Image: Dawn at the Newark airport. I’m going on vacation.
These are times of worry, stress and anxiety. History is thrashing around like an avalanche, the solid ground is shifting, the familiar landscape is collapsing.
We shrink when a stranger coughs. Wildfires. Politics. Economics.The news cycle is unrelenting.
My watch buzzes to tell me my broker is emailing, that I’ve been sitting for too long, that my pulse is too high.
Alexa delivers my quote of the day: “May you live in exciting times”. Gee, thanks.
I read an article in the New York Times last week that describes the differences between worry, stress and anxiety.
Worry is a mind-thing — a flywheel of repetitive thoughts about negative outcomes and uncertainty. Over and over, the mind burrows deeper into dark scenarios that could happen, might happen, or might never be.
Stress is a body thing. Impulse and chemicals. It’s our physical reaction to a threat, speeding up our pulse, slowing our breath, churning our stomachs, getting us ready to rumble.
And Anxiety is both — we react physically but it’s to something our brain is telling us could maybe happen. We are so worried that our bodies act as if we are physically under attack, fight or flight — but it’s a construction of our minds. We are reacting to reality not as it but as it might be. Or then again might not.
Worry is an obsessive series of thoughts that needs to be diverted. Stress is a body thing that needs to be purged like bad sushi. But you can’t just think your way out of Anxiety. You need distractions that have a physical component. The New York Times suggests listening to music, skipping rope or rubbing velcro.
I have another remedy.
I open my sketchbook, uncap my pen.
Drawing is a mental and a physical activity.
It drags me off the obsessive carousel of worry and puts me into physical action. It breaks the spell and gives me a job.
Drawing diverts and slows down my overstimulated imagination and it anchors me in the Now. The Taser effects of stress start to wash out of my system. Adrenaline and cortisol get filtered away. My heart slows. My breathing normalizes. I get perspective on what I’m drawing and on what is roiling my mind.
Like a wildly barking dog, I set my body to chase the ball and my mind to soothe myself,
Drawing is meditative but it’s active too. As my hand and my eyeballs move, I am flushing the biological toxins, the overdose of stress.
Drawing resets my body and my mind. It connects me once again with theReal World. The beautiful Real World.
It reminds me that beyond the newspaper, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, blossoms are popping, and spring time is nearly here.