Anxiety is the worst, particularly if you consider yourself a perfectly logical person.
You KNOW that a lot of those constant worrying thoughts don't make sense, but it’s like the neurotic side of your brain wreaks havoc whilst your logical brain is held hostage. A kind of internal bully, unseen from the outside.
Anxiety is the most prevalent mental health issue (even more than Depression) - 1/4 of us will get clinical anxiety. We know that it’s common and yet many men are reluctant to talk about it.
Something I also noticed in my work in Mental Health - is that there seems to be a lot of felt pressure on men to ‘have it all together’ in regards to career and ‘competence,' where if you aren’t upholding this ideal of who you should be - then you might feel anxiety around not being good enough. Some men also struggle with spinning too many plates and getting overwhelmed with too many responsibilities, as they feel unable to say ‘No,’ due to a sense that they should just handle it all. Notice all the ‘shoulds’ in that sentence.
Our modern world of materialism, consumerism and overwhelming access to digital media certainly plays a role in the rising rates of Anxiety, especially in younger generations. However, Anxiety is not new in evolutionary terms. In fact, it’s quite a natural part of the human mind, acting as a defence mechanism to remain alert to real threats or the possibility of pain, whether it’s physical or psychological pain including social rejection. It’s simply how we are wired. But for some of us, anxiety really takes its toll.
Underlying most of this Anxiety is a fear of uncertainty. Subsets of this include Social Anxiety: fear of being judged negatively, the classic ‘compare and despair’ of social media, not feeling good enough, fear of being a failure or FOMO. Then there is fear of making a mistake or making the wrong decision (Performance Anxiety) in particular situations, which is more around performance-related situations and is internally driven rather than focused on what other's will think. Similar to perfectionism, which is a way of trying to guarantee certainty when there is none. Other uncertainties can be related to basic needs like health, financial security and finding meaningful relationships.
We often respond to our anxiety with safety behaviours, like avoiding or escaping certain situations or procrastinating, which is another form of avoidance. And then there is an attempt to numb the discomfort with things like drugs/booze, sex, porn, food or self-destructive behaviours. Whilst these behaviours relieve the anxiety in the short term, the more we avoid it, the bigger the bully tends to grow.
Regardless of categorising anxiety as some ‘clinical diagnosis’ - everybody has it! This ‘worry bully’ inside our heads. So it's nothing to feel ashamed about.
It may help to understand that anxiety is a physiological reaction - an over-activation the sympathetic nervous system which puts us into a fight or flight stress response. Therefore we can use physiological measures to help us fight this 'worry bully'. For example, using breathing techniques and yoga helps us calm our nervous system and ease our anxiety. Furthermore, psychologically delineating what is actually within our control can also help us surrender to that which is out of our control, providing a little more internal freedom from needing to be in control all the time.
Connecting with others also helps. We are tribal creatures and we crave connection to help keep our own anxieties in check. Biologically, interacting with other humans (and animals) helps to calm our nervous system and reducing stress by stimulating dopamine, oxytocin and endorphin release from human touch, love, eye contact and all that good stuff. Since technology and materialism has driven us apart, getting back in touch with human connection & speaking with friends and family can help.
But most importantly, know that Anxiety isn’t a weakness. Living with anxiety, turning up and doing stuff with anxiety- takes a strength many will never know.
But often, we don’t realise how resilient and truly powerful we actually are. As paralysing as anxiety is, our ability to overcome our fears is stronger than its grip on us.
Author: Dr Kassi Klein from BLOKES IN MIND
P.S If you would like more support - Dr Kassi Klein offers 1-on-1 Coaching.