tarot and anxiety: how to use the cards when you’re a mess

tarot and anxiety: how to use the cards when you're a mess

I’ve spoken a little before about my issues with anxiety in the past, and while I’m always finding new ways to cope with it, I can definitely say that it tries its darndest to make things tough for me. One thing I struggle with in particular is reading tarot when I’m feeling anxious. I feel like the anxiety completely clouds my perception of the cards and makes it really difficult to read them for myself, and in some cases can even make things worse – I mean, the Three of Swords when you’re already feeling iffy can be the nail in the coffin, you know? But of course, sometimes the things that make us anxious are the things we need guidance about the most! Over the past couple years as my anxiety has gotten worse, I’ve found a few little ways to make reading the tarot easier when I’m feeling like a hot mess. Here are some of the tips that have helped me get back on track and keep up my readings when my anxiety is at a high point!

1. Separate anxiety from intuition.

This is the biggest one for me. So many times I’ll draw a “negative” card and immediately jump to the worst conclusion instead of taking time to think about what the card could really mean for my situation. Of course, because the worst thing is what I thought of first, part of me panics and assumes that’s my intuition telling me something bad is going to happen. (Did that description make sense at all?) For example, I am petrified of planes. If I was doing a reading about an upcoming trip and drew the Death card, my immediate thought would be “I’m going to die in a plane crash” even though hello, Tarot 101, that is NOT usually what Death means!! But that’s not my intuition speaking – it’s my anxiety. Some ways I’ve found to distinguish the two are that for me, anxiety tends to be a more temporary feeling than intuition. I can sleep on an issue and feel less anxious about it in the morning, but in cases of intuition, my initial feeling stays with me. That’s not to say this is ALWAYS the case, so don’t let that freak you out more! You have to figure out what works best for you, but know that if you’re doing a reading on something you’re anxious about, your “intuitive” reading of the cards might not be your intuition at all. It’s okay to go into a reading knowing you’ll be relying on traditional keyword-type meanings of the cards if you don’t think you can trust your mental state at that moment.

2. Don’t read on fragile issues.

Another way to avoid the panic I mentioned above is to simply not do readings about things that make you anxious. I KNOW that drawing the Death card before getting on a plane will send me into a spiral of doom, so I don’t do readings right before I travel. If you really need guidance about an issue like this, have a reader you trust do it for you! It would be helpful if you told your reader up-front that you are sensitive to this issue and would appreciate some gentleness in the delivery of the reading. Sometimes that’s not a reader’s style, but I think there are always ways to deliver a hard message without sounding like a jerk or making it worse. Communicate with your reader beforehand to see if they could do this for you, and if not, find a reader who can! Everyone’s style is different, but there’s no shame in wanting a reading that won’t trigger your anxiety.

tarot and anxiety: how to use the cards when you're a mess

3. Get a friendly deck.

A lot of tarot decks out there have imagery that makes the “tougher” cards easier to bear. For example, the Happy Tarot is adorable – it’s hard to feel dread about pulling The Tower when it looks so cute! The Starchild Tarot is my favorite deck to use when I’m feeling anxious, as the imagery is all gorgeous and the language has been changed on a few of the cards to make them less harsh-sounding – for example, Death in this deck is “Transformation,” the Hanged Man is “Perspective,” the Devil is “Oppression,” etc. Call me a wimp if you want, but I know my own mental state and sometimes I truly just can’t handle the harsh truth. (When I can, though, I like to use the Wild Unknown!) Find a deck that you find soothing to look at no matter what. This will make those tough-love readings a little easier on you.

4. Choose your words wisely.

One way to be sure your reading doesn’t make your anxiety worse is to phrase your questions in a way that doesn’t allow for it. For example, instead of asking “What will happen on my upcoming trip?” (which, as mentioned above, allows for the possibility of an answer that will make you anxious), try asking “What should I focus on during this trip in order to make the most of it?” By rephrasing your question, you get an answer that GIVES you power instead of making you dread a possible outcome.

5.  Don’t feel guilty for seeing to your needs.

Above all, if you feel like drawing cards will only make your anxiety worse – don’t do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a daily challenge or if you’re trying to stick with reading the cards every day. You can always catch up on things like that later, but making yourself more anxious won’t solve any of your problems. If you’re still able to read for others, you could try doing that for your daily draw instead – ask a friend what they’d like some guidance about and pull a card for them. You’re still utilizing your skills, but in a way that doesn’t affect you at all. The most important thing is keeping yourself well, and if that means putting a pause on whatever you were doing that might make things worse for you, then you should do it.

These are just some things that have helped me to be able to read for myself when my mental state is in pieces. Thankfully this doesn’t happen to me too often these days, but if I’m ever in a bad spell again I know I can rely on these tips to get me through, without having to take a tarot break (as I’ve done in the past.)

Have you ever had a problem reading tarot when your anxiety is flaring up? How have you gotten around it in the past?

10 thoughts on “tarot and anxiety: how to use the cards when you’re a mess

  1. I really appreciate this article. I've made the mistake of reading about a trigger topic while having general anxiety. Not only did it all look negative, but it also didn't make sense – that calm state where everything "clicks" was out of reach. I've learned that's a good time to take a break from reading.

    1. Hi Susanna! I'm happy you liked it! I've definitely been there – it's like anxiety is this weird fog that I can't push past sometimes. You're totally right, sometimes you've just got to take a break from readings until you feel a bit better! <3

  2. Great article! I find it incredibly hard to read for myself because of my anxiety. If I have something I feel I need a reading for I get someone else to do the reading for me. I find reading for others accurate and easy to understand but can rarely make sense of any readings I do for myself.

    1. Hi Jodie! It’s honestly really tough to read for yourself sometimes, but especially for situations that you’re anxious about. There’s no shame at all in having someone else do it for you – the point of a tarot reading is to help you, and sometimes the best way to do that is to have others share the load! <3 Thank you so much for reading!

  3. I really liked your article. I struggle with both depression and anxiety. When I was in my teens, I first tried tarot and for me it was really difficult and couldn’t connect with it. When I found Lenormand Cards it just clicked for me and I’m also quite drawn to Kipper cards.

    I liked your advice on rewording questions. I never thought about how much you can word a question that won’t trigger an anxiousness response.

    1. Hi Stacey! I’m so glad you liked my post <3 I'm sorry to hear that you've been struggling. I think that using the cards can be a great tool to help you figure out what your needs are when things get tough, so hopefully they'll bring you some comfort! I've actually never used Lenormand but it's on my list to learn more about it this year - just gotta find a deck that's right for me! I hope you have a great day 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for this article. I have anxiety as well. I often see my daily tarot card and worry all morning about whether my job will cut my hours or I will have a new bill to pay. As you said I need to remain calm and look at all the different angles. The cards I get the most are death hanged man and 10 of swords. And oddly things have happened. So rather than panic… now I take a breath and simply proceed with my day.

    1. Hi April! It really is hard to do a reading when you’re overwhelmed by anxiety. The best thing you can do is take a break when you need to and always approach readings with an open mind, even if the cards seem “negative” at first <3 I hope things work out well with your job!

  5. I am going through a very painful, uncertain personal transformation right now. Yesterday I drew a spread and then again this morning to help me clarify this issue. But as I flipped each card over today, I could feel the anxiety building (Worry–Knight of Disks–Disappointment). I noticed my anxiety flare up and was wondering if anyone actually found themselves more anxious when reading tarot than less anxious, as it has always been a sort of therapeutic & calming tool for me. I was happy to find your post, know that I am not alone, and get your advice on the issue. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Ashley! You’re definitely not alone – seeing “negative” cards come up about a bad situation sometimes just reinforces our anxious feelings instead of helping us feel better. It’s okay to take a break from reading tarot if it’s making your feel worse. You’ll get your mojo back soon enough <3 Thank you so much for reading!

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