Living in the Age of Anxiety

The more I go through life, the more I begin to see the uncertainties everywhere. And with uncertainties comes the potential for worry to sneak in and fill those empty spaces - spaces that provide a fertile breeding ground for anxiety. Although I’ve had my fair share of panic attacks, that in no way makes me an expert, and if you feel like you might have symptoms of an anxiety disorder, I highly recommend talking to someone, whether that be a mental health expert or someone you trust. 

A photo of scrabble words assembled to spell According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in the past year an estimated 19.1% of adults in America struggled with anxiety. And, even those who aren’t diagnosed with an anxiety disorder have had feelings of anxiety in their lives; feelings that might be heightened now due to the uncertainty of the world at present. So, I thought it’d be not only appropriate, but beneficial if I shared some of ways I deal with these feelings. Again, I’m no expert, and I’m speaking from personal experience, but if it helps me, it might help someone else too. 

Anytime you begin to excessively worry about something, you are giving that idea power. The more you think about it, the more power you give to let it eat away at you. So, just don’t think about it. Ha! If only it was that easy. If you want to take power away from something, you must give power to something else. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That must apply to our thoughts as well, right? So, without further ado, here are three things to empower you and weaken the anxiety.   

The Power of Creating

It doesn’t have to be the next Oscar winning film nor bestselling book. It doesn’t even have to be anything good. I have baked terrible, borderline inedible chocolate cakes, and felt my anxieties melt away as a result. I feel the same way after I write, paint, or draw. I’ve realized it’s not the end product that really matters; it’s the in-between. It’s the way your brain isn’t thinking about anything else other than the task at hand. I feel that creating anything, no matter how insignificant it may seem, allows your introspection to morph into self-expression.    

The Power of Distraction

By distraction I don’t mean social media, I actually mean the opposite of that. A distraction from social media, from the news, from all the ways life can suck you dry. I’ve recently discovered my love for reading (not to boast or anything, but I’ve read four books in the two weeks!). It’s a way to travel outside yourself and your worries and be in someone else’s mind for a bit. Even movies and TV shows have this effect. If you're fully invested, it’s difficult for anxieties to creep back in. Exercising is another wonderful way to curve anxieties. Running has always helped me achieve this, but there are also a plethora of other things like dancing or yoga. I used to rock climb a lot at a rock gym (something I dearly miss), and I’d highly recommend giving that a try. Not only did I get over my fear of heights, but also it requires a lot of stamina and attention that I found weakened my tendency to overthink. 

Woman smiling

The Power of Positive People

This one seems painfully obvious, doesn’t it? Yet, no matter how obvious, I still find myself worrying about what people, who aren’t necessarily nice to me, think. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Is it human nature? Do we want to be accepted? Isolation is not the answer, though, isolation worsens mentality. I recently realized that the problem isn’t people. If you feel that way (as I once did) it’s probably that you’re not surrounding yourself with the right people. You need to surround yourself with positive people, not people who are going to feed into your anxieties. If you feel a pit in your stomach when you’re around certain people, they’re not it. It’s people who make you feel light and fuzzy, when you’re around them, your anxieties fade into the background. It can be hard if you’re like me and love to give people unlimited chances, but the rule of thumb should be to listen to your gut feelings; they’re usually right. I also found that the more positive I was (to myself and others), the more the people I surrounded myself with were as well. You get what you give, and sometimes spreading love and positivity can help more than just yourself. 

At first, I was quite hesitant to write this article for fear of not being qualified enough. But then I immediately dismissed that as silly. I’ve experienced anxiety and drawn on my experiences here. Sometimes it’s nice to not feel like you’re the only one struggling. Am I being presumptuous by using the phrase “the age of anxiety?” Maybe. But you’ve got to admit it’s catchy and probably true.