Yep. There’s that word again. Anxiety. For better and for worse, this has become sort of a buzzword in today’s society. Social media has somewhat made it trendy. In my field of work, parents tend to use it to allow their children to have accommodations in the classroom which can be controversial in itself. While I’m glad that we are generally becoming more accepting of this disorder that affects millions in the U.S. alone, I don’t know if I can say I’m satisfied with the direction it is going.
For as long as I can remember, I have lived with anxiety. I just didn’t know what it was until I was 19 and started to suffer from major panic attacks. Yeah, I was diagnosed with depression several years earlier, but I knew when I came out of the depression, something else was different, scary even, in my life. Anxiety can be downright dreadful. Biologically speaking, the fight or flight response is a good thing. When faced with real danger — for example, coming head first with a bear in the wild — hormones are released and the nervous system activates the adrenal glands which respond with an influx of adrenaline. This, in turn, primes us to either stay and fight the perceived danger or run away, the flight part. But there’s the kicker, the perceived danger. For anxiety sufferers like myself, we can perceive danger over one hundred times daily when, in fact, there is no true danger. The fight or flight response, which for me always manifests in flight *run away and run away fast to your bed* leads us to stay home from work, exclude ourselves from social functions, skip out on going to the doctor, and distance ourselves from loved ones. Yeah, and that can sometimes only be the beginning of it. Obviously anxiety can be detrimental to our health because not only are we potentially missing out on important doctors appointments, we live in a constant state of stress. Stress can do all sorts of nasty things to our bodies – weaken the immune system, be a precursor to diseases such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, obesity, and ulcers, and ultimately make our lives less enjoyable when we are constantly worrying about everything.
So, what do we do about this epidemic of anxiety in our society?! Of course, being the Western world that we are, we throw some pills at it. Ah, Big Pharma and their capitalistic nature. Now before I go any farther I am not in any way, shape, or form dissing some anti-anxiety or depression pills because I have been on them for 7 years. Yep, and up until about a year ago, I never wanted to go off of them. They didn’t help make the anxiety go away per se – but I could eat in public places without feeling like I was going to choke and die (the height of my panic attacks). I started decreasing my medication (with the help of a professional doctor!!) and the dread is back. The dread of the What If’s, the How Come’s and the Who Even Am I’s.
I blame a lot of our society and culture on the pressure on people living with anxiety. We are expected to work at least forty hours a week, have spotless houses, eat well, workout 30 minutes a day five days a week, take care of children, spouses, and potentially parents. We work our lives away to have more money so we can buy bigger houses, better cars, more shoes, more clothes, more expensive handbags, watches, you name it. No time to take care of ourselves mentally. No quiet time to meditate, be mindful, stretch, or even breathe. Of course I am just as guilty as the rest of society in wanting more. I want a dream house with a big farmhouse sink and a huge island with multiple windows, a huge bedroom for a California king sized bed (because I am NOT a cuddler), new clothes, a better iPhone, and the list goes on…
My point here is we have to become more conscious of our mental state and our bodies. We have to be more conscious of our wants versus our needs and if our wants are warranted by society (hello, Instagram). We have to find purpose in our lives that isn’t just how much money we can make or what our career is or what size jeans we wear. We have to forgive ourselves. Forgive ourselves for not doing it all. And just be. ~