• Cosette Grider

How To Leverage Your Anxiety

Most of us are familiar with anxiety. Whether we medicate ourselves to stabilize and function or we find other means to cope, chances are we are aware of our triggers and when we're in the thick of it.

Since this is my blog and I can write whatever the hell I want, I still know that it would be wise if I didn't steer too far off course from the main purpose of what I generally try to say in my blogs which are mostly Art related. It has become clearer and clearer that many of us Artists have some form of anxiety that surface from our egos. Our ego is a soft safe space that houses imposter syndrome, self doubt, fear, etc. You know it. You've heard it all before.

"The Wanderer", Framed. Mixed media on watercolor paper.

It's beautiful to create a piece of Art when we're feeling anxious. It's an incredibly cathartic exercise in self care for the mind. I envy those Artists who can leverage their anxiety to create, for I don't even want to look at a pencil when I'm in the middle of mine. Creation is the last thing on my mind, unfortunately. There are so many great works of Art by super talented Artists that were probably created because of or during their anxiety.

I'll share with you what gives me anxiety just in case you could relate. First of all, if you know me, you'd never consider me a person who struggles with anxiety. I mean......I don't really "struggle" in the way that I know for sure some people I love do. For a very long time, up until recently, I considered myself the opposite of anxiety. Whatever that word is. I would listen and try to help the ones I care about with their anxieties. Sure, I'd lose focus on my tasks and projects, panic for a brief second here and there, but I generally remain collected. I meditate all the time, work out 4x a week, hang out with great friends, make my bed every morning and get every commissioned project done on time. Sidenote: my Mom called right as I opened my laptop to type this blog post in bed and when I saw "Mom" on my phone, immediate anxiety. Why? I mean, do I have to even tell you?

I'm also trying to be a decent daughter.

So.....then....why am I not breathing? Why am I not drinking water properly (too fast and with so much air that I have an insane burping problem)? Why am I waking up in the middle of the night every other night and can't shut my brain off? It occurred to me only a couple of days ago that my choices (albeit, all positive good natured choices) are leading me to be more anxious.

Watercolor portrait of Eleven, Stranger Things.

This is what I mean.

I'm 40, have a herniated disk which causes a lot of lower back pain, and I'm getting more aches in pains in my joints so I strive to get a good work out in at least 4x a week. I just stopped my 3 year intermittent fasting a couple of days ago when I realized I may be having anxiety and my constant morning hunger would only exacerbate it. I consciously make efforts to NOT be a fluffy 5'2" marshmallow with lower back pain.

I have a 10 year old who I leave alone in the other room with his iPad while I do THIS (blog) or paint in the studio for hours. Most of the time, he doesn't mind. He's used to it. Some days, he's bored and wants me to take him somewhere or jump on the trampoline with him for a few minutes. Ugh. I want to be an awesome Mom but also an awesome Artist/Entreprenuer. Consciously balancing it.

Without getting too into this, I'm trying to say that I do my best to keep all my values at normal to high standard. Not a perfectionist. God, no. Our house is messy. I could use a shower. It's 4:23pm and I've barely completed a fraction of my to-do list.

Oh fuck me, the "to-do list". I need it. It gives me such great satisfaction to mark something as complete. Something that absolutely has to get done, or else. Much like my spending and caloric intake, I add and add and add to the list.....and barely do enough subtracting.

Ok, ok. How to leverage this anxiety though?

When you're aware of how anxious you're feeling, you're hyper aware of your discomfort. You're easily irritable and can't focus on anything else. I, for one, have racing thoughts that I can barely keep track of. I can distinctly remember a time in college during a very stressful high anxiety panic attack inducing project in the middle of the night in Studio, I just stopped. I left the Studio, got into my Honda Accord and drove one hour to my parents house, crying. I didn't have the tools at 20 years old to find a better solution. Driving late at night on the fwy crying is very dangerous, first of all. I also let two of my friends in my group down when I skipped presentation in class the following day. It was bad. I felt broken. I needed Mom. I only knew that. I had to get the hell out of there and be in a safe space.

This past Monday, everything I wanted to get accomplished was taken over by the most annoying tech problems, one after the other. All unrelated, but all somehow happening in one day. I lost my mind around 5pm, one hour before my son's soccer practice which I had to take him to. The frustrations of not being able to figure out how to fix these issues even after many Google searches and the weight of having to compose myself for my son's sake gave me so much stress and anxiety. (I should note: my husband was on a work trip from Monday morning and still is). Because I'm not a complete mess of a Mom, I gave myself a 2 second pep talk before entering the room my son was in (think Emma Thompson in "Love Actually" right after she composes herself to face her family in the living room on Christmas after she has a quick cry in the bedroom.) Well, she was far better at hiding it than I was. Luke sensed it immediately and because I don't want him to worry or take on any of my anxiety, I simply explained that I was crying due to frustrations with this and that not working. Saying it out loud made me realize that I could totally walk away from this right now. Anyway, he did his soccer practice with his team while I remained in the car and sketched out the dog I was commissioned to do for a client. I had calmed down and consciously decided to "put aside" the things that were stressing me out to be revisited when the time is right.

Sometimes, you do just have to shake yourself off, listen to your body and mind's needs, and walk away. Or....and hear me out....leverage your anxiety to your benefit.

As I was saying earlier, some Artists are able to create amazing beautiful pieces because they threw their anxious energy onto the canvas without attaching too much on the outcome. (I really should try this next time). But, I'm thinking....what if the Anxiety is the thing that propels you into that radical action that you would not have otherwise done for reasons of laziness? For example, when I feel anxious about money scarcity, it calls me to find creative bold ways in marketing my services and the items I have for sale in my shop. I can also recall a time when my anxious energy had me cleaning the whole kitchen without a moan or groan that I was cleaning the kitchen. It helped me. It doesn't always have to be a creative thing. Maybe your anxious energy propels you to go for a long walk because you need to leave the house or you'll explode. If the trigger or the cause of the anxiety is apparent, walk the fuck away (or put it aside) and use that energy to shift focus on something good and different. We put too much pressure on ourselves because of our ambitions. I really do believe that the more goals and ambitions we have, the more anxieties we acquire (if you're prone to them, like me.) Ambitions and goals are fantastic and I'm not saying, "don't have them", but it's ok if a certain thing doesn't end up working out to the point where you're so frustrated, you start crying or punching a wall. Trust me, your mental health is far more important than any of those triggering factors.

Next time, use that anxious energy to either light the fire under your ass to make that bold step you've been afraid to do (I know, it sounds totally counter intuitive to anxiety), or, put it all aside and burn the energy off with a brisk walk.....when it's not 100 degrees outside.

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