Anxiety in the New Age
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Just a few short months ago, I was waging war against the most formidable foe I have ever encountered – myself. Although this fight against PTSD, anxiety and depression has been exhausting, at least I knew what I was up against and how to mitigate its damage. But now I stand face to face with a new and unfamiliar enemy – that of anxiety in the new age.
Well, to be fair, I am dancing with an old enemy, just one on steroids – a mutated version of my old nemesis, generalized anxiety disorder. This new age has made my anxiety so strong that I have a difficult time recognizing It. Moreover, my coping tools that were once so effective in the fight against GAD, proved useless against this new, mutated strain.
What you are feeling is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.
See, times have changed and whether you have an anxiety disorder or not, you are undoubtedly feeling the near-constant fear your anxiety produces. Angst is a “fight, flight or freeze” response. It’s what kept your ancestors alive back in the day. However, in more modern times, such as the era we all find ourselves living in, its side effects manifest themselves in two ways.
Firstly, loss of control. We are social creatures and need connection because of it. Our free will to move about has been seriously impacted, leaving us feeling a little trapped and powerless. The good news? It’s absolutely normal to feel this way. Perhaps we can find comfort in evaluating how we are feeling. In other words, if you are feeling powerless, is this an inappropriate response, given the times we are living in? Of course not. What you are feeling is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. It’s okay, to feel this way. It’s normal – so please, don’t be too hard on yourself for it.
Another way to dampen down this fire in the mind is to do a gratefulness inventory.
The second thing that tends to heighten anxiety is fear of the unknown. Fear of the unknown is such vast territory in terms of where your imagination can roam, it’s just scary. How will I pay my bills? When will I get to see my friends and family? Will I miss out on that vacation I’ve been planning? So many unknowns.
What makes not knowing so problematic is that with each question comes a fictitious story that we build up around them. For example, you may start to construct a fantasy around that vacation. “What if we are housebound till June when I am supposed to go?” “I bet I won’t be able to go!” “Damn, I have been saving for years – of course, this virus would do this to me.” Now, you’re at a constant level eight on the anxious scale.
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This one’s dangerous because of its limitless fuel to keep anxiety revving on high. In my experience, the best way to turn down the dial is to practice mindfulness, taking time to focus on the now. Another way to dampen down this fire in the mind is to do a gratefulness inventory. Simply close your eyes and think of everyone and everything you are grateful for. This exercise is especially great when your head hits the pillow, if your mind refuses to sleep.
My hot mess, an example of success.
Before I leave you, I want to share my story of how I drifted off to sleep last night despite my anxiety tearing through my head like an asshole tornado. Like many of you, I am feeling the pinch of powerlessness and as a result, my anxiety disorder has set up permanent shop. And as we all know, it’s also a nighthawk and runs full steam ahead as soon as you turn in for the day. Man, I hate that. But, with the gratefulness inventory, I was able to slide into slumber. Instead of fixating on the unprecedented health crisis that lay just beyond my door, I started to think of all things great in my life. My list looked like this
- I was safe and warm
- I was with my partner and cat.
- My kids and other loved ones are healthy and safe.
- We both have an income right now.
- I live in a great country and am better off than many.
- I have wonderful, supportive friends.
- We have technology so we all can keep connected.
My list ended up being longer then this; that’s what I love about this method. The list just snowballs once you start taking inventory of all the things that truly matter. The ultimate benefit, however, is how effective it is. Before I knew it, my mind was quiet, my dread had dissipated and I fell fast to sleep, filled with feelings of love and safety. This is how I plan to deal with anxiety in the new age.
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