Join the crowd. Once “just” a mental illness (although the most prevalent, currently affecting about 18% of the US population according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America), today anxiety seems to be the norm for most of us.
Many factors play into this:
– The wide variety of consumer choices both fulfills needs and wishes and creates stress through too many options;
– The 24/7 news media keeps us up to date on the latest threats to safety and security, helping us feel both in-the-know and more in control yet more anxious about our present and future;
– Social media helps us connect in more ways than ever before but keeps us more image conscious and ironically more isolated;
– Americans are more economically stable than ever before but most of us work more than ever before to stay that way.
– Violence, both verbal and physical, seems more prevalent, both a symptom and cause of societal anxiety.
I could go on. You have your own list of stressors. And it’s not just Americans either. Anxiety is now a global norm.
We don’t want to be stressed and anxious, but often we don’t know how to stop, either. We mostly don’t want to have to give up the blessings of modern life. And there’s so much information out there (250 million hits on Google) that just researching how to lower your anxiety raises your anxiety!
I’m not going to lower your anxiety either by telling you I have the answer. I don’t. And I’m not adding anything new to the conversation.
But I would like to offer some suggestions, and any of us would be happy to work with you and your unique context if stress and anxiety are an issue for you.
Suggestion #1: Take a deep, slow breath. No, really. Your body cannot stay in fight/flight mode if you are intentionally taking long, slow breaths. Count to four as you inhale, count to eight as you exhale. (Don’t suck the air in and hold it! That raises your body’s stress.) This is not a miracle cure, but you will notice your mind and body slowly start to calm.
Suggestion #2: Reality check. After you’ve taken your breaths, think. What seems most stressful right this moment? Is it something I can or need to do something about right this moment? How important is it right this moment? Am I thinking clearly about this right this moment? (Notice the repetition…)
Suggestion #3: Remember the bigger picture. There’s always a bigger picture. For some of us, the bigger picture is eternity. Maybe some of you remember that in the grand scheme of things it could be worse (and someone always has it worse). Or that you’re not alone, we’re all in this somehow together…
And finally, suggestion #4: Smile. It’s hard to be highly anxious and smiling at the same time for very long. Plus, it’s infectious. (And people will wonder what you’re up to…)