Updated: Aug 29
Feeling worried or tensed just before an interview, a test or anything significant is normal. It is our body’s natural and protective response towards stress. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a feeling of excessive worry, stress and apprehension that makes you fear the outcome of situations. It affects you physically - increases heartbeat, causes restlessness, sweating, and can make you feel dizzy. It is the feeling of wanting to control what comes next and if this fear starts interfering with your daily living, and exists for longer periods of time, such as 6 months or more, chances are you might be having an anxiety disorder. These disorders can be manifested in several ways like Panic Attacks, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety and Phobias.
According to the American Psychological Association, studies show that normal school-going children today report more anxiety than child psychiatric patients in the 1950's. Well, this stands true because, have we heard our grandparents or their parents ever mention they were anxious or depressed? Probably not. The question remains that, if anxiety and depression unlike other physical illnesses were not reported in our ancestors, what is it that makes us more vulnerable to have them? According to the WHO, 1 in 13 people globally, suffer from anxiety and that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders. Much like any physical disorder, they are as real and serious and need to be addressed with effective treatment.
One of the leading causes for the same is the modern yet hectic lifestyle that we’re living today. It may not occur to us how much our frenzied and restless lifestyle adds to our anxiety. The need to be perfect, the expectations we set, the demands we place, the way we battle and strive for excellence in every sphere of life adds to it. Working hard to achieve success is great until this rush stops you from enjoying the little moments. Today, we constantly want to achieve perfection in everything that we do. As adults, we feel the need to be flawless at our job, at maintaining relationships, at keeping up with the rest of the world and the list is never ending. What is worse is that we expect everyone to follow the same trend! Including young children! Yes, before they turn into responsible adults, they’re already burdened with the pressure to be excellent - in schools, in their grades, amongst friends and if that's not enough, we wish them to excel even in their extracurriculars. We are endlessly trying to please others, even if it is against our own will. We are taught since childhood to seek approval of those that we look upto and almost rarely or never are provided with the freedom to make mistakes. This puts on us an untold pressure to succeed in everything that we do.
This rat race of finishing school with the best grades only to graduate from a top university followed by a well-established job eventually takes a toll on us. It makes us a lot more stressed than the earlier times. What fuels this further is what we choose to do in our leisure time. Instead of spending time outdoors and getting some physical activity, most youth today spend it on social media, only causing more harm than good. The good part? Advances in technology and communication has brought us humans closer, where we can now interact with a greater diversity of people than our ancestors ever could and has also brought global achievements to light. However, what we fail to understand is that what we see online, on television and elsewhere is only the highlight reel of peoples’ lives. You wouldn’t want to see mediocre, mundane, normal living and hence happy-go-lucky and impeccable content makes it to our screens. Comparison to the same only creates more insecurities within us. It is important to understand that each of us have a timeline of our own that we need to work on without comparing it to the rest of the world.
Substance abuse, failure in relationships, abusive childhood, fear of traumatic events like mass shootings, school lockdowns, and other terror-striking news can also cause anxiety in young children. We are more prone to these conditions as compared to our elderly since these causes did not exist back then, in such extreme intensity as they do now.
Paulo Coehlo says “Anxiety was born in the very same moment as mankind. And since we will never be able to master it, we will have to learn to live with it—just as we have learned to live with storms.” Anxiety, like others can be treated by medications, therapy and lifestyle changes. Hence, it is of extreme importance to pay heed to the symptoms and get oneself diagnosed. Simple changes like getting adequate sleep, eating the right kind of food, being mindful, meditation and getting some physical activity can create a healthier state of mind. It is also necessary to keep our vitamins and hormones in check and make sure we are fit both physically and mentally. With the right interventions and more unstigmatized conversations, we can make dealing with anxiety a lot easier.