The Anxious Generation
Anxiety. It’s everywhere we turn. It’s all we talk about. From the A -List celebs battling the condition, to the very people we meet from day to day. Personally, I have been astounded by the amount of people I have come across over the past few months only who have confided in me that they suffer from anxiety. They’ve shared the secret with me almost every time with a deep sense of shame and embarrassment, as though they genuinely believe they are in the minority of those suffering from this condition. We’ve always been stressed out and running on adrenaline but recently anxiety seems to be the condition impacting on so many lives. It’s an epidemic and one we need to wake up to before the minority becomes the majority. With that in mind, I decided to look at some of the reasons our generation is more anxious than those that proceeded us.
1. Coffee Addictions
We all know how good that morning cup of Java tastes and refreshes us from our slumber, but those shots of coffee from our local Starbucks are sending our nerves through the roof and then back down to the ground again at an alarming rate. Over the past 10 years, coffee has taken on a whole new meaning. We meet for coffee, we spend good money for good coffee – it’s the hipster trend we all latched onto and it’s doing us no good. For individuals already stressed or of a nervous disposition, caffeine just doesn’t help – and now is as good a time as any to decide whether that energy rush is worth the anxiety and panic attacks that so often come along with our daily coffee refuels.
2. Social Media
I long for the 90’s. I was very young during this era but I remember it well. During the pre-Kardashian era, life was somewhat simpler, and a big reason for this? Not knowing what everyone else was doing via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I thought Facebook was great when I first joined, but soon realised that no matter how well my life was going, there was someone doing it better, whilst being more beautiful and fashionable at the same time. Social media has spawned life envy and a constant awareness of what others are doing, as well as updating on our own movements, but is this something we need to be a part of? Is it helping us? Is it adding to our lives? I can only answer for myself, and I grew weary of feeling rubbish about myself in comparison to others Facebook highlight reels of the best moments of their lives. I decided to leave Facebook in order to live my life more privately and to remove the anxiety related to social media, from wondering why you weren’t invited to certain events, to being ignored on wall posts. There’s enough of this sort of behaviour in real life, why add a virtual element to rejection?
3. The World is our Oyster
Ah, the analogy that everything in life is ours for the taking is glorious. The American Dream, if you will. We are taught to dream big, to strive, to work hard, to make it to the top no matter how detrimental to our health it is. It’s this way of thinking that can create and inspire genius within us, but also adds an insane amount of pressure. We must be kinder to ourselves and remember we are but human. We are flawed, and it is ok to let others see this (in the right context!). This striving perfectionism is something I know well, and have had to release from my grasp. I’ve known people reduced to a wreck when making a mistake in a presentation or achieving a grade lower than a first. This is the generation we have created; one obsessed with success, image and wealth, and it’s time we ask ourselves – is that we want, are those the things that matter when all is said and done?
When I was younger I believed I would be married by 30, living in a nice huge home with 2 children and in a successful career. Anything other than this was inconceivable to me. Then, as my twenties came to an end, I began to see that life was nothing like I imagined it. I had achieved none of the things I had set out to, and not for lack of trying. I recently read an interview from the former lead singer of Elastica, Justine Frischmann, where she stated the alarming rates of suicide that take place at 27 years of age and often how the cause of this can be the rude awakening that life has turned out nothing like you expected. We need to be kinder to ourselves and run with the flow and ebb of life. It may not take us where we planned, but more often than not, we will end up somewhere so much better and rewarding.
5. Me, Myself and I
A key part of anxiety (and I know it well!) is the focus on self. Now, this isn’t done selfishly, but thoughts circulate such as ‘What will they think of me? What are they saying about me? What will happen to me? What if that goes wrong?’ – it is a constant whirlwind of fears and anxieties related to ourselves, and one of the best ways to overcome this is to take the spotlight off ourselves! We all experience anxiety and have different coping methods, but sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is turning the focus from inward to outward. Focusing on someone else – even if painstakingly hard – is part of the cure, as our attention is shifted from our own internal mind workings to the thoughts and concerns of those around us. Becoming consumed in someone else’s plight can often be a great distraction from our own minds, and for anxious minds that are constantly on the go, distraction is the greatest tool we have. Choosing to allow the anxiety whilst we undertake a different task can greatly alleviate it, and for many, is the only way to reduce anxiety rather than trying to analyse and understand why it is occurring.
If you can only take one thing away from this post let it be this: we are ALL anxious, and you are in no way alone in suffering from this condition. With the knowledge and acceptance that a little anxiety is a normal part of life, may we be more forgiving and kind to ourselves, too.