Societal pressures and how they impact anxiety

I, like many, occasionally suffer from anxiety. Most days I can be compassionate towards myself, understand that I am not my thoughts, bring myself to the present moment, breath and let go. Other days I’m so consumed with goals and plans that I can’t see how much I’ve checked off on my “to do” list.

Such a moment occurred recently, on the surface my life and well being were balanced and yet I had mild daily panic attacks for about a week ( maybe longer but I was busy kicking ass and taking names in life that I didn’t tabulate how long this had actually been going on). I decided enough was enough....well not really, it wasn’t until a panic attack was induced by a moment of joyous excitement that I realized too much was happening in my life, my mind and with my uneasy spirit.

Can you imagine? A moment when people usually jump for joy or giggle with excitement, I was thwarted into a full on tingly finger, sweaty pits, feeling of falling, panic attack. I focused on my breathing and did EFT (tapping) to bring myself back to the moment and THAT is when I decided enough was enough.

I decided to then do a thought experiment. Knowing I had to soon make big life choices and realizing the anxiety I had was based on these choices, I thought it practical to take the options I was faced with and one by one pretend they didn’t exist. That’s it, that’s the thought experiment. It seemed simple enough to, for one moment pretend that “the looming thing” doesn’t exist. It took a few days to go through my choices and sit with how I felt.

The moment I felt the anxiety leave my chest, like steam vapors off my tea, was the moment I decided to take that choice out of the equation. Realizing I didn’t have to stack accomplishments like they were poker chips, gave me time to reflect on where I was on my path and what I’ve done in the last 12 months...let me tell ya, it was A LOT.

I understand there are some choices that are inevitable or nonnegotiable, I understand that deadlines are real and time is limited, and that’s exactly why I believe this thought experiment is so important. How many of us spend more time thinking about the future then being in the moment? Lets be honest...most, if not ALL of us do this.

Why do we do this? Why do we stress ourselves out so much that our brains get confused by a rush of excitement chemicals that it thinks “am I goanna die of botulism?!? Am I in a free fall ?!?” ( my anxiety tells usually relate to this irrational fear). Who are we proving ourselves too? In my case, its me. I’m my worst critic and rarely think I’ve accomplished enough in a day.

But is it really me? Is it that I was raised by a determined mom who worked her butt off any chance she got, is it that she was raised by a WWII vet who routinely reminded us that he once ate maggots to stay alive? Familial pressure is real, being raised to “keep up with the joneses” is engrained in many, but epigenetics aside, I think the most toxic aspect is that in this modern society with all of our advances and easy access we’ve lost “our true” selves.

We compare and compete, the truth is we do it to ourselves. If we could embrace ourselves from a place of compassion and not judgment, how many of us would see that we are great as we are: chipping away at our personal goals, having what we need and a bit of what we want, living life in the moment and not judging ourselves based on what society says we should have been already.

Take a deep breath, see yourself through compassionate eyes.

Valarie Williams