Real Talk: From Anxiety to Art

By: Chaviva Freedman  |  October 2, 2016

anxious-artIt’s a Tuesday evening. You have two papers, math homework and a lab assignment all due at the end of the week. You feel like nothing is going to be done on time and your anxiety levels are through the roof.

I’ve been in your position. I live in this position every day. As someone who has been diagnosed with anxiety, I have had to learn how to adapt to different situations in a short amount of time. Over the past few years, specifically in college, I have learned how to take my anxiety and channel it in different ways that help the condition subside. As midterms are coming up right after the break, I think it’s time to give away some of my secrets:

    1. Breathe! Although this seems like the most basic thing, there are actually specific breathing techniques you can use to calm down. The method I find to be the most effective is the 4, 6, 7 technique. This requires you to inhale for four seconds, hold that breath for six seconds and then exhale for seven seconds. The trick is to do this technique four times in a row and your stress levels will subside. I discovered this technique when Stern gave an anti-stress class right before midterms of my freshman year, and I still do it all the time. It has really helped me over the years and it is a great technique to keep in your back pocket.
    2. 90’s Television. This is a new trick I picked up during the summer, and it’s one of my favorites. 90’s television consisted of feel-good shows like Boy Meets World and Friends. Whenever I watch an episode from this era of television, it always lifts my spirits because there’s always something to laugh about. Although my personal preferences are Brotherly Love and Home Improvement, they’re all great ways to unwind and relax.
    3. Blast your favorite bands/artists. This technique has always helped me. I live with my headphones in my ears for this reason alone. Listening to music has always given me an energy boost and over the years the music I listen to has varied. I found that the music I grew up with really helps with channeling my anxiety. I personally recommend the English pop bands Busted and McFly. Both bands have really upbeat and catchy tunes, and if you want to come find me, I’ll tell you how much I love these bands and which of their songs should always be on your playlist. (Little known fact: you know the song “Year 3000” by the Jonas Brothers? It wasn’t written by them – thank Busted for that little gem in your childhood.)
    4. Take a walk. This is one of the best ways to relieve anxiety and stress. I love walking around Midtown because you get to move with the pace of the city and you will always find something that you didn’t know before. I discovered this cool store called Cosmetic Market while taking a walk down Madison Avenue, and I frequent it all the time. There are many more things to discover when you just take the time and walk. You might discover some new event happening at Bryant Park or go on a tour of all the artwork in and around Rockefeller Center. Either way, you won’t be disappointed if you take this route to de-stressing

    5. Watch a movie. I am going to be honest – I do this a lot. I have built a repertoire of movies that I arm myself with over the years, and whenever I feel anxious, I pull a DVD out and watch it. My personal favorites are classic teenage movies – 10 Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls, She’s the Man and Pitch Perfect. Any of these movies will make you go into laughing fits and make you feel good at the end. These movies are also good to watch because we all have seen these movies countless times – we can quote them verbatim without even thinking about it. By watching something that you already know, you will feel good even faster. I truly recommend you try this method and even bring a friend along for the ride.

    6. Talk it out. Although this one is probably the hardest piece of advice, it is probably the most important. I can tell you from experience that holding in your feelings is not a good thing to do. You will most probably explode and get upset from something so trivial. Just sitting with someone and describing your emotions will make you feel better. I’m not saying that you need to see a psychologist – even a friend or family member will be sufficient. As long as you are talking to someone that you trust, you will feel better.


Although these tricks are beneficial to me, they might not work for everyone. Develop your own anxiety hacks and perfect them as you go along. Eventually you’ll have a whole arsenal of techniques of your own. Good luck with midterm season!