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How Our Limbic System Stifles Creativity, Let's Outsmart It

Nicky brings her drive and force to the fore in Functional wellness coach programmes. Specializing in recovery support for specific conditions of ME (CFS), Fibromyalgia & long covid. Her supporting work covers bereaved clients trying to find freedom to move on.

Executive Contributor Nicky Abell-Francis

Battles of the brain. Discover how your mischievous limbic system can throw creativity off track and gain some strategies to outwit its antics. Let’s delve into the chemicals influencing your thoughts and reclaim your creative mojo!

Sea in the shape of ice cream and an island in the center

What is this strange limbic system?

How come my limbic system stifles creativity? Let’s delve in. How can I increase creativity in the brain? Wonder why when we have a project or job we don't want to attempt, we stall. Do everything else even menial cleaning than tackle what we really need to do. What we are experiencing is fear. Which steps in with some little hormonal critters kicking in via the limbic system to affect our pre-frontal cortex. Basically, shutting it down. Creativity, clear thought processes go out of the window. Writers block kicks in. Once we have experienced this once we have a repeat mechanism that reminds us whenever we encounter another goal or project, we perceive could be a challenge.

Fearful you say. No way, but silently deep down we are feeling this otherwise we would just get on with it. Thinking creatively, inspiration would strike and we would be in the flow. Strangely cleaning the oven or being distracted by what is happening outside the window would not be happening. If it might feel painful to do we avoid. We go through the same process each time, till we are dragged kicking to the table when the deadline comes up. Play dirty to avoid the limbic system stifles creativity mindset.

Fun actions to reduce how our limbic system stifles creativity

  1. Our actions create our feelings in a way. Change your setting. Get away or work in a different conference room or office. Even down a local café that has good wi-fi. Not all are busy, some have more private areas to settle down and focus. Even developing the planning to start with. Outsmart our minds.

  2. Trick your body to be in a relaxed zone and the fear of procrastination is deceived. We can gain inspiration, ideas and pathways forward when the mind is distracted or soothed. So, what are you waiting for get distracting have a bath, go on a walk or book a creative break. Any excuse for a holiday. Create those moments. Get that weekend away booked. A hotel may not work as well but just maybe it can. Many places have nice grounds to sit and have a cuppa. Go grab the laptop or have a swim in their pool and return refreshed to smash that goal before dinner.

  3. A private bolthole is great as this does allow solitude, privacy and space to create. You can implement a reward system it works for animals why not for us humans.

'I will achieve this much of the task then enjoy a short break relaxing on the veranda.'

Get your creativity flowing

Write out a simple plan when and which part to be completed. First steps are key. This is found to improve uptake and the pathway to completion. A good one for list makers to tick off on completion. Satisfaction is also a good motivator.

How to be creative instantly can be an issue. We have hundreds of ideas and rubbish percolating in our minds so dump those on the page first. The weird the whacky and the awful options, ideas and prose get them down. Get them out of the brain akin to flushing a drain clean. We are overloaded by so much stimuli that no wonder we freeze trying to extract the next best creation for mankind. Clear the junk.

'Shake it up, change your routine, get moving, staying still is boring. Get those creative juices flowing by not just thinking outside the box, get climbing the next one'

Go in fast. Start at the end, if it works for you then come back to the beginning. It's easier to slow down and keep momentum than to stop and start on anything, just like a car. Mistakes can be redone, altered, adapted. Get on that racing track before the limbic system stifles creativity and the police squad kicks in with those fear gremlins. Bin the task list, it will just aggravate you knowing it’s on the form taunting you.

Showing up at the table is the hardest part. That sorting of the pen drawer really can't wait. Will that really make the task in hand easier that you can find the right blue pen to write with no. Logic does go out the window the limbic system can definitely cause some strange thinking. Put yourself down and sit there till it becomes so uncomfortable you have to start. Even if screaming silently.

Shedule tiny slots at first to work on the project, even 10 minutes. You will think, 'really that's ridiculous I may as well not bother.' but you are 10 minutes forward and be surprised what you have created. Once you start you may carry on and get in the flow before you know it. The fear can subside and many a time we say it wasn't that bad or complicated. The unknown is the fear.

Hormones to tap into for creativity stimulation


Do you feel important, accepted and recognised you are making a difference? If in a new creative role we can block our success, we can doubt ourselves when have to prove ourselves to others. But all our contributions are important, reflect on past achievements. Fake it to you make it. This is why social media is addictive. Those likes and responses of course sets the serotonin high. One way is to get out in that sunshine as vitamin d reacts with this hormone. What better way to enhance the battles of the brain. Gratitude at what you have achieved if struggling to get that boost is one option.


Happy hormones, our feel-good hormones boosted by exercise. Great for adrenaline junkies but what about us less mobile or inactive individuals, we still need to find ways to stop the limbic system stifling creativity. One effect they have is as an analgesic pain blocker; hence, we can see why such mood enhancers. Grab some dark chocolate or chili. Combine them both extremely tasty believe me. Humour, laughter even the anticipation of funny things. Search the web, grab some memes, pop on the comedy classics.


Success hormone, get those jobs to do ticked off if you’re the one inspired by the completion of tasks. Achievement can create motivation to do more. Start even one small step to encourage us. Let’s get that hormone hit reinforcing pleasure. One paragraph, one step of the process. Celebration and achievement are important.


Love hormone the cuddle affectionate chemical. Improves ort immunity. Stimulates a protective instinct. Creates trust and strong bonds. Let’s give your colleague a hug, pat on the back, smile or verbal appreciation. Get our oxytocin flowing.


Stressor hormones our fight or flight chemicals. Excellent for increasing our energy and getting those goals achieved, but can become a double-edged sword. They shut some vital areas down in our brain so we focus more on blood to our muscles to run or fight. Once again, our limbic system stifles our creativity if we are stressed or fearful a fine balance is required. It's also important to wake us up in the morning. If we malfunction here, we struggle to wake up and get our dozy brains in gear for anything. Even our fear hormones are required in the right dosage and at the correct time.

So, outsmart your limbic system, calm the fear and use the some of these varied techniques to get all those helpful hormones buzzing for creativity successes.


Nicky Abell-Francis, Functional Wellness Coach & Bodyworker

Nicky brings her drive and force to the fore in Functional wellness coach programmes. Specializing in recovery support for specific conditions of ME (CFS), Fibromyalgia & long covid. Her supporting work covers bereaved clients trying to find freedom to move on. Helping to ignite the spark to progress forward once again. Having lost her own husband suddenly, their daughter within months crashed into developing ME(CFS). Nicky went on to train with the Chrysalis Effect programme. Seeing how burnt out & highly stressed clients can tip into crash phase. Developing chronic fatigue and numerous widespread health problems. Over the past ten years Nicky set up her multi therapy clinic.


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