Creative anxiety is quite the deadly cocktail. I remember how embarrassed I was on my first day of internship at a radio station. Having written out a detailed script for the show and even rehearsed some aspects of it with my co-host, I couldn’t bring myself to speak into the microphone the first time I went on air.
The producer and my co-host kept gesturing for me to say something but nothing came out. My vocal cords must have sworn to rebel against my brain because nothing was coming out of my mouth. Thankfully, my co-host (and a veteran in the field) quickly intervened and saved the day. When we went on a commercial break, the station manager, producer and co-host gave me a very relaxing pep talk. Afterward, when the break ended, I found my voice again and signed us back in on the show without any hurdles.
What happened to me that day resulted from the high voltage of creative anxiety. I was so anxious for obvious yet oblivious reasons that when the time for me to shine came, I cowered in fear. Most creatives can testify to the stifling hurdles of creative anxiety. Mind you, anxiety can be helpful for some people, keeping them in check to get their creative juices flowing. While for most people, it is a great disruption of creativity.
What Is Creative Anxiety?
In layman’s terms, creative anxiety is simply the state of being anxious before, during, or after a creative process. According to the Freeman dictionary, creative anxiety is the state immediately preceding the expression of an Insight or a creative thought. This said state can either affect creativity negatively or positively but mostly negatively.
What Causes Creative Anxiety?
Creative anxiety can be caused by a myriad of things ranging from the fear of failure to the fear of success. Most creatives get creative anxiety whenever they are charged with testing new creative waters. They play out different “what if” scenarios in their heads till they get cold feet. In some cases, creatives are thrown into the dungeon of creative anxiety due to unchecked impostor syndrome. This often pans out slowly as a feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness, hence refusal to own your creative works. In other cases, creative anxiety can arise due to poor preparation, feeling overwhelmed, stress, and fatigue.
How Do You Deal With Creative Anxiety?
Because of creative anxiety, so many creatives walk on eggshells when creating. Unfortunately for some, they fall in, and for others, they scale through by a hook. Notwithstanding, whatever the cause of your creative anxiety is, these five easy steps will help you deal with it:
- Take a break from creating
- Eat healthy and clean foods
- Turn to exercise and hit the Gym
- Connect with your loved ones or pet
- Words of affirmation and a gratitude jar.
- Take A Break From Creating
Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem or at least a fraction of the problem is to do nothing about it. So, the next time you are faced with creative anxiety, please take a break. Don’t beat yourself up or feel subpar because you can’t seem to get anything done. Take a break from work.
However, In most cases, creative anxiety associated with fatigue is your body’s way of demanding a much-needed break. So, take that break today! Shut down your laptop, leave your work desk, adjourn all meetings if you can, and do something outside work. In an extreme case of creative anxiety, if you have the luxury to, go on a vacation. Go outside, get some natural air and sunlight; trust me, it works like magic.
- Eat Healthy And Clean Foods
While an apple a day keeps the doctor away, you must be intentional about your other meals. This is because the foods you eat adversely affect your physical, mental, and emotional health, which are the core drivers of creativity. Hence, in some cases, simply satisfying your cravings. Or eat healthy and can clean foods to help you overcome creative anxiety.
You can start by drinking lots of water and eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you can, avoid or cut down on sugary and processed foods, alcohol, and other stimulants, especially caffeine. Sometimes, creative anxiety can be linked to vitamin deficiencies and low energy. So it is advisable to check your vitamin levels regularly and eat essential vitamin-rich foods.
- Turn To Exercise And Hit The Gym
One secret the 2020 lockdowns unlocked is the need for mobility and keeping fit. Hence the importance of exercise in combating creative anxiety. The release of endorphins after exercising works wonders on your mental health by making you calm, happier, and relaxed. Another alternative is Yoga. Yoga is a good antidote for anxiety, stress, or depression, as it is a highly meditative form of exercise. In addition, it teaches breathing techniques that can be highly effective in managing creative anxiety.
- Connect With Your Loved Ones Or Pets
Indeed, no man is an island. Sometimes, a simple phone call or hanging out with friends or family can suffice when we are plagued with creative anxiety. Getting out of your creative bubble and connecting with other humans greatly helps you relax and combat creative anxiety. Talk to trusted friends and family about how you feel and, if possible, suggest ways they can help you feel better. In extreme cases where friends and family are out of reach, you can reach out to your pet animal and spend ample time with them. It is generally believed that petting/holding animals help to reduce anxiety levels. So, start by taking them for a walk or cuddling up.
- Lean Into Gratitude Jars And Speak Words Of Affirmation To Yourself
A gratitude jar is simply a jar you set aside like a dairy where you take notes of all the things, events, and people you are grateful for. Depending on your jurisdiction, this can be done daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, or even yearly. Because a gratitude jar is a jar filled with good memories of you created by you, it helps you create dopamine to reduce your cortisol hormones. So, on days when you feel creative anxiety creeping in, pull out that jar and read through.
Besides a gratitude jar, you can try out words of affirmation. Words of affirmation are simply the act of saying pleasant and reassuring words to yourself. However, for words of affirmation to make much impact, you must train your mind to see the good in every situation you find yourself in. More so, words of affirmation can come from friends and family, both knowingly or unknowingly; learn to keep an open mind. At best, leaning into using a gratitude jar and words of affirmation will help you manage creative anxiety to a large extent.
In addition to the tips discussed above, other ways to deal with creative anxiety include; listening to soothing music, taking warm or cold baths, taking deep breaths, writing, watching movies, and playing video games, among others. Creative anxiety is a thief of joy; therefore, whatever you do as a creative, always believe there is a silver lining in every dark cloud.