Anxiety…It’s something we hear a lot more about these days. When I had depression and anxiety I always felt very alone. Like I was the only person in the whole world who would feel like I did about a situation, place, person etc. I’ve been depression free for over a year now but my anxiety is still here. When I went to Australia last year I was under the impression that I would leave everything behind and I mostly did but, my anxiety still followed me half way across the world.
During my first few months there I met a lot of people who also suffer from anxiety, like more people then I thought. These were people within my generation and a bit younger than me and it made me curious as to why anxiety is (or seems) more common these days, especially amongst the younger generations (millennials as some may say).
I have a few theories. Before I begin I would like to say that my theories are based on my opinions/experiences. There are some facts included but it is mostly just my opinion.
Lets starts with the obvious one. Social media makes hugeeee impact on our brains and lives, sometimes without us even realising it. Whether it is worrying about getting that ‘perfect picture’ to upload or sharing something and it not getting enough likes. Social media used to be a big trigger for my anxiety (I’ve now realised that it is a complete waste of my valuable time and energy worrying about anything I post). It would trigger endless amounts of questions in my head till I either felt like I got validation/acceptance for my post or until I fell into a depressive state (more often I fell into a depressive state).
So, I used to upload pictures on my Instagram, it would take me several minutes to decide which picture was more ‘socially perfect’ and then came the likes. I’ve never been arsed about how many likes I got, but I know some people see likes as a social ranking and that’s what triggered my anxiety. I used to worry so much about what others may think of me if I only got 2 likes on a post (real sad I know). The questions that would go round in my head were non stop and the thoughts I sometimes got about myself were so depressing. In all honesty, I think what helped me the most (as well as counselling) was going on a big social media break and ditching my old friends who cared about how many likes they got on a post. Move on from them.
But I suppose in some ways social media isn’t all bad. In a way it has brought us and our anxiety issues together. We upload, tag and share memes with our friends relating to our anxiety. We are aware that we go through these awkward, embarrassing, difficult, emotional and sometimes funny situations, we know we aren’t alone. In a sense, social media allows us to be there for each other but maybe more in a humorous way.
Adverts are everywhere. Shopping centres, TV’s, magazines, browsing on the internet etc. We get bombarded with them. One of the most common types of adverts are those that claim there is something wrong with us. Adverts surrounding beauty and weight hit me the most. They explained that the reason I had no body confidence was because I wasn’t a size 8 with a toned physique, tanned body, white teeth and a jawline that could cut fruit…when in reality the adverts promoted the negative image I already saw of myself. Confidence comes from how you are right now. Not from trying to look the way society deems as ‘sexy’. Adverts can make us feel as though we aren’t good enough, we aren’t sexy enough, that there will always be room for improvement with ourselves and the only way you can become successful is by having a certain look. Don’t believe it. They know who to target their adverts at, who to prey on and how to make you fall into the rabbit hole. You are absolutely perfect how you are.
Everybody has gotta work to get by in this life time and work can be good for us! It’s mental stimulation, gives us a chance to show off our abilities, improve our self-esteem and confidence and so on, but work has proved to be impacting our mental health, especially our stress and anxiety levels. Stress can be a big trigger for anxiety, but how can you not get stressed when you have deadlines, meetings, presentations or possibly a shitty manager who doesn’t give a fuck about how stressed you are. In 2006 a study was done in America about stress and anxiety in the workplace. Over 70% of the employees experience stress/anxiety in their everyday lives as well as work. During work hours over 50% of employees said that it impacts their work performance, relationships with co-workers/peers, their quality of work and their relationships with superiors. The main culprits for their anxiety were deadlines, interpersonal relationships and staff management. Only one fourth of those with anxiety told their employers as they were worried it would affect promotional opportunities or in case their boss interprets it as a lack of interest.
We have evolved a lot quicker then our brains have and in my opinion our brains aren’t used to this stress load. Way back when we lived simple lives out in the wilderness, we wouldn’t have had the issues of added pressure or stress, and we wouldn’t have had to get paranoid about what our peers or superiors might be saying about us behind our backs, we were more free. Over time we have tapped into our knowledge and quickly evolved but our brains haven’t caught up to us yet (whether they will or not is a different story). We are taking on all the deadlines, pressure, long hours and heavy work load of this day and age because we feel like we have/need to. We’re so worried about what might happen if we politely decline the extra work, that we end up working in a place of fear and that, that is what anxiety feeds off. Anxiety fucking loves fear.
What factor of our lives doesn’t money play a part in? You need money to do almost anything. It can feel like your life revolves around money. I had big issues with money and anxiety, I didn’t have a lot of money (hardly any money) but my anxiety had a lot to say about it. My relationship with money has be a very low and rocky relationship ever since I was about 20. Before I left for Australia I spent around 6-7 months unemployed. This was when my anxiety was at its worst with money. The sheer embarrassment of having to ask my mum for petrol money used to reduce me to tears, despite my mum being the most understanding person ever. The lead up to asking her for money would be the worst. I’d be dreading it at least a week or longer in advance, I’d create all these possibilities in my head, I’d imagine scenarios in my head where my mum and brother would complain about me behind my back and so on. It was awful.
Even when I was working, my anxiety with money was still there. I’ve worked in a few places where I have been paid below minimum wage, I’ve worked in places where I got paid weeks late and I’ve worked for people who don’t understand what it is like to still work your arse off and barely have enough to pay the bills, transport, social life, food etc. It can sometimes feel like a no win situation. To earn more money we need to work more hours but what’s that doing to us? Creating more stress and fear for anxiety to feed off and not enough downtime to recharge. There’s a snowball effect with anxiety. Where you take one factor and your anxiety turns it into this huge big deal. We are a generation of people who feel bad for taking a holiday/sick day because that leaves the company understaffed or the fear of what co-workers might say about you behind your back is just torture and then if we take a holiday/sick day, that could mean you get paid less which could impact any payments you need to make. The fact that a lot of peoples life goals are to be rich is quite upsetting.
When you think about how much our social lives have changed over the decades is it really surprising that our social anxiety levels have rocketed? Especially when you combine it with other triggers for anxiety. Being social is almost compulsory. You have to be social at work, you have to be social if you want to go and get a burger, you have to be social to meet new people and you have to be social to keep up with friends/family. Being social is a way of life, we are social creatures so why are so many people suffering with social anxiety? I think it’s partly because of the rise in population which can make it hard to find a escape from all the people (because we all need some alone time right) or sometimes we feel like we have to socialise instead of just wanting to, which can then make it feel more like a task but I know (from experience) sometimes, if you don’t socialise with your friends then that can put you out there for ridicule. Getting ridiculed, embarrassed, criticised or humiliated are triggers for social anxiety (Social Anxiety Disorder) and if it happens that once then it can create this fear in your head that it could happen again, so socialising might then be avoided due to this fear.
I’m not a big fan of watching the news. The news had a big impact on my anxiety a few years ago. 9 out of 10 stories were about shootings, murders, rapes, robberies etc, don’t get me wrong, I understand those types of announcements need to be made but there are hardly any positive announcements to counteract the negative news. The negatives out weigh the positives and the negatives created a fear in my head (once again the anxiety fed off the fear). I used to take Barney for walks almost every evening. I preferred evening walks as everywhere was much quieter and we didn’t come across as many dogs as we would during the day (Barney can get scared by other dogs). It was part of our routine but it slowly stopped as I no longer felt safe leaving my house in the evenings to walk my dog. It was too scary. Even my social media newsfeed had more negative articles shared than positives. It all took its toll on me but in reality, a lot more good happens than bad, it can be hard to notice that though.
This has been a fairly new anxiety trigger for me but after searching around I’ve found I’m not the only person who feels the same. We’ve got what feels like endless wars happening all over the world. We have the wrong people in charge. Selfish dictators who, lets be honest, couldn’t really give two shits about us. There’s a lack of control (on our side) and that creates a fear which tah dah!! The anxiety feeds from. It’s a fear that one day a new war could break out, or one day a dictator pisses off another dictator and all hell breaks loose which could leave us sane, morally right people in the shit. But we have no control over that. We have no control over those in power and those with a tonne load of money.
Eco-anxiety is a fairly recent psychological disorder which is affecting many people. We are in a climate crisis whether you are ignorant to it or not. It’s another situation where there feels like a lack of control on our side. Some of us are really, really trying to make a positive difference, to try and save our world but sometimes it’s like we get it all slapped back in our face. Take the Great Barrier Reef for example. Did you know that the GBR Marine Park Authority have given the green light for over 1million tonnes of sludge to be dumped right by the reef. Not only that but a new coal mine could be built in Queensland within the next few years which will be the biggest in history. If this happens over 500 more coal ships will pass through the GBR and it will add 4.6 billion tonnes of carbon pollution into our atmosphere. The coal mine would be so big that it would actually alter our climate and could cause a mass global heating (please if you come across any petitions against this, please just sign them). We try so hard but we have no control over those in power. The pure ignorance from those who don’t have their eyes open about our climate is frustrating. It’s like we’re doing this test, one that we have really revised for and want to pass but we know that the chances of us passing are very slim. Sometimes I get into the mindset of what’s the point? And it can be hard to get out of that. My anxiety will kick in and make me feel useless or negative. I’ll think about the future and sometimes my anxiety will create these end of the world situations in my head because at the moment, it feels like those situations could become a reality. This is when I’ll think about the positive changes we have made. NASA can confirm that our planet is looking more green now than 20 years ago, renewable energy now accounts for 1/3 of global power capacity and Indias wild tiger population is up by 30%. It can be difficult sometimes to remember that every little helps, even if it’s making just a small change, it’s a positive change and it will make an impact!
Anxiety became classified as a mental disorder in 1980. Before then, the idea that our emotions could impact our physical health was a scientific taboo subject. I suppose we were ignorant in a way but nowadays anxiety is something that is known to be quite common and sometimes spoken about openly. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US affecting 40 million adults aged 18 or over. In 2013 there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK. In 2017 it was estimated that 284 million people experienced an anxiety disorder worldwide. In the past 8 years Google search rates have found that anxiety related searches are up by 150%.
Anxiety is a battle with yourself. You are battling your own mind therefore you need to find coping techniques that work FOR YOU. Counselling, doctors and whoever else can offer you support, knowledge and some cliché coping strategies which could work for you, but what worked best for me was finding something that made me feel good. Something that brought back some positive energy into my head. These are:
– Colouring. I like to colour even when I’m not feeling anxious. The best thing about it is that you just focus on what you’re colouring. You aren’t thinking about the past or the future, what could happen and what not. You’re just in the moment.
– Meditation. Every counsellor/doctor will advise you to meditate and I understand why. It’s soothing, it connects you to you and provides you with some internal peace, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
– Signing Petitions. You can sign over 10 petitions in a minute if you wanted to. Back when I had a office job, during those moments when I was bored and needed something to do I would go onto websites such as Change.org or Care2 and I’d just sign as many petitions as I could (before I had to actually do some work). It’s something so small but it makes me feel like I matter, that I am helping and that I am making a difference. It can be done at work, whilst you’re in bed or when you’re sat waiting for a friend. You can sign as many petitions as you want and you can choose which petitions you want to sign. Doesn’t cost you anything and you could be making a huge difference.
– Gratitude. Being grateful can do so much for your mental health. When my anxiety creates negatives situations or scenarios in my head I practise gratitude (it isn’t as easy as it sounds). I’ll either write my gratitude down or repeat it in my head that I am grateful to be happy, healthy and loved (this is also good to repeat whilst meditation).
– Nature. I’m an outdoor cat. Sometimes all I need to feel better is a good walk and a chance to sit in the silence of nature. Soul soothing.
– Writing. Writing helps me get whatever I can’t verbally say out of my head. Once it’s all written out I can do whatever I want with it. Save it, delete it, burn it, chuck it in the bin whatever. At least it is out of my head.
There is still good out there, there is still hope and there are ways of coping with anxiety. I guess what I’m trying to say is take each day as it comes. Having anxiety is understandable (it’s becoming borderline normal if you think about it…). Having anxiety over something that might seem so insignificant to others, isn’t to you and I get that 100%. There are people out there who will get that. It’s a hard battle to fight. Sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you won’t and that’s okay. You’re fighting one hellish battle. It’s okay to admit defeat. Recuperate yourself and come back even stronger.
Thank you for reading,
Lots of love to you all,