Anxiety is not an easy to untangle and resolve emotion because its roots can run deep into your psyche. There are times when you’re feeling anxious and you simply can’t put your finger on the reasons behind it and yet other times when the culprit for its’ presence is known and yet you feel like there is nothing you can do to quiet it down or put a stop to it. Your emotions (anxiety) will dictate that you find a way right here, right now because otherwise things will get even worse (gravitating toward panic).
While there are times when we are fully aware that some of the thoughts we have are irrational, in those moments of acute anxiety, most reason goes out the door and it’s just you and your emotions. It can get scary in a place like this: we are so consumed by those feelings and sometimes it feels like we don’t have the ability or energy to give attention to anything or anyone around.
When it’s just you and your feelings, you are in a very vulnerable place. Vulnerability requires a sense of safety and when you are anxious you are in a state of arousal. This contradiction creates an internal rift, a discrepancy at the core. Still you can use that vulnerability to cope a little better with the overwhelming anxiety.
Mindfulness techniques such as breathing and meditation do indeed help in the moment to calm your body and mind, but what about your emotions? They are not as easy to quiet down but not impossible to either.
Typically, creative activities or a creative engagement will speak directly to your emotions. So why not try to do something creative that involves no pressure and it’s not threatening?
There are a multitude of art therapy methods that can be used and amongst them one that I found to work consistently is drawing mandalas.
Mandalas are circle like drawings that originally Hindi monks would create in the sand, sometimes spending years, and as soon as completed immediately destroyed (you can read more about mandalas here). Jung also used mandalas as a form of introspective focused meditation, and so can you use it to gently care for your emotions when you need it most.
The reason why drawing mandalas helps with anxiety is because they involve repetitive and rhythmic movements of your hand and focused attention, which create a sense of familiarity, safety, and control over what you’re doing (the opposite when you feel anxious).
When you’re creating a mandala you are actually creating patterns (and our brain understands patterns) and as a result your ability to focus improves. When you start drawing a mandala, focus on the emotions you are most aware. A mandala is not a work of art that needs to be perfect, so when you find yourself wanting to correct yourself, just notice the urge and move on. The goal is not to make a perfect circular drawing, but to create a deeper sense of connection and understanding of your own feelings.
Here is a link to a video that describes the basics of drawing a mandala.