Anxiety: the modern faces of an ancient challenge

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According to recent studies, anxiety is on the rise and comes second after depression in a top of mental health problems worldwide. America has the largest number of people diagnosed with anxiety, 8 in 100 suffering because of it. In fact, millions of people on all continents face a recurrent feeling of fear, worry or even panic that interferes with their life, interrupting their daily tasks and negatively impacting their level of wellbeing. The western world lives in an era of comfort and affluence, but this doesn’t seem to stop us from feeling unable to enjoy what we have.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is one of the oldest emotions known to man. In low doses, it is helpful and can act as a motivator. It is also the emotion responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response that many living beings have. Thanks to their anxiousness, our ancestors could recognize dangerous situations and respond accordingly, by facing the threat or running away from it. Today, most of us have no major physical, life-threatening challenges to face, but anxiety is still with us. People with anxiety tend to worry excessively, sometimes without an obvious reason. There are many degrees of anxiety, that range from mild forms to generalized anxiety disorders and phobias.

Anxiety in the era of ‘you can have it all’. Why?

One of the big questions that seem to preoccupy mental health researchers is ‘why is anxiety spreading so fast today in the western world?’. Although major physical threats aren’t part of our daily routine, there are new forms of perceived threats that can keep us awake at night, such as…

  1. Unpredictable political and economic climate. With an economy that seems to jump from one crisis to another, our long-term finances and job security often feels impossible to achieve. This means worrying about tomorrow – would we have a job paid well enough to buy a house, have a family or afford health insurance? On the other hand, political change can fuel the economic unease and birth new worries, like war, immigration, terrorism etc.

  2. More technology, less contact. Being digitally connected it doesn’t always mean authentically engaging with others. We might have hundreds or even thousands of people in our friends lists, but nobody to talk to. On the other hand, technology is pushing us to be more efficient and try multi-task. However, studies show that, on one hand, multitasking doesn’t mean being more efficient and, on the other hand, it correlates with higher levels of anxiety in people who do it.

  3. Lifestyle choices and trends. In a world where we live the way food, fashion, music, jobs, and lifestyle trends dictate, keeping up with the perceived “norm” can be difficult. In order to be like our cool social media “friends”, we push ourselves to the limit, forgetting that trying to run the extra-mile all the time can be burnout and anxiety inducing. On the other hand, we sometimes become the victims of our lifestyle choices. Leading a sedentary life, eating junk food or smoking affects our health in the long run and we are aware of it. However, worrying too much about what will happen to us tomorrow because of the lifestyle decisions we make today isn’t always a good motivator to change our behavior and they can even act as new anxiety-provoking factors.

  4. Lack of meaning. According to existential analysis, an efficient way to deal with anxiety is by living a meaningful life, but how to focus on creating something meaningful in a world that tells us to ‘consume, consume, consume’? Instead of taking the challenge to face the fear within us and to engage in meaningful activities, we might prefer to compulsively shop, eat, drink, travel etc. In the end, it seems easier and faster to bury that fear under layers of beautiful possessions than to create something that gives meaning to the life of us and others.

How to deal with anxiety?

People can live with anxiety for all their lives and not even be aware that they can get better. If you feel that fear impacts your life, you don’t need to wait until it gets the best of you – better take some simple measures that can considerable change your quality of life. For example, start with giving yourself more time to relax; try mindfulness techniques to connect yourself to here and now; let yourself be imperfect and take a break from looking at the life your social media friends appear to live; exercise daily and eat more vegetables and fruit; talk to genuine people about the things you care for; discover or rediscover what you really enjoy doing. Finally, join a group of people who face similar feelings or see a therapist. They can help you understand where your anxiety originates, what type of anxiety you are facing and even support you in discovering the best ways to deal with it.

It’s worth knowing that anxiety can also be a gift – it can be a sign that it’s time you reconsidered your priorities and found your real path, a sign that you need a change and you’re ready for it. Should you need support in your dealing with anxious feelings, contact us. We’re here to help you start the journey to a better life and a more authentic self.

‘Tis the season of… holiday depression?

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The Holiday season is, to some, the most wonderful time of the year. It’s all about families coming together, wrapping and unwrapping presents, having mulled wine and singing holiday tunes. However, there are people who dread approaching the end of December… Many of them are secretly fighting what mental health specialists call “holiday depression”. Here’s what happens to some of us during this time of the years and how to deal with it.

Holiday depression and possible causes

Feeling sad, lacking energy, having sleeping problems and experiencing a general discomfort when thinking about holidays might be signs of depression. If you suffer from a diagnosed form of depression, you might notice that around this time of the year the symptoms can get worse. Why are some people negatively affected by holidays?

1. Loneliness – not all of us have a family to turn to or friends to spend time with. Many people face loneliness and the feelings are made even more acute around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, especially when seeing others come together and have a good time.
2. Financial stress – we are encouraged to see this month as the month of giving and receiving presents. The joy of wrapping and unwrapping presents under the Christmas tree is, to some of people, a luxury that won’t happen. Having kids and not enough money is also a reason for parents to worry and feel bad about themselves, which can trigger depression.
3. Grief – losing someone is a wound that can open around this time of the year even if the event might have happened months or years before. It is the season when we want to connect with the ones we love and their absence might hurt more than usual.
4. Social pressure – we are told, on all media, that we must enjoy ourselves during the holidays. Commercials and stores encourage us to start buying presents as early as October. It looks like there is a “duty” to be merry around this time of the year, a pressure to fit in and to join the crowd hunting for presents, eating to excess and wearing funny clothes.
5. Medical reasons – some people have been fighting depression all year long and now the symptoms just get worse. Others might not have experienced any sad feelings, but suddenly they feel down in December. In both cases, a lack of vitamin D for those living in the Northern Hemisphere, a busy schedule, too many sleepless nights and an unhealthy diet can enhance depressive symptoms.

Look for help

It is important to keep in mind that in some cases depression gets so difficult to manage that can push people to suicide. Although it is a myth that more people commit suicide at this time of the year, there are cases when it becomes impossible to cope and some people see no way out of their depression trap. If you feel suicidal or know someone who is, you should look for support immediately. A phone call to 911, a visit to any hospital’s emergency room or a chat with someone from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK and press 1) can save a life.

For milder symptoms of depression, consider improvements to your lifestyle. Give the gym a chance or jog for half an hour a day, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, keep yourself hydrated, avoid drinking too much alcohol, get plenty of sleep, consider buying a SAD light box (very useful in winter time) and speak to others. Friends, family and neighbours can provide comfort. Even a few words can help ease symptoms for a while. If you think it’s more than a mild sadness caused by winter and the holidays, look for professional help. Your GP will provide the information needed and the best treatment options. Seeing a psychotherapist or joining a support group can have a positive effect as well. Talking to people who understand what you are going through will make the burden easier to carry. We are here if you need us – get in touch and let’s make us help.


Looking for love: why some people can’t find a partner

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girl-in-light-darkness-1437166It’s said that love makes the world go round and studies seem to support that: people in long-term commitments, such as marriage, are happier and in better health than those who are single or uncommitted.

However, there are many people who claim they can’t find a partner despite their wish to. What hinders their intentions? It can be many things, but usually they fall in two main categories of reasons…

  1. They don’t actively look for a partner or they look in the wrong place

After a certain age, most of us have a routine based life: job, a bit of fun in our spare time, the same circle of friends, the same neighbourhood. In this context, it becomes tricky to find the one because our range of choices is limited. Luckily today there are many other options when searching for potential partners, from online dating to joining local hobby clubs. However, many people are reluctant to try such options and think it’s not ‘their style’ to actively look for a partner. More than that, some people even transmit messages of unavailability by deciding to avoid eye contact, smiling or talking to new people. This is often an old learned habit that stems from the myth that love is always waiting just around the corner and it will eventually find you. Therapy can help one understand where such attitudes towards dating are rooted, unlearn them and relearn that it is nothing desperate or unnatural to go and actively look for your other half. The whole process might be anxiety provoking, but with the right support anyone can learn that finding that special someone can be a choice, not an accident.

  1. They are not psychologically ready for that special one

A large percentage of people enter therapy because they feel like there’s no hope to find that special someone. They usually state what they perceive as a paradox: although there’s nothing wrong with them and their life, it seems impossible to form a significant relationship with another! Through therapeutic work, they soon discover that not being able to find a partner is just a symptom for some underlying conditions. The fact that someone desperately wants a partner and doesn’t find them could mean that they go through some situations specified in the previous paragraph, as well as the fact that they look for a partner for the wrong reasons. Such reasons can be:

  • wanting someone because of social and/or family pressure

  • being in relationships for most of their life and not being able to cope with single life;

  • fear of abandonment;

  • trying to replace someone significant who left without giving themselves the time to mourn and heal;

  • childhood abandonment issues;

  • personality disorders, such as a dependent personality;

  • feeling worthless unless in a relationship

  • a general lack of meaning in their life that they hope to suppress by focusing on someone else.

Of course, these are just some briefly stated reasons, but sometimes more than one and more than these examples can prevent a person from being happy with someone else.

To conclude, it’s not the world that it’s against us when looking for love, it’s not that all the potential matches are already taken, it’s just sometimes we are not ready yet to be with someone and we need to work a bit on personal development. It might sound weird to tell someone who is 50+ that they are not ready to meet the love of their life, but it happens quite a lot. There are many people who still don’t know that if you didn’t learn how to be happy on your own and you don’t know yourself well than you can’t be happy with someone else or make that person happy.

The good news is that all this can be changed with the right support. A therapist can assist one in finding their real self and their own happiness in order to start looking for that special one for all the right reasons. If you feel like you’re going through something similar and would need support in understanding how to look for love, we’re here and you can give us a call.