Life is full. Full of so many things that sometimes it gets confusing. And there are times when it gets so confusing, that we can no longer seem to see anything. It happens to all of us, and it can be stressful, riddled with anxiety, and can get so bad that it becomes overwhelming. Welcome to the 21st Century!
Anxiety can hit anyone at any time and can trigger all manner of automatic responses, including very powerful physical ones. Out of nowhere, you can suddenly feel like you're under attack, with your body wanting to flee, and your mind so influenced by the sudden surge of adrenaline, that you feel like your head might explode. To anyone who is feeling like that right now, I want to share with you that everything is OK. And what I mean by that is that it is OK to feel this. It's OK to feel the intensity of anxiety, and it's OK to feel the desperation of feeling powerless to make it stop. It's OK to feel.
The world we live in now is so full of the ridiculous and the unnatural, that the Fight-or-Flight response (the automatic response to stressful situations) can be triggered by the seemingly most innocuous thing. We live in a heightened state of reality, where we are alert to every ding on our phone, every tiny notification, every phone that's ringing, so many people around us, so much noise, so much stimulation, so much activity. Life in the 21st Century has programmed us to be super-alert, ready to pounce any message, any post, any call, and any danger sign. Is it any wonder that anxiety is one of the fasted growing issues in our society. We have created a world filled with it.
Social media feeds it at every turn. There's the pressure to look the best, eat the best, be social the best, take the best photographs, read the best articles, share the best news...i mean, seriously? And much of what we see isn't real anyway. Because there is so much pressure that people are actually going out of their way to do things and pretend so much, just to meet the social demands of social media, that their whole online world is actually a lie. They might have had a TERRIBLE time on that holiday, but their perfect pics will tell you otherwise. Their relationship might be falling apart, but their photographs show couple perfection. They haven't slept properly in weeks, but their perfect baby pictures paint the lie of the perfect family, the perfect baby in the cutest attire, and a mother who looks like she just stepped off of a catwalk. Seriously? Is this the benchmark we have set ourselves?
When I was growing up, there was great fear about how magazines, television and the media was influencing a generation to strive for perfection. Now, we do it to each other, perpetuating the lie, creating more cliques, and for those who are feeling anything truly raw, there's a sense of being an outcast. We are cruel.
Here's the truth. Life is messy. Humans are complicated...EXTREMELY complicated. Living is a raw experience where we can't control a lot of what happens to us. Being alive can be hard, and having intense feelings harder still. If we were living off the land with no electronic connections, life would still be hard, because it takes effort to stay alive, just like any other earthly creature. We need to feed our lives every day with what is necessary, not what is harmful, and stupidly high expectations are potentially life-threateningly harmful.
It's OK to feel. It's OK and natural to feel overwhelmed by our society, by our expectation, and by our concerns, because life in this current climate in overwhelmingly concerning. It's perfectly natural to feel that there’s too much going on, because there actually is. And it’s ok to feel intense anxiety about so many things, because we are now programmed to feel that way.
So what can we do?
Well, we can start by simplifying some things in our lives. Change your social media settings on your phone so they don’t ding every time someone makes a comment or hits a like button. Hide some people from your social media feed for a while, if their posts regularly trigger something in your that you don’t like. You can always add them back later on. Remove your email from your phone altogether, and only check it when you’re ready to take the time to answer. Remove yourself from unwanted mailing lists, or even change your email address if the spam gets too bad. Any why not turn your phone off for a while? Do you really have to be ready to pounce at the slightest sound?
Turn off that radio and television, for goodness sake! Those things are like Anxiety pills for your mind! Get rid of the programming of the media, and instead choose perhaps a streaming service to watch just topics and films you like, without being bombarded with marketing brainwashing hype.
Take the time to work out what really makes you feel happy and content. For me, the simple pleasures of making homemade pizza and watching Netflix tick all my Saturday night boxes. I don’t share these things on social media. They are moments that belong to me, not to the world. I don’t need to have everyone’s attention for 5 seconds of scroll to make me feel like a real person. I’d rather not have others watching me and my private life, but instead would rather be living it. I don’t need documentation of the flower I found as I went walking. I’d rather breathe deeply and smell the sweetness of freedom, something that no photograph could ever capture.
Making changes, small and large, can ease the heightened mindset, and go towards reducing many triggers associated with anxiety. It won’t necessarily take anxious thinking away, but it can give you back your headspace, where you might just be able to think a little clearer, kind of like adding little breathing spaces in between your thoughts. Not only might you start finding clarity, but you just might discover something new and wonderful about yourself that you never knew before.
Tania Rose is a musician, artist, and author of the books Mindful Nurturing, Mindful Change (TBA 2017) and HEAD FRAK! Living with a creative mind (TBA 2017)
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