Why does “everyone” have anxiety/depression nowadays?

Putting statistics aside for a moment, everyone you speak to in this day and age seems to be affected by either anxiety and/or depression. Mind.org states that 25% of people will suffer from some mental health issue in a year.

I thought I’d explore 5 general factors that may be contributing to this. By all means, I am not qualified to diagnose/tell people what causes these issues, but these are just my thoughts. Also, these are not the only things that cause anxiety and depression and they are all equally as important to be aware of.

Diet

I think that people underestimate the importance of diet when it comes to mental health. I mean, every morning, I make a blueberry, spinach and peanut butter (mmm…) smoothie (of course, with almond milk!) Believe me, within half an hour of drinking my smoothie, I feel like I turn into a superhuman. My energy levels hit the roof and I feel happier and more positive.

Without drawing upon any technical sciency stuff, it is obvious that lacking a healthy, balanced diet will have an impact on your mood. With that said, it is only a given that in the long term it will only allow these issues to persist. I mean, think of your body and mind as a car. A car needs good quality fuel, not only to move, but to be more efficient and operate optimally. Same with the body and mind. You need good quality “fuel” to operate optimally.

I know it’s hard to resist, especially when you can pick up a chicken and chips for like £1.50 at any chippie. I have friends who eat take out up to 5 times per week! Nonetheless, a fortnightly take out isn’t all too bad. It is when it is several times per week. Balance is important. Of course, your diet will not always be perfect, but so long as you’re making an efort, it should be fine.

On the other hand, it is the same if you starve yourself. If you are not getting any/not enough of the needed nutrients, you will not feel great. I mean, I once dieted for 16 weeks for an MMA fight and I almost lost my mind! It is just too long!

Overthinking

This one can steal your happiness. Period. Of course, there are times where you will overthink. If you have a big bill to pay next month, it will cross your mind many times. However, sometimes we can fall into the trap of overthinking every single thing. We develop analysis paralysis.

Consider this example of the impact of overthinking. My friend is quite big on the “Pick-up artist” stuff. One day, he tells me that he feels very insecure and it is starting to make him depressed and feel anxious in public. When I asked why, he responded with “I keep getting rejected!” and I can’t stop imagining why.

That’s the issue. Imagining why. The first couple of times that he was rejected, he had assumed that they had rejected him because they did not find him physically attractive. After doing this a couple of times, he had concluded that he was not attractive. This means that every time he was rejected after that, he jumped to the conclusion that it was for that reason. In other words, he had developed a habit of jumping from A to C.

He had fallen into the trap of thinking that he was a mind reader. He had no real reason for why the women rejected him. He has just assumed and overthought that idea. It could have been for many reasons, EXCEPT for the attraction reason. The women may have already been in a relationship, may have been occupied by other things or just tired! The list goes on!

The worst part with overthinking is that you can overthink EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. This means you develop an unhealthily over-analytical thought process.

Mind-set/perspective

This one can be described in many angles. People often get annoyed when you tell them to “try to be more positive”, however, they underestimate its power. But leaving positivity there, the angle from which you view things is important. It doesn’t only allow you to really understand something, but it also allows you to have a different attitude to things.  An example would be to believe that you’re a victim of life and that God or Mother Nature hates you, as opposed to viewing things as a challenge that, once you overcome, you will become a much more developed version of yourself. (For more information on “becoming a stronger version of yourself”, Elliot Hulse’s YouTube videos on this are really interesting and helpful. I will post videos under the “videos” tab in the future.)

If you adopt the former attitude, you may start to self-pity. From my view, self-pity alone, or even worse, combined with overthinking, can really spiral into depression and feel anxious about the future.

For example, if you feel like you lack confidence, don’t just say “I’m ugly and will never be good looking”, go and develop confidence! Read up on how to be more confident and MOST importantly apply it!

I will post more on this area in the future.

Social

From my view, one of the main reasons for socially interacting is because, without doing so, you are “all up in your own head.”

You’ll find that, particularly with the younger generation, they are always in their bedrooms/in the library studying. Although studying aids personal development, studying all day long is not ideal and it does not necessarily guarantee A’s. Check out the concept of “studying smart and not hard.”

More so, with many employers allowing employees to work from home, some people don’t leave their home for days. Their sleeping pattern even becomes unhealthy.

The issue with this is that you’re living in a bubble. You’re stuck in the comfort zone of your own home. This is not ideal. I remember watching a video of loads of children playing in a park and it then contrasted that to some children who sit at home all day in their pyjamas just watching TV or lying in bed. Of course, you’re entitled to a lazy day! But, in the long term, this is not great.

This is often one of the reasons that people start to overthink. If you have things to do/people to meet, you most likely will not have time to overthink. Do you regularly overthinking when you are amongst friends? I assume that you don’t really?

Also, when you’re stuck with the same people, as much as you may love them, you can become irritable with them! This, in the long term can just make you feel anxious around them.

For me, social media does not count. In fact, I feel more anti-social when I am whatsapp’ing a friend rather than meeting them. The reasons for why are countless. I would rather meet that friend for an hour, as opposed to just whatsapp’ing them for an hour.

Physical activity

I think everyone feels better after some exercise. Well, there’s a reason why. You are not only taking your mind off things, but you are also releasing certain chemicals that counter depression/anxiety and in an environment with people in! Additionally, you are progressing in something, which makes you feel more positive.

However, bearing in mind the “social” point above, and the “diet” point, people do not exercise so much. Nonetheless, this is anecdotal, but I hear my grandad often saying that “when I was your age”, he would wake up at 7:00 and go for a run before school! With that said, I felt much better when I was training MMA for five days a week (I was also leaner!) I’m not saying that working out like Mike Tyson will make you Jolly James, but going for some long peaceful walks and maybe the weekly cycle or badminton session may be useful.

Some concluding remarks – Be human

In light of the above, if you are suffering from anxiety or depression, it could be because, or exacerbated by, one of the above things. Of course, other factors contribute, such as sleep etc.

However, sometimes you must allow yourself to be human. Be understanding towards yourself. You are entitled to feeling upset sometimes because you have legitimate reasons, and in turn, now and then you may feel a little less optimistic. It is life. However, do not let the feelings perpetuate and ruin your quality of life.

 

Ways to boot out feelings of social anxiety

Essentially, social anxiety is a fear of social situations. Often this is due to the perceived outcome. Someone who has a great degree of social anxiety does not have to fear every type of social situation. It may be specific e.g. speaking to their manager at work.

Below are 5 tips on how to deal with, or even get rid of, social anxiety. Of course, I am not able to diagnose people and these may not work for everybody. People with very high levels of social anxiety should visit the doctor.

Don’t let it be your identity

It is most upsetting when I hear people say that “my anxiety is really bad.” It suggests that the person believes that anxiety is a part of them. It is theirs. In saying this, you fool yourself into thinking that it is yours. If this example isn’t clear enough, consider the following two:

“My depression is really bad”

“I am depressed”

Both of these suggest that the person has made the issue a part of their identity, particularly the second one – it literally shouts this out.

In saying this, you fool yourself into thinking that it is part of you and that it will never go and always will be part of you, and that it is of great significance to you. Something that is very significant to you will always be noticeable to you and, more importantly, it will influence what you do.

Do not fall into this trap. Instead of saying “my anxiety is really bad” or “I am depressed”, say “I’ve been feeling quite anxious recently” or “I have been feeling quite depressed recently.”

In saying this, you have stated what you feel, as opposed to what you think YOU ARE.

If you think that “my anxiety is really bad” or “I am depressed”, try not to judge that thought and let it float. Following this, replace that thought with “I feel quite anxious” etc.

If this is proving to be difficult, deep breathing is particularly helpful. Pay careful attention to how you’re breathing when you feel anxious. You will often notice that your breathing is not deep, but it is quite shallow. When you notice this, slowly breathe deeper. This takes practice as it has become a habit.

It is also key to bear in mind that everyone has some feelings of anxiety, and that you are not the only one. We are all human.

Realizing that you’re not psychic

This is quite important to know, and also works for those who seek external affirmation from others and those who source their confidence from others.

We can sometimes develop the habit of thinking that we are psychic and can read others’ minds. In all reality, we cannot and never can. To test this, ask a friend to look at you with a straight face and try to guess what they are thinking. Now tell them what you thought they were thinking. Now ask them to reveal their true thoughts. You’ll be wrong most of the time.

When you realize this, you’ll find that you will never be able to know what people think and the best thing to do is to be yourself and learn to be comfortable whilst doing that.

Be realistic and be positive

Considering what I said in the latter paragraph (learning to be comfortable with yourself), the following methods may help you achieve it.

Firstly, stop trying to be perfect. It is a hard fact that no one is perfect. In fact, striving to be perfect can worsen social anxiety. This is because you strive for unrealistic standards, and when you don’t meet them, your self-esteem lowers. Everyone has flaws. Even those appearing to be most confident, those who are the most attractive and those who are the most intelligent, and so on.

However, with that said, we ALL have a great deal of commendable features. But how do we recognise these without falling into the trap of analysing everything that we do? Create a list, in a book or on your computer. Every single evening, look back at your day and write three good features of yourself that proved to be helpful for that day. You can even write why next to the feature. You will find that you are much better a person than you believe to be. Also, if you find this difficult, then chances are that you are being harsh on yourself. This is not good, so try to stop it!

For example:

  • Intelligent (got a B for my mock test)
  • Funny (made my friends laugh several times today)
  • Courageous (contributed to a staff meeting today in front of 20 people)

How does this help? Well, you will realize, though it may be subconscious, that you have many positive features, and hardly any negative ones. Couple this with the fact that nobody is perfect, you will realize that you are just as great as the people that you fear socializing with. This will also increase your levels of self-confidence.

Stop overthinking the consequence

Referring back to my article on why people have increased levels of anxiety and depression (https://pdpursuit.wordpress.com/mental-health/), overthinking isn’t great. I am literally going to re-hash the same point here.

‘Consider this example of the impact of overthinking. My friend is quite big on the “Pick-up artist” stuff. One day, he tells me that he feels very insecure and it is starting to make him depressed and feel anxious in public. When I asked why, he responded with “I keep getting rejected!” and I can’t stop imagining why.

That’s the issue. Imagining why. The first couple of times that he was rejected, he had assumed that they had rejected him because they did not find him physically attractive. After doing this a couple of times, he had concluded that he was not attractive. This means that every time he was rejected after that, he jumped to the conclusion that it was for that reason. In other words, he had developed a habit of jumping from A to C. ‘

The same applies with socials situations. You cannot guess the outcome, or use past outcomes to predict future ones.

Plan your journey and things to try out

Bearing in mind what I have said above, social anxiety can be worse for some than others. Of course, it is important to see a doctor if it is preventing you from do things.

It is also helpful to have a sort of “Plan of action” on how you will tackle the feelings of anxiety and to reduce them. There are many ways to become more comfortable in social situations e.g. choosing to smile at 3 people a day, saying thank you to anyone that does you a favour, avoiding the self-check-out at the supermarket and start small talk with the cashier.

Do not avoid people. Avoiding people will make your fear of them worse. As Susan Jeffers says: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” The more you do it, the less you will fear it. This is you simply expanding your comfort zone and becoming comfortable with the previously uncomfortable activities.

A good way to plan your journey and track your progress is to create an “exposure hierarchy.” At the top, write down your most feared social situations, and at the bottom, the least feared. Slowly, starting from the bottom, begin to try out these feared social situations. Maybe even set dates for when you will face a feared social situation. This is particularly helpful. But, remember that you should gradually face the new fear. Jumping into them all runs a risk of your feelings of anxiety becoming worse.

Concluding remarks

To finish this article, I have two things to say:

  • You have to face the fear
  • Practice makes perfect

Facing the fear is key. If you don’t, you will never overcome it. Also, you must consistently do it. If you do it as a “one-off”, it doesn’t help so much in the long term. The techniques provided in this articles should inevitably help to an extent! Some people that I have recommended these techniques to have said that their feelings of anxiety have pretty much disappeared!

Best of luck!

PDP