I Play Pretend. I’m Twenty-Six

Anxiety comes at different times and at different volumes, so we must have an arsenal on hand to combat it. Me…I combat it by playing pretend. I write stories. I journal about the random nonsense in my imagination. Sometimes even, I play with makeup and costumes and temporarily turn myself into someone else.

Combatting anxiety begins by being aware of the present moment. But often, for me, the present moment of breathing in and out is unexciting. Noticing your thoughts and letting them go is a productive method, I will concede to that, but I prefer to steer those thoughts in another productive direction. So, I pick an imaginative scenario, and just let my mind play with it. Maybe I start out in a forest, and I keep walking until I reach a beach, or perhaps a castle. Then I will try to notice every detail about that setting. Is the beach golden and full of seashells, or is it crystal white with sparkling bits in it? Is the castle old and grey, or is it tall and pristine with alabaster towers?

Some might think this is more a distraction than actually facing my anxious thoughts, but I’m creating something to draw upon when anxious thoughts arise: a happy place, if you will. And the more I get to know this place, the more I can add things like characters, voices, and music to it. In this present moment, I am choosing beauty over misery, directing my imagination toward pleasure and hope.

Of course, this method is when I’m away from home. When I feel anxious at home, I use my makeup brushes to paint a new character onto my face. I’ll even curl my hair, which requires a steady pair of hands, as well as deep, even breathing. And finally, I’ll slowly create a character by dressing up. The further along I get in this process, the more I’ll begin inhabiting the character’s thoughts. That’s because the character doesn’t share my anxieties, and I therefore have no place thinking of them.

It probably sounds a little like Ed Wood and Glenda, but getting into a character’s head is a twofold activity. I’m not just calming my mind with imaginative scenarios, I’m also creating new ideas to write about.