Leaning in and Looking out

Written by Amy Banocy

June 23, 2023

Lately, I’ve been feeling very anxious. While I’m not quite sure exactly what is causing it, I have some ideas. I can feel it throughout my body. Sometimes it starts as soon as I awake. The rolling waves in my belly. The tightness in my body. The fatigue throughout the day. The sweats. It’s all there.

Along with this anxiety, has come a lack of creativity. I want to write and can’t seem to find the words. Or maybe I know the words, but I am too damn tired to put them together.

I’ve been doing things every day to try and understand, honor, and diminish the anxiety.

  • Meditation
  • Breathwork
  • Rest
  • Affirmations
  • Journaling – well, trying to
  • Walks

Last night, on a walk with Zachary, we started talking about creativity. I don’t remember how the conversation came about, but I told him that I’ve been wanting to color and asked if he’d like to color with me. He found it strange that I’d want to color.

“Like with crayons?” he asked.

“Well, I was thinking I’d use colored pencils, but you can use whatever you’d like.”

When he asked me why I wanted to color, I told him that I was feeling in a rut with my creativity and looking for ways to bring it back. I also know that coloring is good for anxiety, so I’d be killing two birds with one stone. (Can someone please come up with a better phrase for that? I hate the killing birds one!)

We continued our conversation and talked about what is creativity. I used to think I wasn’t creative because I felt creativity had to be related to traditional art, such as painting, drawing, etc. A wise friend and artist told me that “Creativity is creating something from nothing.” With this in mind, we went on to list different ways of being creative…cooking, drawing, baking, pottery, music, dance, writing, and so many more things.

We came home from the walk and I went upstairs to my room. I opened the bottom drawer in one of my dressers. I dug underneath the piles of manuscript pages to find what I was looking for. I pulled out two coloring books and a box of colored pencils. All were given to me while I was in chemo, but I’d never used them.

Last night Z did some of the word searches and puzzles in one of the books and I started coloring a mandala. Despite needing to use my new reading glasses, it was relaxing, but I got frustrated easily because it was too small for me to see the lines well.

This morning, the boys were still asleep when I came downstairs. My initial thought was to get some work done while the house was quiet, but then I glanced at the coloring books, open on the kitchen table. I sat down and for over an hour, I colored and did some word puzzles. While coloring, I had some new creative ideas come to mind. I also began thinking about some things that I’m pretty sure have been in the way back of my mind and were finally given space to come to the surface.

“Before cancer Amy” would have 100% used that time for “WORK”…. emails, phone calls, messages, etc. That was my priority then. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve just had a shift and I am personally grateful for it.

You see, it’s not that I wasn’t working this morning, although some people may see it that way. I was playing. I was doing the inner work, the quiet work, needed to make that other work worthwhile.

“Before Cancer Amy” leaned in to work when feeling anxious. It was a distraction. It made me feel productive. It made me feel worthy. It helped me push the anxiety away, even if only for that moment.

I realized this morning, that thinking outside the box and coloring outside the lines is a better way of leaning in for me when feeling anxious. It helped me to be more present with my feelings, to discover new ideas, and to practice my breathing in the process.

Is my anxiety gone? No.

Do I feel a bit better? Yes.

Was this a better option for me than turning to productivity/work? 100%!

What do you lean into when you’re anxious/unsettled/stressed? I’d love to hear! And if you decide to give creativity a try the next time you’re feeling unsettled/anxious, I’d love to know how it works out for you.


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