When the State of the Country Impacts Your Anxiety Levels
Anxiety is a response to stressful events or unpleasant circumstances that a person fears they will be unable to avoid. While anxiety is usually focused on personal issues, what is happening in the world at large can contribute to an anxiety problem, especially if it is chronic or involves a diagnosed anxiety disorder. When times are tough people’s anxiety can increase, which makes it more crucial than ever that anxiety sufferers find effective means to reduce disabling stress.
In 2022 bad news seems to be coming from every direction. When you turn on the TV or radio, pick up a newspaper, visit a news site or listen to a news program on the Internet, you’ll be bombarded with shocking facts delivered in panicky tones, about inflation, war, mass shootings, soaring opioid overdose statistics, food shortages and supply chain crises, panic in the financial markets, the still ongoing pandemic, and dozens of other developments that can leave you feeling stressed and discouraged. Worst-case scenarios seem to be playing out everywhere, and as one lone individual, your ability to do anything about it seems severely limited.
If you spend a lot of time on social media or in the comments sections of your favorite websites, you’ll likely feel your anxiety ratcheting up even higher. Soon you’ll find yourself immersed in virtual territory that is saturated with anger, hostility, intolerance, bullying, bigotry, mean-spiritedness, judgmentalism, mockery, and more signs of a people divided along every line imaginable.
This could all be stress-inducing for even the calmest individual. But if you have a pre-existing anxiety issue, you may be beside yourself with worry over your future and the future of the nation. You may be twisted into knots with concern for yourself and your family, for your friends and neighbors, and for humanity in general.
The state of the country and the world can add yet another layer of stress on you at a time when you’re already seeking relief from the tension and the concerns that plague you on a daily basis. It can make a difficult situation worse, especially if you aren’t currently in professional caretreatment or taking medication for your anxiety disorder.
But what can be done? Do you have to surrender to your anxiety over the state of the nation, learning to live with the excess stress in the best way you can?
The answer is ‘no,’ you don’t have to surrender to anything. No matter how bad things are, you can take charge of your thoughts and emotions and rescue your peaceful inner being from the edge of the abyss.
Healing Through Positive and Constructive Engagement
Individuals with anxiety disorders are frightened by or intimidated by circumstances that make them feel helpless, vulnerable, and not in control of their fates. That’s why they can be adversely impacted by negative or destructive social, political, economic, and cultural developments. Since the individual citizen can’t do much on their own to solve these large-scale problems, they tend to feed into the anxiety sufferer’s fear of not being in control of their future or the future of their loved ones.
When people with anxiety troubles experience economic insecurity, feel vulnerable to crime, or are forced to worry incessantly about their children’s futures, the impact on their anxiety can be quite significant. Those who recover from anxiety disorders do so by gradually building their self-confidence and sense of personal empowerment, and that can be incredibly difficult to do if you’re worried about mass-scale problems that could affect you and that you seemingly can’t influence at all.
It is certainly true that you don’t have the power to stop a recession or a war, or heal the societal divisions that are splitting communities and families apart. One thing you can control, however, is the terms of your engagement with others and with the world at large.
You could dwell in the negativity, convincing yourself nothing can be done, and that the situation is hopeless. Or you could choose to embrace hope and optimism instead, defying those who encourage you to surrender to despair. You should realize that your anxiety sustains itself through hopelessness and feelings of helplessness. As a result pessimism is an emotion you simply can’t afford to indulge, no matter how tempting it might be to join the growing “community” of those who’ve retreated into fatalism.
You shouldn’t judge these individuals harshly, that won’t help you conquer your anxiety. But you should refuse to join their ranks, while seeking to increase your contacts with others who are rejecting defeatism in favor of hopefulness. To help reduce your anxiety, you’ll want to be around those who’ve chosen to remain cheerful and confident, and who despite the depressing times remain convinced that better days are just around the corner.
You can search for other people taking this approach on your own, through social media or through your network of social contacts. Or you can volunteer with organizations that are offering services to the needy, working for social change in general, or advocating for a specific cause that you also believe in. The important thing is to not isolate yourself, since you’ll feel a lot more powerful and in charge if you aren’t confronting life’s most difficult challenges on your own.
None of this is to suggest you should be in denial about the depth and nature of the problems we as a society are facing. But as a person recovering from a disabling anxiety condition, you can choose to honor the sentiments behind that old adage that ‘those who aren’t part of the solution are part of the problem.
Putting yourself on the proactive side of that equation will make you feel empowered and energized, and far less anxious about the state of the nation. You’ll be a part of something bigger than yourself, and that will make you feel less vulnerable and alone.
Protecting Your Mental Health Above All Else
As a citizen, you may feel a strong responsibility to stay informed and involved. This can be one reason why you pay close attention to what is happening in the world, and to what is going on in your country in particular. Even if what you read about or listen to increases your anxiety, you continue to do your best to stay informed, because you feel like it is your duty.
This is commendable. It is important for you to realize, however, that your mental health must always remain your top priority. If your anxiety becomes too overwhelming it will negatively impact every area of your life, making it difficult to accomplish much of anything while dramatically increasing your personal misery index.
You need to take care of yourself when you have an anxiety disorder, staying diligent and dedicated to the various elements of your anxiety treatment plan regardless of what is going on around you. You can still make an effort to stay up-to-date on current events, and to support the causes you believe in as you see fit. But your involvement shouldn’t come at the expense of your anxiety. You must maintain a successful balancing act, where your anxiety can be addressed, and your commitments fulfilled simultaneously.
If you are in counseling for your anxiety issues, you should talk to your therapist about how occurrences in the world are affecting you. Whether you’re deeply distressed by the suffering of others, or worried about how the country’s problems may affect you or your family, you must speak frankly and forthrightly about every aspect of your anxiety, if you want to learn to cope with it effectively and consistently.
Making the Best Choices for You
It’s ultimately up to you to choose your level of immersion in what is going on in America and around the globe. You must decide whether or not to participate in activist campaigns, volunteer programs, social media discussions, or any other shared activities that address the current social, economic, and political realities.
But your interactions with your anxiety support network can guide you as you seek to make sensible and healthy choices. Your discussions with your individual therapist, your family members and peers in family and group therapy, and anyone else you regularly confide in about your anxiety problems can help you gain greater clarity, as you decide how to manage your responsibilities as a citizen. You need to find a level of involvement that is safe for you, and the people you trust can help you make an accurate evaluation of the risks and the rewards.