I have found over the years that more and more people seem to suffer from more and more stress and anxiety. You might have noticed this yourself. Or you are one of the many who really suffer. Sadly most people who are suffering from anxiety think it’s just them. do you keep saying to people: It’s just me!”? Or do you assume you are weak. In this post I want to reassure you that neither is the case. We live in an anxiety provoking culture. But I won’t just leave it there. Obviously I want to give you some ideas on what you can do to reduce your stress and anxiety levels. So, let’s look at a few aspects (and this is not comprehensive) of the culture we live in that contributes to to the rising tide of anxiety in us.
We live in a culture that values achievements and competitiveness over contentment and cooperation. We are under constant psychological bombardment through the media that to be happy you have to be a certain way:
- You have to have the newest car, mobile, haircut etc.
- Unless you own a house you are not a valuable person.
- Just being yourself and feeling content with little is absolutely not okay.
- It always has to be the best and YOU always have to be the best too.
- Even having fun has to be done with effort. Work hard, play hard!
The majority of films, magazines, ads, and books all reinforce and strengthen those assumptions and values. If you want to reduce your levels of anxiety this is a very fruitful area to start exploring. For example you could start asking yourself what you actually value and want. Look at your behaviours and actions they might point you towards what really matters to you. This simple inquiry might be a great opening for you to discover and become aware of what is important for you. A powerful exercise is to imagine that you will die in a years time. What would you focus on and do, if that was so? If you have been reading my newsletters for a while, you will know that mindfulness is a fantastic tool to raise levels of awareness – especially self-awareness. With awareness comes the possibility of choice, and that is the first step out of feeling anxious and stressed.
And then there is life. Life is unpredictable and uncertain. The pandemic has definitely shown us that. Illnesses, deaths, accidents, freak events and calamities have always been part of the human experience. But never has it been on such a global level. When something terrible happens on the other side of the world, we will know about it almost immediately and in great detail. We probably know about it in more detail than the average person who is in the middle of the event. Our nervous systems have not been designed to hold the suffering of 7 billion people. It is designed to cope with the size of a tribe (ca. 200 people max). We are getting flooded with horror and terrible scenes from across the world. We witness this usually with complete impotence, because most of the time there is nothing we can do about these things. They are beyond our circle of influence. The phrase ‘circle of influence’ comes from Stephen Covey’s book: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It means that it is important to respect the fact that we have only limited reach. Using up our precious emotional energy to worry about the cruelty or stupidity of people on the other side of the planet achieves only this – you feel exhausted, anxious and impotent. This is an incredible source of anxiety and distress. Here is what you need to do to reduce your anxiety. Take action within your circle of influence. Nothing helps us feel better, empowered and therefore less anxious than being able to take action and do something effective. So, if you concerned about climate change, do what you can to make a difference. And that might mean just something simple like walking to the shops instead of taking the car. If you hate racism, do what you can in your neighbourhood to create inclusion. I have said it before in previous newsletters, chose what you expose yourself to wisely. Take great care that you do not flood your nervous system with too much bad news. Make a conscious effort of noticing the good in the world and focus on that.
In 2019 a study found that nearly half of all employees are close to ‘breaking point’ at work due to increased stress levels. A survey of 2,000 professionals found the average working adult feels stressed for almost a third of their working day. That’s a lot of time for your body to be flooded with stress hormones. And this happens five out of seven days a week. I would like to point my finger (partly) at technology for this insane rise in stress-levels. When computers were first developed it was predicted that in a few years people would work a fraction of the time because computers were doing the work for them. Did that happen? No, what really happened is the opposite. There is an underlying assumption that because the technology is there and can do things so fast people should also do so much more.
Do you suffer from anxiety at work? I have created an online course that can help you to explore and work on the most common reasons for work-anxiety. If you are interested go here.
I could go on and on about all sorts of aspects of modern life that contribute to anxiety, but I better stop here before you get too fed up with all this doom and gloom. To all of you who do feel stressed and
anxious take this from the above: Your response to the world we live in is healthy and normal. But that does not mean that you need to keep feeling anxious. We can do many things to self-regulate our nervous system. This whole website is dedicated to giving you more information and support.
I hope you found this interesting and useful. Please pass this on to anyone you think might benefit.
May you thrive in life!