This week the beautiful Emma (@theanxioustalker) has shared her journey & experience how art has helped her to tackle anxiety. #yourstory
It’s that time of year again. The weather is glorious, the days are long and the feel-good factor is high; or so it should be. Around this time every year I hit a mid-year slump as my anxiety fills me with worry over how 8 months has passed me by and I have nothing to show for it.
Regardless of whether the first half of my year has been successful or not, I can’t seem to shake this overwhelming feeling of dread thinking that I could have done more, that I should be further along. Now, here I am. In the exact spot I find myself each and every August, wondering what I can do to shake off these negative thoughts and enjoy the summer. What a nice change that would be! To be free of the guilt that accompanies social events as I berate myself for not being at home, working? To enjoy a day of relaxation in the park or on the beach and be present in the moment, lapping up the sun and quieting my monkey mind? How glorious that would be but as a chronic over thinker it’s easier said than done.
Not This Year!
As the end of July approached I found a surge of energy come from the deep desire to manage my August anxiety better this year. An uplifting voice telling me that I will not live this month with that negative mind-set again, NOT THIS YEAR MY FRIEND! Something has to be done in order to give myself a break and avoid 31 days of self-loathing and panic.
That brings me to my mini challenge – Art Therapy for August Anxiety. Each and every day for the entire month of August I have decided to create a small piece of artwork for two reasons;
- I need to distract my mind from the noise and focus my energy on something that brings me joy.
- I want to increase awareness of the benefits of art therapy, or any other creative outlet for that matter, as a way of managing anxiety.
Art has always been a love of mine, a passion that I indulge in purely for myself. Having battled with anxiety for over 15 years now, I can say whole-heartedly that I do not know where I would be without it. I can lose hours of a day to the canvas and not realise where the time has gone. Before I know it, its dinner time and I haven’t even stopped for a glass of water! When I’m standing there with paintbrush in hand and a blank canvas in front of me the rest of the world disappears and it’s just me and the art. Each and every moment I give to this is a moment that I allow my mind a rest from the worry of everyday life; all of my energy is focused on the artwork and suddenly there is no thinking beyond the creativity. It’s temporary escapism.
Give Your Mind A Break
How you can use art therapy is different for everyone but the essence of how it benefits us is the same across the board. You are taking your mind away from a stressful space and into a peaceful space; I often feel as though it is similar to meditation in this respect. So, as an artist, I personally like to work in such a way that means I very rarely pick up the pencil and paper and draw spontaneously. I like to create the composition, choose my medium and aim for a specific outcome. Now, this might sound too rigid for some but for me the satisfaction comes in building on an image that has structure and form. Regardless of this however, the image always derives from my heart; how I felt in that moment, what is speaking to me and what do I need to say.
For example, Day 5 came and this little creation is what emerged! I had experienced a night of restlessness and agitation. I could not switch my mind off and wind down so until the wee hours of the morning I could not stop thinking about anything and everything that was going on in my life at that time!
In a lovely turn of events it sparked the idea for this piece and my creative juices were well and truly flowing. It captures my feelings of the night before but also satisfies me on a different level with the bold colours and the madness of it all.
The emotional distress of that restless night quickly dissipated as I worked my way through this drawing and suddenly I found that it was quickly shaken off and forgotten about.
That is my process but this does not have to be the same for you. Others use art therapy to vividly express feelings that they cannot put into words as a form of representation or symbolism. For some, a varied brush stroke with a muted colour palette is exactly what is needed to relieve them of the weight of their worries. Bold brush strokes, varied shapes and wild mark making makes for an extremely cathartic purge of emotions. There is no right or wrong and there is certainly no judgement in art therapy.
You do not need to be able to draw to indulge in this form of therapy. You do not need to be an artist or have the ability to create analytical drawings with depth and hyper-realism. All you need is you and your materials. Whatever flows through you in that moment is exactly what you needed to draw. 100 circles on a page? Fabulous! The only thing this does require is for you to be honest with yourself.
How can art therapy help you?
- Self-Discovery – the process of creating artwork can help you to recognise underlying feelings that you may not have been consciously aware of. It allows you to acknowledge these feelings in a calm manner.
- Self-Esteem – Anything that involves the creation of work ultimately brings a sense of accomplishment and therefore is great for building self-esteem. You can be proud of your work and proud of the positive steps you have taken (This is HUGE for me).
- Emotional Release – Art therapy is healthy outlet for letting go of your feelings and fears. Sometimes we simply cannot express ourselves with words but making art can help you express them in other ways so you can relieve yourself of the burden they bear.
- Stress Relief – The process of creating art is calming, relaxing and mindful. It allows you to slow down and take some time to calm the nervous system and focus on something other than your stresses and worries.
This is certainly what my mini challenge has allowed me to do over this first week and a half, not only that but I now have some amazing pieces of art which bring me joy every time I look at them. Day 9 is a fine example of bringing awareness to something that I didn’t realise I held in such high regard; the importance of music. I drew this in pencil instinctively and suddenly it was infused with colour and excitement but it wasn’t until after I had finished that I looked closely and realised how important it is to me to have music in my life and how little I make time for it. It was a beautiful revelation as music gives me an instant uplift, it is chosen to match my mood and allows me to feel what I need to feel in my body and soul not just my mind. I had been denying myself this privilege and I am now working to change this.
The challenge has barely just begun and I am already feeling the effects of giving myself these moments every day to cleanse myself of any negative thought patterns and free myself from the worries I tend to fixate on, if only temporarily.
With all of that said, I challenge you to find your creative outlet and see what it can do for you. It does not have to be drawing; there are no limits to how you can use this to help you through difficult times. You could try singing, sewing, playwriting, journaling, playing an instrument, designing clothes…need I go on?! Whatever it may be, it will give you the opportunity to SLOW DOWN and put your focus into something positive, giving you relief from your over thinking mind.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll find the benefits to be invaluable.