Feeling Alone in the Fight with Anxiety?
Approximately 3.3 million American adults suffer from some sort of anxiety in a given year. There are millions of children in addition who suffer as well. In my counseling practice and in life I continue to find that anxiety has such a paralyzing hold on Americans, especially American women. This was profoundly evident when I went to Rwanda and saw a culture, that despite horrific tragedy and trauma, seemed relatively free of anxiety. Granted, they had other struggles but theirs did not seem to be anxiety. They had struggles with poverty, relationships, illiteracy, abuse, etc. Somehow, however, their culture seemed to foster a beautiful interdependency to help one another through these challenges. It’s quite unlike the individualistic mentality in America that has us building silos of self-sufficiency around ourselves. We try to embrace community, but something is lacking.
As my plane touched down onto American soil at JFK International Airport in New York, I could sense the relentless tentacles of anxiety threatening to suffocate my team and I, to squeeze out of us the peace we had experienced in Rwanda. Those tentacles were a stinging reminder of the worries, concerns, and pressures we would be facing again at home, things we often feel alone in handling. So we had landed, back into a self-sufficient culture running at a frenetic pace and lacking calm. Yet I wondered how we, in the most powerful country in the world, could hang onto a priceless lesson we had learned in this third-world country. How could we be ambassador for peace in an anxious culture?
I’m not saying this to place any kind of blame, believe me. Trying to find peace and freedom from anxiety in this American culture can sometimes feel like we are salmon swimming up stream. When the culture fosters this anxiety, it is that much harder as individuals to stand against it. Perhaps what I am saying is to remember the power of community, the power of vulnerability and authenticity, the power of dropping pretense.
So, whether you are a woman struggling with anxiety or know a woman struggling with anxiety, remember a couple things…
Constant love and support are crucial.
The anxious person needs to know they are not “terrible” for the struggle.
Implementing practical tools with the help of others can be well worth it.
One tool I have found especially helpful is the website http://www.innerhealthstudio.com/. Here there are an abundance of relaxation scripts, guided imagery, worksheets, etc. that can be helpful in addressing panic, anxiety, and self-esteem in very general and very specific ways.
Remember, you don’t have to be a silent, suffering silo, alone in the fight with anxiety. Embrace the beauty of interdependency and community.