Anxiety and depression amongst the younger generation is alarmingly on the rise. Hectic work schedules, family commitments, financial pressures and general life stressors all culminate to cause toxic environments in which most people operate. This environment is becoming increasingly prevalent among young professionals, with statistics now showing that lawyers, for example, now have the highest suicide rates of all professions.
I am a naturally anxious person. Ever since I was a child, I was a worrier and those ‘worries’, whether actual or imagined, have seemingly become exacerbated over time. Most days, my anxiety is manageable. It bubbles along under the surface of my brain and being. I manage to ignore it and it lets me be and leaves me to my own devices. Other days however, it is crippling. And I mean crippling. When anxiety overwhelms me, I become physically ill, psychologically unbalanced and mentally exhausted. I feel like I am trapped underwater, unable to breathe or talk. I have experienced full-blown anxiety attacks in the most public of places – airport lounges and in the middle of crowded New York City streets to name a few. It is absolutely debilitating.
Over the years, I have learned to develop various strategies when it comes to handling anxiety. I hope they help you too if you are one of the unfortunate people who experiences what I do.
When I am crippled with anxiety, I need to completely slow down and breathe. Try to become aware of your breath and stabilise it, listening to the air flow in and out of your nose. Try to be in a peaceful place when you do this and block out other distractions. Once you have your breath back, move on to the next strategies.
Sometimes I find I am most anxious when inside or in a confined environment. Although being outside amongst nature doesn’t always absolutely cure me of anxiety, it does help to an extent and it helps with stabilising my breathing.
As much as I try to push anxiety aside, quite often, when it comes on really strong, that just doesn’t work. If I can acknowledge its presence and let it sit with me, this can assist to a point. Crying can help too. Although it leaves me utterly exhausted, sometimes getting everything out with a good cry feels like my insides have been cleansed and I am ready to begin again and look at everything with a new perspective.
This is my go-to solution when things get really bad. If my anxiety is super powerful, I need to shut myself away from the world and sleep. I retreat to a dark comfortable space, whether that is on a bed or couch and slip away to the land of nod for a while. During these times, I don’t set an alarm or have someone wake me. I let my natural body clock determine when I’ve had enough rest and when I am once again ready to face the world.
I know that other activities like exercise and socialising help some people with anxiety and they may assist you too. I know however that when my anxiety is that bad, my body is physically too weak to exercise (even yoga) and too distracted and antsy to see friends. I am now at a point where I can recognise this and don’t feel guilty on the days where I simply cannot move or partake in social activities.
Anxiety is a personal thing and only you know what works best for your body in the circumstances. Feel free to let me know if you have any other strategies that work for you. In the meantime, stay well.