My Antidote to Stress

I am currently going through a stressful time at work. In this article I discuss how landscape photography helps me to deal with stress.

My job can be quite stressful at times; that is particularly true at the moment. But I find landscape photography invaluable for coping with stress. Here’s why.

It gets me out of the house

At weekends landscape photography is my primary reason for leaving the house.

There have been many studies into the effect that spending time in nature has on stress. I speak from personal experience when I say that spending time outdoors really helps to put everything in perspective.

Somehow the things that are getting on top of me seem to be less important.

Spending time in the countryside, particularly somewhere as beautiful as the Lake District, helps me to realise that there is more to life than endless meetings, corporate politics and impending deadlines.

Spending time in nature can be an effective stress reliever helping to put everything in perspective
It gets me active

Let’s face it. Unless you park right next to where you are going to shoot (as I can at Glencoyne on Ullswater) chances are you are going to have to walk to your location.

And sometimes, if you are looking for that killer view to make the most of the sunrise, you are going to walk a long way, often up hill.

Again there have been many studies linking physical activities to mental well being. The internet is awash with articles claiming that exercise relieves stress but my limited research failed to identify a single one that explained how.

Again I draw from personal experience. If I endure enjoy some form of physical activity, for example climbing a fell, I get a pretty hefty hit of endorphins.

Physiologically endorphins have a similar effect to morphine acting as an analgesic (relieving pain) and a sedative (calming you down).

The effect of both of these is to make you feel better, negating to some extend the impact of extended periods of stress.

You see Mum and Dad, that biology degree that you paid for wasn’t entirely wasted!

The physical exertion required to climb fells such as Haystacks is rewarded by the release of endorphins which have a similar physiological effect to morphine.
It gives me something else to think about

I am a thinker. It is what I do.

At work I am responsible for setting strategy and solving problems and in order to do that I spend a lot of time thinking.

My ability to think clearly, to separate what is important from what is not and to make quick decisions is probably the main reason why I have enjoyed such as successful career.

It does have it downsides though. It isn’t really something that you can turn off. The other ‘thinkers’ reading this will know exactly what I mean.

I am always thinking, always running potential solutions through my mind, always playing back different scenarios to see how they might have turned out.

I am not very good on holiday; I usually need a ‘project’ to distract me.

If I simply head out for a walk when I am stressed I find that my mind wanders, often reliving the key moments of the past week.

Photography gives me something to think about. When I am out taking photos and/or vlogging I am completely absorbed in what I am doing. And I never, ever think about work.

This form of escapism is why I am so protective of my time with the camera.

The concentration required to get shots like this one of Buttermere distracts my mind enough that I never think about work when I am out with my camera.
It’s an excuse to spend time with my mates

I am lucky that I have a few close mates that I have grown up with that have my back and vice versa.

But increasingly, partly because my oldest pals are back home in the south of England where I am originally from and partly because I have embraced the connections that I have made since starting my YouTube channel, my friends come from within the photography community.

James Burns, Julian Baird, Gareth Danks, Andy Maguire to name but a few. I have become close enough to all of them that time spent out shooting or even just discussing photography and YouTube distracts me entirely from everything else that is going on in my life.

We laugh, we joke, but mostly we take the piss out of each other. And mucking about with your mates releases another hormone, oxytocin, which is critical to forming social bonds and makes us seek out communities in which we feel safe.

Hanging out with this fella has it’s advantages, even if he occasionally forgets the Jelly Babies.

I recommend landscape photography to anyone that suffers from stress; it has helped me an great deal over the last 12 years.

If you know someone that suffers from stress perhaps it would help them to read this article.

11 thoughts on “My Antidote to Stress”

  1. Great article Chris, I really needed to read this. It seems like there is a theme going on YouTube about how photography helps with stress. I have seen it at least three this week, including yours. All have been good. I need to get out more. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Thanks Steve, I have no idea why there have been so many videos about photography and stress lately. In my videos I tend to talk about what is effecting at that particular moment in time. Do you find that photography helps with stress?

      1. Just being outside helps, but I think the photography helps get my mind off the stress. Kind of like you said. I think thinking about camera settings and laying out compositions while outside helps “reboot” my mind and some of the anxiety and worry dissolve. Nothing better than being outside with my camera at sunrise.

  2. Totally agree Chris, however my stress levels fell dramatically when I took early retirement and paid off the mortgage! I used to live near Cockermouth and during that time my life took a really bad turn with loss of job, divorce and a house move all within a year. Stress was quite high and I was not a well man. Friends and getting out around Buttermere got me through it. I didn’t have a camera as the old Zenit E broke on Grisedale Pike in the snow. I told you it was a bad year! Since rediscovering photography getting out and spending time waiting for the light is still definitely good for the soul.

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for sharing a little of your story, what a rotten run of luck. I hope all that is behind you now. Are you still based in Cumbria?

  3. Not only does landscape photography make me forget whatever has been taking over my head, it makes me lose track of time and distance. I’m so busy trying to find my next shot that I forget all about how far I’ve gone or how long I’ve been gone. That’s mostly a good thing although I have been known to push it just a bit too far (as my husband is so fond of telling me).

    May this week be a bit less stressful for you. So, so glad I’m retired!

    1. Ah yes Theresa, I am guilty of that too. I sometimes lose all track of time when I am out shooting arriving home far latter than planned. That usually involves a rushed phone call to Mrs Sale to let her know I haven’t fallen of a mountain, followed by a couple of hours in the dog house!

    1. Thanks Timothy, I used to find photography could be quite stressful, particularly when working in challenging conditions. Strong winds are the worst for me. Trying to get a shot when the wind is gusting about can make me quite grumpy! But I find that doesn’t happen anywhere near as much if I am out shooting with other people.

  4. There’s good stress and there’s bad stress. The latter often comes with the job and there comes a point when you realise that all those things you get stressed about at work mean very little in the grand scheme of things. We’re all expendable, if we drop dead right there at the desk, someone else will take over in no time at all. A couple of years ago I witnessed a colleague of mine who was in his early 40s dying from a heart attack – I was slightly older at that time and realised that this could have been me.

    Ever since that event I value my spare time much higher than anything in my job. It’s why I switched to 4-day work schedule which I now can dedicate to the various hobbies I have. That’s when I feel alive.

    The weather over here has prevented me from taking many pictures worth posting. It’s just like in April, with a chill and overcast skies for good measure. There’s clouds galore, but it hardly ever rains anymore. Consequently, there’s no waterfalls to shoot. Hell, there’s hardly any water to shoot – and this situation has been dragging for almost half a year.

    So I turned to astrophotography, because up until 2 weeks ago we almost always had clear skies. Now that I got a telescope, guess what, overcast skies for weeks. See a pattern emerge? 😉

    And here we come full circle. Looking through the telescope inevitably puts things into perspective – we’re really only very small and the universe couldn’t care less about our daily squabbles.

    A job pays the bills, it’s not worth getting stressed out for..

    1. I can’t remember if we’ve discussed this before but I lost my best mate a few years ago to a heart attack. He was 43. He always planned to retire to the Lake District and I was forever telling him to do it sooner rather than later. It was his death that sent me down the path of looking for a better work life balance and pursuing my passions. We’re not quite there yet but every month I take a step closer.

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