A lot of us think of anxiety as something related to the stress of modern day society. In fact, there are many sources that point to the fact that people today are more likely to suffer from anxiety than in the past. One defining factor in the rise of anxiety is the lack of belonging in modern society. Social bonds are less stable than they used to be and even people who live in cities describe themselves as being lonely. Another defining factor is the feeling of having less control over our lives. Society is more interconnected and there are therefore more people involved in decisions regarding your life. That is not to say that anxiety is exclusive to modern times.
One way of explaining phobia is by relating the experiences to prehistoric times. As cavemen phobia was our body’s way of warning us. If we had a bad experience with a neighboring tribe, we would experience phobia when asked to return there. Most near death experiences result in some form of phobia that will act as a warning sign when we are in similar situations. If you nearly died from eating a certain type of berry, you would experience phobia and therefore be afraid of eating berries in the future and so on. Anxiety can be thought of in a prehistoric context as well. There are two main reasons why humans have been so successful as a species, one being our opposable thumbs, the other being our brains. Whereas other creatures have simply lived in the present moment, we have been able to live in the past and future as well.
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Cross Culture Therapy offers 1-on-1 online therapy sessions to people suffering from depression, phobia, anxiety as well as to people who suffer from displacement issues associated with a globally nomadic lifestyle (i.e.Third Culture Kids - people who have grown up in a culture different to their parent's passport culture - and Cross Culture Kids) Our sessions are conducted via Skype for a duration of 50-minutes and can be purchased in packs of 1-session, 3-sessions or 5-sessions. If you are interested in purchasing a session, click on the Book A Session tab on our menu or click here.
Our phobia comes from events in our past and our anxiety is related to future events. Ever since prehistoric times we have been able to plan ahead. As cavemen we could foresee where an animal would be at a certain time of day and lay a trap for it. In modern times we use this type of thinking in our work as well as in our everyday life. In fact, we’re addicted to it. We analyse, plan and make contingencies for whatever will happen next. This, in and of itself, is a type of stress. We often lose ourselves in thoughts about tomorrow’s exam, the meeting we have next week or the difficult conversation we’re going to have with a loved one in a few days. Moreover, we’ll have very little power to change the outcome of what we’re anxious about. As I mentioned earlier in this article, society is more connected than it has ever been and therefore more people are involved in the decisions regarding our lives, directly or indirectly. No matter how good we do in tomorrow’s interview, the choice is not ours to make. The lack of control we have in the outcome of what is worrying us, is a defining aspect of anxiety.
Now on to how to manage our anxiety. In this article we have talked about how humans have the ability to live in the past (phobia) and live in the future (anxiety). In order to manage our anxiety we have to be in the present. This involves mindfulness practices. So next time you find yourself feeling anxious for an exam, for a meeting, for an interview or whatever, instead of thinking about what is causing your anxiety, think about how it feels inside of you. How does the anxiety manifest itself in your body? Are you breathing heavily? Are you sweating? Are you hot or cold? Pay attention to how the anxiety feels, describe it to yourself and concentrate on it. Before you realize it, you will have forgotten about the cause of your anxiety, at least momentarily.
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Philip Andersson - Life Coach
Philip Andersson is a life-coach who is currently studying to become a psychotherapist. He treats people suffering from depression, phobias and anxiety. Having been raised in Hong Kong and having lived in England and Japan as an adult, Philip also treats people who are overcome with feelings of displacement and rudderlessness associated with a global-nomad lifestyle such as Third Culture Kids, Cross Culture Kids, Migrants and Asylum Seekers.