Pen sketch of anxious looking bald man

Pen sketch of anxious looking bald manIf you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I started suffering from rather pronounced bouts of anxiety this year.  Where my anxiety came from and why it hit when it did is something I’m still working to understand.  But if you’re like me (anxious AND impatient) you’ll appreciate why I felt that it was more important to focus on getting better first.

My journey back to health hasn’t been linear, but it’s entailed the following steps:

  1. Admitting that I needed help
  2. Seeking out help
  3. Tweaking my diet (i.e. cutting out alcohol, caffeine and most sugar)
  4. Aiming to get enough sleep
  5. Slowing down (yoga, yoga and more yoga)
  6. Meditating daily
  7. Learning to be mindful of the sensations in my body (hello pounding heart!)
  8. Accepting and not judging myself or the sensations in my body
  9. Practicing letting go of the things I can’t control (this is a rinse and repeat step for me…)
  10. Doing more of what I love*

*And that’s where the sketching, drawing, illustrating and cartooning comes in!  Subway sketches like the one above?  My way of being in the moment by focusing on what I’m seeing – and, surprisingly, a wonderful way to enjoy what otherwise could feel like a scary commute.

P.S.  A side benefit is that when you practice really seeing (or listening) you might just discover that you’re not alone in feeling anxious or scared.

Do you suffer from anxiety?  What’s helped you to cope with your fears?  I’d love to hear!


  1. Helen Reich says:

    Lots of things helped me with my anxiety, many of which are on your list. The biggest thing ultimately might have been the doing more of what I love part. But I also spent a few years taking courses with Jim Morningstar in Milwaukee, and telling the truth about who I am (and creating safety by telling my truth) along with everyone else.

    • Joana says:

      Hi Helen,

      Thanks so much for writing (as always)! Was the course you took specifically targeted to anxiety or was it a general creative writing course?

      Mindfulness meditation (including body and emotion scanning) has been maybe the most helpful to me. The funny thing is that my pounding heart symptom doesn’t freak me out as much since I am used to years of that symptom presenting in the form of performance anxiety. It’s the other symptoms that have been harder. But I am definitely making good progress these days.

      I am also continually reading positive self-help books on the subject. I loved Joyful Wisdom by Mingyur Rinpoche and am now finishing up Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.

      We’re off to Nantucket for two days (at the airport now), so I will close for now.

      Xox – Joana

  2. Susan says:

    Joana…anxiety is so insidious. I know how hard it is to be in the moment and accept the feeling. We have everything we need within ourselves if we can let go and trust in our own goodness. It is a hard road to travel. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • Joana says:

      Hi Susan,

      Thanks so much for writing! Yes, you’re spot on; anxiety IS insidious. It’s easy when you’re not feeling anxious to embrace the idea of making room for the anxiety and learning from it…but in the anxious moments, making room is more of a challenge! As you say, it’s hard to accept the feelings of anxiety since they often are so scary.

      That said, I’m getting a better handle on my anxiety these days, and though I’m not yet anxiety-free, I feel generally more grounded and certainly better mentally prepared for what to do if the anxiety hits.

      I loved seeing your pictures of Croatia! What a fun trip that must have been!

      With warmest wishes,

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