It's no secret to those of us who deal with anxiety that it's not just being really, really nervous. Forty million adults deal with anxiety disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and only 42.2 percent of those people are in treatment. Recently, Psychology Today reported that the American Psychological Association released the 411 from its annual Stress in America study, and the results aren't comforting: "In January 2017, for the first time in its 10 year history, the survey found a statistically significant increase in stress levels in America, compared to last year." Troubling as this may be, if you're reading this article, you're in luck; there are things you can do to combat your anxiety, and reading poetry is one of them.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America's "How to Deal with Stress and Anxiety" handout provides helpful, and more than a few of them point to the power of poetry. Whether you decide to "take a time out" or "slowly count to ten" or "take deep breaths," poetry can be a piece of your self-care plan. After all, reading poems helps you press pause on life, focussing your attention on the moment (much like practicing yogic breathing). Ready to give it a shot? These seven poems might help.
1. "Everyone Gasps with Anxiety" by Jeni Olin
"Please somebody peel me dreamlessly
To inhabit fleshly then brittle climates like a Giacometti fever
2. "Pomegranate Means Grenade" by Jamaal May
"I know how often red is the only color
left to reach for."
3. "Anxieties" by Donna Masini
your past tense—
and next? A nest
of jittery ties."
4. "Brokeheart: Just like that" by Patrick Rosal
When the bass drops on Bill Withers’
Better Off Dead, it’s like 7 a.m.
and I confess I’m looking
over my shoulder once or twice
just to make sure no one in Brooklyn
is peeking into my third-floor window
to see me in pajamas I haven’t washed
for three weeks
5. "Let Everything Happen to You" by Natalie Eilbert
"I want to write sentences for days. I want days to not
be a sentence. We put men in boxes and sail them away.
Justice gave me an amber necklace. I tried to swallow
as many as I could."
6. "Wait" by Galway Kinnell
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
7. "The Anxiety of Coincidence" by Mark Bibbins
You realize we could have walked
home in the hours taking inventory took, jack
of no traits. Bird with no wings.