Anxiety issues have been on the rise for a while now. As the most common type of mental health issue, many adults (and children) have suffered from some sort of anxiety related problems.
Symptoms of anxiety are not limited to just “panic” emotions. Far more common are symptoms that manifest themselves as more low-level chronic stress:
- Excessive Worrying
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Avoiding Social Situations
- Body Tension
There are a number of factors that go into having anxiety, but it is clear that our modern culture is making our anxiety worse. And left unchecked, anxiety can substationaly lower the quality of your life.
Below are 5 ways our modern culture is making our anxiety worse and how to stop it.
1. Digital Addiction
Why: The way our brains respond to digital devices is almost identical to common drugs. There is a measured dopamine rush with each check of the phone, scroll through a feed, and notification on social media. This chemical reaction to our digital devices creates an addiction. When your brain becomes accustomed to that release of “feel good” chemicals, you actively seek out more. When your brain doesn’t get what it wants… anxiety.
How to stop it: You need to actively disconnect, and re-establish a healthy relationship with the digital tools in our modern life. Set your phone down in the other room. Quit social media. And avoid online content with repetitive content feeds.
2. News Obsession
Why: It’s nearly impossible to go a full day with out viewing the news. 24/7 new channels, social media, news apps on our phones, etc. We are essentially given a constant drip of “news”. Worse still, our fractured political environment has created news articles that are geared to clickbait and extreme group-think. Because of the constant negative exposure, our brains are perceiving a threat from the world that is greatly exaggerated.
How to stop it: Stop watching the news! Once you understand that most of the news has little to no bearing on your life, you can learn to avoid it. You’ll come to find that news is nothing more than bad entertainment, designed with specific agendas, and to earn money from advertising.
3. Unhealthy Food
Why: This likely won’t come as a shock to you, but a majority of the food in the grocery store is not really food. It’s food-like product. Heavy marketing and government lobbying has completely distorted the standard western diet. When we eat this nutritionally void, or even nutritionally harmful food, we are causing ongoing stress inside our bodies. Inflammation runs rampant, and our brains enter a state of metabolic defense. Anxiety and depression are a result.
How to stop it: Eat real food. I follow a simple diet where I eat food that looks like food. When you feed your body what it needs, you’ll be shocked how much better you feel. For further reading on how to eat well, I highly recommend the author Michael Pollan.
4. Sedentary Lifestyle
Why: Our standard of living has increased drastically with economic development. I love that I have running water, heating and cooling, and the ability to travel around the world. But unfortunately, we’ve also developed a lifestyle that actively encourages laziness. We sit at our jobs. We sit in our cars. And we hire out common houseful tasks to “save time”. All of this lack of movement means that we are not moving our bodies the way they were designed, causing harm both physically and mentally.
How to stop it: Move your body! Even if you work an office job, take walk breaks throughout the day, and carve out time in your schedule for exercise. Also, learn to view physical labor as something rewarding, not to be avoided. Household cleaning, yard work, bike commuting, etc, are all great ways to move your body.
Why: One of the core values in our modern culture is consumerism. We actively encourage the purchasing of goods. We congratulate friends when they buy a new car, a new house, or new furniture. We’re always on the lookout for a new cell phone, new clothes, or to upgrade our vehicles. All of this obsession with externalizing our self-esteem in what we own is disastrous for our mental health. We take on debt to buy shit we don’t need, all in the pursuit of happiness.
How to stop it: You need to stop buying shit you don’t need. This means learning how to not see your personal self-worth tied up in the things you own. Once you understand that happiness does not come from material items, you’ll quickly see through the bullshit that is out of control consumerism.