Have you ever heard the phrase ‘everything can change in an instant’? I realised how true that is a few weeks ago, when an unexpected discovery helped me find a new way to challenge my feelings of anxiety and depression. I had forced myself to go out for a short walk, and as usual I was striding along with my head down, avoiding all eye contact with passers-by and battling with the feeling that everyone was judging me. Then a flash of colour on the wall caught my eye. I stopped to look, and realised it was a brightly painted stone. One side of the stone had a picture of a rabbit, and the other side bore the words ‘please post on Facebook – Abingdon Rocks UK, and re-hide”. I found myself smiling as I hurried home to check out the Facebook page.
Since that day, I have found myself drawn into a warm, friendly community of both children and adults, all sharing a common purpose – a desire to brighten up someone else’s day. I still can’t believe how much difference finding that colourful stone has made to the way I am able to manage my anxiety. Maybe not in a huge way, and certainly not like a magic wand, but enough to make me feel that I want to share my experience and to hope that maybe someone else could also benefit like I have.
4 ways painting rocks is helping me manage social anxiety
Searching for and hiding painted rocks while I am out has given me something to focus on other than how I am feeling. I still find myself trying to avoid eye contact with other people, but I am starting to have brief moments where, instead of feeling like people are staring at me, I am so busy looking for a suitable place to hide my stone that I have a brief break from these thoughts. And we all know what relief even just a tiny moment without feeling anxious can be!
Like most people who experience anxiety, my confidence and self-esteem are very low. I am stuck in a cycle of not doing anything (because I am scared of failing), and then being annoyed with myself for not doing it, which makes me feel like a failure anyway. So receiving positive comments about some of my painted rocks, and feeling like I might be momentarily brightening someone else’s day, is really helping me to feel a bit better about myself. Just tiny steps, but they all add up, and they are gradually helping me to push my boundaries a little bit further.
3. Connecting with other people
I have found that a combination of feeling socially anxious and depressed can lead to feeling very alone. Talking to people other than my immediate family is very difficult, even with those I have known for a long time. I hate to think that people are thinking of me as miserable, or as a moaner, or that they are thinking other bad things about me, so over time I have gradually withdrawn and try to avoid situations where this could happen. But it is horrible to feel so lonely and cut-off from everyone.
Painting stones has helped me reach out to other people, and to feel a bit more connected again. The local Facebook group where people share and comment on their ‘discoveries’ is friendly and inspiring without being too overwhelming, and I know that I can participate as often or as little as I feel able. Maybe in the future some of these online acquaintances may even become friends. There was already a group set up in the area where I live, but if you would like to give rock painting a try and there isn’t a group near you, it would be easy to set up a new group yourself – just a few clicks and a little bit of painting to get things started!
4. Sense of purpose
It’s difficult to get through each day without a purpose, and I find it hard to leave the house without a reason. Surprisingly, a carrier bag filled with a few colourful stones has made it so much easier. It’s still difficult, and there are still times when I change my mind and head back to the sofa. But there are also times when the thought of bringing joy to someone’s day gives me the boost I need to get through the front door and on my way down the street. I find it also helps if I have a rough idea in my head of where I am going to hide each stone rather than just wandering aimlessly, and to acknowledge each one I have hidden as another achievement.
Will you give it a try?
We can all benefit from finding new ways to relax and a chance to be creative. There are no age limits and no rules, and your stones can be as simple or as detailed as you like. If you find it hard to get started, an internet search brings up loads of ideas and tips, and there are lots of ways you can bring your own personality in to your designs. A couple of hours spent painting could brighten up so many people’s day – including yours!
Claire has always had a creative streak and a strong desire to help other people. Studying midwifery seemed like a dream come true, until she started experiencing anxiety and depression, and her sociable, happy-go-lucky personality seemed to disappear along with her dreams. She is gradually beginning to find ways to manage her feelings, reconnect with other people and build new dreams, and hopes that by sharing some of these ideas she can inspire other people to do the same.