ANXIETY AND CREATING
I'm just going to say it: I had a bad week last week. I got sick, I was bedridden for most of it, and I ate two whole sleeves of Oreos in the span of a day and a half (although if I'm being honest, it's not the first time I've done that). And as a result, my work suffered. I found myself feeling incredibly anxious and unable to perform even the simplest tasks like checking email or posting a photo on Instagram. It took a while for me to realize it, but I wasn't just experiencing sickness - I was experiencing anxiety.
Now, I believe that everyone experiences anxiety. I don't care who you are - you can't tell me that you don't feel anxious every once in a while. I just don't believe you. But what I've come to find over the years is that creatives tend to experience a good deal more anxiety than most people. I mean, at all times, my brain is a combination of these (and other) thoughts:
Am I good enough?
What am I doing?
Will anyone like this?
I should just quit and get a "real" job?
Am I ever going to be successful?
Why is everyone else's work so much better than mine?
How come creating is so easy for everyone but me?
This is brilliant - I've never been more proud of something I've created!
This is absolute shit - I've never been more ashamed of something I've created!
Everyone is going to hate this.
Everyone is going to love this.
I love what I'm doing!
I hate what I'm doing!
And on, and on, and on, and on. It's an endless cycle, and not a pretty one. It's also completely natural, and something that I deal with every single day. But some days (like last week) it can get so overwhelming that I just shut down.
So what do I do about it? I take it one step at a time.
If I let myself think too much about the end goal, I freak out and get overwhelmed and end up in my bed watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reruns on Hulu. So what I tried to do last week (and any time this happens), is take it one step at a time. I try to realize that it's not possible to create something huge overnight, and that the best thing to do is to take small, feasible steps toward my goals. So instead of thinking about how behind I am on emails and panicking when I imagine trying to answer them all at once, I make a pact with myself to answer just one email, and then see how I feel. And usually (in fact, almost always), after I answer that one email I'm ready to answer another one. It just takes one step to open the gates, but that one step is the hardest thing to do when you're experiencing anxiety.
You almost have to trick yourself into doing work. I know that sounds crazy, but that's pretty much my method. And I'm sure other people know what I'm talking about - when your anxiety hits, even the smallest tasks seem impossible. So take the smallest task you can think of and just do it. JUST DO IT! (This post is not sponsored by Nike).
Anxiety can be detrimental to creating, but it can also be fuel. For me, at least, anxiety is actually what propelled me to lead a creative lifestyle - I was unhappy at my desk job and knew I needed to make a change, so I used my anxiety over my career as motivation to pursue my dreams. But that's another blog post right there.
My point is, if you experience anxiety when creating, you're not alone. I guarantee you everyone else does too, and we all have our own ways of dealing with it. And it's okay to eat the entire sleeve of Oreos sometimes. Believe me, I've been there.
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