Mastering Creative Anxiety By Eric Maisel, Ph.D.

15 Anxiety Management Techniques
Mastering Creative Anxiety by Eric Maisel
Based on the book Mastering Creative Anxiety: 24 Lessons for Writers, Painters, Musicians & Actors
by Eric Maisel

Many anxieties arise as you attempt to create. There is the anxiety of facing a blank canvas and fearing that you have nothing to say or that you have something to say but won’t say it well. There is the anxiety that comes with putting yourself “out there” and risking criticism and rejection. There is the related anxiety known as performance anxiety that afflicts almost everyone. There is the anxiety associated with going into the unknown, with relinquishing control, with making choices (as the creative act is one choice after another) — innumerable anxieties arise as you try to create and as you try to find an audience for what you create.

In order to create and to deal with all the anxiety that comes with creating, you must acknowledge and accept that anxiety is part of the process, demand of yourself that you will learn — and really practice! — some anxiety management skills, and get on with your creating and your anxiety management. There is no reason for you not to create if “all” that is standing in the way is your quite human experience of anxiety. What follows are fifteen anxiety management tools. For a further discussion of these and other techniques that you can employ, please take a look at my latest book Mastering Creative Anxiety (New World Library, 2011).

1. Attitude choice
You can choose to be made anxious by every new opinion you hear or you can choose to keep your own counsel. You can choose to be over-vigilant to changes in your environment and over-concerned with small problems or you can shrug such changes and problems away. You can choose to involve yourself in every controversy or you can choose to pick your battles and maintain a serene distance from most of life’s commotion. You can choose to approach life anxiously or you can choose to approach it calmly. It is a matter of flipping an internal switch — one that you control.

2. Improved appraising
Incorrectly appraising situations as more important, more dangerous or more negative than they in fact are raises your anxiety level. If you are a writer and consider it important what weight of paper you use to print out your manuscripts, you are making yourself anxious. If you hold it as dangerous to send out your fiction without copyrighting it because you’re afraid that someone will steal it, you are making yourself anxious. If you consider form rejection letters genuine indictments of your work, every form rejection letter will make you anxious. You can significantly reduce your experience of anxiety by refusing to appraise situations as more important, more dangerous, or more negative than they in fact are.

3. Lifestyle support
Your lifestyle supports calmness or it doesn’t. When you rush less, create fewer unnecessary pressures and stressors, get sufficient rest and exercise, eat a healthy diet, take time to relax, include love and friendship, and live in balance, you reduce your experience of anxiety. If your style is to always arrive chronically late, to wait until the last minute to meet deadlines, and to live in disorganization, you are manufacturing anxiety. How much harder will it be to deal with the creative anxiety in your life if your very lifestyle is producing its own magnum of anxiety?

4. Behavioral changes
What you actually do when you feel anxious makes a big difference. Behaviors like playing games or watching television for hours quell anxiety but waste vast amounts of your time. Behaviors like smoking cigarettes chemically quell anxiety but increase your health risks. If a ten-minute shower or a twenty-minute walk can do as good a job of reducing your anxiety as watching another hour of golf or smoking another several cigarettes, isn’t it the behavior to choose? There are many time-wasting, unhealthy, and dispiriting ways to manage anxiety — and many efficient, healthy, and uplifting ways, too.

5. Deep breathing
The simplest anxiety management technique is deep breathing. By stopping to deeply breathe (5 seconds on the inhale, 5 seconds on the exhale) you stop your racing mind and alert your body to the fact that you wish to be calmer. Begin to incorporate deep breaths into your daily routine, especially when you think about your creative work and when you approach your creative work.

will be continued …

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