What is anxiety and is it that bad for us?
Are you anxious sometimes? I, myself, was never anxious and I lived carefree and untroubled every day. Until the 24th October 2012, the day I had a major accident and was jerked away from the illusion I was always living in. Suddenly I realized I’m not invulnerable. Anxiety became omnipresent in my life. This can be so frustrating and terrifying. It kept derailing me from the paths towards my goals. After interviewing tons of people and doing some thorough research, I detected a trend. In the 21st century, anxiety has become more present. I’m a person who likes to get things done. I really hated it when anxiety impeded me from reaching my goals. In the fast-moving 21st century we have more goals and want to achieve more things. Anxiety can often be seen as an obstacle impeding you from reaching them.
~20% of people in the US suffer from an anxiety disorder
Where does our anxiety response come from?
But first off, is anxiety that bad? Doesn’t it protect us from making the wrong decisions sometimes? Anxiety to a reasonable extent is not that bad. It is like a psychological throwback to an earlier evolutionary time. A time when our ancestors had to be on constant alert. They needed to be ready to call upon their fight or flight response. When they were being chased by predators or when an enemy was lurking around every corner ready to attack them. Anxiety was a means to survive and not that much of a bad thing. But nowadays, we do not need anxiety to that extent anymore.
What’s the impact of this heightened anxiety response?
In the present day, for some of us, anxiety strikes at the most unexpected moments. It makes us imagine that things in our lives are far worse than they really are. The effect of those anxieties can be quite debilitating. Anxiety can result in fear, uncertainty, and the avoidance of certain behaviors. It affects our ability to function normally, and even convince us that we’re losing our minds. Frustratingly, it often even leads to other related psychological conditions, like substance abuse and mental disorders. The strange thing is, we don’t need that amount of anxiety in this current society anymore. But we experience it almost to the same extent as our ancestors who were running away from predators.
You must agree with me that anxiety is omnipresent nowadays. Why are we still constantly afraid of what other people think and whether the future holds a positive life for us? Is this all life-threatening? No, it’s not. Then why worry? Our brain has become incapable of processing anxieties and confuses the present time with our ancestors’ times. I really believe that we have actually come to worry even more. So why do we worry and stress even more than we did 50 years ago? Have we evolved into stress creatures? Is this part of evolution? I don’t believe so. I think the following three trends have evoked more stress in us.
The first stress-inducing trend: Increased expectations of ourselves and each other
The rat race has accelerated in our personal and professional lives. Through the constant stream of persuasive media content and our innate urge to be considered powerful, we have created a society of impressing each other. Consequently, this has resulted in that we feel constantly high expectations and internal pressure to improve and succeed. Family-, friend- and most definitely work gatherings are all centered around impressing each other with your latest achievements, certifications, and phenomenal life experiences. You feel like an outcast if you haven’t obtained at least some of the achievements those around you have.
The first trend is a double-edged sword with one side being our nature to make ourselves known within groups and to adapt to the group standard. On the other side, the media fuels our desire to be the best and have an exceptional and memorable life. Due to social media, we are now able to measure ourselves not only against the people we see face to face but to all the people we are connected with throughout the world. This constant pressure pushes us to enroll in at least two university courses, do a bunch of different sports and maintain tons of relationships. We are pushed to leave the status quo and gravitate towards change, and every life change brings with it a new load of anxiety.
The second stress-inducing trend: Increased media exposure and transparency
You turn on the television and you’re immediately overwhelmed by a cascade of misery. There’s an increase in school shootings. We see news about shootings in public places. There have been numerous terrorist attacks across Europe, the US and all over the world, taking many lives. It’s reasonable for our brains to make the connection between a public place and a place that is unsafe. The part of our brain that wants to protect us from harm is working overtime. It’s activated so frequently that we tend to mistrust anything new around us. Think about it, if you had seen two assaults on a community center on TV, would you feel safe going to your own community center the next evening? These media-induced anxieties make us believe that the world will end tomorrow. This impedes us from living carefree and in the moment.
The third stress-inducing trend: The surreal interconnectedness of everybody nowadays
The subconscious, negative effect of social media
The world is so beautiful because we can connect with everyone. It is amazing. But is it really? Do you really feel a proper connection with those thousands of people you’re linked with on social media? I haven’t met a single person who does. Every time we engage with social media content our conscious mind thinks “this is not an important connection and I am not going to care too much”. But, at the same time, your subconscious is triggered as well. Every time you scroll through your social media feed, consciously you might think:
- That person again who always wants to look pretty
- Hello person who is always traveling
- there’s that person again who is really making a career for himself
However, our subconscious might think:
- I also want to have that person’s looks
- I would like to be traveling now as well
- I am never going to be promoted
Every time you open your social media feed, you open up a can of anxiety-inducing worms.
Social media pulls you away from living in the present and enjoying the current moment. My grandmother never used social media and she was the happiest person on earth. I swear! She was enjoying all these little things, like a squirrel jumping around in the garden or the mailman stopping by for a chat. When I lived in Nepal, many Nepali people didn’t have an internet connection, let alone social media. Though, I never saw such a happy and, at the same time, poor country.
Social media’s positive contributions
Nevertheless, social media does add something to our society as well. We can maintain connections better and can get inspired and informed more easily.
But it certainly has increased the amount of anxiety that we are experiencing. I’m not the only one saying this. Researchers have found that using social media extensively causes more than just anxiety. In fact, testing has found that frequent internet usage can lead to depression, mental disorders, paranoia, and loneliness.
The symptoms of excessive anxiety (or generalized anxiety disorder)
Everyone has anxiety from time to time. No big deal. It is part of being human. Chronic excessive anxiety, however, can interfere with your quality of life. It can have serious consequences for your physical health. Anxiety is really toxic and to drive the point home, I would like to share twelve of its many negative implications.
- Feelings of impending doom resulting in difficulty to concentrate
- Panic Attacks
- Irregular heartbeat
- Breathing problems
- Loss of libido
- Upset stomach
- Extreme fatigue
- Increase in blood pressure
- Muscle aches
I’m not listing these negative effects to make you feel anxious, but I hope to plant the seed of awareness about the importance of coping with anxiety the right way.
Next, if you detect one of the anxiety symptoms I just listed, then please talk to a professional. It would be my honor to help you find the right support. Just drop me a note and I’ll let you know what online and offline support channels I recommend. Amplio primarily helps prevent you from getting to the stage where you exhibit these symptoms. As a result of following our online course and make anxiety management a part of your daily routine, you will eradicate severe anxiety from your life. Anxiety ebbs and flows, you’ll experience periods of heightened anxiety alternating with periods of barely any. Through Amplio’s lessons, you’ll always be able to manage the downs and enjoy the ups.