Right now, my life is going pretty great. I have a great job, a great boyfriend, great friends, great family, and, best of all, we’re in great health (*touches wood*). I should be jumping out of bed and bouncing off the walls, surely? But instead, I’m riddled with fear.
Every day I think, ‘When is something going to go wrong? When is my bubble going to burst?’. Please don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for the life I have...I’m just terrified of losing it, and all too aware that I am not invincible. I’m constantly on edge, just waiting for something bad to happen, and there’s a big lump in my throat—all the time! Earlier I used to think, ‘That’ll never happen to me’ when tragedies flashed up on the news or when I heard of heartbreak IRL, but now I’m more of the mindset, ‘It definitely can—and probably will—happen to me’.
Sounds morbid, doesn’t it? But I’m far from alone. Chances are you can relate to what I’m saying. Anxiety, after all, is a very common issue. According to the report, Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders by the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people had depression worldwide in 2015 alone. Nearly the same number suffered from a range of anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder or generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), where you worry a lot about pretty much everything. Also, this doesn’t even take into account people who aren’t diagnosed but feel anxious often.
And then there are those of us who just feel, well, anxious every now and then. “Anxiety or nervousness is a normal, natural, human emotion,” says Dr Stephen Carbone, Director, Prevention United, a mental health charity based in Australia. “We all worry to some degree...and usually it’s related to something we are about to do, like an article deadline or an exam.” Sure, I worry about being late for an important meeting or impressing in a job interview, which is totally normal, but I also worry about cancer, car crashes, bombs, break-ups, losing my teeth, that rogue hair on my chin (seriously, what’s up with that?), whether or not people like me, getting fired—everything, all the time. I’m a bona fide stress head, and it’s exhausting, and at times, completely suffocating.
“When you feel that worry is always on your mind, and is causing you to drift off track, procrastinate or avoid something because you’re concerned it’s going to go badly, then that might be in the category where it is an anxiety condition [instead of just general situational anxiousness],” explains Dr Stephen.
It seems anxiety is an epidemic sweeping through our world. Most, if not all, of my friends are tense and worried on a day-to-day basis. Why are we all so overwhelmed?
Our basic needs are more than met, we have access to food, water and, for the vast majority of us, a place to sleep. Now we have what’s been coined the ‘luxury to worry’, and we seem to lap it up. To be frank, we’re a narcissistic bunch—‘generation me’—and we’re obsessed with, well, us. We’re consumed with our own image, our riches, how many ‘Likes’ on Facebook we get, and it doesn’t help that we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others. Theoretically, it’s great to be drip and have goals, but we are placing huge expectations on ourselves. Our high levels of self-consciousness have given way to a rise in social anxiety, where there’s a fear of being judged and criticised by others. This is especially true for us women, who keep striving to fit into society’s ideal image.
Further, we’re bombarded with grief every single day. Dr Stephen agrees, “There’s a lot of sh*t in the world.” So, unless we turn our backs on everything and hide in a hole, we’re going to hear about all the bad, sad, and ugly things in our world (the good ones, too, but they’re not as headline-grabbing). When I hear of tragedies across the globe, my brain gets sent into overdrive, thinking, ‘When is something bad going to happen in my world??!’.
“It’s not anyone’s fault that these things happen... Yes, it does make you think about life and humanity and your part in it, but it is all about doing your best. Live the best life you can, help others, but don’t feel it’s all your responsibility,” explains Dr Stephen.
He’s right. Yes, I’ll probably always be a worrier, but now instead of fearing what may or may not be, I am going to try to focus on actually enjoying the fact that, right now, I do have a great life. And I shouldn’t feel guilty about that. “We have the right to be happy and healthy,” says Dr Stephen. “Yes, we have to look out for others, but we also have to look out for ourselves.”
IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE ANXIETY...
DR Stephen SUGGESTS A FEW OPTIONS
GO SEE YOUR GENERAL PHYSICIAN
They can make a diagnosis and refer you to a therapist or suggest another treatment.
Try Online therapies
There are a tonne of websites that offer information as well as possible treatment options. Just ensure it’s a reliable site.
LOOK AT YOUR LIFESTYLE
“It’s about getting out, having fun, enjoying life, being with friends, family, getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy...those are important,” says Dr Stephen.