The Anxiety Project was inspired by this article written for Wired Magazine by Jason Parham. The aesthetic surrounding this project was inspired by words from Lexi Merritt. All respondents are answering one question: "What do you do to feel less anxious?" None of the responses have been edited and are presented as written by the author. The Anxiety Project is never finished. To have your words featured here (even anonymously), shoot an email to email@example.com.
I’ve found that cooking and cleaning are the easiest ways for me to decompress. I think it’s funny that I clean because I’m not a “neat-freak” at all (ask my mom), but when I am severely anxious, straightening up my space does help me feel better. It’s become apart of my routine when I get home from internship. And cooking...gosh, I love cooking. I think cooking is one of my love languages, tbh. Humans have to eat. Taking the time, money, and energy to cook for self and/or others is an act love in my book. So, in cooking, I am loving on myself. That is enough to soothe any discomfort..
To battle my anxiety, I listen to music (mainly instrumentals) and I write in my journal. As cliche as that may be it really helps. Music takes me to a place of serenity and writing gives me comfort; they both bring me so much peace and relaxation.
When I’m really taking care of myself, i battle anxiety by writing and cooking. When I’m not, i drink excessively (usually socially), get high, and avoid spending time alone with myself.
Anxiety has been a major factor in my life since my grandma passed away in 2014. Since then I’ve tried many different things to help ease those suffocating moments. Solange honestly hit the nail on the head with her descriptions in “Cranes in the Sky”. Since suffering from anxiety I have found relief at the bottom of an empty bottle of muscadine wine or in the spirals of smoke rising from my bowl. I have learned that busying my hands with painting abstract works on a canvas or making candles distracts my mind from my triggering thoughts. Nature has been the most surprising refuge. Nothing heals a broken spirit like surrounding and grounding yourself in Gaia’s greatest creations. Movies and cartoons are guaranteed to bring out my inner child. You know the carefree black boy inside of me? And nothing cures a rough day like a good ol orgasm with good ol faithful. Lol
My idealistic answer is that I imagine all the terrible things as tiny, dead flowers and visualize myself scooping them out with a giant net. That works when I’m sleepy, not so much when I’m actually freaking out.
The realistic answer is that I just take it day by day, try to be soft to people and lean on my friends for support. But I’m interested in other options and excited to read this :)
That was a great and much needed read for me. Thanks for that. To answer your question, what do you do to feel less anxious, several things. I knew about anxiety but didn’t really experience it until I got to college and life wanted to have constant slapbox battles with me. I’ll also explain my anxiety, since it varies of course. For me, I basically feel like a chicken with my head cut off. I hate that feeling and I dislike the feeling of no control of what’s going on, so when it becomes “too much” for me I go in a frenzy and immediately want to just shut myself out and not talk to people about what’s going on. That didn’t help, it just led to a lot of overthinking. To combat the slapbox battles and crowded space in my mind, the occasional outings with Mary Jane works for me, talking to my friends (which im still working on), sitting at a lake or river, and writing. I journal a lot, writing letters to my anxious self, affirmations, lyrics, or literally how I’m feeling at the moment. “I feel because of .” Writing helps me face my anxiety versus just getting high and going to sleep only to wake up with the same thoughts. Writing is usually my go to though, read everything out loud & always remind yourself that you’re the shit.
I took a Mindful Meditation class senior year of college where I was introduced to visualization meditation and belly breathing. There are some really good visualization scripts available for free online (youtube, spotify, etc). I always choose scripts that take me back to my vacations (warm beaches, lush forest, etc). It's super easy to plug your headphones in and zone out in the subway to/from work and before bed! When my anxiety is over my head, I do a couple of big, slow belly breaths to center myself and then I start playing the visualization meditation. I love it because the visualization is a slow descent into a peaceful place!
Lmfaooo. "How do you battle anxiety?"
Listen beloved, I know you didn't ask for an article, but I need to release this for me. To help someone. You're not the first to ask this and you won't be the last. But my anxiety has always answered. I've always kept a cool demeanor, almost glorifying anxiety in an attempt to show people that it's manageable, that I have it under control because I don't want anybody to think "Java is losing it" or "She must be really crazy." You know, anxious shit anxious ass people think. But I'm glad YOU posed the question because I feel I can be a little more... vulnerable with you. This is me, Javayshia, talking. Not my anxiety.
So let me just... get it out..
Honestly, most days, I don't battle anxiety, anxiety battles me. It often draws me to the Upside Down, leaving me choked on my own words, bouncing my leg, praying that I'm still breathing because I honestly cannot tell if I am. It beats me until my body aches from no real physical labor. My heart races while I run from it in my sleep, the same sleep I jump out of 3 times a night. This is the sleep that it pushes me into and also keeps me from when there's no one there to comfort me. It gets me hot and clammy when I'm in a cold room, alone in a crowd. It whispers in my ear that I will lose this fight constantly.
So what do I do?
I fight fire with fire.
If it wants to control my thoughts, I let it. I let it tell me I can't win, I'm gonna fail, my life is a mess. And then I write those thoughts and burn them. I keep a journal where I write three positive things that pushed me forward that day.
I write. I blog. I find things to occupy my time. Any crevice left unoccupied is another place for anxiety to fester. So I fill it.
But then I also find time for no space. I turn off my phone. My tv. Shut down my laptop. Disconnect to connect. And just listen. I listen to the earth. I look at how everything is molded and how God placed me on this functioning planet... TO function. To be a piece of a larger puzzle. And I remind myself over and over and over that Life's Puzzle needs my piece.
I breathe in the air. No seriously. Breaths are VITAL. Literally. When I feel I'm choking or not conjuring enough air, I find reasons to inhale, sometimes subtly, sometimes not. I'll let out a big laugh, sing a loud song, or just... breathe. Depends on the setting.
That takes me to my heart. I'll feel it beating out my chest, or sometimes what feels like not at all. I'll find pulse points. I'll subtly grace my neck just to remind myself there's a pulse and I can stabilize it. I'll force myself into conversation or either pull myself away from one. Delve deep into a song. Cook. Anything. Anything soothing, all while CONSTANTLY checking my pulse and reassuring myself, I'm fine.
There's so many things. I play instruments. Take a walk. Ride in my car. Play soothing sounds. Stare at the earth. Pray pray pray. Eat it away. Sleep it away. Basically Cranes in The Sky it out. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. All that.
But the most important thing I've ever learned is to stop running sometimes. To let it get you so tired where you FINALLY get that sleep you've been missing out on. To push you to a closet where you feel compelled to talk to God. To let it get you out of a place of feeling stagnant, so you finally finish that paper or wash them dishes in that got damn sink. To clean that room. To go for that walk. All the shit you wouldn't have done had it not weighed you down. Fight back. Acknowledge that YOU HAVE ANXIETY and you need to get help. You need to focus on your breathing, you need yoga, or yoni steams or to watch the Telletubies in Japanese. Fuck if I know. But stop running from the fight. And find out how to tame the beast. You won't be able to kill it. You just won't be able to. It's eternal. But it doesn't have to be detrimental
Do whatever it is you have to do. That's LITERALLY the key. Tell your mama that you know you black and you supposed to just pray it away, but that's why God made therapists. Cross things off your New Years resolutions. Slowly... slowly... SLOWLY get yourself to a place to start doing all the things that anxiety doesn't want you to do, to prove that you CAN. Stand on your bosses desk and scream. What tf ever. Don't glorify it.
Fuck your reputation, how your granny feels, how your friends feel.
Fight the beast.
Over time, you'll start winning.
Lol. I guess this whole time I was actually talking to me.
That's how I battle it.
What do I do is a real question.
When I feel like shit, my instinct is to do things that would make the kid in me happy. So sometimes I just sit around watching cartoons or wrasslin' (yep, you read that correctly) to lose myself. Other times I be high as fuck and want to sleep the anxiety away, though that rarely gets done forreal forreal. As a Virgo, I clean a LOT when I'm feeling anxious. It helps me feel much more in control of the world around me and the end product is a clean space so that does a lot of quiet and wonderful things for the psyche. In the same way, I love cooking when I feel like shit plus FOOD.
Being social is also really important to fending off anxiety as much as I don't like admitting it. I'd like to believe I can feel less shitty alone but that's hardly ever really the case. Being with other people that I actually like and forgetting my own shit is so helpful for me. I don't know, I guess I do a lot to feel less anxious, outside of like the regular degular meditation practices and things. But largely, I like doing things that make me feel like a kid, back when things ain't fuck up my spirit just for being bad, you know. Anyway, I hope this answers your question.
Dealing with anxiety is an everyday battle. I’ve been dealing with it for almost two years and it’s not easy. It became so bad that I couldn’t stand to work with the general public, due to my fear of having an anxiety attack. I used to self-medicate myself by drinking and smoking (mainly drinking) and it only provided temporary relief because as soon as the buzz was gone, the anxiety got worse. When I was under the influence, I felt I was in control again.
Over time, I developed better ways to cope with anxiety, such as taking a walk outside while listening to music & finding something funny to watch. I take anxiety meds daily but medicine isn’t 100% effective. As we get older, life will bring situations to our attention that can immediately raise our anxiety levels. When I was away at a mental health facility earlier this year, I was telling the social worker during a group therapy session my story and a fellow patient told me something that will always stick with me. He said that life is just a big test, everything that happens is a way to see how you will respond to it mentally. Anxiety is something that I cannot allow to defeat me.