Boredom and Anxiety: How Creativity Heals Anxious Thoughts
Boredom and anxiety coincide like clockwork–when you finish that assignment, when your shift ends, or when you turn off the light to go to sleep, your thoughts start to spiral. As soon as you allow your mind to wrap around itself, anxiety sets in.
Anxiety When You’re Bored
Anxiety is terrifying when you’re caught in it: You have so much to do, and there’s no way you can do it all. Remember that embarrassing thing you said a year ago? You haven’t accomplished half as much as you should have by now. Your friends don’t really care about you. It’s incredible how quickly your mind can spew these anxious thoughts out of nowhere. The stress sets in, and you distract yourself until they disappear–only to find that they whirl back the next time you let your guard down.
To self-protect, you get really good at distracting yourself every time you are bored. You scroll through social media, binge-watch a new series, or text your friends. You never allow yourself to experience boredom.
Boredom as a Child and as an Adult
When I was a kid, my boredom fueled me. My backyard was a jungle, a school, a castle, or an island. I wrote and colored and baked. I created. When I got older, I surrendered that creativity. My thoughts were too loud, so I turned to mind-numbing distractions. I was under the impression that if I stayed bored, I would only get more anxious. And although distractions sent the stress away, I felt empty.
To my surprise, I have found that when I allow the boredom to be there for a moment, I understand why I’m feeling so anxious. I seek creative outlets instead of soul-sucking distractions. I write, read, go on a walk, or play the piano. These deliberately decompressing activities alleviate the pressure I feel inside my head. I still experience stress, but I face it with grace and curiosity instead of fear.
Both numbing out and creativity can make anxiety disappear, but only one of them leaves you feeling fulfilled. Every time you are bored, it is your choice how to respond.
Channeling Boredom and Anxiety into Creativity
When was the last time you actually sat with your thoughts? When was the last time you stood in line without checking your phone? When was the last time you went to bed without watching a TV show? When was the last time you rode in a bus or a car without listening to music or a podcast?
Sometimes in these moments, anxiety is inevitable. However, how you respond either leads to healing or keeps you stagnant. Try to see boredom as a new path to explore, rather than a locked door to turn away from. The next time you feel the itch to distract yourself from your own thoughts, take a deep breath and sit there a while longer. Creativity can be as simple as going through a funny « What if? » scenario in your head or experimenting with a new recipe. I’ve taken up people-watching in an effort to avoid numbing. Follow your mind and see where it goes.
While boredom may cause some anxiety, it is not something you need to escape from. Boredom can bring an opportunity to connect with yourself. When you allow your mind to wander instead of stuffing it with distractions, creativity will flow. Your response to your boredom can heal the anxiety that you feel.
Tags: boredom and anxiety