We are an Anxious Nation

We all get anxious from time to time. That is completely to be expected. However, it seems that there is an epidemic going on right now with individuals of all ages presenting with symptoms of and being diagnosed with anxiety disorders. In its simplest terms we can think of anxiety as fear of the future. In a clinical sense, there are several different anxiety disorders, with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) being the most common. While certain traits need to be present for an anxiety disorder to be diagnosed, it seems that many people who I have met over the past few months have been seeking counselling to cope with anxiety, diagnosed or not. What gives?

It seems that a lot of my posts come back to how we live. We live in such a high pressure society. You often hear of people refer to the “rat race.” The expectation that we are to get a good job, work hard, promote, have a family, be involved in extracurricular activities, and save up for retirement so we can start enjoying life. That is if we manage to save enough money. It seems are lives are so busy that there is very little down time, time to truly relax and enjoy life. I work with a lot of adolescents and young adults and they are really feeling the pressure to succeed in this race. There is pressure to do well in school, so you can get into University and a specific field. There is no room for failure. No wonder we are all anxious.

While we maybe can’t change the values of society, we are able to evaluate and revamp what is important to us individually. I would venture to say if we all slowed down and stopped living in the future and started enjoying the moment, we would all be less anxious. This is something I need to work on and remind myself of on a daily basis. Something that can be helpful is to practice focusing on what our five senses are doing. We can get so caught up in our mind that we often have little awareness of what our body is doing.  Practice checking in – what do see right now in your surroundings? Hear? Smell? Taste? And Feel? Taking a couple of minutes to review what we are actually experiencing can be helpful for distracting our mind from worrying thoughts, it gives a moment to catch our breath, without actually focusing on it, and it brings us back to the here and now. Take a step back and check in with yourself, see if you notice a shift in anxiety.

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