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Is your lifestyle causing anxiety?

“The solution to an over-busy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.” John Mark Comer

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one third of Americans will experience some form of an anxiety disorder in their lives.

When your lifestyle is full of stress and unregulated emotional triggers our bodies enter into fight or flight mode. This is when our hormones associated with stress i.e. Cortisol, Adrenalin, and Norepinephrine are released causing all sorts of physiological reactions like increased blood pressure, racing heart, increased temperature, and extra usage of your energy.

Experiencing too much of these stress hormones can lead to all sorts of health issues in the long run.

In the early 1900’s there were predictions that by this time our lives would be slower because our technology would be so advanced. People thought that we would be working less and spending more time doing what we love.

However, this is clearly not the case. In fact, we try to cram more into our days due to the technology that can help pick up the slack in the meantime.

Why do we choose to be busy?

Some of you may be thinking that you don’t have a choice, that there is nothing you can cut out to give yourself more time. But before we dive into rebuttals, let’s take a look at the big picture.

Our culture frames busyness as a sign of hard work and our society thrives on staying connected, giving us even less time to catch a break.

When someone asks you how you’re doing, how many times do you respond with an iteration of, “I’m good, just staying busy?” As if “busy” encapsulates all the good things in our lives, as if “busy” is showing the other person how dedicated you are because you’re constantly overworking yourself.

In the States there is a huge emphasis on goals. We see endless self help books, podcasts, movies, and shows all directing us to work harder and faster because if we aren’t working harder than the Jones’... we’re failing.

But why is it that when it comes to keeping up with the Jones’ we never decide that enough is enough? Where is the finish line?

Is it your lifestyle? Or is this just “how it is?”

Make a table with three columns.

In the first column you’re going to write down all of the things that make you anxious when you think of them. It can be the biggest of things like sick parents to the smallest of things like mowing the lawn, just write them all down.

Is it your 80 hour work week? All the extra curricular activities that the kids are signed up for? Maybe it’s the planning for events or the stress of finances because you’re spending too much money on outings.

In the next column write your “why.”

Why are you planning so many social events? Why are your kids involved in endless activities?

Be very specific with this part. If you’re identifying the “why” for your work don’t simply write “for money.” Be specific about the things you want to achieve through your work- do you love what you do? Do you love providing for your family? Do you feel a sense of worth with work and worthless without it?

In the next column write down what would need to happen to change this stressor. We’ll call this the solution column.

Create the Solutions

Once you’ve identified your why, allow yourself to dwell on if the “why” is worth the stress.

When the stress is not worth it we know that something can be done, but figuring out the solution can be the hardest part. Oftentimes, we don't want to cut back on our lifestyles. You may feel like you’re missing out at first, but this is our culture creeping back in, telling us that we have to be a part of everything.

Figure out your priorities in life and narrow down what you are willing to let go of. And THEN, do not fill that created free time with more things. Leave the space to do nothing. Because, believe it or not, you’re still valuable even when you’re doing absolutely nothing.

There are times when the anxiety-inducing activities may be worth it or they may be unavoidable and simply maintaining yourself is all you’re focused on during this time. If this is you, find anxiety reducing techniques that work for you and make sure there is an end in sight. Don’t allow “the creep” to happen. The creep is when you’ve reached the spot where you thought you’d be able to pull back, but then the idea gets bigger or the financial goal gets higher. Whatever it is, see the finish line and stick to it.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have higher goals later on, but allow yourself to enjoy what you’ve accomplished with a season of rest. Just as the seasons change with times of rapid growth and times of slow rest, our bodies can do the same.

Include times of rest

It’s easy to want to fill your new found free time with watching Netflix on the couch, and sometimes it’s okay to do that. However, it only causes true relaxation for so long. How many times have you been watching tv, while your phone is in your hand and you’re filling your mind with more bursts of hormones or more stress?

But what else is there to do? You’ve already taken a nap, now what?

Have you ever heard of active resting? These are activities that help calm your mind while still creating good hormones.

Try a walk, without your phone. Read a book. Go watch the sunset on the hood of your car. Take your kids to the new park and leave any type of electronics behind. Find a petting zoo. Maybe take the kids out of school for an hour to watch the longhorn cattle walk the stockyards at 10 am. Find a free art museum and stroll for an hour. Get creative and create beautiful, relaxing memories.

There are pros to being able to zone out on our phones or with the tv, but don’t allow this to be your only source of relaxation. Romanticize your life and get creative with the possibilities.

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