By Adam Dahari
As one of the most prevalent mental disorders in the world, anxiety can have a monumental impact on our daily lives and has the potential to spiral out of control without proper management or treatment. For myself, using reading and writing as a therapeutic outlet has been a highly beneficial way of treating and managing anxiety.
Write It All Away
Creative writing has always been a hobby of mine, but it’s only in the past two years that I realized how putting pen to paper can significantly help clear my head of anxious thoughts, memories or situations.
Last month I was having a tough time dealing with a past situation, and a certain memory of it just kept burning a hole into my brain, turning my state of mind into a bit of an anxious mess. On the Thursday morning of that week, before I left my house, I noticed my notebook sitting on my room desk. Not having touched the thing in a few months, I impulsively stuffed it into my bag in case I might feel the need to write after so long. As I was on the train to work, listening to music, I realized it wasn’t helping with my mood as I’d hoped lyrics from a sentimental Drake would. Enough was enough: I took out my notebook and pen and started to write whatever came to mind. As soon as I started to write I felt my anxiety fluttering away. A month later, and I have been continuously writing my anxiety away whenever it attacks.
The hardest part about writing in an apprehensive state of mind is trying to put what I’m feeling down into words when there are so many thoughts or emotions to write down. This takes acknowledgement towards how I am feeling, and acknowledgment that I am facing these feelings directly with each word I write down. Nevertheless, once I get into a consistent rhythm and flow, the anxiety starts to dissipate.
I shall quote John Keats: “Nothing is ever real until it is experienced,” – as much as I may try to will anxiety away, it is real and acknowledged once I begin to write, and I can progressively experience peace of mind during and thereafter. It just takes that first written pen-stroke.
Just Keep Reading
Reading gives a different kind of therapy. Where writing is a way of recognizing how I feel, reading takes me away to a place where anxiety doesn’t exist
I tend to read science fiction or fantasy in an anxious mindset because it takes me into the most fantastical of places where absolutely anything is possible. I am immersed in a whole new world, where the characters’ experiences – mindset, emotions, surroundings, conflicts and adventures – become my own.
For example, this year, I started reading the Harry Potter series (for the first time, no joke), and it has turned into one of my go-to reads to pick up when I start to feel anxious. The story always paints a vivid picture in my mind, and, for all the anxious thoughts I may have at the time, Harry always seems to have it so much worse, with being hated by his muggle parental guardians, or chased down by magical villains.
Reading provides a much-needed escape in moments of mental angst. I always keep at least one book in my bag, mostly for leisure. For those times when anxiety does hit, though, reading becomes so much more than just a hobby. It becomes a remedy.
Apart from indulging in reading for leisurely purposes, both reading and writing have become a valued and dependable outlet through which I can free myself from even the most debilitating moments of anxiety. Stories have become a kind of therapy that can be utilized in times of need and ceases to fail in its purpose. It holds me in the moment, keeping me self-aware and grounded; it takes me away to new worlds, where I gain new experiences and feel different emotions. It is how I conquer anxiety.
For me, this is the power of stories.
Adam is KWL’s intern. He works alongside the team to ensure that our indie authors have everything they need to successfully publish their works on the Kobo platform.
He enjoys reading Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Classical Poetry, and Indigenous Literature. He also loves playing video games (mostly retro Nintendo and PS4), and has been training in Muay Thai kickboxing for 3 years now. One of his biggest passions is music: he loves to sing, write, and play guitar, and hopes to make an album some day soon!