How To Remain Creative with Anxiety

February 26, 2016 Julia Banim

You can remain creative with anxiety, if, indeed, you are creative in the first place. I believe that it is high time that we as a society stamp out the rather offensive notion that mental illness is somehow linked in with creative thinking and originality. This cliché could, in fact, not be further from the truth (Mental Illness and Crazy: Creativity and Medication). Many great artists, musicians and writers produce exceptional works in spite of their mental illness, not because of it. I am not a genius and I don’t have any fantastically advanced talents to speak of. However, I have felt my own ability to be creative disintegrate during times when my anxiety has skyrocketed but I've also learned how to remain creative through anxiety.

How Anxiety Has Impacted My Ability to Be Creative

I had always been praised for my artwork as a young girl and, from an early age, had a fairly good technical understanding of drawing which I had hoped to develop. However, as mental illness took a tighter grip on me, my work began to regress alarmingly and my grades plummeted. Whereas I had once shown some promise with landscapes and still lifes, I now filled up page after page with mindless cartoonish doodles and childlike collages. I lost all interest in growing my knowledge of art history and, instead, scribbled mindlessly, using colours and forms as a kind of makeshift therapy rather than tools to explore and create art. You can remain creative with anxiety even if it seems every ounce of creativity fled from your mind. Calling upon creativity can fight anxiety. Check this out.

My mind was exhausted and my thoughts were incoherent. I ran on autopilot and when I did manage to engage with my brain, it was an overheated, anxious, frantic mess. Only since I have begun to seek help for my depression and anxiety have I been able to see some notable improvement in my artistic abilities. One of my most heartfelt ambitions is to take evening art classes in order to paint over those humiliating scrawls and scribbles that did not come from the creative part of me, or, indeed, any part of me.

My dream has always been to become a successful writer. I had always been one of the most capable in my English class, even when my good grades in other subjects began to slip and disappear. I was lucky enough that, despite a desperately unhappy school experience, I was accepted onto an undergraduate English Literature with Creative Writing programme. I was fortunate, again, that I managed to obtain a very high grade overall for my creative writing portfolio, something that I will always be proud of doing.

However, sifting through my old creative writing submissions, a much more complicated overriding story appears. Some of the writing samples that I submitted during particularly intense anxiety-ridden times can only be described as complete gibberish, both in terms of the language and the structure -- chaotic, unintelligible outpourings of words without meaning or reason. This isn’t the case of unearthing clumsy, amateurish short stories and overly emotional poetry. I have plenty of those and they make me smile. Indeed, I feel that their existence is necessary for my future growth and improvement.

These anxiety-polluted pieces are more like helpless written cries of frustration from inside a locked room and are not in any way suited to the enjoyment or interest of any discerning reader. They are now fit only for the purpose of recording the times when I could feel my brain tangled tight and trapped as if in the coils of a ball of wool. As any writer will know, there are very few things in life more humiliating than knowing that you have produced substandard, or even terrible, written work. The poor feedback that I received from such submissions hurt much more profoundly than any comment about my appearance or character would have done.

Increasing Your Creativity While Suffering from Anxiety

This is the true reality of trying to be creative with anxiety and depression. Often, it can feel as though your brain is slowly being steamrolled. Other times it can feel as though your thoughts are so heavy, repetitive and agitated that there isn’t any room left for coherence or imagination. However, this does not mean that you cannot be creative. Indeed, I have found that increasing your creative abilities during particularly bad periods of anxiety is possible with a little pluck and determination.

Having a clear head is vital to approaching a creative project. I have found that spending time meditating, walking in the woods and practicing deep breathing exercises all help, somewhat, to refresh my mind. Give yourself a bit of structure. Put aside 20 minutes everyday to work on a simple, creative project just for yourself. This could be a diary entry or a sketch of your cat. Allow yourself to create for the love of it without the worry of outside scrutiny.

I would also recommend spending time learning about, and immersing yourself in, various creative forms. This could involve listening to a new album or visiting an art exhibition. Make sure to remind yourself why creativity is important and ignore the self-doubt demon that says otherwise. Remember: you can remain creative even with anxiety.

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APA Reference
Banim, J. (2016, February 26). How To Remain Creative with Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Julia Banim

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