Anxiety. It’s a little bitch right? I definitely think it’s something our generation (millennials) massively suffers from. My gran advises me that in her youth, it was a simpler time. Obviously there was no such thing as social media and all the crap that that brings – I’ll be writing a post on this later –but I think she’s right, the whole mental frame was different. Although my grandmother was a young woman in the 40s, she didn’t seem to suffer from repression. Of course, she was lucky. And she was smart. She studied economics and catering, back then. Her education (a rare thing at the time) meant she could walk into work, literally. You would go to an establishment, request to talk to the boss, and in her case, get the job. None of the BS we have to go through when applying to a job. These days, it’s a 15 page dossier, with essay on yourself, suggestions for how their company can improve (market research?) and several references. Definitely a different time. It’s demoralising having to spend several days on an application only to get a big fat NOTHING in reply. There is no etiquette. It is now generally accepted that if you didn’t get the job, you are not worthy to be advised of that. You feel that you are wasting your time. I suppose in a time of letters and phonecalls you couldn’t really avoid it, but with e-mails, it’s a way of letting employers off the hook.
I suppose in my grandmother’s generation, it wasn’t expected that you be a career woman. The plan was usually to find a man, have some babies and settle down. My grandmother, a stunning brunette from the Isle of Man, did just that. As it turned out, she picked my grandfather; A handsome officer in the RAF. To say my grandmother was (and still is) a gorgeous woman is not me being biased. Black and white pictures of her in a 50s swimsuit on the beach with perfectly coiffed hair make her look like a movie star. There was no such thing as internet dating (something I have had my fair share of but had no luck with personally and thank god it’s behind me – see my post http://bit.ly/2IJLkRm No. She said, ‘you got a pretty dress on, you went to a dance, you met a man and you married that man.’ That’s just one angle of it. I’m lucky, being settled down is something that has never given me anxiety (I think I’m a bit of a commitment-phobe actually – blame the parents and their horrible marriage.) My anxiety, personally stems from not being fulfilled career wise, ‘life wise.’
I have these moments in bed, the ones we all get as humans, where we realise that one day we will be bones in the ground and our existence will have ceased, and you get hot all over and your heart thumps in your chest and you realise there is not a single thing you can do about it – one day you will be dead. (You have had this too, right?) Sometimes I don’t know how we as humans just go about our business when at the end of it all, we won’t be here. It’s kinda demotivating. It’s a terrifying notion, mostly because we are designed to survive, to continue; humans cannot comprehend their own end. I have this debate with my boyfriend frequently. IF we are designed to die one day (which we are) then why are we not okay with it? Why is there not a genome switched on, that makes you not care about that. Something that means that you just accept it. Because we do not accept it. Even people of faith, when it comes down to it, do not want to go. Do not want to welcome death. I know a very religious person who had a heart attack. As they lay on the floor, they did not think, ‘Okay god I’m ready, take me, let’s go, let’s do this shiz,’ no, they thought, ‘I’m petrified, I don’t want to die.’ When I was younger, it was the idea of it that really bothered me – not existing any more (also, going mouldy, not to be gross but this is something else that freaks me out but I digress) These days, it’s more about what death represents. I don’t feel like I have amounted to much. I have let myself down. This is how I feel. And I hate to let myself down. Other people on the outside, can’t see it. ‘But you have lived in New York, LA, you have a degree, you have travelled.’ Yes, all great stuff, that I am grateful for. But I am not where I want to be. And it bothers me. It gives me anxiety.
And I feel guilty. With all the technology that we have these days, why haven’t I made it? Why am I not more successful?
If Amelia Earheart can fly a plane in the 20s, why the fuck can’t I find a job I like? What am I doing wrong?
The fear is that I have to pay the bills so I get panicked, accept some shite and invariably spend the whole time feeling miserable. I do not know how to break the cycle though. And it’s obvious to employers that this is what I’m doing and clearly that’s not attractive. But I have to work, I have to earn. If anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them.
I suspect other people feel like this. These days, we are told we can have everything. And then if we don’t have everything, we feel a bit useless. Because we have ‘so many opportunities’ we are meant to be thriving everywhere – financially, on social media, romantically, career wise. Damnit if you haven’t got stocks and bonds and 3 houses and glorious holidays and an ambition to be an astronaut in your spare time.
There are other things plaguing our generation too.
My parents’ generation got grants to study at Uni. Something my auntie once told me gleefully that she ‘spent it all on drugs and never had to pay a penny back.’ Our generation had to get student loans. And that debt hangs over me to this day, more than 10 years after graduation.
It’s harder for us to get on the property ladder. The largest proportion of aged 30-40 year olds ever are still living with their parents because they can’t afford not to. I’m lucky, I live with my boyfriend, but if I didn’t – I would have to live with family – something a lot of people in that situation find depressing.
Having a degree these days are ten a penny and don’t seem to be as valuable as ‘experience.’ And how the hell do you get experience if no-one gives you that chance? You are expected to intern for free, which is fine if you can AFFORD that. If you haven’t got someone supporting you, that can be nigh on impossible. But even when when applying to unpaid internships; because it’s a way of getting in to more desirable companies, it remains extremely competitive, and difficult to penetrate.
We have lived through a recession. I couldn’t get a job at this time and it was fucking miserable. I remember a headline at the Guardian ‘I went to Cambridge and the only job I can get is a cleaner.’ It was a damn stressful time, and one in which our generation particularly suffered.
So it’s no bloody wonder this anxiety we have! So, what to do to combat it?
I tried medication, which I found to be helpful, but it made me fat. This then made me anxious. Oh the irony. So I came off those. They don’t actually ‘solve’ anything. But if you are getting so anxious you can’t see straight, it helps to level you.
I tried Yoga. But the bit where the teacher says ‘okay now everyone relax, switch off your thoughts and breathe’ DOES NOT work for me. For those who can make mediation work for you; Namaste.
All the quiet did was make my brain go into overdrive. I’m very thinky anyway, so I find it difficult to switch off. If I did manage a moment of mental peace, I was then hyper aware of everyone loudly breathing/snoring/farting and I found this annoying.
Exercise is one thing that I do find really helps. Not the pretzel, slow kind as above but actually building a sweat kind. Circuits is bloody hard, but it’s such work that you kinda forget about everything and start to see stars. My personal favourite is swimming. Although the washing the hair bit is an arse, the actual exercise works your whole body, can be done faster or slower, and I find it very enjoyable. I also do lots of thinking when I swim – but it’s more processing – I internally break down the day and the things troubling my mind and try to tackle them. Or I just think about the lastest Netflix show I’m loving and wondering what that twist means. It’s healthy thinking. Afterwards, I always feel super productive and good about myself.
I find writing really helpful. You don’t have to be Bronte to find that writing is a great release. For me, it’s therapeutic, but if you are more methodical, make lists and jot things down. I really think I should start a dream journal too, because I have vivid, crazy, creative dreams every night, and some would make epic films. My online published story was conceived entirely from a dream I had http://bit.ly/2IIKQLa
So, in conclusion, I’m always sort of battling the anxiety dragon. But I think we have good reason. It’s just trying to manage it. And trying to break the bad job cycle (which I think perpetuates a lot of anxiety)
What do you do to combat anxiety? I would love to hear your suggestions.