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4 Ways Art Making Helps My Anxiety

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

*Please note, I am not a mental health professional. This is just my story.

Funny story. I didn't actually realize I was dealing with anxiety until well into my adult life. I didn't realize that the painful and persistent knot that appeared in my stomach when I had to do things like find parking downtown, or check the mail, or make a left hand turn at a red light was anxiety. I didn't realize that every time even the smallest conflict arose and my heart would start to hammer a mile a minute and my head felt light and I suddenly felt under water, like I was drowning and out of breath, and all I wanted to do more than anything was run away or say or do whatever I had to diffuse the situation was a form of anxiety.

In small doses, it makes sense. Small doses of anxiety keep us motivated. However, I found myself avoiding silly and trivial things that had a larger impact on my life. For example, I stopped going downtown all together. I let the mail accumulate in the mailbox until I missed important documents. I took ridiculously long, round about routes to avoid making left hand turns. My intense anxiety around any conflict at all caused a lot of issues in my personal life, most important relationships, and in my own internal life.

That's not all, though. I work a day job that demands attention to detail. It involves many moving parts. On a day-to-day basis there is quite a bit of troubleshooting involved. I'm up against at least 10 deadlines a day. I'm interacting with clients and coworkers and have to be really on every moment of the day. For someone as introverted as myself, that is A LOT. Please, keep in mind, I love a lot of what I do at work, however the daily grind can really wear.

I would come home exhausted and utterly spent. I spent my evenings feeling angry and frustrated. No matter what I tried, I couldn't break out of the habit. I just felt like a tightly wound spring all of the time ready to lose it at any moment. I was short and unfair to my loved ones. I gave so much of my best self to my work life that all that was left in the evening was, well, much less than that.

It also began to really affect my health. I was popping pain killers like candy. I fought a migraine almost every day. I was completely miserable.