How Brett Newski Overcomes Anxiety

Brett Newski on Stage

MP caught up with Brett Newski, an alternative songwriter, illustrator, and podcaster based in Milwaukee, WI. Although he spends much of his life in the public eye, he experiences anxiety. Newski shared how he’s able to live a fulfilling life and be productive despite having anxiety.

MP: How did you first discover that you have anxiety? 

BN: I had soul-crushing acid reflux for years. I went to loads of doctors who just told me to double my acid-blocking tummy medications. I finally went to an ENT who diagnosed my stomach problems as anxiety. He was right. Once I treated the anxiety, my acid reflux went away. It always blows my mind how physical ailments are directly tied to the brain. 

You’re constantly traveling and performing in front of large crowds. What steps do you take to defeat anxiety before performing?

I don’t ever truly defeat anxiety before playing a show. It’s there and always will be there. But I try to remember its useful energy, and I use it on stage. Anxiety can always be utilized. 

What steps can people take in their daily lives to help prevent the occurrence of anxiety attacks?

The good news is there is an infinite number of options. 

  1. Meditation for ten minutes each morning has been huge for me.
  2. I love coffee, but it has sent me into some wacky spirals. If I’m in an anxiety toilet bowl, I switch to decaf for a day or three or go half-caff.
  3. I keep a favorites list of my best friends I like to call and BS with on my phone. If I have a free night, I’ll call different people until someone picks up. Feels great every time. 
Brett Newski on stage
Singer Brett Newski on Stage / Photo courtesy of Brett Newski / Photo by Brandon Bjorkman and Ty Helbach

What are three lessons you’ve learned over the years that you’d like to share with others?

  1. It’s all about the long burn. Staying in the game is the best thing you can do for yourself in a professional setting. 
  2. Most of my worries are self-inflicted and not that big of a deal. 
  3. We exist in a hyper-speed environment our DNA is not built for. I think it’s why people struggle so much. A weekend (or just a day) in the outdoors with no internet is the golden reset. 

What are three things people can do to help calm themselves down during an anxiety attack?

  1. The YMCA Sauna is incredible. 
  2. I like to roll a baseball on my back when I drive. It takes out the knots and relaxes the brain.
  3. Ice Showers are a quick way to rehab your brain. 30-60 seconds of discomfort sets my brain back on track. It doesn’t always fix my anxiety, but it improves it every time. Even small incremental improvements give me hope on a day-to-day basis. 

You have broadened your brand in a unique and interesting way with your book, podcast, tours, and music. Did you always envision yourself branching out into these spaces?

I wouldn’t refer to myself as a brand, but I get what you’re saying. After you make a bunch of albums, that just becomes something you do. I wanted to do new art projects that would kick my ass. The struggle always yields rewards. The book was the hardest thing I ever did, and it also feels like the highest reward. It’s been useful to people, and that feels neat.

Cover photo courtesy of Brett Newski. Photo by Brandon Bjorkman and Ty Helbach.

View this article in the December 2021 issue of MP.