How 4 anxious writers found moments of peace:

"When I was in my sophomore year of college, I developed anxiety attacks related to my final exams. What helped me most was when my dear friend Margaret pointed to a giant textbook on the floor and advised me to give it 'a little boot.' She was joking, but I took her advice and kicked it. I saw the absurdity of the situation. A friend who jokes with you in a time of pain can help you remember the person you were before—the strong person who you will, eventually, become again." — Karen E. Bender

Photo: LiliGraphie/iStock
"Last fall, after decades spent largely housebound by illness, I took a cross-country drive to move to Oregon. Knowing the enormous risk to my health, I was terrified, so I asked my friends to send quotes that would give me courage and faith in myself. Their words lifted me and carried me through, and what I feared would be an ordeal became a magical adventure." Laura Hillenbrand

"There are times when you put a bit more strain on your nerves than you're willing to admit, like I did last year. I'd had a glorious period of reading and writing—my favorite things—but also of rejecting rest because resting felt ungrateful. When that period ended, it left me feeling strange—like air was a weight on my skin. Then one day I was on a plane and sensed there was something kindly about the lady in the seat next to mine, and that made me flinch. I suppose kindness can be scary at times, in much the same way pizza can be scary for someone on a diet. I felt extremely cold, but I held still so as not to shiver, which I somehow equated with losing control. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. My seatmate tenderly tucked a blanket around me, with a few little pats to ensure complete coverage. The warmth of that gesture had a greater effect than the blanket itself." Helen Oyeyemi

"After my daughter was born, we moved four times as we coped with job layoffs and tried to forge a life that balanced work and family. During all these upheavals,I discovered that no matter how long we stayed in a new place, I could soothe my unsettled and rootless feelings by planting a small flower garden. As each plant bloomed, I began to see the beauty—and to set down roots—in even a temporary home." Margo Rabb

Photo: subjug/iStock
How 4 writers manage their malaise:

"Depression is the feeling that life has stopped short, has frozen you in grief and despair. I found that I could bring myself back by degrees if, by means of a CD or a radio station, I could respond on instinct to different kinds of music. Leaving it to chance was the point, switching from classical to jazz to free-form, anything-goes stations and telling myself, If you can be open to the unexpected—a note, a rhythm, a chord—in music, you can find your way back to doing that in life." Margo Jefferson

"I can feel the blues coming on the way you might feel a cold settling in, so I like to get on top of them before they take over. I've learned to tell someone when I am struggling—an emotional health check-in buddy with whom I communicate via phone, text, or email during my dark periods." Tayari Jones

"It was my first winter in Boston, and I was a 22-year-old graduate student: far from home, sad and confused. One afternoon I went for a walk along the frozen Charles River and just kept going and going, not returning until long after dark. The walking became a habit—miles in bitter cold, in ice and snow, following bridges and paths from Fenway to Cambridge and back again—and I remember a moment on the Longfellow Bridge where I thought, Maybe I can walk my way out of this, and eventually I did." Laura van den Berg

"I walk to the center of my driveway and force myself to look up at the leaves against the sky. I pray, with the disclaimer that I don't believe it will help, and I sometimes pray to believe in prayer. A cloud shifting can remind me that things are obligated to move, and that there is always weather. A trampoline almost always helps, too." Mary-Louise Parker

Photo: EkaterinaGolubkova/iStock

NEXT STORY

Next Story