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The Challenges of Anxiety: Learning to Manage and Decrease through Creative Expression

Anxiety is something that everyone experiences, but everyone experiences it differently. Some may feel it more often, some more deeply, some less frequently, and some less intensely. How you experience anxiety will depend on certain factors that are out of your control and certain factors that are within your control. Factors out of your control include your genetics, brain chemistry, and life events. Factors that you have a great deal of control over (and may not even realize) include your personality, how you look at and interpret things that happen to you, and ways you handle life events. Therefore, learning to manage and decrease anxiety starts with understanding the way you look at and respond to life events.

The following is a drawing activity to explore the way you perceive challenges you are confronted with daily. You will need a piece of paper and drawing utensils.

  • On your paper, draw a picture of yourself standing at your bedroom door first thing in the morning. Outside of your bedroom door, draw or write the challenges you are confronted with daily (examples- parents, children, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, siblings, health, school, work, money, etc.)

  • On a separate sheet of paper, write a list of the daily challenges you identified, starting with what makes you feel the most anxious down to what makes you feel the least anxious. Write about the physical symptoms you experience when feeling anxious about these challenges.

  • Evaluate your list even further by determining which challenges are internal, external, real, and/or imagined. Explore how you look at and interpret these different things in your life. Why do you consider them challenges?

For decreasing anxiety, it is also important to understand that PEACE is already within you! Many think you must look for peace externally or work hard to create it internally. However, peace is actually a natural state of being that is already within us. Peace just gets covered up and hidden when we focus on all the stress and anxiety in our lives. Here is another drawing activity to help you with representing your natural state of peace and exploring how you cover it up.

  • Get another piece of paper and draw multiple floating clouds. Then color the clouds with a pale blue or another light color. Take a few moments to sit quietly, breathe slowly, look at the peaceful clouds, and explore the peace that is within you.

  • As you are looking at your clouds, can you feel the peacefulness they represent? If so, think about what that feeling is like. If not, think about what could be preventing you from feeling it.

  • Now use a darker color and cover up your clouds by writing as many stressful things as you can think of- names of people, situations, or things that make up the anxiety in your life. You can use the challenges from your list in the previous exercise above and/or identify other things you didn’t identify earlier.

  • What was it like to cover up the peaceful clouds with all the stressful things?

  • Think about how you cover up your natural state of peace when you chose to focus on anxious thoughts.

From this activity, I hope that you gained a better understanding of how you perceive and handle events that can lead to anxiety. I also hope that you discovered that peace is already within you, but it gets covered up by those anxious thoughts and situations. Anxiety is not necessarily something you can magically make disappear. Instead it is important to stay aware of times that you cover up your natural state of peace with anxiety and learn to peel back the layers of anxiety when it starts to build. (Information and exercises adapted from The Anxiety Workbook for Teens by Lisa M. Schab)

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