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How Jigsaw Puzzles Help Me Cope With Stress And Anxiety

Updated on January 23, 2019
Carson Lloyd profile image

Carson McCullough is a freelance writer who gets uncommonly excited about a new jigsaw puzzle.

Anxiety And I Are Old Friends

For whatever reason, and it is a reason that I have come to accept I will never truly understand, anxiety has seen fit to be my life companion. I don’t remember exactly how we met, nor do I know why we insist on staying together after all these years, but anxiety has all the same decided to hitch its wagon to mine.

It’s a strange relationship, of course. I don’t bother it, but it decides to bother me constantly. I don’t tell it what to do or how to do it, and it decides that ordering me around like I’m on its payroll is one of its favorite pastimes. But we both enjoy a good movie from time to time, so it’s not like we don’t have anything in common.

One of the things that I learned very quickly in my relationship with anxiety, is how attempting to control and manipulate it often only leads to it acting out more and more. Like a child who only wants to touch that thing you’ve just told them not to touch if only because they’ve just been told not to touch it. Instead, I have come to discover that the best way to manage anxiety and keep it at arms length is to learn to cope with and solve the problems it likes to create. By focusing on the smaller, more immediate challenges and confronting them (as opposed to attempt to confront the root itself) I find I am able to remove much of anxiety’s influence. In other words, I have come to embrace the idea that learning to cope with anxiety, rather than attempt to evict it from my home altogether which only ever makes a mess of things, is the best path forward.

Introducing, Jigsaw Puzzles

It is with that goal in mind, that I have come to the understanding that nothing, and I just may literally mean nothing, can help me cope with anxiety and stress better than that of a good old fashioned jigsaw puzzle. The reasons as to why this is are too many to even begin to recount properly, but let me offer just a few.


First of all, putting a jigsaw puzzle is an incredibly straightforward endeavor. The goal is laid out very plainly; put all of the pieces together that fit, and look at the pretty picture you made. That’s it. No tricks or workarounds, no special secrets, and no hidden agenda. Just a simple, honest task that any simple, honest person could take a stab at. Anxiety (news flash) is typically one of the most complex and messy mental constructs the mind can comprehend, and working through it and understanding it can be a monumentally trying task. What better way to tackle such complexity than with utter simplicity.

Blissful Repetition

Second of all, its repetitive. Sometimes all the mind need to help cool itself off and find its happy place once again, which for somebody struggling with anxiety is a constant desire, is for it to find something monotonous that it can do for a few hours, something that gets it into a rhythm of action that is easy to repeat and difficult to mess up. Think of it like your brain is going on autopilot for awhile, allowing you to take your hands off the wheel and put your feet up. A jigsaw puzzle is, unquestionably, just the thing for this. Setting up a jigsaw puzzle means picking up a small cardboard piece, finding another piece that fits to it, and that’s it. Oh, and you typically do this somewhere in the range of five hundred to two thousand times, depending on the size of the puzzle. If that sounds repetitive, that’s because it is. And I love it.


Third of all, they're cheap. No major explanation here needed. They’re just cheap. You want to feel a little less stressed and pressured by anxiety? Remind yourself just how much money you’re saving by solving a jigsaw puzzle, as opposed to more costly time spenders. Works like a charm every time.


And one last one to consider; a jigsaw puzzle can be perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever know. After spending hours, days, even weeks plugging away at this one simple puzzle, you will find that a day comes when the picture is complete and all the pieces have been placed. All of that time, all of those moments spent looking for that infernally missing snowman’s eye or that one time you were afraid you had accidentally vacuumed up a piece that had fallen to the floor, has lead you to the moment where you are gloriously standing over a this conquered beast, soaking in every detail of the image that has at last been made clear. There is a satisfaction to be found in this victory, an easy kind of honor, that is reached here, and nothing drives away the lingering thoughts or uneasy stomach of anxiety quite like triumph.

Just Give It A Shot

Anxiety, for me, never truly goes away. As I said, we seem to be bound together on this life journey of ours in a most unbreakable fashion. But that does not mean that I have not learned how to live with it. Because I have. And jigsaw puzzles have helped me to do it.

So if you’re anything like me (or even if you’re not, because why not) take some time out to make a mess of your kitchen counter, or perhaps even an old card table you’ve had in the garage all this time, by pouring a jigsaw puzzles out all over it and get to work. It just might offer you something you need.

© 2019 Carson Lloyd


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