Anxiety. It’s the hot button of this generation. It’s the feeling that can hinder our other emotions and daily lives. It’s the rapidly growing issue that’s provoking a larger discourse about mental health. Anxiety. It’s no longer just a funny feeling in your stomach. For some, it’s a full-blown state of being.
My first memory of being knowingly anxious was in 8th grade. I was lying in the dark next to my best friend at a sleepover and we were debating what to do with a piece of knowledge that we had accidentally found out. It was knowledge that could get someone in trouble, and our 13-year-old selves weren’t sure if the issue was important enough to confess what we knew. I remember telling her that my mind wouldn’t quiet enough to fall asleep and that we just had to resolve our dilemma if I was going to be able to function normally. She told me that she felt the same way, adding that her whole body felt restless and that she had butterflies in her stomach, but not the excited kind. She told me that this feeling was called anxiety.
Since then, I’ve had countless experiences with anxiety and have come to know the feeling well, as I know many others have. I think anxiety has hit our generation especially hard because with social media and technology, we are never unplugged anymore. We are constantly ambushed with pictures of other people’s gourmet meals, idyllic vacations, runway-worthy outfits, perfect physiques, and homes that seem to have been pulled straight from a magazine. It’s enough to inspire envy in anyone, making us feel like our lives aren’t good enough and that WE aren’t good enough. It’s a real downer and a serious hit to our collective confidence.
Anxiety feels different to everyone, but to me, it is a tightening of my chest and a fluttering in my stomach. My heart sets up camp in my throat and refuses to leave. Every cell in my body seems alight with nervousness and restlessness. My mind won’t stop replaying the issue at hand. On one end of the spectrum, it is bearable and I am able to somewhat ignore this sensation as I go about my daily life, effectively distracting myself from the thing that triggered the anxiety. On the other end of the spectrum, the anxiety drives me nuts to the point where I can’t focus on anything else and I have to get the negative energy out of my system.
Now I’m not saying that I have the best coping mechanisms, but what definitely helps me is talking it out with friends, who are always ready with the perfect words of support and advice. I also enjoy journaling, where I can talk to God about the problem and hand it over to Him. Sometimes, I’ll feel like I need to be moving and doing something, so I’ll go for a walk or run. Other times, I’ll cook or bake to occupy my hands and mind. Clearing my head by blasting good music is also a favorite option of mine.
What other coping mechanisms work for you guys? While I don’t think that the issue of anxiety will ever disappear, I do believe that having a great community (like us!) eases it. It’s also a necessary discussion to have, as anxiety continues to grow and affect younger and younger generations. The more we are all on each other’s team, the more effective we can be in tackling this crazy thing called anxiety.