Poems About Anxiety To Help You Relax
Updated December 18, 2018
Reviewer Laura Angers
Anxiety, in a word, sucks. Fear is a strong emotion, and it can be hard to deal with at times. And when things are hard to deal with, art can often help us express the things that are bothering us while, at the same time, helping others who feel the same way feel less alone. Poems about anxiety and depression may just help you relax because someone was able to put into words the emotions you've been trying to express for so long.
What Is Anxiety?
The difference between suffering from an anxiety disorder and experiencing more garden-variety anxiety is that with an anxiety disorder, the fear, worry, and stress does not go away. It only gets worse over time. Anxiety can present itself in some different ways, including:
- Social anxiety
- Separation anxiety
- Selective mutism (a persistent inability to speak while in certain social situations, g., a child in a classroom)
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
The list goes on. Some forms of anxiety cause a person to be partially or completely withdrawn, while others, such as excoriation, cause a person to take out his or her anxiety on their own body.
It is important to note that everyone feels fear and anxiety throughout life and that these emotions can be good for us. They keep us on our toes, and they teach us how to respond to certain stimuli that might otherwise be dangerous. It is when these feelings persist and get worse that a professional may be needed to properly diagnose a patient's symptoms as being related to an anxiety disorder.
Famous Poems About Anxiety
Believe it or not, there are many well-known anxiety poems out there. Consider the following excerpt from the poem "Fear" by Raymond Carver. Here, Carver touches on fears running the gamut from mild to extreme. He covers everything from worrying about what people will think of seeing a child's scrawling handwriting on an envelope, to fearing death and even fear itself.
Because Carver touches on so many familiar anxieties, a simple excerpt from the poem would not suffice, which is why the poem is copied here in its entirety:
"Fear of seeing a police car pull into the drive.
Fear of falling asleep at night.
Fear of not falling asleep.
Fear of the past rising up.
Fear of the present taking flight.
Fear of the telephone that rings in the dead of night.
Fear of electrical storms.
Fear of the cleaning woman who has a spot on her cheek!
Fear of dogs I've been told won't bite.
Fear of anxiety!
Fear of having to identify the body of a dead friend.
Fear of running out of money.
Fear of having too much, though people will not believe this.
Fear of psychological profiles.
Fear of being late and fear of arriving before anyone else.
Fear of my children's handwriting on envelopes.
Fear they'll die before I do, and I'll feel guilty.
Fear of having to live with my mother in her old age, and mine.
Fear of confusion.
Fear this day will end on an unhappy note.
Fear of waking up to find you gone.
Fear of not loving and fear of not loving enough.
Fear that what I love will prove lethal to those I love.
Fear of death.
Fear of living too long.
Fear of death.
I've said that."
Another famous poem about anxiety is "The Teacher's Monologue" by Charlotte Bronte. A stanza from the poem of particular interest is copied below:
"My happiest hours, aye ! all the time,
I love to keep in memory,
Lapsed among moors, ere life's first prime
Decayed to dark anxiety."
Here, Bronte is saying that while she loves to remember the good things that have happened to her, that dark anxiety finds a way to creep in and cover everything she loves. Those of us who have struggled with anxiety know all too well when that famous black cloud rolls in. Even thoughts of our children aren't safe. Perhaps those are the least safe of all because while we're thinking of how much we love them, we also dread all of the bad things that could potentially happen to them.
Calming Poems For Anxiety
Some poets who have struggled with anxiety in the past have overcome it and, through their writing, attempt to show us that we too can overcome it with time. Take, for example, Stephen Dunn's "Poem for People that are Understandably Too Busy to Read Poetry." He sums it all up in his first two lines:
This won't last long."
While the rest of the poem is a joy to read, these first two lines are truly all you need. It's a reminder that time heals all wounds, and that this too shall pass. Sometimes, when your palms are sweaty, you can't breathe, and your heart is racing a hundred miles an hour, you think you're going to feel this way forever, or maybe even that you're going to die. But someone reminding you that this will all be over soon is a comfort, and even in such a heightened state, you may find it safe to believe it.
One of the best ways to ground yourself sometimes is to get in tune with nature. From a calm breeze to the carefree tweets of the birds, to the warm sunshine and the peace of a leaf floating on the wind, nature can bring us back to our very core. It can turn down the noise and turn up the volume on what's most important in life. Rose Styron catches these moments perfectly in her succinct poem "Untitled [No One's Awake]":
"No one's awake
but us, and a bird.
The day's too beautiful
to speak a word."
How beautiful is that? Styron captures the peace and beauty in the early morning and barely says anything at all. This poem is a great example of how less can sometimes be so much more.
Anxiety Poems To Help You Feel Less Alone
Anyone who struggles with anxiety can tell you that it's about much more than just being nervous all the time. And when you already struggle with anxiety, there's a whole new layer of anxiety that comes from worrying about having an attack in public, which then morphs into social anxiety.
Even the greatest poets have struggled with social anxiety. After all, it makes sense as to why they would turn to write social anxiety poems to express themselves. Maybe they didn't feel comfortable talking to other people, or maybe they felt that writing expressed their emotions better than they could ever do by putting what they were feeling into words.
However, if you've tried to find poems about anxiety, then you'll know how incredibly difficult that is to do, and it's a diamond in the rough when you finally find one. Perhaps it's because of the stigma that is still unfortunately attached to anxiety disorders that causes people do not want to discuss it. Or perhaps they characterize their feelings as something else, not realizing that they are suffering from anxiety.
In any event, when you do find a poem about anxiety that strikes a chord, print it out, copy it down, do whatever you can to save it because there are so few out there that truly ring true that you must seize the ones you find when you find them.
Take, for instance, the poem "Wait" by Galway Kinnell. Here, Kinnell harnesses the hopelessness that anxiety can bring and offers reasons why you should continue to hold onto that hope.
And, just as Carter's poem above highlighted so many relatable things about anxiety that to post an excerpt would be to miss so much importance about the poem, so too is Kinnell's poem copied here in its entirety. For it is just as important to highlight the negatives in an attempt to recognize them as it is to highlight the positives to combat the negatives.
"Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don't go too early.
You're tired. But everyone's tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it; it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion."
Do you struggle with anxiety, and you feel like you've run out of options? Our counselors at BetterHelp can give you the information and advice you need to make a positive change and get back to enjoying your life.