied with things other than the problems in your life.

But to be honest, even that requires a skill. It’s hard for some people to be able to separate work or troubles from their places of Zen, and I am one of them. The reason I stopped painting for that many years was because my problems far outweighed anything I could have gained from my art.

There is a point at which you might stop enjoying a hobby and that is when it becomes more than a hobby to you and, to be honest, that sounds a lot like me. Now I’d like to turn my art into a pocket money earner and I find myself extremely stressed when painting because I am nervous I might ruin it by putting the wrong brushstroke in or the wrong colour. Sometimes the art is okay, at others it is most dissatisfactory and that’s when again I tell myself I can’t paint. That’s when ‘painting for fun and relaxation’ is anything but…

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