• Chris OBrien

If you wake up feeling anxious

There's something about the pillow and anxiety. Most people feel their most anxious either at the very beginning of the day, right when the alarm clock goes off, or at the very end of the day trying to fall asleep.

The reason? That's when we have our least sense of control. There's an entire day ahead of us. Outcomes that haven't happened yet. Meetings. Interactions. Deadlines. Anything could happen.

Few people feel anxious right after dinner. At that moment, there's a sense of victory. You've conquered the day (and a deep-dish pizza).

The common go-to practices to relieve anxiety are things like meditation, prayer, yoga, going for a run, calling a friend.

Something that works just as well but doesn't always show up on the list: Sitting down and writing.

Why isn't writing a more popular treatment for anxiety?

We grew up with writing and anxiety intertwined. Everything we wrote received a letter grade. We memorized the letters in the alphabet. There was a correct order to things. We learned things like, "I before E except after C." Verbs. Nouns. Adjectives. Right now, even as I'm writing this, I have two suggestions from the Grammarly app. Our writing can always be better.

But what if, next time we wake up feeling anxious, we sit down and write. A stream of consciousness style writing. If you don't have any specific ideas that morning, just look around the room. The writing can be incredibly simple. "The couch is gray. There are three books on the table." What's wrong with that? We don't feel weird in meditation by focusing on something as simple as breathing, so what's wrong with writing a few simple sentences?

Someone out there can meditate for 10 hours straight. Someone can spend five hours in deep prayer and reflection. Someone else can do a headstand in yoga. Writing is the same way. Someone will write 2,000 words in the time it takes me to write 200. Someone else will be far more poetic. Their post will be more engaging.

But that doesn't mean we both didn't receive the same benefit of reducing anxiety. If you start with "reducing anxiety" as the goal, I think you'll find writing to always be helpful.

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