Fill Your Blank Page : Beat Anxiety in Two Steps
If there’s one thing that can throw a writer into an existential crisis, it’s a blank page.
There’s a duality to blank pages. On the one hand, they are this gaping maw—a void that demands to be filled. And for writers, that means pouring in bits of the soul, chunking memories and ideas and passions at the void in hopes of finally being rid of that blank, white emptiness.
On the other hand, the blank page is also a blank canvas. It’s a place where ideas can be planted, take root, and bloom into something miraculous. There is no limit to what can be done on the blank page—it can’t ever run out of room for the ideas that pour from the writer’s soul. Far from being a prison, it is liberation. It is art unfettered.
Two Ideas, One Blank Page
Two opposing dichotomies, or differences in point of view, but only one blank page—and you can either stare into that void, and feel all the anxiety and fear that comes with worrying over how to fill it, or you can choose and start to work.
The blank page can be a battleground or a launch pad, and the only thing that determines which is the attitude and the viewpoint of the writer. And in that, the blank page is exactly like every day of every life on Earth.
We get a lot of opportunities for choices in our daily lives, but how do we decide which direction is best, which opportunity is good or bad, which decision needs to be made now or put off until later? We have these blank pages we’re trying to fill, and the writing starts the instant we open our eyes and put our feet on the floor.
For some of us, this gets overwhelming.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18% of the population of the US—more than 40 million adults aged 18 or older—suffer from anxiety disorders.
Of course, those numbers are skewed. Because a large portion of the population doesn’t seek any sort of medical treatment for anxiety or depression, and instead “toughs it out,” choosing to deal with it quietly and all on their own. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that 18% is right.
That means that out of every 100 people you know, there’s a good chance that 18 of them are suffering some sort of anxiety or depression. You might even be one of those 18.
Those are a lot of blank pages that just seem to stay blank, aren’t they?
Because that’s what happens sometimes, when we’re faced with a blank page. We get writer’s block. We can’t figure out where to start, because we have too many options. Or we can’t get started because it all seems too daunting and overwhelming. Sometimes we even fool ourselves into thinking, “Maybe I’m not the writer of my own story. Maybe that’s someone else’s job.”
But just like writers, there are ways that we, in our everyday lives, can deal with the blank page, and be the creators of our own story. We can choose our story, each day. And that can help with dealing with anxiety and depression.
Here are two ways that you can fill your blank page and get past the anxiety while taking control of your life.
First, acknowledge a higher power
When people enter programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the twelve steps they go through in dealing with their addiction is acknowledge a higher power. For some, this is God. For others, it’s the universe, or love, or some variation on these themes. The key for the individual is to acknowledge that, at the very least, they are not the higher power.
This doesn’t mean they are handing over control of their own life. It’s more accurate to say they are acknowledging that they have no control over everything else that happens in the world. They acknowledge that there is an authority that oversees everything, and they can’t be the one who dictates what happens in someone else’s life, in the economy, in politics, or anywhere else.
They also acknowledge that some aspects of their own life may be out of their hands. They can’t choose their parents, their genetics, their physical limitations. But they can acknowledge those limits and weaknesses, accept them, and hand responsibility for them off to a higher power. That sure takes a weight off.
The same is true for dealing with anxiety and depression. First, you must acknowledge that there is a higher power that cares for you, loves you, and wants you to be well. Acknowledge that you are not in control of the circumstances and events that happen around you. And embrace the freedom that comes with that.
Knowing that you have no control over the world around you, that things are going to happen regardless of how you feel or what you might want or expect, is a form of acknowledging that there’s a higher power in the universe. Far from “giving up,” you are embracing and even celebrating the fact that you are not in control. And if you’re not in control, then you are not responsible.
The weight of responsibility drives us crazy sometimes. We know that it’s up to us to make sure kids are fed and kept safe and sent to school on time. We know that it’s our responsibility to make sure the oil is changed in our cars or to check the filters in our home air conditioner systems. Those responsibilities we take on ourselves because we care about the outcome, and want to do our best to make sure we’ve helped instead of hurt the world and those we love. And we take them on because they are within our power to influence. We can handle those challenges.
But what we cannot do is accept responsibility for everything that’s going on around us at any given time. We can’t control whether the person driving behind us didn’t stop in time, and rear-ended our car. We can’t control whether someone gets angry at us for taking too long in the grocery checkout. We can’t control whether a co-worker or our boss is having a bad day. We only get ourselves and our own attitudes to work with, and that’s it.
So relax, and remember that there’s a higher power or a higher order at work. Let other people have their own experience, while you focus on having yours. Be grateful for the good things that happen, and turn away from the bad things that happen, as often as you’re able. Acknowledge a higher power in your life, and leave the responsibility for the rest of the world to that higher power.
Second, acknowledge your own power
Things happen. Bad things, good things, and even neutral, unobtrusive things. You control only one portion of these—your own thoughts, and the actions you take from those thoughts. That’s your only tool, but it’s also your best resource.
Your power is to decide: Will I be upset and anxious over what’s happening, or will I turn my attention to something that makes me feel better about myself and about my life.
The important thing to remember here is that even though you acknowledge a higher power, it doesn’t mean that you’re powerless. In fact, it means just the opposite.
By letting go of responsibility for everyone and everything else, all around, you are now able to claim some freedom. You get some breathing room. You become free to think and free to act.
Use that power.
Choose to listen to music and read books and watch films that inspire you. Choose to take on a new challenge that has consequences you can live with and that can better you as a human being—such as taking a class to learn a new skill. Choose to spend time with people who build you up instead of tearing you down. And choose to do something good for others—you’d be shocked at how empowering it can be to help someone else who feels helpless.
That’s a lot of power and control. And for many people who are suffering from anxiety disorders, power and control are the things they worry over most. Feeling powerless is debilitating. But it doesn’t have to define who you are.
Filling the blank page of your life means letting go of the things that are causing you the most anxiety, and embracing things that empower you. You may not be the highest authority in your life, but you can choose how you live. And that’s the only way to step outside of the confines of anxiety and into a life of freedom and growth.
Step out. And go fill the blank page.
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