Top 9 Poems About Anxiety
People have been dealing with anxiety for a long time. While the research and treatment of anxiety disorder have developed more recently, people have used their anxiety to shape and inspire art for hundreds of years. Here, we’ll look at some of the best poems from several poets battling depression or anxiety.
When reading the following poems, you can compare and contrast your feelings with the poets. Hopefully, these anxiety poems will help you feel that others can relate to how you feel and help you feel seen.
1. What Kind Of Times Are These By Adrienne Rich
In this poem, Rich describes trying to explain anxiety to someone who may not care or understand. She does her best to paint a picture with her words, laying out an intimidating forest, representing her anxiety and everything that makes her anxious in the world and country around her.
Instead of addressing the whole of her anxiety and depression, she mentions bits of it, the bits that are familiar to the listener and not anxiety-inducing in their own right.
Rich really captures how it feels to explain anxiety and depression to someone who may have never experienced it. Of all her sad poems, this one is probably the best at encapsulating the emotions and disappointment that come while explaining anxiety and depression to someone who has never felt it.
2. Maitreya By Ralph Waldo Emerson
This long poem by Emerson is actually a story. Here, the genres of death poems and nature poems converge to capture the heart of anxiety in the face of futility and offer a bit of hope. It doesn’t fall into the birthday poems category, but it does explain the turning of the years.
In the poem’s story, there are five main characters: four men and Earth herself. The poet describes the men's hard work to keep themselves alive and thriving without ever considering the fact that the Earth will reclaim them and all the fields and wealth they’ve been toiling to build.
Emerson almost mocks the men’s sureness that what they “own” is actually theirs. Then, towards the middle of the poem, we learn that the men are dead, and all that they fretted over was for nothing. In response to the fact that the “owner sees not Death,” the Earth itself sings about how all things return to nature.
Even amid his observations about the futility of trying to amass wealth and the vast looming unknown in each person’s life, Emerson gives a ray of hope by pointing out that nature will continue. While many of our lives seem to be grasping anxiously at things that won’t last, there are still bigger things that will keep us resolute. They are out of our control but also out of our responsibility.
3. Everyone Gasps With Anxiety By Jeni Olin
In this poem, Olin uses consumerist culture images to represent and explain the cause of her anxiety and depression. She addresses the feelings of being alone, even when surrounded by others. She talks about being uncomfortable when surrounded by all the trappings of comfort. Many people struggling with social anxiety can identify with those images in this poem.
While Olin doesn’t end on a particularly hopeful note, she can point to what has control when she doesn’t. She acknowledges that the capitalist culture around her does more to direct her life than she can. She wants to be free from it, but can’t, so she’s willing to settle for a “fever dream” in its place.
4. Anxiety Is Like… By Ana Cristina and Christopher Diaz
Here’s an example from some modern poems about anxiety. In this upbeat spoken-word piece, the two performers do their best to not only explain anxiety but to give anxiety its own voice. They explain and act out situations that trigger their own anxiety disorders, and they describe what gives them social anxiety. It goes from birthday poems to awkward social interactions, and it seeks to explain what anxiety is like.
Then, they take it a step further. Instead of merely explaining these situations, the triggers become the voice of anxiety itself. They do an excellent job of building anxiety to be a third performer in their spoken word poem. In doing so, they become stronger than their anxiety by the end of the performance. It’s a hopeful note at the end of a piece that directly confronts their own anxiety and depression.
5. To Our Land By Mahmoud Darwish
Darwish explains “our land,” his native Palestine, as a place both beautiful and broken in this gripping piece. He addresses the glory and angst surrounding him and comments on how powers outside the land are responsible for its fate. It’s among many new poems that he wrote to try to describe his struggle with anxiety in the midst of war.
At the end of the poem, he twists the focus internally and applies everything he has said about the land to himself. He describes how even though there is chaos outside, “inside, / we suffocate more!” Here, he captures what it is to be anxious about what is happening around him while he feels helpless to change it. He uses the example of his land and immediate surroundings to paint a picture of his internal anxiety and depression.
6. Hamlet’s “To Be Or Not To Be” Soliloquy By William Shakespeare
This soliloquy is probably one of the most famous poems in the English language, and it deals very clearly with the topic of anxiety.
This sad poem is part of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, and during this soliloquy, the titular character lays bare all of his anxieties. He talks about the difficulty in deciding between life or death and whether life after death is really better than the life he’s currently facing.
The speech encapsulates the fear of the unknown and the anxiety caused by having little to no control of the world around him. Even though he is the prince in a position of high power, he doesn’t have a grip on all of the circumstances dictating his life. This causes him depression and anxiety, and Shakespeare captures those feelings perfectly in Hamlet’s soliloquy.
7. Pomegranate Means Grenade By Jamaal May
In this beautiful poem, May compares a child coloring pictures to the pressure and anxiety of conflict. He draws parallels between what we are given and what they can become: new weapons or new tools. This also applies to anxiety and the desire to see things change.
He encourages the reader to push for positive change but ends with the warning, “there will always be those / who would rather see you pull a pin / from a grenade than pull a pen / from your backpack.”
People who struggle with anxiety and depression can resonate with this feeling that people would rather see you fail than try and succeed. While coping with an anxiety disorder isn’t easy, it’s the nobler path; it’s always better than destroying yourself and those around you. May expresses this message with beautiful imagery and a clear appeal to the reader.
8. Anxiety: A Ghost Story By Brenna Twohy
Here’s another example from modern poems about anxiety and depression. In this spoken-word piece, Twohy starts by explaining horror story tropes and poking fun at the ridiculous plots. Then, with a twist, she herself becomes the haunted house.
She describes looking for lasting love to find someone willing to live in a haunted house with her. She explains how the support and love of a partner can help with her anxiety and depression. What starts as humorous becomes a sad poem, but then she gives a spot of hope.
It’s a captivating performance, and the imagery really captures what it’s like to find hope and love in a great partner, even amid anxiety and depression.
9. In This Short Life That Only Lasts An Hour by Emily Dickinson
This poem is a short and sweet one to round off our list. The whole poem is only two lines long, but it sums up perfectly what it is to feel anxious about things that are outside our control:
“In this short Life that only lasts an hour
How much – how little – is within our power.”
It’s unclear whether the second line is a statement or a question. Is she commenting on the disparity between what we think we control and what we actually can control? Or is she legitimately asking how much and how little is under our control?
No matter how you read that last line, either as a statement or a question, it certainly speaks to the anxiety and depression that can come from not being in control of a given situation.
Get Help For Your Anxiety
Of course, while reading about the poetic struggles of others with anxiety is encouraging, it’s also important to address anxiety head-on. If you face anxiety and need someone to talk to, take the next step and speak to a licensed therapist.
Online therapy is a convenient, affordable alternative to in-person treatment. With online therapy, you can attend sessions from anywhere you have an internet connection, and you can communicate with your therapist via phone call, text, instant message, or video chat. You don’t have to worry about commuting to an office or being on a waiting list. Research shows that online therapy is effective, with one review finding that online therapy led to significant improvements in symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you’re ready to get started, connect with Regain to take the next steps.
If you live with anxiety, reading a poem about it can make you feel seen and heard. If you struggle with anxiety or it feels too much at times, this article has selected a handful of poems that will hopefully bring you solace and comfort. Know that you are never alone if you struggle with anxiety. Help is available online.
What Are Three Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety?
The physical symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person, and those with anxiety give different accounts of their symptoms. However, the three most common symptoms are muscle pains, sleep problems, and constantly feeling restless or on edge.
How Do You Comfort Someone With Anxiety?
The most important thing to do when comforting someone experiencing anxiety is not to disregard their feelings. Recognize that people experiencing anxiety give off different symptoms, and what may be comforting to one person might be distressing to another. Remind the person that you are always there for them, and ask them what you can do to help.
What Gets Rid Of anxiety?
While there is no specific cure for anxiety, many wellness strategies and medicinal treatments can reduce anxiety disorders. As for wellness strategies, calming measures such as yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises can help.
As for medicinal treatments, visit a certified mental health professional who can diagnose and treat your specific anxiety disorder.
Do Hugs Help Anxiety Attacks?
Hugging a person experiencing an anxiety attack can help or make the situation worse, depending on who they are. For some, a hug during an anxiety attack can be comforting and help them calm down. For others, a hug may cause them to feel claustrophobic and exacerbate the anxiety attack.
It’s best to understand how the person in your life living with an anxiety disorder responds to physical contact before attempting to comfort them with a hug.
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