There is no doubt we live in a fast-paced world. When we greet someone with the typical, “how are you?” it seems the most common responses are “busy” or “tired.” Americans take fewer vacations and more antidepressants. We have more creature comforts and conveniences than any time in history, but we are collectively anxious.
One of the biggest culprits is clearly the massive exposure to information we have at our fingertips all the time! Media coverage of alarming events is non-stop. We rarely unplug from our televisions, computers, or mobile devices. Social media provides instant updates on all facets of life. It seems we are addicted to needing constant input.
We have much to be grateful for with the incredible advances in technology the last 30 years. So don’t get me wrong, I’m not an enemy of these advances and the conveniences they provide. But we do seem to be losing our capacity to slow down and unplug. Is it acceptable to be alone with our thoughts anymore? But maybe we don’t want to be alone with our thoughts. Maybe this makes us think about things we don’t want to think about.
Anxiety isn’t a bad thing in some of its forms. Without anxiety human beings wouldn’t function, and we probably wouldn’t have survived as a species. Anxiety serves to motivate and protect. But it’s designed to assist us in specific situations. It is not designed to be persistently present. In fact, the chronic presence of anxiety has detrimental effects on our physical and mental health.
There are some simple, common sense things we can all do to reduce anxiety. Getting good sleep is a major factor in letting our mind rest and recover. Exercise and physical activity clearly help reduce anxiety levels. Healthy eating habits have a positive impact on our moods.
But I want to challenge myself and each person reading this to create some space for quiet time. Be alone with your thoughts for a period of time. It may feel weird and awkward at first, but ride this out and allow yourself to get used to the quiet. Slow the engines of the brain down.
Maybe, just maybe you will experience some moments of peace, contentment, and calm. Don’t worry, the over-stimulating world we live in will be waiting for you if you miss it.
Michael Kragt, Ph.D., CAC III