It’s normal to get anxious – it’s a very natural human response. The problem is when it takes hold and stops us living to our full potential. A positive thing that can come from anxiety is that it can be a sign that some things in your life, and in you, are out of alignment and need addressing.
With chronic anxiety, our systems are in a state of flight or fight long after the supposed threat has passed. I know how crippling and terrifyingly overwhelming anxiety can be.
The idea of my book, Drawing on Anxiety, isn’t to get rid of anxiety but I hope it offers a balm to your system when you feel yourself spiraling or getting lost in your own thoughts.
The hope is that it will bring you out of your head and into your body and the present moment through the use of drawing. Drawing call for us to be more present, it allows the flow state, and encourages us to be mindful and to fully focus on the task in hand, which can be ever so soothing.
I hope that the book and these exercises also help you cultivate more awareness of yourself, your anxiety, the triggers, the sensations in your body, and the things that help and that don’t.
In the book I share some of my personal experiences with anxiety, from the intense grip health anxiety had over me for many years, to my loud inner critic and to smaller daily stressors and worries. I found the act of drawing them out shifted something in me slightly, I hope you will find a similar release.
We live in a world where we are constantly ‘on’ and always available, and we are moving so fast that we barely stop to take a breath.
We are over-stimulated and bombarded with so much information. It’s too much for our systems to deal with, and this is where ‘mindfulness’ can help us.
Ways to encourage mindfulness can be paying close attention to your body or the world around you and focusing on what is immediately happening.
It’s noticing the tiny things like the wind blowing a leaf, or the itch on your nose. We can practice mindfulness throughout our day, bringing full attention to what we are doing right now. This can help calm the mind immediately. Here, we are using drawing as a form of mindfulness by putting all our focus on making marks on the page.
Exercise: Draw about a recent time when you felt fully in the present moment.
Exercise: Things That Make Me Feel Calm: The launderette, drawing, going up a hill, cold water, doing the dishes, book shops, watching a candle or fire, running, sleepy tea, cat & dog cuddles, making dinner. Draw some things that make you feel a little calmer
Exercise: When we allow ourselves to be still and quiet in our bodies, it can send us messages to what’s really going on. Close your eyes, place your hand on your heart, and take several deep breaths. How does your heart feel today? Draw or write anything that comes up; words, shapes textures…
Adapted from the book “Drawing on Anxiety” by Kate Sutton
This post was authored by Kate Sutton
Kate Sutton is an author and illustrator based in the United Kingdom who lost her mother to cancer in 2011 and shares her experiences as creative statements online. She is the writer of the Drawing On… series, including Drawing On Anxiety and Drawing On Grief. Kate has worked with The Times, Lonely Planet magazine, Urban Outfitters, The Wall Street Journal, The Royal Horticultural Society, and more. See more of her work at katesutton.co.uk and Instagram @suttonkate.
Excerpted with permission from Drawing on Anxiety (Leaping Hare Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group, 2023) by Kate Sutton. Drawing on Anxiety is available now wherever fine books are sold. Learn more at quarto.com.
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