Lessons from the Literature: Welcome to the United States of Anxiety: Observations from a Reforming Neurotic – Anxiety Happens No Matter What

There are approximately 40 million people in the United States that will suffer from an anxiety disorder in any given year, which equates to about 18% of the country’s population1. Essentially, anything and everything can cause anxiety for someone: social situations, careers and body image are some that are on that never-ending list. All of us have experienced anxiety and depression over the last year in some way shape or form, mostly due to the health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, which has amplified the mental health pandemic that already existed.

We all ultimately want to reach self-actualization, at least according to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs2 (remember this from Psychology class?).  Jen Lancaster, an author and comedienne, lays out how even the attempt to meet our basic needs can give one anxiety in our current society in the book Welcome to the United States of Anxiety: Observations from a Reforming Neurotic. She breaks it down by each level of the hierarchy, discussing different topics about which we may worry, including food and diet, environment (climate, political, etc.), social interaction with friends and family, and self-esteem.

It seems that some of this anxiety is brought on by the fact that we feel like we must “keep up with the Joneses” or Kardashians or any other family with which you are competitive. Self-actualization seems like it’s only achieved unless we’re “winning” against others or “owning” them. It’s been obvious that social media has exacerbated this need to be better than one another. It’s a world with which most of us share only the good times in our lives and omit the hard stuff. It’s as if we need to constantly be “on” for everyone, even on those bad days. It’s not sustainable; everyone has an off day now and then.

Let’s face the fact that everything in our lives can be anxiety-ridden in one way or another. However, it doesn’t need to be that way. I’m no therapist, but I have realized that it’s not the situation that will change, but instead your reaction to it. I try to maintain this credo but will admit I fail now and then. I’m not perfect and don’t claim to be.

There are plenty of ways that people can use to ease those daily anxieties, including gratitude practices, meditation or hobbies. Sometimes it may even take intervention from another party (i.e., medical treatment or medication). That’s okay; everyone has a different approach to unwind. One way with which the author eases her anxiety is with facts and figures. I think this is an important tactic to have in your toolbox, but others may use different ways. Of course, we all need food, water, and love, but the way in which we meet our physiological, social, and esteem needs may vary from person to person.  

It was John F. Kennedy that said the following: “Our problems are man-made; therefore, they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”3 We encounter things in our life that bring on a level of anxiety. It’s our individual efforts to lessen the blow for us to be more perfect people and reach a level of happiness.

Links:

  1. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety
  2. https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
  3. https://www.pickthebrain.com/21-quotes-that-will-inspire-you-to-create-your-destiny/

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