It seems like we all are riddled with some form of anxiety or apathy. No matter who I speak with, anxiety seems to be a prevailing mental health illness and apathy follows as a close emotion. I am an observer, not an expert of this trend and I’m not trying to make light of it when I say trend. Perhaps anxiety has not increased, we are just more aware because people are more comfortable talking about mental health, which is a good thing. I would like to shed some insight and maybe even make some sense of why anxiety is so rampant and/or apathy is so prevalent in our society.
I never considered myself to be an anxious person. Others may beg to differ, but unless you’re messing with one of my kids, I tend to be pretty even-keeled. However, out of the blue, for no known reason, I have developed some form of anxiety and for the life of me, I can’t identify the cause. We all have stuff going on in our lives that has the potential to make us feel anxious, but why does it seem we are suffering more than a prior time period. Have we lost our ability to cope with everyday life?
Since I started blogging, insecurity has been a recurrent theme through much of my writing. I really think that the root of most of our “issues” are based on some form of insecurity. Let’s play this out a bit and see how insecurity might be causing some of our anxiety.
I have 3 kids, all in their 20’s. It is not unusual for them to express concern about certain aspects of their lives: career, school, housing, health insurance and money. There are so many things that have the potential to cause stress and anxiety and we seem to allow current issues to permeate the climate of our mental health. We are like sponges. We absorb the prevailing fear and make it into a swelling creature. No matter what the issue is, it becomes readily available and eventual manifests itself in various forms, and one being anxiety. We have become a bi-product of our anxiety. A part of me thinks that this absorption process is so evident because we are constantly bombarded with negativity throughout our daily lives. We are becoming a receptacle of media trash.
The constant social media addiction and 24 hour news cycle has a lot to do with our feelings of anxiety and outward expression of unhappiness. Throughout the day, we hear about all the horrible events around the world and the devastating forecast for future generations that we are left with nothing that fulfills or lifts our spirit. Once in a while, the news will present a happy story, and it’s actually becomes quite the novelty. Or we see an uplifting story on Facebook, those are the ones we want to share. We are desperate for something good, something virtuous and something more meaningful then what we are being fed. I’m wondering if we even know how to identify or obtain what we need or even why we need something more fulfilling.
Let’s consider a prevailing topic, how about climate change. Now, I am a firm believer in being good stewards of our planet. I believe in recycling and reducing chemicals in our home. I try to buy organic food as much as possible, but if I’m completely honest, are my efforts making a difference? Furthermore, if we as a nation are being more environmentally responsible, and countries on the other side of the globe are complete murderers of our environment why should I bother? Well, we should because eventually, it will make a difference and we should be setting an example for others. I believe it is the right thing to do. So we all need to do what we can whenever we can and be responsible caregivers of planet earth.
Then there’s the news media and celebrities who make environmental impact statements while living a contradictory life. They often own multiple houses and fly around in their private jets. The same goes for the politicians who are setting the agenda for what is right and wrong with our environment. It appears that Hollywood and politicians are a bunch of hypocrites. My point isn’t to address the merits of climate change, the failure of Hollywood and politicians but it is an example of a tremendous source of our anxiety. We start to wonder if there will be a planet for our grandkids? We are looking to the future with such ambivalence and concern. Are we absorbing the fears of a collapsing earth to the point of altering our decisions on how we plan for the future, example, I’m not bringing kids into this world!
I’m using climate change to illustrate a point. We take on a prevalent issue and it morphs into anxiety of the future. We can substitute anything: health insurance, clean water and the list goes on and on. But, what are we doing about it? We certainly are doing a lot of complaining and absorbing fear instead of focusing on a corrective action. We settle into a state of doom and gloom or anger and protest. If these issues are so upsetting, then we owe it to ourselves to take some action. Do something to help alleviate the fear of global doom. Turn off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth. Turn off the lights when you’re not in a room. Clean and reuse jars instead of buying plastic containers. There is so much we can do and if we implement common sense action, we’ll feel better about our choices and overtime, hopefully things will improve and anxiety will diminish.
I mentioned how we absorb the negative aspects in our immediate surroundings, but we also have a tendency to deflect. Sometimes we can’t be bothered with anything so we deflect our feelings and emotions away and become apathetic towards circumstance and people by not addressing even simple tasks.
An example of this is how young adults tend to put blinders on in order to avoid even the simplest task, like changing a lightbulb or putting out the trash. Often, millennials are perfectly content to live in a dark room or step over a pile of garbage instead of taking a few minutes to carry out the actual task- change a lightbulb or throw away the garbage. They don’t even expect you to do it, it’s more as if they don’t care if no one does it. Then, if someone does take out the trash, there’s no expression of thanks, because in their eyes, you really didn’t do anything that had to be done. So the fact that you took out the trash, well good for you. It didn’t bother me, so you’re really not benefitting me and you therefore don’t need to be praised, recognized or appreciated for doing something that really only benefitted you. Does that make any sense? To me it doesn’t but to millennials it does and I’ve seen it over and over again. This is just another form of deflecting common courtesy and substituting it with ambivalence.
So what are we to do? I’m getting a bit concerned about the ever increasing need for medication to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia. We are unable to cope. Of course there is a need for professional care and treatment, I’m not trying to dismiss that. But can we make subtle changes to help alleviate some of these stressors? I think the answer is to try and switch our way of thinking from the negative to the positive. It may require us to decrease our exposure to all the negative media. Furthermore, I’m wondering if we will never get out of the rut of disappointment until we take the focus off of ourselves and place it on someone else. We need to start being more outward facing instead of inward. Once we start to make deliberate decisions to help someone in need or less fortunate than us, or help to heal our environment, we will live in a state of anxiety and apathy.
One of the greatest joys I have found is giving a gift that I know someone will love. It could be something material, or perhaps the gift of time. When we do something for someone else, that is when we become more aware of our own tendencies and then little by little we start to enjoy life a bit more. We need to root ourselves in something more sustainable than social media or the 24 hour news cycle. We need to reconnect with houses of worship and the underprivileged. By doing something for others, we receive the greater gift. Once put into practice, you will see that taken the focus off all the negative news, we become aware that there actually is a lot of good going on in the world. Maybe we’ll even find corporations who are making mindful decisions about how the package products. Go out and support those businesses. Maybe you could try buying from local merchants that are more mindful of the environment instead of complaining about Johnson and Johnson?
There really is a lot of good happening even in the midst of sadness and devastation. One local example of this is the organization Samaritan’s Purse. A few days after hurricane Florence hit North Carolina, Samaritan’s Purse was here offering assistance to those devastated with extreme loss. Volunteers from all over the country have been here for months. They’re actually living in a local church. Port City Community Church is housing a bunch of volunteers and everyday they get up and go out into the community. You may or may not agree with their statement of faith, but hundreds of caring people are caring for this community. They are sacrificing their own comfort and their own time to help others mend their lives. This is happening all over our country and our world, but all we do is focus on the negative stories. I think we need a news organization or a social media site that only promote positive happenings and events so we can start to believe in humanity again. It’s out there, we just don’t hear about it.
I am tired of all the negativity that has become commonplace. The expression garbage in garbage out is quite apparent. It’s no wonder we’re all insecure, anxiety provoked or depressed. We need a substitute. We need a new focus. We need to become more aware of some of the good things happening in our world, and we need it soon.