Anxiety and you
Anxiety has become a common mental health problem in today’s fast-paced world. Contrary to popular belief, It is not limited to any particular age group and can affect anyone from a young student to a senior citizen. I’ve seen many thinking that anxiety only affects today’s younger generation. Step into my shoes and see—anxiety affects seniors just as much. It’s only that it’s a lot more invisible when it comes to them.
What’s worse is that anxiety can have a debilitating effect on a person’s life and can even spread to others around them!
When it comes to young students, they are increasingly feeling the pressure to perform well academically and are prone to anxiety. The fear of failure and the pressure to excel has caused anxiety to surface in so many children and teenagers. It also manifests into physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, and even panic attacks! Anxiety can also lead to a lack of concentration, making it difficult for young students to focus on their studies. Such is the condition that we often see kids needing counseling and resorting to desperate measures during exams, to try and combat anxiety in their own way.
Working professionals are also susceptible to anxiety. In the workplace, the pressure to meet deadlines and achieve targets can cause them to feel anxious like nothing else can. The fear of losing one’s job or not being able to meet the expectations of one’s superiors is also a cause for immense stress. As a mom of three daughters, I’ve seen this firsthand myself! The rat race doesn’t help things and leaves little to no scope of work-life balance today.
In youngsters these days, physical symptoms such as insomnia, and headaches have become so common. Worse still, heart palpitations are a very common sign of anxiety these days. So many young lives over the last few years have been lost due to either inability to identify symptoms of anxiety, or simply the inability to take charge of their situation.
But what about the older population? I often hear younger people saying, “Let me retire, then it’ll only be peace and quiet for me!” The truth can’t be further from this notion.
Senior citizens, who are often retired and have more time on their hands, can also experience anxiety. Yes! The fear of being alone, losing independence, and health issues can all contribute to these looming thoughts and stress. Senior citizens may also feel a sense of helplessness and fear of the unknown, making it difficult for them to cope with everyday life.
Let me tell you a little story about my friend Jaya. After Jaya retired from her bank job a few years ago, she found herself worrying about her diminishing physical health. She has diabetes and issues with blood pressure. Increasingly, she worried if she could live independently for the rest of her life, since her only son now lived with his family abroad.
When we spoke for the first time at one of Grow Younger’s sessions, she confided in me that she had become a lot more irritable since her retirement. “I can’t tell you, Mala. I barely recognize myself!” she told me. “I feel like I’m losing my independence. When the smallest thing goes wrong at home, I snap at my domestic worker or I snap at my poor husband.”
And I realized then that the thing about anxiety is that it’s like a creeper. A seed may be planted in one place but its arms grow and spread far from where the root is. It covers up everything in its way, while also sucking nourishment from where it first originated. This was happening to Jaya too.
Anxiety spreads from one person to the other. Anxious people unknowingly end up making others around them anxious by their actions, thereby continuing the cycle of anxiety in the world. This can result in a chain reaction where one person’s anxiety can spread to others, causing a ripple effect.
But how does one get out of this vicious cycle? First and foremost, to combat anxiety, it is important to practice self-care regularly. If you don’t care for yourself, it’s impossible to change anything. You can’t pour from an empty cup. So don’t let yourself become an empty cup. Fill it up by exercising, meditating, and pursuing hobbies. Set some time aside to paint, read, dance… whatever you like!
It’s also important to recognize signs of anxiety and seek professional help if necessary. I find it wonderful to see the younger generation having no hesitation to seek out a therapist if they need help. This is one thing I hope the older generation learns from them. After all, therapists are essentially doctors for your mental health. If you happen to have a fever, would you not go to a doctor? So why not when you’re struggling with your mental health?
Just because you can’t “see” injuries to your mental health like you see with your physical health, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! Or that it doesn’t need treatment.
Everything else we spoke about when it comes to self care is then additional ways to enhance your therapy and support it! Creating a support system of family and friends can also help you manage your anxiety.
To sum it up, anxiety is a common mental health issue that affects people of all ages. It can cause physical symptoms and can be spread from one person to another. It is important to recognize the signs of anxiety and seek professional help if necessary. Small changes in self-care and creating a support system can help individuals manage their anxiety. It is important to realize that our anxiety can have a negative impact on those around us and take steps to combat it.
As for Jaya? Well, once we spoke about how anxiety can negatively affect her life, she decided to take control of her mental and physical well being! She joined me and the Grow Younger ladies, and included exercise and mindfulness to her daily routine.
By committing to a regular exercise regimen, including walking and light strength training, Jaya began to feel stronger both physically and mentally. Exercise helped her to manage her anxiety and provided her with a sense of accomplishment and purpose. With Grow Younger, Jaya was not only participating in group exercise classes, but also social events like ramp walks and volunteering opportunities, which helped her to build meaningful connections with others and overcome feelings of isolation.
Jaya’s active lifestyle allowed her to live her life to the fullest, with renewed confidence and a positive outlook on her future. This could be you too! It’s just a matter of changing your outlook towards anxiety and taking charge of how you want to feel in the future!