Problems and resulting stress are a part of every individual’s life, which are usually accompanied by some common emotions like confusion, feeling at the edge, a sense of helplessness, and recurrent negative thoughts which can collectively be seen as an individual experiencing what’s commonly called as Anxiety.
Every human has their unique ways of dealing with these difficult situations and the following emotions, some try to adapt to the circumstances and find the best and most comfortable solution while others try to find an escape route for the same, in both cases the main aim is usually to get over the uncomfortable emotions of anxiety.
Poems on anxiety represented by various poets is an effort towards depicting the various states of anxiety
Many poets use dramatic monologues to present the panic and fears experienced by people suffering from anxiety.
Anxiety is a natural response to threat and fear that can affect an individual in various ways.
Some poems on what anxiety feels like are :
1. Emily Dickinson, ‘We Grow Accustomed to the Dark’.
We grow accustomed to the Dark
When Light is put away
As when the Neighbour holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye
A Moment – We Uncertain step
For newness of the night
Then – fit our Vision to the Dark
And meet the Road – erect
The primary line of this sonnet too gives the sonnet its fundamental topic: the way our eyes alter to the obscurity, fair as our minds adjust to the distress of life and contemplation of the ‘night’ that’s passing. The sonnet is, then, a reflection on the anxieties we have to confront with respect to our mortality, and how these fears can break out once more indeed in spite of the fact that most of the time we have learned to smother or disregard them.
2. W. B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity …
This poem was composed in 1919, in no time after the conclusion of the First World War and at a time when Yeats’s claim domestic country of Ireland was within the grasp of a battle for freedom. This poem, is one of his most noteworthy, captures the anxieties encompassing this minute of political alter with a few important and enigmatic symbolism, not slightest that ‘rough beast’ which ‘slouches towards Bethlehem to be born’.
3. D. H. Lawrence, ‘Anxiety’.
The hoar-frost crumbles in the sun,
The crisping steam of a train
Melts in the air, while two black birds
Sweep past the window again.
Along the vacant road, a red
Bicycle approaches; I wait
In a thaw of anxiety, for the boy
To leap down at our gate.
He has passed us by; but is it
Relief that starts in my breast?
Or a deeper bruise of knowing that still
She has no rest.
This brief sonnet by Lawrence (1885-1930) postures a few inquisitive questions for the reader who is (the ‘She’) in that last line? but it flawlessly passes on the anxieties of holding up for news, particularly of somebody’s passing or death.
4. Walt Whitman, ‘As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life’.
As I ebb’d with the ocean of life,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walk’d where the ripples continually wash you Paumanok,
Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant,
Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways,
I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward,
Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I utter poems,
Was seiz’d by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot,
The rim, the sediment that stands for all the water and all the land of the globe …
Whitman’s sweeping verse affected by the Scriptural Hymns of Ruler David is superbly suited to this sprawling, enthusiastic poem about self-doubt and a few kinds of mid-life emergencies.
5. Miriam Goodman, ‘Anxiety of Ten o’Clock’.
Account for all the work.
Do the arithmetic: this much finish
day by day. Feel better. You feel
you’re holding cats under a rug.
You balk, refuse your own assignments,
stalk reunion with your other,
lazy self, this one harnessed
in a soggy woolen swimsuit, body
doughy under puzzle straps. She asks
her one repeating question as if
what you have said definitively were
still unclear. In different ways she asks:
always a but, always a what if.
Always impossible to finish.
Goodman was a Jewish American artist whose work merits to be superior known. In this poem, whose title reviews Wallace Stevens’ popular ‘Disillusionment of Ten o’Clock’, Goodman expertly develops a poem around an arrangement of basic commands reviewing the poem.
6. Jean Valentine, ‘Sanctuary’.
People pray to each other. The way I say “you” to someone else,
respectfully, intimately, desperately. The way someone says
“you” to me, hopefully, expectantly, intensely …
You who I don’t know
I don’t know how to talk to you
—What is it like for you there?
Here … well, wanting solitude; and talk; friendship—
The uses of solitude. To imagine; to hear.
Learning braille. To imagine other solitudes.
But they will not be mine.
to wait, in the quiet; not to scatter the voices—
What are you afraid of?
What will happen. All this leaving. And meetings, yes. But death.
What happens when you die?
“… not scatter the voices,”
Drown out. Not make a house, out of my own words. To be quiet in
another throat; other eyes; listen for what it is like there. What
word. What silence. Allowing. Uncertain: to drift, in the
restlessness … Repose. To run like water—
What is it like there, right now?
Listen: the crowding of the street; the room. Everyone hunches in
against the crowding; holding their breath: against dread.
What do you dread?
What happens when you die?
What do you dread, in this room, now?
Not listening. Now. Not watching. Safe inside my own skin.
To die, not having listened. Not having asked … To have scattered
Yes, I know: the thread you have to keep finding, over again, to
follow it back to life; I know. Impossible, sometimes.
Valentine (1934-2020) was an American writer who was the Modern York State Artist Laureate from 2008 to 2010. This sonnet sees Valentine’s speaker tending to an unidentified ‘you’ whom she doesn’t know how to convert to, and continues to invoke an arrangement of effective pictures for anxiety, counting a swarmed room
7. Elizabeth Bishop, ‘Little Exercise’.
Think of the storm roaming the sky uneasily
like a dog looking for a place to sleep in,
listen to it growling.
Think how they must look now, the mangrove keys
lying out there unresponsive to the lightning
in dark, coarse-fibred families,
where occasionally a heron may undo his head,
shake up his feathers, make an uncertain comment
when the surrounding water shines.
Think of the boulevard and the little palm trees
all stuck in rows, suddenly revealed
as fistfuls of limp fish-skeletons.
It is raining there. The boulevard
and its broken sidewalks with weeds in every crack
are relieved to be wet, the sea to be freshened.
Now the storm goes away again in a series
of small, badly lit battle-scenes,
each in “Another part of the field.”
Think of someone sleeping in the bottom of a row-boat
tied to a mangrove root or the pile of a bridge;
think of him as uninjured, barely disturbed
Bishop (1911-79) is one of the mammoths of twentieth-century American verse whose after death notoriety proceeds to develop and reinforce. This poem around anxiety passes on Bishop’s virtuoso for comparison, from the opening picture of the storm moving over the sky like a dog ‘looking for a put to rest in’. The poem is around the ways in which a few individuals are profoundly influenced by ‘storms’ (both exacting and allegorical) whereas others show up to be able to carry on, unperturbed.
8. W. H. Auden, ‘September 1, 1939’.
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.
Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
And the international wrong.
Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.
From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,”
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
Much verse of the 1930s reflects a broader social and political anxiety around coming strife, and the verse of W. H. Auden (1907-73) could be a case in point. In this poem, composed on the day Germany announced war on Poland, Auden talks for numerous individuals who were cleared out feeling ‘uncertain and afraid’ as occasions in Europe raised.
What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety is characterized by a set of signs and symptoms such as:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Sense of choking
- Complaints of chest pain
- Shaking or trembling
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or Lightheadedness
- Fear of losing control over oneself and their environment
- Fear of impending doom
- Hot or cold flashes
- Tingling or numbness
- Increased heart rate
These symptoms vary in severity from person to person. However, it is noted that many people experience anxiety attacks that are not significantly displayed.
What are some ways to manage anxiety?
Identify and acknowledge the triggers
The most significant strategy that can be used to control one’s anxiety is by identifying and acknowledging those triggers.
Being able to recognize what makes an individual anxious makes them better equipped to take action.
Even though anxiety can be bought under an individual’s control it cannot be predicted. In such situations, it is necessary that an individual actively carries out relaxation techniques.
These might include meditation, yoga, and deep breathing which helps to reduce the intensity of anxiety within a short period.
A key to reducing the frequency and intensity of anxiety attacks could be spending time with close family and friends.
The kind of emotional and practical support provided by these social and personal groups help the person feel connected and aid in distracting one’s mind from negative and recurring thoughts that lead to anxiety.
Apart from friends and families, individuals can also consider speaking to groups of people that are experiencing similar problems.
Set realistic goals
When an individual is feeling overwhelmed setting goals and targets keeping in mind priorities can help resolve overwhelming feelings of fear or panic.
Setting goals provides structure and routine to an individual’s life reducing space for uncertainty which can be a major trigger for anxiety in many cases.
Take up new challenges
Apart from doing activities that an individual is usually fond of and has expertise in, trying new and challenging activities that put an individual outside their comfort zone in a healthy manner may help reduce the stress and anger temporarily.
Signing up for new activities also provides a path to meeting people with similar stories and concerns.
An individual’s lifestyle plays a major role in their experience of anxiety. An unhealthy and busy lifestyle usually leads to unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, lack of adequate sleep.
A combination of a well-set diet, exercise, and sleep can help to regulate an individual’s mood and equip them with a favorable coping mechanism.
these coping mechanisms in turn help to get control over once anxiety concerns in a more adaptable manner.
lack of proper diet, sleep, and exercise can make an individual sluggish, dependent, moody and vulnerable to anxiety attacks.
Making journal entries
Last but not least having a journal to write down how a person is feeling and thinking when they are anxious helps them to reflect upon their thoughts and feelings.
Putting down one’s thoughts and feelings onto a paper helps to provide a sense of temporary relief.
In the case of journal entry, a person does not even have to fear being judged by another person regarding their thoughts and feelings.
What are the therapy options for anxiety?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.
Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular stimulus that they usually fear or are anxious about in a graded order.
As and when the individual gets comfortable with the situation or stimulus introduced or exposed to them with each session individuals get more comfortable with a real-life situation that might have otherwise been a source for triggering anxiety.
It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same fears they might not feel left alone or isolated. Group therapy usually involves a group of individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.
Anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health care professional.
Though medication alone cannot help in reducing persistent anxiety it can help in restoring a sense of control and bring temporary relief.
In cases where reaching out physically to a professional is impossible or discomforting an individual can opt to seek help through the online medium.
In this, the therapy sessions are carried out one-to-one over a video or audio call. Some individuals also prefer interacting with the therapist through text as well due to various reasons. One of the most common is the fear of being judged by the therapist or some personal hesitation.
Online therapy can help individuals to regulate some aspects of their anxiety that aids individuals in carrying out a stress-free life over time