Handling Anxiety in a Fearful, Stressful, Even Toxic, World
Our world, it seems, is becoming increasingly toxic; handling anxiety in this fearful, stressful environment can sometimes seem impossible. Negativity swirls around us like dead leaves tossed about in a gust of wind. (And it can feel like the wind picks up not just dead leaves but gravel, pelting us with the gravel; and it can feel like the wind is so violently strong that we can’t move.) It’s not uncommon right now to feel alone in that wind storm because everyone else is trapped in their own anxious storms (Despite Paralyzing Anxiety, There Are Ways To Move). Are humans still driven by kindness, or are they driven by hate toward those who disagree with them? It can be difficult to handle anxiety in a fearful, stressful, toxic world.
Many people say that because of the fear, stress, and toxicity that currently exists in our world, their traditional anxiety coping skills are insufficient to calm fears and reduce anxiety (Coping Skills for Mental Health and Wellbeing). This feeling of powerlessness further increases anxiety. Feeling powerless makes sense given the climate right now; however, powerless does not mean helpless. There are ways to handle anxiety, build a sense of control, and move forward despite stress and fear about the world around us.
“We want to challenge each of you to see the good in others… and to be the good others see in you.” — Greg Borgerding, high school principal
Five Steps to Handle Anxiety in Our Toxic, Fearful, Stressful World
- Separate yourself from the noise. Think of it as coming unglued. Personalizing world events increases anxiety because it can make us feel directly responsible for problems (The Solution for News Media Anxiety). Distance yourself by intentionally keeping track of your own life and the positive things in it. Coming unglued this way actually allows you to free up your empathy and use it in your own world.
- Accept what you can’t change. Accepting that there are things you can’t change increases your power and control. When we’re caught up in big issues that we can’t directly impact, we can feel paralyzed by our anxiety. You can still have empathy, concern, and caring, but by accepting that you can’t change certain things, you can start to move despite your anxiety. You can focus on those things close to you that you can impact positively.
- Control what you let in. Visualize an invisible filter surrounding you like a soft, comfortable blanket. This filter is a boundary that you create for yourself. We are bombarded by other people’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, interpretations of information, misinformation, and a desire to be noticed. It never ends unless we set limits (The Anxious Empath: Anxiety And Other People’s Feelings). News and social media exposure can be detrimental to your mental health when done too frequently or for too long. Tune into your physical and emotional reactions as well as the quality and content of your thoughts. When you notice signs of anxiety, stress, fear, and more, turn away.
- Define your values. What in your life, in your own sphere of influence, is important to you? Instead of ruminating over what’s wrong everywhere, decide what is important to you in your own world and focus on that. Defining your values is effective in handling anxiety.
- Live your values. Know what is the most important to you and delineate positive action steps for achieving it. Who can you reach out to in your own community to help in a positive way?
Handling Anxiety in a World of Fear and Stress Involves Your Own Values, Actions
Having anxiety about what’s happening around us is natural. When faced with fear, stress, and toxicity, anxiety is a normal physical and emotional response. Happily, we’re not helpless and there are many things we can control.
Among other things, we can control:
- Who we are as a human being
- What we value
- What actions we take every single day to make our lives better as well as improve the lives of those around us
With value-driven choices and actions, we don’t just handle our anxiety but drastically reduce it.
In a recent letter to his students, parents, teachers, and the greater school community, high school principal Greg Borgerding wrote, “We want to challenge each of you to see the good in others . . . and to be the good others see in you.”
This values- and action-oriented mindset is the key to handling anxiety in a fearful, stressful, and even toxic world.
Peterson, T. (2017, February 2). Handling Anxiety in a Fearful, Stressful, Even Toxic, World, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, December 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2017/02/handling-anxiety-in-a-fearful-stressful-even-toxic-world
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
[Original comment has been removed, but Teresa and her feelings are very important and are addressed in the reply.]
Sometimes, people do feel that they are alone and that no one cares. It can be hard to know what to do in times like these, but there are caring people who can help by listening, providing information and resources, and more. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is an amazing group of people who can and do help. They are always available. Visit or call them 24/7 at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org where you can chat, or call 1-800-273-8255. You aren't alone, and you can reclaim your life.
Thank you so much for sharing some useful tips and your story! I am always inspired by these stories because from such a young age, I felt like I was the only person who suffered from anxiety. I really enjoyed the article, and my favorite part of it was "accepting what you can't change". The wording itself sends a powerful message and I could not agree more with that paragraph. I believe everything happens for a reason, and instead of fighting against something, you have to sometimes accept it! I used to have a problem of letting go of toxic relationships but I recently just cut a toxic relationship out of my life. It was very hard because I was close with that person for 10 years and my anxiety kept telling me to hold on to the relationship and deal with the stress, but I had to realize that people change and that I cannot always depend on someone other than myself. But, here I am a few months later and I feel like weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. Because of the way I feel now after cutting some toxic out of my life, I now know it is for the best, especially when it comes to my mental health. It is hard when your thoughts are bringing you down, but sometimes you have to go outside of your comfort zone to find your happiness!
Thank you for your comment! Thanks, too, for sharing a bit of your own story. I'm happy to hear that you got yourself out of that toxic relationship. It can be really hard to do that, and a big reason is the anxiety the abuser/toxic partner creates. (One of the things I do is work with teens regarding healthy vs. toxic relationships.) Acceptance isn't always easy, but it's powerful and important. Acceptance leads to just what you describe -- feeling like a weight has been lifted. Getting out of your comfort zone is really hard, but when you do, you can create an even better, healthier comfort zone -- as you already know! Also, thanks for sharing your website with your anxiety insights.
we all have good and bad days.
however, if you´re feeling anxiety and down, and if these feelings have started affecting what normally you enjoy or do, it is necesary that you find out or search information that can help you.
i recommend the website https://www.youthbeyondblue.com/.
Thank you for sharing this resource. I checked it out, and it does have helpful information for youth about the brain, depression, and anxiety.