As I sit here writing, I have a stash of articles beside me that I have been pulling from magazines and newspapers over recent weeks. They are all to do with what one friend calls the current ‘buzz word of the nation’ – anxiety.
Everywhere I look there are references to a collective grip of anxiety that has a hold on people from all walks of life. According to the National Institute for Mental Health in the U.S., anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting 40 million adults (18% of the U.S population). In the UK it is a very similar situation; The Mental Health Foundation cites mixed anxiety and depression as the most common mental disorder in Britain.
Clearly there is an issue. The positive side of all this – at least it is out on the table. People are talking about it, including famous people. In an interview in Vogue the actress Emma Stone talks about the terror of panic attacks – her solution is to head to the kitchen and begin baking to overcome her anxiety.
The downside of all this collective awareness is that it soon becomes accepted as the new ‘normal’. A recent column in the Guardian said exactly that: “It’s normal to feel anxious – and these days there is plenty to worry about”. I disagree. There is a big difference between the average experience and what is normal.
This is a complex and important topic. I’m not going to fully address all the issues in one blog post – I see a series of articles coming on this one…
Rather than get caught in a surface level discussion, I want to begin by going back to the fundamentals:
what is anxiety?
why do people feel anxious?
how we can deal with it in an effective and natural way?
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a diluted expression of a base emotion known as fear.
Fear is one of the many manifestations of stress.
Stress comes about when we are unable to adapt to the ever-changing demands of life.
The demands of life have always been there and always will be there, though they change over time.
Fear is borne of a lack of knowledge.
When we lack knowledge we become fearful.
The lack of knowledge is on many levels:
– lack of knowledge of who we really are
– lack of knowledge of what the Laws of Nature are up to
– lack of knowledge of our innate capabilities to respond to demands in the most appropriate way
Anxiety is in the body.
Anxiety may feel like it is all in the mind, however the anxiety tainted stress gets trapped and held in our bodies. It may start in the mind in the form of worries, concerns or doubts and yet the impact of the stress is at a physiological level – heart pounding, tightness in the chest, headaches, pressure behind the temples, sweating, shortness of breath, numbness in the body… An anxious mind equals an anxious body.
Our natural human condition is not to be consistently overwhelmed by fear. This is NOT normal.
In my next article on this subject I will explore what it means to lack knowledge of who you really are.