Anxiety has risen in recent years. Children are more prone to feeling anxiety, even if they don’t know how to articulate it.
It is often defined as:
A: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.”
B: “a strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen.”
Reading the definitions, they seem like emotions that everyone would face at one time or another. This leads to many questions.
How can an ordinary emotion cause distress? Why does the word anxiety sound so bad? What could be a cause for these feelings?
Why do we feel anxiety?
As stated above it is related to worry or concern. The future outcome or result is the focus.
In simple terms it is related to fear. Fear in and of itself is an important emotion concerned with danger. Biologically it is related to fight or flight – ensuring that we keep ourselves safe. The idea that an uncertain outcome will leave us in a position of harm or danger can be worrying. This can create anxiety in the people involved. Whilst we do not want it to paralyse us, it serves a purpose and this is important to understand.
However, there is a difference between the two. Fear we know is a safety mechanism. Anxiety in contrast is not based on any concrete result. Often it can appear to be unfounded.
The worst case scenario for anxiety
I have met clients who feel claustrophobic, socially anxious, or feel nervous when publically heard or seen. These anxieties are not based on past experiences, or concrete notions of what would go wrong.
If asked, these same clients would say they do not know what the worst case scenario would be. They may even say that they know there is nothing scary about the situation – it just makes them worry.
This in itself may begin to feel like a hopeless situation. After all, if you cannot prove the fear will not come true, how can you address it?
Anxiety and I
Well, the deeper we go into uncovering the concerns of clients, we often find there is an inner self-dialogue causing the anxiety.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where self-esteem is not as high as it used to be. Our lack of self-belief means that our ability to take risks and put ourselves out into the world can be a challenge.
It also results in feelings of rejection and loss, emotions that are closely related with examples of modern day anxiety. You may wonder why children and adults alike are facing the challenge of low self-esteem, and the associate anxiety. After all, we attempt to make children feel positive about themselves. We want children to feel self-assured and able to achieve everything.
There are a number of theories about this. However, one thing has become evident – there are higher expectations for younger generations.
Do you remember how much you studied?
Exam pressure has risen. Students are starting GCSEs at the age of 13. However, when students are just 10, the pressure of SATs can be felt. Students worry about the secondary school they will go to. They worry about the jobs they will get, the career they will have, the state of their pension. Ok, perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.
However, with the rising cost of education, and the expectation of a university education remaining high in many communities, the pressure is not ending. When high expectations are not met, those involved may have a feeling of inadequacy. Social, political, or economic situations are not in the favour of younger generations, but this is not always recognised.
Instead, the media and some older generations repeat the pattern of suggesting the newest generation of being entitled, lazy and privileged – all of which reinforces a feeling of inadequacy.
The 24 hour work day
Technology has meant that we’re always ‘switched on’ both for work, and in our social lives. This can be another challenge, as a work-life balance can be difficult to maintain. It also means that there is even more pressure to perform, as the idea of saying ‘no’ or ‘can this wait till Monday?’ may not feel as acceptable responses to workplaces.
How can we fix this?
Noting down all these difficulties may make it feel like there is no hope. Luckily there is a lot of hope. The quicker we become aware of the social trends, the quicker we can change them. If we can improve the self-esteem of those around us by celebrating their achievements, skills and abilities in an honest way, we will make a huge impact. The idea is to appreciate the unique qualities we all have, so that we are not in competition with anyone else.