Anxiety was the biggest reason I wanted to learn mindfulness techniques and so I have been exploring anxiety through mindfulness for a number of years now.

In the beginning anxious feelings felt overwhelming and often led to panic attacks, but with time, patience and understanding and through awareness of myself, these experiences became less overwhelming.

There are still moments when I begin to feel the sensations of anxiety start to take over and this is where I try and find a way to express those feelings, which helps me to release them and not hold on in silence.

Whilst exploring how to cope better and express my inner feelings, I came across an article online called “How to Feed Your Demons” (https://upliftconnect.com/how-to-feed-your-demons/ ) this talks about feeding your demons of fear, illness, depression, anxiety, trauma etc, rather than fighting them. It mentions giving form to these forces through feeling them in the body and noticing their shape, colour, texture etc. It goes on to suggest personifying the demon and finding out what it wants. From this point you can start to understand its needs, bring love and compassion and transform the feelings it brings.

So I started drawing my anxiety monster by noticing its shape and texture, how it feels in the body, what sensations it brings and tried to express that through my drawing. Here is how I described the feelings:

This is my anxiety monster…it sits on my chest, gripping it tight. It sends sparks through its arms across my chest into my shoulders. It reaches down into my stomach and makes it tingle and fill with fizzy fear. It holds onto my throat so I cannot speak. It stops me thinking clearly, so I don’t know which way to turn. It grips so tight sometimes that I cannot breath and the only thing I can do is cry.

However once I had drawn the picture I could see that it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought and it was just a scared animal that needed soothing. Over the next few days I kept an eye on my anxiety monster and drew more pictures as it became softer and smaller and changed from being a terrifying monster into an animal.

Create your own anxiety animal

Anyone can work with their challenging emotions, if you start gently and slowly, try drawing your monster at a time that isn’t too overwhelming.

Mindfulness will help you notice when stress or anxiety are starting to build up, at this moment try to stop and take a moment to listen to yourself.

You can either follow the guidance in the article mentioned above or just take a moment to feel into the body. Where can you feel the emotions? What sensations do you notice? Do the sensations have a shape, texture or colour? Can you draw this? Can you make it into an animal, monster or demon? Can you express how this creature makes you feel? How does it feel once you have drawn it? Does it still feel as terrifying? All of these methods are ways of being mindful and really listening to your body, giving you chance to express how it feels.

When you listen to yourself, the feelings can start to ease, helping you cope better with the challenges you face.

“Rather than viewing emotional pain as an enemy to be avoided or defeated, it’s more beneficial to view it as a messenger trying to communicate with us and point out something about how we are living.” Julian Daizan Skinner Practical Zen for health, wealth and mindfulness.

Read more about befriending anxiety through mindful drawing in my interview with Frances Trussell from Mindfully Happy