You’re probably all too familiar with that unwanted heart-racing blood-rushing feeling that floods you when you remember what you forgot to do, or when you realize how much you have to do. You probably are well acquainted with the tightness in your chest and dull ache in your shoulders that comes from switching from your computer desktop to your phone to your laptop to your notes. You’re probably used to that sinking feeling of uncertainty that accompanies all of the tough decisions that you make on a daily basis.
You know these feelings right? You probably know them as the dreaded anxiety.
You’re not the only one out there dealing with this pesky little (or big) friend. No, not at all. Our generation is actually known as the “anxious generation,” and I am not making this up. We are the most anxious generation in history. And honestly, does this really come as a surprise? Of course we are the anxious generation. Of course we are stressed and busy and overwhelmed in 2017. We are all hooked to our phones and obsessed with social media. We are all constantly on call for work. We are chugging caffeine instead of sleeping, and we are constantly on the go, like high-tech robots.
Here’s the deal: You are anxious, and you don’t know what to do to feel better. I know that you want a quick “fix.” Unfortunately, there is no one-sized fits all solution to anxiety. Anxiety is here for a reason, and the reason can be different for everyone. But, if you want to start lessening the pain in your shoulders and slowing down your racing heart, I suggest that you start to consider some of the more obvious factors that are contributing to your anxiety.
Get candid about what it is that is making you anxious. Be honest with yourself. Are you spending too much time on your phone? Are you not taking any breaks at work? Once you have some solid, concrete factors, you can finally start conquering your anxiety!
Here’s the honest truth behind why you are so anxious:
1. You have too many choices.
Choices can be great, right? They give us freedom. They give us power. But lately we have too many choices. You may be completely overwhelmed with all of the decisions you have to confront every single day. When you were little, you were probably told that you could do or be anything you wanted. But now this is incredibly daunting. What should you do for grad school? Where should you work? Should you go out tonight? Should you interview for a new job? Are you settling? Our futures are not as concrete as we may have expected. We have many more options in terms of colleges and careers than people did years ago, and we face much more societal pressure to be successful!
2. You’re constantly panicking about making the wrong decision.
With all of these decisions and choices, your main concern is that you will make the wrong decision. Well, good and bad news – you’re never going to know if a decision is wrong or right in the moment because you can’t predict the future. Try taking some pressure off yourself by realizing that if the decision doesn’t turn out how you hoped, you can also change directions. Nothing in this world is permanent.
3. You aren’t giving yourself enough credit.
You’re taking all of your successes for granted. In your mind, high school graduation and college graduation were just expected of you, so you brush them off like they are nothing. Give yourself some credit! These are great accomplishments, and you worked to get to where you are today! Start giving yourself credit for even the little things. Pay more attention to your little and big successes.
4. You are rushing every second of every day.
We are in such a rush! In high school we took college courses. In college we were pushed to graduate early. Then we are expected to know exactly what to do with our lives. So then we do it. We work. We see friends. We workout. We try to have hobbies. We are too busy. Slow down a little. It may seem ridiculous, but actually get out your planner and schedule in some spare time.
5. Your phone is taking over your life.
Our phones are essentially little anxiety-provoking machines. We are constantly on-call for work, and are available to friends, siblings, and parents via phone 24/7. We aren’t used to actually relaxing and just being in the moment with no distractions. Science has even proven that we truly get a little high (a blast of positive reinforcement) from that all too familiar beep or vibration that notifies us from our pocket.
6. Social media is literally taking over our generation.
We are becoming obsessed with how many people like our photos, and with who did or didn’t view our snapchat story. Even worse, we see what are friends are doing at every second of every day, and then we compare. We compare our clothes, our faces, our Friday night plans, our friends, our relationship statuses, and our jobs, simply because we see (with great detail) what everyone else is doing. Plus, we start to let “likes” on social media determine our worth and value. We think that the number of likes on a selfie equates to being liked or loved.
7. You are surrounded by photoshopped images.
We are constantly comparing ourselves to flawless, edited, photoshopped photos that apparently define society’s version of beauty. The majority of the images we absorb every day are photoshopped, edited, and filtered to portray a fake, flawless definition of beauty. We are no longer seeing real people. Constant exposure to this one type of “beauty” (if you will) is obviously going to make us anxious because it’s a) unattainable, and b) fake. We are are never going to feel good enough if we compare ourselves to these unrealistic standards. It’s hard to constantly feel like we aren’t thin or curvy or flawless enough. Exposure to these photoshopped people is part of the reason why we see so many people facing eating disorders and so much individuals engaging in body shaming and negative self talk.
8. You are constantly under pressure to live the “perfect” life.
We never have a finish line in sight in terms of when we are going to be “enough,” because the pressure just keeps on coming. There is more pressure to graduate college now than there used to be. And aside from that, we are under pressure to apply to rigorous schools. Then, we graduate, and we are supposed to find perfect jobs right out of college. Then we are supposed to get married. Then we are expected to buy a nice house. Then we are supposed to have children. Then we are supposed to continue to work full-time and raise our children, while simultaneously drinking green juice, practicing yoga, and having time for coffee with the girls. There’s so much pressure! Try avoiding some of this pressure and take life a little slower. Figure out what your priorities are in life….what makes you happy, what makes you feel motivated and of course HAPPY, and put most of your time and energy into these. You’re not letting anyone down by doing what is the most meaningful to you (and doing it in whatever order you please). You can’t do everything, and you don’t need to feel like you should be able to.
9. We buy cheap food rather than buying good nourishing stuff.
When your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs, not only is your energy level affected, but so is your mood. You’re more likely to be anxious if your body is not well nourished. Now, you don’t need to spend all of your money on healthy, organic, raw (etc.) food to nourish your body. You don’t need to go crazy and go on some extreme juice cleanse. Just try adding in one extra serving of leafy greens a day. Try substituting in some whole grains for refined grains. Eat foods that are high in protein and healthy fats. Take some time to browse the aisles of Trader Joe’s – they have plenty of (fun) healthy, nourishing foods.. When you are well nourished, your body and your mind will both thrive.
10. Coffee coffee coffee.
Coffee is unfortunately not a valid replacement for sleep. It stimulates our nervous systems, making us more anxious, and it also doesn’t allow our brains to rewire and reset like sleep does. Caffeine even messes with your neurotransmitters as it inhibits GABA, one of the main calming neurotransmitters. So the moral of the story is make time for sleep. Seriously. Coffee isn’t the devil, however a couple of extra hours of zzz’s a week will make ALL of the difference.