Creative, Artistic Outlets for Anxiety

Creative, Artistic Outlets for Anxiety

It’s quite ironic that the times I’m most upset or angry are also when I’m able to express my creativity, namely through writing, in the most prolific and beautiful ways. Yet at the same times, I often turn to creative outlets to help me cope with those exact feelings of depression or anxiety as well. Talk about a full circle concept.

Being creative isn’t just good for the soul, but also for the mind. It allows you to focus, use your passions, and experience feelings of happiness when doing so; to clear your mind of other subjects, display your emotions in a raw, vulnerable way, and sort out your feelings.

For me, when I’m feeling anxious, writing is one creative outlet that always calms me. It centers me, grounds me, and helps me realize that my anxieties are (more often than not) baseless and irrational. I can literally put into words how I’m feeling and use those words as a sort of venting and therapy. And when I do so, I often create some of the most heart-wrenching and unique stories, poems and songs that I’ve ever written. Seriously, read a few pages of my journal when I’m going through a hard time compared to when all is fine and you’ll notice a difference in my tone and fire.

Author and alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra has been quoted saying, “The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.” How true does that ring? When it comes down to it, anxiety is essentially our imaginations running away with us in the most negative of ways.

People with anxiety can take the slightest issue or idea and with their creative imaginations, turn it into a wild story of fear and shame. I once watched as a friend convinced herself that the boy who didn’t text her back was actually dead in a ditch somewhere — quite a storyteller that one was! But if those with anxiety disorders can channel their vivid, impressive imaginations into something artistic, they will quickly learn that instead of creating disorder and panic within themselves, they can create beauty both in their minds and for the world to see.

As you can see, people who deal with the grips of anxiety, creative avenues can hold calming and energizing effects to alleviate the disorder.

Here are seven creative and artistic outlets to help you the next time anxiety takes over.

  1. Journaling — By putting pen to paper and writing out your experience in the moments you’re feeling anxious you will gain both clarity and mindfulness. The act of actually spelling out what emotions or discomfort you’re feeling and attempting to pinpoint where they’re coming from can ground you and help you return to a rational state of thinking.
  2. Anxiety Coloring Books — This next suggestion is as useful as it is trendy. Popping up in bookstores everywhere are adult coloring books. The books are filled with different patterns and designs that buyers are to fill in the lines within an attempt to relieve stress and anxiety. These coloring pages help you channel negative energy and stimulate brain areas related to skills, creativity and senses. According to CNN, research in 2005 proved people’s anxiety levels were lowered when they colored mandalas (a type of round frame with patterns inside). By coloring, a person is forced to focus solely on the task at hand, freeing them from their anxious thoughts.
  3. Art Therapy — According to an art therapy teacher, Noah Fontana, this form of therapy “really just using art intentionally to aid us in processing our lives and to help us realize that our feelings are mentionable and manageable.” Through the use of varying colors, shapes, shades and patterns, a person can create a picture of how they’re feeling when using art therapy to help aid in their anxiety suffering. Fontana teaches an art therapy class for 7 to 13-year-olds and says, “It’s a relaxing and sobering activity that helps put things into perspective and calm the anxiousness and worry that the things you’re currently going through are more fatal and severe than they really are. It doesn’t make the pain hurt any less, but it opens your eyes to a bigger picture and find purpose in the unknown.”
  4. Music Therapy — Music is an escape, it’s good for the soul. And turns out, it’s good for anxiety too. Music serves as a form of anxiety treatment because it actually helps calm the neural activity in the brain. A regimented use of music therapy is when a licensed professional creates a specific program for each patient which can include listening to music, playing or singing music or writing music. This is meant to improve physical, psychological, cognitive and social functioning. Or, one can simply turn on Spotify and blast their favorite songs and receive similar benefits – perhaps just avoid listening to overly sad songs.
  5. Creative Writing — If you’re like me, then writing is your most likely choice for a creative outlet. I personally have zero artistic skills, but luckily can string a sentence or two together with ease. Like journaling and coloring books, writing forces you to focus on one thing at a time- a mindfulness method. It also allows you to express yourself in unique ways through fictional stories or poetry, all providing an escape and relief from your anxious reality.
  6. Crafting — By learning something new, focusing on the activity instead of your problems and feeling a sense of accomplishment after finishing a project, DIY crafting is another artistic and creative way to lessen anxiety. Scrapbooking, knitting, sewing and many more craft projects could be an answer to your suffering.
  7. Dancing — Did you know that anxiety gives you adrenaline? When this happens, we often find ourselves overwhelmed by this newfound energy (albeit negative energy) and that’s why we become restless and worried. Next time you’re feeling anxious, channel that adrenaline into dance and relieve those feelings through exercise and expression.

Don’t just read this post and think oh, these are some good suggestions. I encourage you to explore which outlet you are most drawn to and the next time your imagination works against you, channel it in a positive way. Together, let’s kick anxiety to the curb and create something magnificent.

Photo credit: Karen Maes