Living in the Age of Anxiety
It’s almost the most common mental health complaint of young people today.For most millennials, anxiety is listed as a number one complaint among mental health concerns across America. People are anxious, unnerved, worries and conflicted. It’s something that we have begun to hear of more and more over the last decade in specific, and something that seems to continually impact more and more people.
Despite anxiety’s particular relevance in my generation, it’s something that everyone can identify with, something that everyone experiences.
So, what is anxiety?
The most common associations with anxiety are the standard sweaty hands, rapid breathing, increased heart rate and heightened awareness. The standard imagery of a classic panic attack, is most often what we have come to define as anxiety.
While this is a typical experience of anxiety, not everyone experiences the pang of anxiety in the same way.
I invite you to take a moment of reflection, and check into what your anxiety really feels like in your day-to-day life.
Does your anxiety feel like a coarse ball of misshapen stone, sinking to the bottom of your gut?
Does it feel like indecision? A raking ambivalence that sends you oscillating from one decision to another?
Does it feel like procrastination, an avoidance of obligations that only gains in strength as the minutes tick by?
Does it feel like paranoia? Constant concern and worry that people closest to you are hoping you’ll become something else.
My experiences with anxiety have been as wild, varied and tumultuous as the feeling itself. Anxiety has always been something that creeps up on me. I never know that it’s there affecting me, until the moment is gone or I’ve spun out of control.
Sometimes, the anxiety feels like a crushing weight on my chest, a warm ball in the base of my throat and ruminating negative thoughts cycloning through my consciousness.
Sometimes though, it just feels like a half hour lunch break and quarter tank of gas lost to indecisiveness about what I want to eat.
Both are equally as unbearable. However the pain of the former is usually painful enough to rouse some change. Some motivation to heal the anxiety.
It’s taken years to acclimate to the idea that healing from anxiety, or anything at all for that matter, takes diligence. We have to be on our toes, actively taking inventory of our emotions everyday or we lose control. The proverbial slippery slope, so to speak.
Where does anxiety come from?
It’s important to note that everybody has anxiety. Seriously, everyone experiences anxiety just as they experience sadness, anger and joy. Not everyone, however, has an anxiety disorder.
An anxiety disorder, is characterized by heightened consistent anxiety, feelings of fear or nervousness become excessive, difficult to control, or interfere with daily life. While not everyone has an anxiety disorder, it is fairly common. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 19 percent of American adults are affected by an anxiety disorder each year.
Anxiety, over-simplified, is a reaction from your nervous system. Your body has a particular reaction to stress that is often associated to the word anxiety. When we sense some sort of danger or threat, our body reacts as a part of its normal operating structure.there really isn’t anything wrong with you for feeling anxiety.
In fact, it shows your functioning like a normal human if you experience anxiety prior to a big speech, interview, date or new experience.
This is where I am challenging the idea that you need to”cope” or “deal with” anxiety.
Instead of freaking out and feeding into the moment of anxiousness when it comes, try dropping into your body with curiosity.
Ask yourself, “What is it about this situation is making me feel this way?”
If it’s based in a legitimate fear for your survival, maybe we should look into that a little more and make sure we feel safe.
If the answer is based on just a nervousness around a new situation, use that!
Your body is naturally more alert, aware and focused when your anxious. Take that, and turn it into powerful intention.
Go to your interview quick and sharp. Use your nervous energy in your stomach to fuel a motivating conversation. Whatever.
Take the power from your anxiety back.
In an age of anxiety, where we all suffer from the pull, it’s our job to work on ourselves first and develop self awareness. Awareness if the first step to freedom.