The Rise in Anxiety and Depression and What We Can Do
When we look in our schools, churches and homes we are seeing an increased sense of hopelessness and panic. It’s worth looking at why we are seeing this rise and what we can do about the effects it is having on our families and communities.
Changes in the Family System
Significant changes in the family system highlight traumatic life events called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs.) Tragic pieces like divorce, abuse and fatherlessness show that these adverse experiences occur beyond the bounds of socioeconomic status or race. These difficulties often go unnoticed and without the attention necessary to receive help and healing. These wounds can remain, leading to what psychologists refer to as arrested development. When individuals don’t take the time to address their pain they often try to skip over it or work around it, inadvertently bringing these pieces into future relationships.
What We can do:
Take time to grieve and deal with the pain. Write about it in a journal and take the risk to share your story with others in a loving environment. Seek out a mental health professional trained to work through trauma and take the steps necessary toward health and healing. Join a local support group and take somebody you love with you. I personally have benefited from each of these resources. In my story I share about the importance of taking the time to work through the difficulty of experiencing divorce and losing a loved one. I like to remind myself and others, statistics are numbers and they do not define an individual.
Note: At the height of anxiety and depression a person can consider the following resources including speaking with their doctor, monitoring sleep and exercise, receiving comfort from their support system and counseling from a mental health professional. In the case of an emergency always call 9-11.
Margin and Our Need to Rest
One of my most memorable experiences was traveling to Ghana in West Africa and speaking with students and families. What struck me most was the ease in which young boys and girls were able to engage in independent play and to do so for hours at a time. The children were not rushed nor were they mentally overwhelmed or battling discontent in a state of chronic anticipation. Many of the students had close relationships with their families and a healthy sense of purpose and resilience. In American families and communities we see a paradox. We see students and families with advantages of affluence, opportunity and yet soaring rates of anxiety, depression, suicide and heart disease. When facing stress individuals may choose to escape through the misuse of food, video games, social media, isolation and alcohol. Today’s families are busy and over-scheduled. Many are preoccupied with excessive screen time or involved with demanding competitive sports and weekly activities. What about slowing down from the busyness? Dr. Richard Swenson’s book, Margin makes the point,“Ninety-nine percent of American homes have television, with the average set turned on fifty-five hours a week.” Families are overloaded with information and being given a desire, as Patrick Morley states, “to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like.” We are now growing oddly distant from one another and the results have lead to an increased state of hopelessness and panic.
What We Can Do
Slow down and increase the bond with the ones we love. There is freedom in knowing that we don’t have to hold it all together. We can set personal limits and when it’s appropriate say no.
Dr. Sue Johnson, creator of Emotionally Focused Therapy writes concerning the importance of positive close relationships, "You can eat special organic and gluten-free foods, gulp down multivitamins, get yourself to a gym and meditate into a stress free zone, but the best tonic for staying healthy and happy into old age is probably turning up your relationship. Being attached to your partner buffers us when illness strikes...it is emotional support, expressing concern and allowing partners to express their feelings that sustains health and maintains optimal functioning of our bodies cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems. And it is emotional support, not physical assistance or pragmatic advice that most cushions us from the stress and strain of illness when it occurs." The truth is there’s no replacement for time and it’s not too late to slow down and make a change today.
Josh Neuer is a Licensed Professional Counselor who speaks worldwide about how individuals, families, and businesses can rewrite their story and ignite tangible and lasting results. Josh is passionate about empowering change in communities. He is the founder of Joshua Neuer, LLC, a counseling and consulting business; a certified educator, husband, father, and is absolutely crazy about relationships. To learn more or see a list of services provided visit JoshNeuer.com.