Sometimes, experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition can be isolating. It may seem like no one understands how you feel or has faced the same challenges. That’s why some people find turning to art to be calming and even healing. Many people have experienced anxiety throughout history and over 30% of US adults experience some form of it today, so there’s plenty of literature, poetry, music, and visual art out there that describes the experience and can help you feel seen.
Below, you’ll find a few poems that discuss anxiety or related emotions and experiences, which you may find helpful if you’re facing symptoms of anxiety yourself. Remember that seeking professional treatment for symptoms of any mental health disorder is usually recommended.
What Is Anxiety?
First, let’s take a quick overview of what anxiety is. In the general sense, anxiety is a normal human feeling that most people will experience from time to time. It’s a future-oriented emotion “characterized by apprehension and somatic symptoms of tension”.
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental health disorder affecting people today. They can affect both adults and children. While many can be serious, they’re generally manageable and/or treatable with the right support. Types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobias, and panic disorder. Symptoms may vary depending on the disorder, but generally may include:
- Persistent, uncontrollable worry
- Muscle tension
- Trouble sleeping
- A sense of dread
- Panic attacks
Poetry About Anxiety
Since anxiety can affect a person’s thought patterns and daily functioning in such a significant way, it’s not surprising that poetry has been written about it throughout history. For example, consider the following relevant stanza of "The Teacher's Monologue" (1846) by Charlotte Brontë:
Here, Brontë relates that although she enjoys reflecting on positive memories, “dark anxiety” finds a way to creep in and affect her even in these lighter moments. An individual experiencing anxiety may relate to her description of that feeling of worry gradually encroaching on one’s mind.
Other poets direct their focus to the hope that can be associated with the possibility of symptom relief. This section of Stephen Dunn's "Poem for People that are Understandably Too Busy to Read Poetry" is one example:
This poem is a reminder that virtually every feeling is temporary, and that managing anxiety symptoms is possible with the right resources and support.
Some people find that grounding exercises can help them manage anxiety symptoms in the moment. Getting in tune with the nature around you is one way to do this—a technique which poet Rose Styron captures in her short poem, "Untitled [No One's Awake]":
While anxiety can feel overwhelming at times, it can be helpful to remember that help is available and symptom mitigation is possible. Take, for instance, the poem "Wait" by Galway Kinnell. Here, Kinnell speaks to the hopelessness that anxiety can bring but offers reasons to be hopeful even in the face of it:
Seeking Treatment For Anxiety
If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety that are interfering with your life, it can be helpful to know that resources are available. In general, anxiety disorders are treatable—typically through psychotherapy, sometimes in combination with medication. A cognitive behavioral therapist in particular can help you learn to recognize distorted thoughts that may be contributing to your symptoms so you can shift them in a more balanced, healthier direction. They can also assist you in developing healthy coping mechanisms for managing distressing emotions and symptoms.
Some people with anxiety find the prospect of meeting with a therapist in person to be intimidating. In cases like these, online therapy can represent a more comfortable alternative. With a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed provider who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or online chat to address the challenges you may be facing. Since research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy conducted face to face and via internet can be “equally effective,” you can typically choose the format that works best for you. See below for client reviews of BetterHelp counselors.
"Dr. Munyan was so helpful! I am dealing with a lot of anxiety and he provided so many amazing ways for me to handle it better. Definitely would recommend him".
"Natasha has been a truly amazing counselor! I now feel that I have the confidence to face challenges as they come. Natasha helped me to reflect on why I might be feeling a certain way, while providing me with some tools to cope with my anxiety as needed. She was incredibly understanding and helped me to set realistic goals with myself and others. Not only can I tell that our counseling sessions helped, but also others have commented on the positive changes I have made. She's awesome!"
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