The anxiety epidemic

Today on average 1 in 4 people experience anxiety: 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some stage in their life – Beyond Blue.[1] In 2017 Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute[2] reported that 1 in 4 teenagers meet the criteria for having a “probably serious mental illness” involving anxiety; this is an increase of 20% since 2012.

With so many people of all generations experiencing anxiety in our communities, it is important to understand where anxiety begins and why it can disturb and unsettle us so greatly. We don’t start out life anxious and withdrawn, as long as we are born into environments that are loving and nurturing, and yet anxiety is now very prevalent, felt and rising amongst our younger generation, with parents commenting more frequently that children are stressing over their performance and social aspects at school.

It is our sensitivity to everything we are feeling that is being heightened and threatened. With little or no understanding of why we are feeling disturbed, unsafe, and reacting to what we are sensing in life that is not true or loving, the anxiety will only escalate and feel like a wall that is insurmountable.

Where does it begin?

As a young child we don’t have much say in what is going on around us – how our family operates, how the people around us talk to each other, the choices that are being made and the rhythm and pace in which the family operates: nor in regards to our more external environments such as preschool and school and what we are exposed to of what is happening out in the greater world.

All of these factors and outside influences infringe on and determine how safe and secure we feel from day to day. Our bodies have a natural inbuilt harmony radar that records a homeostasis (balance) and picks up the slightest disturbance or nuance of discordance, and as such registers this as a significant impact on our nervous system. The greatest and most resounding feeling we register is the disconnection between those around us, and usually those we are most intimately connected to and in relationship with. This feeling of disconnection then impacts our ability to feel safe and secure in the world, especially for a young child who is dependent on parents for nurturing and care. It can be scary to feel that those caring for us, such as mum, dad and teachers, in lacking presence with themselves, will be unable to feel and connect with what is truly going on for us.

For all of us as a human collective it is very disturbing to feel one another not connected in essence. From that disconnection it is impossible to truly meet or acknowledge another in their sensitivity, leading to a lack of trust in our feeling and honouring our own sensitivity, resulting in us looking for more security outside of ourselves. However, this abandonment of being in tune with our own innate wisdom can only result in a feeling of stress and anxiety as we untether ourselves from what we know to be true and instead look to those around us to show us how we are ‘supposed to be’ in this world.

Anxiety is a hidden epidemic running often undetected in the human body; a pattern of behaviour that then becomes ‘known’ and normal and is often passed on from one generation to another.

As a young child we become used to our body’s indicators of stress from anxiety as ‘our normal’ because we have nothing to compare with as an alternative to what our ‘normal’ environment is. In the pressure to fit in to this ‘seemingly normal environment’, we learn to disconnect from our innate knowingness – the communication from our Soul – resulting in a relentless search for security and recognition from those around us and from the outside world. Thus begins the pattern of anxiousness causing a ‘dis-ease’ in the body, a lack of self-confidence and self-doubt, circulating and feeding the anxiousness to become even more pronounced.

As people age they can become very used to and familiar with symptoms of anxiety, often perceiving them as ‘normal’, even part of their personality or behaviour, it’s ‘just the way they are’! This happens partly because the symptoms are being experienced from a very young age and therefore they get used to them in their body, and also from being totally unaware of what the symptoms of anxiety actually are.

Imagine if we were raised and imparted with an understanding that our bodies naturally know and communicate with us exactly what is needed in every given moment. If something is not right we will get a message from our body to say it has picked up a measure of disharmony, and if we listen to this signal then we can know how to support ourselves more deeply in the midst of that disharmony, rather than automatically giving all our focus to what is happening around us and in that distraction, allowing the symptoms of anxiety in the body to become incrementally worse day by day.

Symptoms of anxiety

Symptoms of anxiety can be mild to debilitating – inhibiting people from leaving the home, obtaining jobs, travelling, socialising, holding down employment and even being in relationships. Symptoms can also accumulate and intensify, leading to various states of depression and self-harming practices that specifically numb us from the feelings of angst and unsettlement that are the underlying symptoms of anxiety. These self-harming practices, such as drinking alcohol, consuming recreational drugs, excessive use of prescription drugs, cutting or burning of skin, deprivation or overeating of food, excessive gaming, obsessive exercise, shopping or watching television, can become a constant craving in the void of our disconnection from our Soul and our ability to feel what is truly going on for us.

These behaviours can consume us for a period of time, but can never replace the true settlement felt when we choose to reconnect to our innermost truth and then are able to read the energetic outplay going on around us without becoming part of it ourselves.

Symptoms of anxiety can vary physically, behaviourally and emotionally. These are just some examples from the many being experienced by people on a daily basis.

For a diagnosis you will need to see a doctor, but this is a useful guide:

  • Racing heartbeat, a feeling of breathlessness or quickening of the breath
  • Finding it hard to talk and articulate what you are trying to say
  • Panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, excessive sweating, tightening of the chest, restlessness, or feeling tense
  • Wound up and edgy, ‘butterflies’ or feeling sick in the stomach, shaking
  • Excessive fear, worrying about things a lot of the time, catastrophising, or obsessive thinking
  • Inability to get to sleep or constant waking throughout the night
  • Avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life, withdrawing from friends and family
  • Having trouble concentrating or paying attention
  • Feeling frequently annoyed irritated and restless.

As we age the triggers for anxiety can change; however, what does stay consistent is that the symptoms of anxiety are our body’s way of saying that it does not feel safe or steady, nor supported in relation to what is happening around us.

What if?

What if anxiety symptoms are our body’s way of sounding an alarm bell and can therefore provide a moment to stop and sense what we are reacting to?

  • Symptoms of anxiety show us that we are allowing everything around us to have more focus, influence and importance than our deeper relationship with ourselves and how we need to support ourselves
  • What if anxiety is magnified by absorbing other people’s issues?
  • What if anxiety was a barometer within the body that measured our own disconnection from our true feelings?
  • What if the overwhelm and pressure that having anxiety brings is directly related to loss of self-empowerment and being in our authority?

If we have a willingness to heal, what is extremely powerful is understanding that the condition of anxiety does not have to own us, but can be a learnt response that can arise from not feeling prepared to deal with, stand up to, or perhaps take responsibility for the situations around us. There is an opportunity to heal the patterns of anxiety through living more closely in relationship with our body and our Soul; listening to the wisdom being shared with us through our body and re-learning how to express our truth.

Throughout life we are not taught to first and foremost highly appreciate, prioritise and honour our sensitivity, and to listen to what our body is showing us. What we observe in those around us is often a struggling with life and for answers themselves.

Our current setup in life invites us to search outside of ourselves for the secret to ‘success’ and security, when, in truth, we are already everything that we need to be to feel completely full-filled and steady within. The real challenge is how to live this and be our true selves in a world that is trying to lure us away from this known truth for a promise of ‘something better’, which doesn’t actually exist, and is always changing, thus not offering a true foundation to grow and develop from within.

We can develop an intimate relationship with our body with an understanding of what the symptoms of anxiety are actually revealing to us. These symptoms, as difficult as they can be to experience, are in fact a good and true thing, as without this direct communication from our bodies how would we be aware of the internal discord that we are choosing to ignore, numb, and cover up? With a willingness to be honest comes deeper awareness and an understanding:

a: That we are being affected by life and the energy around us

b: The extent to which we are being affected

c: That we need to support ourselves more deeply.

A practical approach, or where do I start?

A useful exercise can be taking notes each day over a week or so about how you’re feeling; take note of when you notice the symptoms of anxiety. What’s happening around you? What are you picking up on or reacting to? Is it the tone of someone’s voice, or thinking you have done something wrong, facing a bully in the workplace, having to speak up against a wrongdoing, feeling that something is out of your control, lacking confidence, feeling unprepared or ill-equipped to deal with the situation at hand?

You will start to get to know what your anxiety triggers are. Triggers of anxiety vary from person to person. It may be that you’re getting anxious about a presentation you are giving, about finding your way somewhere, about a conversation you need to have in your relationship, or simply about having to get out of bed to start your day?

Start to get familiar with what symptoms your body presents as anxiety indicators; start to listen to the early whispers from your body before it has to get louder and more pronounced to gain your attention.

The patterns of what’s triggering your anxiety can then become clearer, more obvious and identifiable and from this the next steps present – via inner impulses from the body – as to what you personally can do to support, nurture and care for yourself more deeply. It’s an opportunity to truly appreciate how our bodies are actually constantly working to bring us back to a state of harmony. We may not be consciously aware, but when we disconnect from our Soul, we are the ones choosing to disturb this balance within.

How can I connect more to my body?

The Gentle Breath Meditation™ is a great tool to help slow down the business of life and develop connection to your body.

There are many additional daily things that we can do to help reduce our personal triggers of anxiety, for example: preparing for your next day the night before by doing things such as making the kids lunches, packing bags for the next day, or laying out what you are going to wear, preparing your notes for a presentation or meeting, or mapping out the night before how you are going to get somewhere if navigating your way is a trigger for you. Going to bed a bit earlier and getting up earlier so that you have more time to get ready in the morning and prepare for your own and your family’s day without rushing can greatly support having a good platform from which to start your day. Talking to a trusted friend or counsellor about your worries and insecurities can also be a great avenue of support. These suggestions can provide practical support, however, in order to address the root cause, and replace our anxiety with true settlement within, it begins with us choosing to re-connect with ourselves and trust in all that we feel to be true, thereby allowing us to be less affected by what is going on around us.

Supporting ourselves through some of these practical and self-loving steps and learning to alleviate our anxiety triggers will not only impact on how we feel every day, but also on how we are with others and, therefore, the effect that we have on those around us. Just as others may have impacted on us through their behaviour in life, so too do we have an impact on those around us.

As we re-connect and return to a way of living that reflects the truth of who we are, we offer others the possibility that there is another way to be – a way that is of our choosing, a known way, where we have the confidence to trust in all that we feel.

We then show that anxiety isn’t who we are, but a symptom of how we become when we are not connected to Soul. What a gift this is to pass on from one generation to another, instead of the ‘anxiety’ that comes from disconnection.

References:

  • [1]

    Beyond Blue - https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety

  • [2]

    Black dog Institute - https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

Filed under

HealingStressAwarenessAnxietyOverwhelmMental health

  • By Katie Walls

    Katie is a sensitive soul, loving mother of three teenage children, wife and friend. Katie is a Universal Medicine therapies, complimentary medicine practitioner and Director of the Gentle Rhythms healing clinic in Sydney.

  • Photography: Matt Paul