One of the most prevalent “mental illnesses” with millennials is anxiety., which is not surprising considering our modern culture has destroyed the family and community, alienated everyone behind digital screens, and convinced people that nothing is their fault and anything can be fixed with a pill.
There’s a reason the pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable industry in the world.
Doctors will peddle anti-anxiety drugs to anyone who asks. They will tell you that you simply have a “chemical imbalance” that some magical pill will instantaneously solve. We live in a very high time preference, instant gratification focused society – people will generally choose to take the quick fix that reduces symptoms instead of putting in the time and energy to get to the root of the problem.
As Henry David Thoreau so elegantly put it:
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.
In regards to anxiety, branches are the symptoms: being nervous, agitated, worrying, feeling insecure, jitters, loss of appetite, etc. It’s always easier to take a pill to hack at the branches than to look deeper down and strike the root.
The root is the real cause of the anxiety: bad personal experiences, low self-confidence, feeling alone and alienated, no emotional support system, lack of skill, social isolation, etc.
This isn’t to say that everyone suffering from anxiety has been conned by big pharma or that everyone that’s taking anxiety medication is weak-minded, just that more often than not, anxiety can be solved or reduced without the use of mind-altering pharmaceuticals.
Trust me, I used to suffer from it.
I quit jobs because I was too anxious to have to greet customers when they walked in. I stayed home instead of going out with friends because I was too anxious to be around strangers. I would blow off dates because I was too anxious to meet a new person.
My doctor put me on all kinds of different medication – Ativan, BuSpar, Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa – which either made me feel void of any emotion whatsoever or only made the symptoms worse.
The worst part about relying on these medications is the very likely chance that you will become psychologically and physiologically dependent on your prescription. If you take them for a long period of time, you could lose your natural ability to cope with anxiety, stress, and depression.
These medications directly affect the balance of chemicals in your brain. Over a long enough time period, your brain will stop naturally producing these chemicals. If your brain is “balanced” chemically by an outside, artificial source, it will no longer have the need to produce them itself.
If I told you that you could produce a product with huge profit margins that forces your customers to depend on it for their entire life, wouldn’t you be suspicious or feel immoral for producing such a product? Oh, and I forgot to mention – the government will grant you a 20 year patent to prevent other companies from stealing your product.
It’s no wonder pharmaceutical companies continue to set record profits year after year, even when almost every other industry is struggling (Twitter can’t even turn a profit!)
Not to mention that anti-anxiety and anti-depressants have severe, long-lasting side effects – sexual dysfunction, heart problems, thinned blood, suicidal thoughts, weight loss, weight gain, mania, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsive behavior, headaches, dizziness, nausea, low blood-pressure… the list goes on and on.
How to Naturally Overcome Anxiety
Some people suffering from anxiety have legitimate chemical imbalances that require medication – this post is not aimed at you, but trying out some of these methods can’t hurt.
Anxiety is like the Hydra of Lerna – a multi-headed beast that cannot be slain with a single blow.
There are four general “roots” of anxiety, and you may suffer from one or a mixture of many – ego, experience, ethics, and exercise.
Ego-Based Anxiety: rooted in fear, causes you to question your self-worth, and lowers your self-confidence.
Your ego is living in the future, worrying about things that may or may not happen. You worry about what will happen if you do this or that, and lose focus on enjoying the present.
When you care too much about how others view you or their reactions to you, you force your brain into an anxious thought-cycle.
“Am I attractive enough? Am I too fat? Am I too thin? Is my voice weird? Why did she look at me like that, do I have something in my teeth?”
You will never be content or anxiety-free if you base your self-worth on the opinions of others. You can’t change what people think of you, but you can change how you react to what they think of you.
Every person you see will judge you. Consciously or unconsciously, you judge every person you see. There’s no escaping the judgmental nature of human beings. You can only escape your self-loathing caused by the opinions of others.
In order to get rid of ego-based anxiety, you have to be honest with yourself.
Take some time to be introspective and find out the root cause of your anxiety – what is your ego afraid of? What caused this fear? Was it a bad experience in the past? What’s the worst that could happen if you could put aside your fear and live the life you want to live?
Experience-Based Anxiety: you lack the confidence in your abilities to perform at a certain task, whether it be social interactions, public speaking, showing your talents to others, performing at your job, whatever.
This form of anxiety is much simpler to fix, but simple doesn’t mean easy.
It’s simple: practice doing what you’re afraid of and embrace the anxiety.
Yes, I said embrace the anxiety. Use it as a fuel source.
Stop thinking of those butterflies in your stomach as a warning sign and start viewing them as a sign from your body that you’re about to grow as an individual.
There is no change without challenge. Period.
You can’t get bigger muscles without constantly challenging your body.
You can’t get better at piano by playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over and over again.
You can’t get better at being social and charismatic by shutting yourself in your room and running away from your problems.
Next time you face a situation that makes you anxious, be prepared for the task at hand and view it as a learning experience rather than a reason to run away and hide.
Ethics-Based Anxiety: when your actions don’t align with your personal beliefs, it creates an imbalance between mind and body which produces anxiety.
If you don’t believe what you’re doing is right, your body won’t feel right about doing it. That’s where the anxiety comes from.
If you aren’t doing what you know you should, anxiety is your body’s way of telling you that your inner-being feels guilty about what you’re doing.
You already know how to fix this one: do what you truly believe is right and just.
If you don’t, you’ll always be a slave to your guilt and emotions.
Exercise-Based Anxiety: when you don’t exercise enough, eat well, have good posture, or breathe correctly – your body feels weak and threatened which creates anxiety.
It has been proven by multiple studies that regular exercise reduces anxiety.
There’s a reason why athletes always appear calm, cool, and collected. When you push your body to its absolute extremes, where you feel like you might collapse and die if you do one more rep, run one more yard, hit the heavy bag one more time – your mind and body don’t fear the things that cause anxiety for people.
Physical health and emotional health are directly correlated. If you suffer from anxiety and all you do is sit and scroll on your phone all day – get off your lazy ass and hit the gym. You’ll thank me later.
Malnutrition can also affect one’s ability to cope with anxiety. Your brain’s neurotransmitters are influenced by what you eat.
If you eat like shit, you’ll feel like shit. If you eat well, you’ll feel well.
Bad posture causes you to subconsciously feel small and defenseless, which causes your body to produce anxiety. Good posture makes you feel strong and powerful, and reduces anxiety.
Bad posture also influences your ability to breathe deeply and fully. Breathing into your chest isn’t natural -you should be breathing into your belly to get maximum oxygen absorption. The lack of oxygen puts your body in a survival state which produces anxiety.
Anxiety is your fight or flight reflex kicking in, telling you it’s either time to stand your ground or run and hide. If you decide to fight, sure, you might get hurt – but you might achieve more than you ever thought possible. If you choose flight, you’ll never know what could have been because you avoided conflict instead of facing it head on.
Clearly this doesn’t mean that you should always stand and fight. If you’re walking down the street and you see a group of drunk dudes looking for a fight, you should probably just turn around.
Modern society has created a fluffy, safe environment and people rarely, if ever, face something life threatening. Back in the day, cavemen would get “anxiety” when they saw a sabertooth tiger. British monks would feel “anxious” when they saw a viking raiding party land on the shores of the Isle of Portland.
Modern people don’t face these sort of fatal surprises very often, but the fight or flight reflex remains.
It’s up to you, do you want to fight your demons or let them chase you into darkness?