Living During an Age of Anxiety: A Reading List

When I am wracked with anxiety, I make a list of everything that is stressing me. These lists have included “transportation plans for this weekend,” “living at home,” “Sandy [my dog] dying,” “getting props for the play” and “editing articles for The Annual.” I don’t write solutions. Sometimes, there are no solutions, or the solutions are not immediate, which makes me worry even more. Just writing down what weighs on my mind helps.

The act of writing moves these things out of my head, where they take up space in my subconscious, and makes them tangible and coherent. These lists are a part of my self-care routine—a routine I adopted when I suffered from a particularly nasty bout of depression in college. I use this ritual today, and I do other things too: I eat three meals every day; I get enough sleep at night; I read to relax; I take my medications; I clean my room; I listen to music or to podcasts; I call my friends; I sleep some more.

Here’s another list: four authors who write about their experiences with anxiety, its roots and its bedfellows.

1. “Fuck You, Anxiety. Both My Middle Fingers Are Up.” (Siobhan Bledsoe, Medium, September 2014)

“Why should I be anxious when I have, said so many people, so much ‘going for me’? That doesn’t matter. The guilt of having a mental illness is pointless and defeatist and is analogous to criticizing people with depression for being ‘selfish’ and acting like it is a choice. Sure, choosing to manage anxiety is a choice, but, like depression, it will be there, like it is encoded in your DNA, indelibly, permanently, what feels like forever.”

2. “When You Feel Like A Loser.” (Amber Humphrey, Rookie, September 2013)

I’m 24, I have no driver’s license, I live with my parents, and I’m not married. Sometimes, it feels like these are the only four thoughts my brain ever produces. I feel like a failure, and my successes offer short-term relief only. But there is hope, and Humphrey offers her own list (yeah, lists!) of ways to break out of an anxious funk via her own self-care techniques. (I’ve lauded Rookie many times, and this article’s tags include “anxiety,” “coping” and “depression.” Rookie keeps it real.)

3. “The First World Problem.” (Kelli Korducki, Hazlitt, January 2014)

Status symbol, over-diagnosis, internet fodder or genuine problem? Korducki doesn’t solve the predicament of anxiety, but she does analyze it from several socioeconomic angles.

4. “How a Sweat Lodge Cured My Crippling Anxiety.” (Rachel Zarrell, Buzzfeed, January 2014)

When Zarrell’s agoraphobia took over her life, her mom convinced her to go to a New Age-y summer camp, “surrounded by new friends who loved me. I had let myself be surrounded by heat, the crux of my biggest fear, but all I could feel was warmth.” While the title is misleading—the author starts high school after her summer at camp, hinting that her anxiety returns—Zarrell’s brief reprieve from her mental prison is worth reading.

Photo: JuliaKoz