via Stacey Newman Weldon on Adventure Wednesdays

When anxiety starts to overwhelm you (and these days, there’s much to be nervous about!), what is your first impulse to feel better? With the rise of alcohol sales (55% growth in March 2020 vs March 2019 – and that’s just March!) and antidepressants (globally from $14.3 billion in 2019 to $28.6 in 2020) it’s clear that many are choosing those options. Other solutions include meditation, breathing exercises, regular exercise, putting your feet on the earth (aka “earthing”), or making a soothing cup of tea. Why not try a different approach? Play with your fears and draw a monster!

Playing With Fear

Play as an antidote to anxiety? Yes! Play is an integral part of having an adventure attitude. When you, as an adult, learn to play again it helps you to refresh and re-energize your brain, especially when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. (Note: this is joyful play versus escapist entertainment.)

Recently, when I was having a ‘down moment’ due to all of life’s changes and entrepreneur challenges, my friend Kara (founder of the podcast Playgrounding), introduced me to Creative Mornings. We both signed up for a workshop called Playing with Fear: Turning Uncertainties Into Possibilities.

I wasn’t sure by the title what was going to unfold, but learning new things and trying new things is one way I like to play. And, with the on-going sources of outside anxiety, I was willing to discover a different option. The solution is to draw!

Art Therapy For Anxiety

One of the biggest tips for anxiety relief is to get out of your thoughts. Getting creative gives you something to focus on and gives your brain a chance to rest from all that fearful thinking. Art therapists often use drawing to help clients bypass their brains and tap into their subconscious.

If you think of drawing as play, it also helps overcome any self-judgement. Most people stop drawing at age 11 (by the time we leave elementary school!). Some forms of art therapy drawing have you not even look at your paper until the image is done, or ask you questions for what to add to your stick-figure self.

According to Heather Willems, co-host of the workshop and co-author of “Draw Your Big Idea”:

There’s a reason they say an image is worth a thousand words. Our brains not only process images faster than text but we engage and stay connected when a story comes to life visually. In fact, combining words, pictures and emotion improves retention by 65 percent.

Visual note-taking such as doodling increases memory retention rates by nearly 30 percent, and opens creative pathways, strengthens focus, and inspires self-expression.

Step Into Your Future Self

Gary Ware, the other co-host and the genius owner of “Breakthrough Play” states that when you’re in a play state, time flies. While playing, your brain is in a learning state. You can take bigger risks because your imagination is expanding. To help his audience be more open to playing with fear, he created a meditation. Before you begin this drawing adventure, find a few moments for quiet relaxation. Tuning into your emotional state guides you to being in touch with reality.

To make it easier for you, I asked Gary for his meditation. Lucky us, he’s sharing it with us here: “Step Into Your Future Self” What do you think of the meditation? (Tell me in the comments!) It took me a few tries of listening to this to “meet my future self”, but when I did – she rocks!