Why writing about your anxiety is one of the best things you can do
You’re being held back. You don’t know quite by what, but you know that you’re not reaching your potential.
You want to write about something, but you can’t make out what that something should be.
Scouring your brain for the perfect topic, you think, maybe I will write about my favorite hobby?
No, that’s no good. Collecting stamps is not too exciting. Neither is building train sets.
But what about writing about your feelings? Writing about anxiety?
Would that be blasphemy?
No. It’s not as preposterous as it sounds.
Your anxiety gives you important information, and the writing process can help you extract it and use it for good.
What your anxiety is telling you
Think of your anxiety like an instruction manual that comes with the water filter that you keep in your fridge. Sure, you could figure out how to use the filter on your own, but taking the time to read the manual sure is helpful.
Water not flowing through the filter? Read the manual. Filter not locking securely into place? Read the manual.
Your anxiety is giving you similar directions.
The problem is this: that helpful information is locked away in your head in the form of jumbled thoughts and false narratives.
Writing about anxiety helps you make sense of the unintelligible. It gives you new ways to think about it, and it can help others in the process.
We’re all humans. Do you think your struggles are unique?
Yes, your life is your own, but humanity’s difficulties have been the same, repeating over and over through the ages.
Not feeling sure of yourself? Write about your anxiety and open your brain to feedback.
Not sure what career move to make next? Write about your anxiety and shine some light on the options you have.
As humans evolved over time, learning to overcome great odds, mastering their environments, and now attaining elite status as social media experts and appendages to smart phones, anxiety did not evolve with them.
Instead, anxiety stayed behind in the Dark Ages. Anxiety was helpful when it alerted humans to the dangers of wild beast and unruly individuals.
Cortisol was helpful for our ancestors — it could mean the difference between life and death, between an early demise and the opportunity to spawn progeny who would set records for typing speed and Rubik’s Cube solving.
But now, in the modern ages, anxiety is holding you back. It is preventing you from doing the things you want to do.
Paradoxically, writing about it can unleash your potential and connect you to humanity.
What happens when you write about your anxiety
1. You name your fears
Tim Ferris calls it fear-setting. When you put your fears to paper, you get some space from them. Creating distance from what’s holding you back usually reveals that’s it not as scary as you thought.
That situation you thought was impossible? You start to notice some of the steps you can take to resolve it.
That person who scares you? You realize that your fear is misguided and what is really scaring you is the emotion that lies underneath.
2. You process your feelings
Writing about your anxiety helps you process that anxiety. Attaching words to how you feel helps to shape how you feel. It softens your feelings, making them malleable enough for you to begin to work with them.
3. You gain new insight
As a result, you gain new insight.
Try this: pick something that has been causing you anxiety lately. Set a timer for 5 minutes, and write about it.
No, don’t use a computer to type up your thoughts.
Actually grab a pen and paper — or a number 2 pencil if you are feeling nostalgic — and write whatever comes to mind. Write in a stream-of-consciousness way for 5 whole minutes. Don’t stop writing until the timer goes off.
If you are doing it the right way, your hand and wrist should be throbbing by the time you are done.
And when you are done, you will most likely find that what you wrote about at the end of the five minutes is different than what you started writing about.
The writing process not only transforms your writing, it transforms your mindset.
4. You open yourself to connection
When you write about your anxiety, you reveal your humanity to others.
Anxiety, by its very nature, is deeply personal. And it is the personal that has power. It’s the unique that connect you with other people.
Anyone can write a boring post full of generalities and make it applicable to anyone who reads it.
But when you try to write for everyone rather than revealing what makes you unique, you end up getting lost in the crowd.
No one gets to learn about the neon-colored butterfly that you are — and that’s a shame.
When you write about your anxiety, people won’t think you are preaching at them, so they will let their guards down. When this happens, your readers will be vulnerable enough to see themselves in what you write.
5. You communicate with authenticity
You should be genuine so that others know where you stand, so that your readers can get to know the real you.
If you model authentic behavior with your writing, your readers will feel comfortable enough to read with authenticity. They will insert their real selves into your words.
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