It seems to me that levels of anxiety are on the rise and this appears to be particularly true among my peers. Perhaps it’s prevalent across society but more and more women my age seem to be struggling with day to day existence.
While I readily accept hormonal change to be a contributing factor, it surely can’t explain the wide spread malaise for as my doctor told me when I asked what I should expect from menopause (I paraphrase) ‘get over it, quit dwelling on it, women have always gone through this and always will”. So there!
Besides the obvious issues of caring for aging parents and aging children (many of whom either won’t or can’t leave home) I wonder what is causing this escalation. It’s doubtful that there’s a definitive list – what worries one person might be completely irrelevant to another. Personally I find myself rather obsessed with health issues – I’m healthy and in pretty good shape. I try to make good choices about my food and limit my alcoholic intake (sometimes more successfully than others). I visit the doctor for check ups, schedule regular mammograms and pap smears and visit the dentist.
At the same time, however, I find myself reading endless articles about extending my telomeres and how to strengthen my bones while protecting my heart. I am a glutton for books that explain how I can age better by eating better. I eat eggs as the perfect protein until I read that eggs are terrible for us. I up my intake of low fat dairy to get my calcium until a friend tells me of research declaring dairy to be verbotem. “Consulting Dr Google” (as my patient but sometimes sarcastic husband refers to the searches) is a long and very slippery slope where a rash becomes shingles, and heartburn or GERD is cause for emergency care.
Really by the end of it all, I am thoroughly exhausted and in need of a long soak in the tub and a glass of wine (or maybe a good cry) – all three seem to help immeasurably so I suppose my issues aren’t too deep rooted. So why the worry about illnesses and the inability to dismiss aches and pains and indigestion as part of life and the body’s reaction to external stresses? Maybe it’s the avalanche of sickness around us – as we age, friends fall ill and for those of us who have lost close friends or family, it all strikes a bit close to home.
I think that the expectations we have for ourselves have spiraled out of control and this too contributes to the anxious feelings. Social media exploits these expectations through a continual barrage of beautiful photos and well composed postings of perfection. How on earth are we ever supposed to measure up?
Add to this the state of the world and it becomes easier to understand the escalating anxiety. The divisions and hatred once believed to be symptomatic of countries at war have become commonplace. A Jamaican friend of mine recently bemoaned that he had been foolish and perhaps naïve enough to believe that civil rights were so entrenched in our history that there could never be any doubt of their existence. Homosexuality has become illegal again in some countries. Are we already so removed from the experiences of World War II that it’s possible for far right parties to not only exist but flourish, and for anti Semitism to be on the rise? It’s shocking (but perhaps it shouldn’t be) that China has jailed two Canadian citizens in obvious retaliation for the arrest and holding of Meng Wanzhou from Huawei which was done to fulfil our extradition treaty with the USA.
I am aghast at the havoc Brexit is causing and cannot understand how this has come to be the political climate in the UK. My heart bleeds for Ireland where peace and prosperity is threatened years after it was miraculously attained following “the troubles”
As a country bordering the United States, one can only wonder how on earth Donald Trump became the president. Acrimony over “The Wall” shut down the American government for 35 days and the temporary reprieve is just that – temporary.
I rarely watch the news anymore and reading the newspaper is not for the faint of heart. The once prosperous country of Venezuela is in complete turmoil, Brazil is in the hands of Bolsonaro and Duarte rules the Philippines.
It’s really no wonder we feel anxious. But the question is how do we cope; how do we continue to move forward with optimism and a semblance of good cheer. It may seem trite but the only remedy I can think of (besides the bath and glass of wine mentioned earlier) is to be grateful for the love of friends and family, to laugh whenever possible and appreciate all the little things that still make life so interesting; a great book (I recommend Washington Black by Esi Edugyan or Anthony Horowitz’s newish novel The Word is Murder, a perfect gin and tonic at the end of the day and a long walk in the sunshine. I used to scoff at maxims to appreciate little gestures and smiles but I find they’re often what brighten my day and make the challenges of life bearable. I’m fortunate to have great friends, loving family and a wonderful partner but for those not so lucky and for whom there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel there’s no shame in reaching out for support. I love following Charlie Mackesy on Instagram – he recently wrote “Asking for help isn’t giving up” said the horse ”it’s refusing to give up”.
It’s a polar vortex here in Canada – I’m off to deal with reality by escaping – a few days in Mexico ought to do the trick.