Women In Their Twenties Share The Creative Ways They Tackle Anxiety

'To get out of anxious places, generally, I write about how I feel.'

Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than men, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

“It’s overwhelming really, it’s just dissecting absolutely everything,” says 26-year-old Billie Dee Gianfrancesco in a video for The Huffington Post UK.

“Sometimes I can’t eat, I can’t sleep and even the smallest things will just consume me.”

Gianfrancesco is one of three women in their early twenties who have experienced anxiety and have chosen to speak out about the creative coping mechanisms that help them temporarily escape from an anxious place.

Billie Dee Gianfrancesco, 26, PR Manager

How does it feel to have anxiety?

It’s overwhelming really, it’s just dissecting absolutely everything. Sometimes I can’t eat, I can’t sleep and even the smallest things will just consume me.

How do you cope?

I only discovered I had a positive way to help me cope with anxiety when the negative coping mechanisms were affecting my life too much.

I was drinking too much, I was completely isolated, I wasn’t talking to people or going out at all. It was only when I hit rock bottom that I thought I need to go and get help from someone else.

I keep this book. It’s a bit of a scrap book so I have everything in here from childhood photos all the way up to things that I have achieved in my everyday life.

My parents divorced when I was quite young and it was very traumatic for me. So I think really discovering, - going back and looking at these photos - and figuring out how that made me feel at the time and how that affects my anxiety now, is a really therapeutic way of going through those things.

I think these things are often triggered by something that’s happened in the past. We tend to build up a lot of coping mechanisms and react to things when we’re children.

And I think anxiety is so scary to so many people because they don’t understand why they are feeling this way, they don’t understand why they are thinking differently from everyone else.

Taking that first step into thinking about why these things have happened to you and why you felt that way, really helps you cope with it - it immediately cuts a lot of the anxiety out of it.

Abbie Mitchell, 26, Groups And Involvement Officer For Rethink Mental Illness

How does it feel to have anxiety?

I first discovered I had anxiety probably around the age of 17 or 18. The first thing that made me know it was a problem was when I experienced panic attacks. I couldn’t breathe very well and my heart rate was going really, really quickly.

How do you cope?

If I’m at home, what helps me get out of an anxious space is getting straight into bed and covering myself up. I’ll just feel safe. It’s my safety net.

I also do things like artwork. I’ve got a big box of creative resources at home.

Cutting and sticking and looking through a scrapbook of things. Those specific things help me because I just get lost in the moment. I also use character strength pencils, which have quotes on them.

My advice for someone who is suffering anxiety would be to try and find something that you enjoy. Whether it’s on your own or with other people, try and do even a little bit of it. Or set yourself very small goals, like going on a walk.

Suzanna Wren, 28, Copywriter For Expedia

How does it feel to have anxiety?

To have anxiety feels quite smothering, it can be quite an embarrassing feeling because sometimes people might not understand why you feel anxious in certain situations.

I started to have issues with OCD as a child, so I worried about fires and electrical fires and things like that in my house.

How do you cope?

To get out of anxious places, generally, I write about how I feel. I have been a very keen writer for a number of years now, since I was at primary school. So for me that’s definitely one of the main things I use for comfort.

I write notes if I’m feeling anxious, uncomfortable or if anything is bothering me or upsetting me. I tend to make notes in my notebook or I add something to my blog or just whatever is handy.

I thought of writing as a method to deal with anxiety, not just because it’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing, but because when I was at university I was doing a degree that allowed me to do more creative writing in my assignments.

Even now if I feel stressed, anxious, upset, depressed, anything, I tend to write about it or I’ll write little notes - just to pick apart how I feel.

Other Coping Mechanisms To Try

Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind, said there are other ways to deal with anxiety such as exercising and eating well, getting outside more, practising mindfulness, sleeping and finding online support.

Nicky Lidbetter from Anxiety UK advises: “There are many ways to manage anxiety, between talking therapies, medication and holistic methods.

“In the day-to-day, having something external to focus your attention on is important and many people find solace in things like volunteering, regularly exercising, or as we’ve seen, in creative activities.

“Anxiety UK is currently running its #AUKchristmas campaign, for example, in which we’re encouraging people to knit an ‘anxious’ Christmas jumper.”