Updated: Dec 29, 2019
Find your tribe, make connections and live a meaningful life
One thing I know about anxiety and stress is that they are real and they can be debilitating. Inducing feelings of guilt, worthlessness, panic, irritability, tiredness but inability to sleep and then concentrate, loss of interest in everything and an inability to feel pleasure, anxiety and stress can be demonic and evoke such a negative state of mind that feels like it will never end. At its very worst thoughts can become suicidal. If you feel like this, please access help here.
If you have felt one or all of these negative emotions at some point in your life, you are simply common…not in a derogatory sense: the World Health Organisation (WHO) report that 300 million people worldwide experience depression at points in their lives. A Bupa study found that 1 in 4 people in the UK experience long term stress and 44% of Brits suffer from stress and 28% of this figure claim that they have felt stressed for more than a year. This equates to approximately 1 million people. You are not alone. But if only that were a comfort.
The thing with anxiety, stress and depression is that they stop you from functioning as a human being. They stunt growth and in fact, at times, it can feel like you are regressing into deep, dark well never to see the light of day again, and why would you want to anyway? Life is crap and you are crap and what’s the point in anything…have another glass of wine…smoke another cigarette…shout at your significant other….go very quiet and look out of the window at nothing….cry at nothing at all…..the thing is that these feelings are not tangible…not measurable….they are nigh on impossible to explain to someone that has never experienced them. Because we don’t always talk freely about this in ‘polite’ society it can feel very isolating which only serves to perpetuate these negative emotions.
I think that the main reason that we can feel anxiety, stress and then depression is that when we feel even slightly under pressure or worried our adrenal and thyroid glands (I had to look that one up) release adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol (the latter is also known as the stress hormone). The reason this chemical reaction occurs is that our body thinks that it is fighting for survival…our body thinks we are under attack and need to be saved. This kind of chemical reaction was incredibly useful when we were cave men and women, and if today you were chased by some kind of hungry animal or maniac with a knife, but really, day to day, this kind of situation does not normally present itself. We have between 50,000 to 90,000 thoughts a day and most of them will pass us by unnoticed. An anxious, stressed and/ or depressed person will be on constant high alert for negative thoughts only.
Dr Martin Seligman found through his research that there are three routes to a happy life:
1. The Good Life – pursuing personal growth and achieving ‘flow’.
2. The Meaningful Life – acting in the service of something greater than yourself.
3. The Pleasant Life – socialising and seeking pleasure.
Each or all of these Seligman claims, can bring lasting happiness and rid you from anxiety, stress and depression. But, as I have found out, these things don’t just happen to you….you have to seek them out. You have to shake yourself down, put your big girl pants on and get on with it.
William Glasser deduced that by nature, human beings are social beings. Love and belonging, he wrote, are among our greatest non-survival needs. When our close relationships suffer we can become unhappy but committing to rebuilding them can bring a state of happiness.
I now follow Glasser’s idea of thinking carefully and clearly about the things that I really want in life. Each day I think about what I hope to achieve that will bring me closer to my goals (to be a writer) and then I assess whether the behaviours that I have chosen bring me closer or further away from them. At the end of each day I write down in a notebook the things that I have achieved that have brought me closer to my goal. This feels so good.
Find your tribe: reconnect with actual human beings.
Try to see the good in others.
Create a ‘goals achieved’ diary to chart your progress. This works as an immediate mood lifter.