We have all felt anxious before right? That thickening, heavy feeling that oozes into you tightening your muscles, constricting your throat and rooting you to the spot. It comes on a scale, some people feel mild worry and find it hard to relax, others get full blown panic attacks. The problem is its on the rise and sweeping across the world like a virus. Women are twice as likely as men to have anxiety with every 1 in 3 teenage girls suffering from it and 1 in 6 young people struggling too. Girls as young as 7 worry about being criticised about their bodies! What is going on?!
So why are so many more of us suffering than previous generations?
I believe most of it comes down to ignoring our inner voice and altering who we really are. Instead of being the best version of ourselves and taking the time to find out who that is we are trying to be better than everyone else. With a rise in social media we see images and success stories everyday which cause us to imagine these people are closer to the norm than the tiny minority or even the highly edited people they are. We stop listening to our own intuition and try desperately to become somebody ‘better’. This isn’t just about image but career choices, life decisions and personality. We have this feeling of constantly being watched and judged while we put ourselves in the shop window covered in ‘me’ branding we have constructed.
This ‘me’ branding is forced upon us in this age and we are expected to be constantly tweeting our opinions, taking selfies in this seasons outfit and being there at the right moment to make your witty remark. A study by Baylor University in Texas found that women spent 10 hours a day on their phones and men spent 8 hours a day. Countless studies have shown a correlation between anxiety and technology use. It’s ironic that we spend all our time in cyberspace in fear of missing out (fomo) while the clouds pass by outside and we don’t live in the present.
Put down your device, be in the present and get to know yourself. It’s super tough, it’s been a while and there’s a lot of muck in your psyche to sift through but it will be worth it. Find what you like to do, not your friends, you. What brings you joy? What makes you smile in bed after a long day of doing that thing? This stuff make us who we are.
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” – Dr Seuss
Another tip I suggest doing once a week or whenever you need it is writing yourself a letter as if you are your own friend/family. Congratulate yourself on your achievements, console yourself, tell yourself how proud you are. The reality is that you need to be there for yourself, don’t keep putting yourself down! You need your own voice to tell you when to sit down with a comforting cup of tea and when to get up, shake off the negative thoughts and move on.
Does Yoga Help?
Yoga and meditation has helped me immensely in accepting myself, getting to know myself and being kind to myself.
Meditation. Our mind is terribly complicated and most of the time it’s wandering around lost in thought with emotions tumbling around and being thrown at onlookers. Through meditation we can start to think a little clearer and deal with emotions before making rash decisions.
Philosophy. The philosophy of yoga is beautiful. One teaching is that we should act without ego and to serve others. Ego is such a confusing word but what I think it means is wanting to be better than others. Yoga tells us to help other people and to act in the best way we can without any expectation. It’s tough work but so interesting when you try live by it.
Asana. The physical practice of yoga is like magic. Nothing else has this ability to tone, strengthen, stretch, relax and energise us in this way. It connects us to our physical selves in a way we can be proud of, it’s a very personal transformation. Many studies have shown yoga has the power to reduce anxiety even in sceptical groups such as the army. I have left a selection studies below if you want to read further into the science.
Breathing. The mere act of breathing deeply reduces stress. The breath, body and mind are so closely connected and you feel this in yoga practice. If there is a knot in your neck you are most likely stressed, if you’re stressed your breathing is probably shallow.
Get to know yourself through yoga or something else you have a passion for. Find your flow and be curious. Be compassionate. Be present. After all, you only have one life and spending half the time worrying that it’s not going right seems a little silly doesn’t it?
Have faith, the universe will catch you.
“Interventions [8 weeks of mindfulness training including self-compassion and yoga] were effective in helping uninsured and low-income patients reduce depression and/or anxiety symptoms.”
– Falsafi et al (2015), Journal of Holistic Nursing
“A significant reduction in scores on anxiety, depression, and tension was found in yoga group, as well as an increase in well-being in comparison with the control group.”
– Kozasa et al (2008), Perceptual & Motor Skills
“This suggests that even in army personnel naïve to yoga, a yoga-based intervention or listening to meditation music could reduce anxiety while increasing performance on an attention task.”
– Yogpeeth et al (2012), Perceptual & Motor Skills
“. . . emotion interference in the low attentional condition was lower among advanced practitioners and state anxiety was lower among practitioners attending more than two weekly yoga classes. The results suggested that yoga may help improve self-regulatory skills and lower anxiety.”
– Menezes et al (2015), Perceptual & Motor Skills
“These findings suggest that an abbreviated mindfulness-based stress reduction course can serve to reduce anxiety and improve quality of life in an underserved population.”
– Smith et al (2015), Holistic Nursing Practice
“A study was undertaken to observe any beneficial effect of yogic practices during training period on the young trainees. . .There was improvement in performance at submaximal level of exercise and in anaerobic threshold in the yoga group. Shoulder, hip, trunk and neck flexibility improved in the yoga group. There was improvement in various psychological parameters like reduction in anxiety and depression and a better mental function after yogic practices.”
– Ray et al (2001), Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology
“The aim of the study was to study the short-term impact of a comprehensive but brief lifestyle intervention, based on yoga, on anxiety levels in normal and diseased subjects. . . The observations suggest that a short educational program for lifestyle modification and stress management leads to remarkable reduction in the anxiety scores within a period of 10 days.”
– Gupta et al (2006), Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology