The Impact of Anxiety and How to Potentially Reduce it

Throughout this entire semester, I’ve always managed to get stumped in regard to coming up with a topic to write about for these blog posts. I’ve stared at my computer, became frustrated, and even procrastinated. With many days of me saying, “Oh, I’ll just write my blog post tomorrow.”, came an overwhelming and increasingly amount of stress and anxiety. On each passing day of me not writing my blogs, I would continue to worry about everything surrounding this one assignment. Basically, I would continue to think about all of the “what-ifs”. What if I didn’t do the assignment and my grade dropped? What if I failed my class? Essentially, I would lose my mind and get extremely anxious over something as small as a simple blog post. This is ultimately why I’ve decided that, for this blog post, I would somehow connect cognition to anxiety. After taking some time to fully think about the topic of anxiety in relation to cognition, I wondered, how exactly could anxiety impact working memory and attention?

Bubbles powerpuff girls | Powerpuff girls


For those who may not know, anxiety is basically an emotion where people feel worried, nervous, or uneasy, especially when there’s an uncertain outcome. In order for anxiety to occur, there needs to be something that completely captures someone’s focus and then causes them to process it [and mostly likely lead to overthinking]. In other words, it involves their attention and working memory. Attention refers to “the processes we use to monitor incoming events” (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2017, ch. 3). Working memory, on the other hand, refers to a cognitive system that temporarily stores and manages the information needed to accomplish complex cognitive tasks such as planning, organizing, maintaining goals, etc. Although attention and working memory are two different cognitive functions, they are very much connected.

In regard to the idea that anxiety impacts attention and working memory, there’s a lot of mixed evidence. However, I managed to find a study that looked at numerous studies with mixed evidence and ultimately resulted in the support of the overall idea. According to a study done by a researcher, named Tim Moran, the study suggests “that anxiety can causally influence performance on WMC [working memory capacity] tasks and that the most pronounced effects of anxiety are on measures tapping domain-general attentional processes rather than on domain-specific stores” (Moran, 2016, pg.843). In other words, anxiety can in fact influence what we focus on and basically think about. After realizing the impact that anxiety has on attention and working memory, I also wondered, could coloring [i.e., in coloring books] somehow influence such cognitive processes by potentially reducing anxiety?

Bubblez GIF | Gfycat

For as long as I can remember, coloring has always been a relaxing activity for me to do. Even though I haven’t done it in a while, it’s an activity that I highly recommend others to partake in. In my opinion, it can help take your mind off of things, especially during these troubling times. As I’m sure you all already know, the world has been dealing with a pandemic called the Coronavirus. One way in which world leaders have tried to help limit the spread of the virus is by ordering citizens to basically stay home. Even though staying at home is believed to be a safe precaution in regard to limiting the spread of the virus, being told to stay home and not go outside unless absolutely necessary can be quite stressful and cause a lot of anxiety.

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With this pandemic in our midst, people are most likely becoming stressed/anxious due to not being employed, not seeing family or friends, and not having the ability to explore the world as humans are basically meant to do. To reduce such anxiety, people need healthy ways to help cope. This therefore leads to my belief that coloring in coloring books could potentially help reduce such anxiety-filled feelings. One study in which I found supported the idea of coloring reducing anxiety was done by a researcher, named Jayde Flett, and her colleagues. Together, they decided to test whether coloring was related to improvements in various psychological effects. Among such effects was anxiety. The entire study is linked down below, but, ultimately, they found that “following a week of coloring, … participants reported lower levels of depressive symptoms and anxiety [and it extended] prior laboratory-based research where participants reported reductions in anxiety or negative mood following a single session of coloring” (Flett et. al., pg. 413). With that being said, I believe that this study proves that focusing your attention on something else besides something that gives you anxiety, can make you process things differently and ultimately reduce your stress and anxiety.

Coloring GIF - Coloring GIFs

Even though there was only one article that I mentioned in this blog about coloring, and it supported my claim, I believe that there may be other sources that support it as well. I wasn’t able to find any contradictory evidence in regard to this topic, but I’m sure that there actually might be some available. In addition, coloring may not be the only way to reduce anxiety. I’m sure that there are many different healthy ways of reducing anxiety. Besides that, it’s quite interesting that coloring in coloring pages can help reduce anxiety. With all of this in mind, what do you think that there are other ways to potentially reduce anxiety? Please do share your ideas in the comments and tell me what you think!


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[Image 2]: {*NOTE: I made this meme…}

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Flett, J. A. M., Lie, C., Riordan, B. C., Thompson, L. M., Conner, T. S., & Hayne, H. (2017). “Sharpen your pencils: Preliminary evidence that adult coloring reduces depressive symptoms and anxiety”. Creativity Research Journal, 29(4), 409–416.

Moran, T. (2016). “Anxiety and Working Memory Capacity: A Meta-Analysis and Narrative Review.” Psychological Bulletin, 142(8), 831-864.

Robinson-Riegler & Robinson Riegler. Cognitive Psychology: Applying the Science of the Mind. Pearson, 2017. ISBN: 9780134003405.

4 thoughts on “The Impact of Anxiety and How to Potentially Reduce it

  1. ccragun

    This is a really interesting article. I have some anxiety when it comes to school and work and the coronavirus hasn’t made things any easier. I definitely agree that coloring can help reduce some of it and Ive have a few coloring books that I’ve used when I needed a little break. I also like embroidery so I’ve done some of that too and I think its helped!

  2. tsiburn

    This was a very interesting article, and images of childhood heros is greatly appreciated:)

    School can already be a source of a lot of anxiety, and adding a global pandemic and new environment for all that school work has proven to only increase anxiety. That being said there are definitely many ways to reduce this anxiety, and coloring is for sure very helpful. A couple of weeks into quarantine I found myself ordering markers and a coloring book on amazon as something to take a break from my loads of work with.

  3. ellsonke

    As someone not cognitively inclined, I wonder if there’s an underlying reason for why coloring is so beneficial for anxiety patients. Is it because the individual has complete control, and can color a picture exactly the way they want? Or maybe it’s because they get so caught up in coloring that they forget about everything else for a while. Overall, very interesting! I’d be interested in looking at the research behind other self-care practices.

  4. kaygoss

    Love the article! I generally don’t have extreme anxiety over day to day things, or even things that may seem horrible to some. However, school has always given me such horrible anxiety to the point that I will become ill or get myself into an anxiety attack. I paint a lot and sell art as a side business, I have to say I definitely feel the least amount of anxiety while I’m creating. Really cool article

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