To the rhythm of Despacito, by Luis Fonsi, the attendees of the Fígaro theater in Madrid receive the final advice of the session that is now coming to an end: “You have to try to do things more slowly.” Because? Because anxiety does not kill, but it fatigues. This is the title of the peculiar work devised by the psychologist Patricia Ramírez and the actor Rafa Blanca to raise awareness about this disorder, which will pass through the Borràs theater in Barcelona on May 28 on a tour that has already lasted 3 years and that has captivated 40,000 spectators. 

Through comedy, they seek to “give visibility to mental health and bring it closer to people so that the message reaches in a simple and fun way,” says Ramírez. The laughter in the stalls confirms the objective.

The data speaks for itself to focus on anxiety among all the possible topics in this universe that is mental health. According to the latest annual report of the National Health System, prepared by the Ministry of Health, 13% of the Spanish population had a diagnosis of anxiety disorder in 2022, a figure that rose to 17% in women, with the problem being mental health most frequent in primary care consultations and with a clear upward trend.

That same year, Spain topped the list of consumption of the anxiolytic diazepam worldwide, according to the annual report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). Once again, the trend in recent years of the use of anxiolytics is growing in our country, especially since 2020, with psychotropic drugs being the most consumed medications in Spain, especially among women.

“Anxiety has been something of a pandemic for many years, although the situation experienced with SARS-CoV-2 gave rise to making it visible. I think it’s going to get worse and worse unless we put limits on the lifestyle we lead. We live completely accelerated because we do many more things in the day than we should do. […] This leads us to be mentally ill. Our body needs other rhythms,” says the psychologist. She is committed to valuing mediocrity, understood as removing the need to compete for everything to be number one. The middle ground, the gray ones, are also fine and exhaust less.

That is the situation of Rafa Blanca in the work, a person who appears continually besieged by a mental bug of stress and worries whose exhaustion easily overtakes the viewer. Although the character is taken to the extreme of artistic and humorous license, many people have written to Ramírez online conveying how much they have identified with him and the sources of his concern.

Problems related to children, work or a partner are addressed during the play, topics that are sometimes more oriented towards a middle-aged audience, who make up the majority of spectators at the Madrid performance. According to Ramírez, it is probably because that is the profile of followers he has on networks, platforms where he began to spread information about psychology and on which he has reached almost 650,000 followers on Instagram and 150,000 on X (formerly Twitter). A few years ago she wanted to broadcast her message in a different way and that’s how she came to the theater.

Despite the topics discussed, the psychologist adds that “the tools we give in the work are for anyone.” Because at this function we have not only come to laugh at the situations that Blanca and Ramírez pose, we have also come to learn. Throughout it, a series of tips are outlined to be able to control anxiety, which is still a normal response of the body when faced with danger, but excessive and of little help if such danger does not exist. When faced with a lion, it is good for us to feel anxious, or even when faced with the first email sent at a new job. But, faced with email 100, maybe not so much.

“We can all be nervous. It is an adaptive anxiety at the moment that allows us to be in a state of alert. With a new project, if you don’t have that state of alert, you might miss something,” says the expert. The tips mentioned have been compiled at the end of this article.

The messages on networks to the psychologist are also full of gratitude for the tools offered. Ramírez and Blanca have practically combed all of Spain from theater to theater and have scheduled sessions until February of next year. All dates can be consulted on her website. For a few months now they have included invitations to the college of psychologists and the psychology faculty of the city where they perform the play.

“The feedback from both is good. I like that because you have to be careful with health problems and not trivialize them,” says Ramírez. Precisely one of the topics addressed in the function is intrusiveness in psychotherapy consultations. Offering easy keys, often without scientific rigor, apparently motivating and to people who are probably more vulnerable, is for the psychologist “tremendous irresponsibility.” She also appeals to the user to choose well who they go to for care.

This comic duo certainly has some tables. And other works for the most diverse audiences. Along with Anxiety Doesn’t Kill, But It Fatigues, they complete their billboard with We Have to Talk… and Understand Me. The first includes the scientific popularizer Pere Estupinyá in the cast to talk about sexual relations. Understand me seeks to help communication and coexistence between adults and kids. The play has the collaboration of four young people: Sara Guillén, Darío Larrosa, Darío Olarte and Alejandra Ubieto, who build the performance both on stage and in the script.