So something happened to me the other day. I was sitting down in a crowd full of people and I won’t go into detail but basically, I got really, really stressed. I wasn’t in an environment where I could just get up and leave and I felt like I was on the brink of bursting into bloody tears. I had no idea what to do, it kind of felt like the walls were closing in on me. I don’t know why, but I instinctively opened up my notebook, went to a blank page, picked up a pen and began scribbling. I didn’t draw anything specific, I just kept drawing and didn’t stop.
(Sidenote: while I had my head down and was just scribbling quickly in my notebook I did a little bit feel like I looked like the typical ‘unhinged’ person from the middle of a D-grade horror film, but anyway).
As I looked up at my page and saw a bunch of drawings everywhere, I realised I actually felt a hell of a lot different to when I started. That’s when I realised the power that drawing (or in my case, scribbling) has, and here’s why:
When I get anxious, I’ve worked out that my mind goes into overdrive and it’s my body that can’t keep up. Sometimes I’ll look down and my hands are shaking, almost as if the energy is just pulsing through me. Now, unless I fancy sitting there with the shakes, I start drawing. I’ll just pick up a pen and start drawing absolutely whatever. I swear it becomes like automatic writing, I just do whatever and it keeps my body occupied, long enough for my rational brain to kick in and for me to calm down whenever I’m freaking out about something or panicking. So if you struggle with anxiety or panic attacks, try drawing.
Sometimes when you feel like you’re heading for a downward spiral, it’s balls to the wall and nothing can stop you from doing that. If I’m at home, fine, no problem, downward spiral I go. When I’m in public? Oh hell no. I will stop myself from having any kind of a panic in public if it’s the last thing I do. That’s where drawing comes in. Again, like how it keeps your body occupied by giving it something physical to do, I find drawing also pulls my mind’s focus as well. The scribbles I’ll do, the pictures I’ll draw, all of a sudden I start thinking about that rather than whatever it is that made me panic in the first place. There are obviously multiple mental things you can do to combat whatever you’re facing, but I find pulling my mind and body’s attention to something tactile works better than almost anything else I’ve tried (especially if you’re in a situation where you can’t leave the current environment you’re in).
You know how I said I just let myself pick up the pen and draw whatever, whenever? If you do draw when you’re anxious or panicking, I find it so fascinating to later on, go back and look at what you’ve drawn. Honestly, it’s so interesting. It’s like I can tell exactly how I was feeling and exactly what I was going through, based on the intensity and based on what images ended up on the page. It’s kind of like your very own Rorschach test….
Is there anything out of the ordinary that you do to get through stressful times?