Guest Post: Songwriting and Easing Anxiety
A huge thank you to Rachel Leycroft for taking the time to write this post. I hope each of you are as touched by her words as I was. Additional information about her and links to her social media accounts can be found at the bottom.
As many of you already know, anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental disorders, affecting one in every 13 people. With everything happening in our present world, I would imagine that even more of us are becoming familiar with the unsettling, panicked feeling that anxiety brings when it visits.
I have battled various forms of anxiety throughout my life, but went undiagnosed until three years ago. While it was difficult to grasp that I had been suffering from Social Anxiety, OCD and Anorexia (along with Depression and Body Dysmorphia), this knowledge also gave me the opportunity to understand myself from a whole new vantage point.
Many of the behaviors associated with anxiety disorders are the result of our very human desire to cope with our anxiety in any way we know how to. We do achieve temporary relief through behaviors like compulsive rituals and controlling our food intake, but sadly, this traps us in a cycle of unhealthy patterns. It took me almost a lifetime to learn how to find healthy coping mechanisms instead of the ones I habitually turned to, so for anyone in the midst of this right now, I hope you know that it isn't your fault whatsoever. You are doing your best to keep yourself safe in the only ways you've known how to.
There are so many healthy ways to cope with our anxiety, but I feel that a great place to start is with an activity that you enjoy. Maybe it's something that you haven't done for a long time, but something that you enjoyed when you were younger. When you think back to your childhood, what were some of the activities you loved taking part in? What could you get lost in for hours without realizing all of the time that has gone by?
For me, this was songwriting, but it took me a little while to rediscover it. It's completely okay if you don't feel connected to that part of yourself right now. When I began this process of healing, I was so trapped in the rigidities of my diagnoses that I forgot I even had a creative side. I hadn't written music or played the piano in about three years.
It was my therapist who encouraged me to try sitting down at the piano again. He asked me to try to write a song about how I was feeling. It wasn't an easy task, but I slowly began to remember what it felt like to express myself this way. I started to remember how much I used to use songwriting as a diary. When I felt a strong emotion, that was my safe outlet to express it.
Similar to the relief we feel when we engage in our less healthy behaviors, songwriting gave me relief, but in a much more meaningful way. Even more so, it wasn't something fleeting... it was actually healing. Instead of pulling me into the cycle of unhealthy patterns, it opened my heart again. I never could have imagined what rediscovering this piece of myself would do for my life.
Fast forward to now, and this coping tool of mine has turned into something much bigger. Not only has songwriting played a major role in easing my own anxiety, but I also realized that my music could potentially connect with others who are struggling. My social anxiety and perfectionism could have forever held me back from sharing my songs publicly, but my desire to give mental health a voice through music grew to overpower my anxiety disorders.
This year, I released a song called "Alive" about freeing ourselves from the weight of social anxiety as well as a song called "Within" about reconnecting with our true selves. Many more songs are on their way, including a track about the battle of OCD and another about fighting an eating disorder. I also share my story with groups of teens in hopes to help them address their struggles much earlier than I was able to, and I work at a treatment center for depression and anxiety where I teach songwriting as a means of therapeutic expression.
Leaning into this part of myself has given me ways to both challenge and heal aspects of my anxiety. I hope so much that you'll reconnect with the parts of you that might have gotten lost. I believe that they're there within all of us to help us heal.
About Rachel's Music: Despite the serious messages her lyrics often convey, Rachel focuses her production style on creating an enchanting & bright experience for the listener. Her heart resides in the airwaves between organic acoustics, Pop & EDM. The driving force behind Rachel's songs is her desire to give mental health a voice through music. She started a project called #lovethroughlyrics where she shares her lyrics along with the knowledge that has helped her through the darkest times.
She hopes to accentuate the commonality of the human experiences we all share, both painful & beautiful, regardless of who we are or which lens we see the world through. Her greatest wish is that the stories told within her songs provide hope & a source of connection to those who listen.
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