10:12:49 pm on
Sunday 20 Oct 2019

Anxiety Today
Hilary Thompson

Anxiety is a common feature of daily life. This is likely true since Homo sapiens, that is, you and me, emerged, intact, seventy thousand years ago. Homo erectus, a distance relative, likely experienced anxiety more than a million years ago. Homo Neanderthalensis, a closer relative, probably had anxiety issues, at least regarding death, given the relatively elaborate burial of ostensible kin and kith.

► As light fades, anxiety increases.

For many, winter is the worst time for anxiety. Depression and dsyphoria seem to know no seasonal variations. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) symptoms peak during times of reduced natural light, affecting women more than it does men. Shuttered inside, be it home or office, combined with the pressure of the holidays and a lack of light, as days shorten until the winter solaces, women and men combat cabin fever, which tends to increase anxiety.

We are more open regarding anxiety than we were in the past; even forty years ago, open discussion of anxiety was a no-no. Awareness of mental health issues seems improving, generally. With such improvement comes validation, of a sort, a legitimisation for the hundreds of thousands of men and women that suffer from one form or another of mental illness, minor or major, including anxiety.

In the popular mind, anxiety, regardless of degree, equates with mental illness. Presentation and consideration of mental illness has always been a problem for conventional media, such as television. These media cast the mentally ill as non-productive threats to society: unpredictable murderous monsters or drugged into a near vegetative state that facilitates management of them.

Anxiety also arises from ideas of self. These days, social media are thus the enemies of anxiety. An overwhelming need to look perfect, fostered by social media, creates a pressure that can cripple many women and men. This is especially true for millennials, as they are the bulk of social media users; at least that’s what I understand.

In record numbers, university students, caving under the pressure to perform on exams receive diagnoses of stress-induced anxiety. Many students struggle to cope with the pressure of university on top of working, sometimes forty or more hours a week, to support their studies. A straightforward test becomes a life or death ordeal.

► Anxiety and social media don’t mix well.

To some degree, school assignment anxiety is mitigatable. Still, the root of the larger problem is remains unaddressed. We all need social support, reassurance and acceptance of self; many women and men seek support and reassurance on social media, which is not a good idea.

With the seemingly imminent fall of social media giants, such as Facebook, new hope is rising among their opponents. Men and women in need of support an

Realistically, it seems we must to get used to some form of anxiety; there’s no foreseeable let up. This means dealing with it head-on, which is how our distance ancestors likely dealt with it. Finding ways, off line, to meet, engage and exchange feelings, good and bad, with other women and men, face-to-face, is important.

Other forms of self-care are important for reducing anxiety. Exercise, meditation and, as a last resort, therapy are helpful. Although medication may help men and women that have tried other methods, the first part of any plan to combat anxiety should address non-medication alternatives.

Exercise elevates mood and reduces nervous energy, such as that created by social anxiety. You can’t be as anxious when you’re moving, as you can be when you’re stationary. The benefits of exercise linger, too.

Meditation can calm anxiety by drawing away from fear of the future and uncertainty, back into the present moment. Practicing good self-care, such as committing to fewer obligations, having alone time, getting a massage or having coffee with a friend, should not be underestimated.

► An overstimulating society can harm.

Although it is easy to brush aside anxiety as a symptom of an overstimulating society, filled with social pressure, it should not be underestimated. The suicide rates are climbing and chronic anxiety is a symptom of an unhealthy mental state that should be recognized, validated and treated using a method that works for the individual.

Hilary Thompson is an active freelance writer, on the environment and business. She is a mother of two. She runs on coffee and fumes.

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