Anxiety, for many, is an isolating state, a mentality where we feel stuck, alone and lost. At times, we may experience anxiety attacks which are typically accompanied by racing thoughts about how we are always going to feel this bad, that there's something inherently wrong with me. These thoughts and feelings become consuming and overwhelming, nearly unbearable and can come on at various times in various settings.
- Overview: Managing Anxiety
- Ways to Find a Positive Community
- The Case for Being Together - Why Community Matters
- How Purpose-driven Communities Ease Anxiety
- The Bottom Line
Overview: Managing Anxiety
Managing anxiety is draining and exhausting for all who have experienced it. When anxiety comes, it can rage and rage, while resolution alludes us. To resolve an anxiety attack, we may wait it out, exhaust our energy, sit, try to meditate, or maybe take some CBD. This approach can prove effective, especially if you have been on a steady streak of meditation, nevertheless, fully emerging from a panic state can be difficult under certain situations of distress.
The other approach to managing anxiety is inherently unrehearsed and outside of one’s control - relying on and trusting others to help. When a friend or family member comes to your side during an anxiety attack, it can feel as if a savior is appearing to share an immensely painful load on our shoulders. A text or phone call or just generally any person showing that they care about your wellbeing can have a profound impact on assuaging an anxiety attack.
What's particularly striking about this latter form of alleviating anxiety is that many times it can be an almost immediate relief to the panicked state. One may come to realize that a consistent and powerful way to contend with these anxiety attacks is to build positive connections with friends, family and even co-workers, being open and honest with them about any troubles which, in turn, enables them to better resolve the situation.
An important note to emphasize is that I believe in the power of meditation and building internal, individually-driven tools to generate wellbeing and manage anxious feelings. This piece is not about discounting the value of that first method, but rather about exploring how to take full advantage of the second, fostering a lifestyle that helps to generate and make more accessible a relief from anxiety that is rooted in social bonds, support and community.
Ways to Find a Positive Community
For beginning to manage anxiety, start by seeking community and building a support system that fits your given situation. Be open and honest with family and friends by introducing the idea and explaining where you are coming from and how you feel. Helping others empathize with you on new levels, outside of the ordinary, can not only inform them about how to support you, but these interactions build real trust and dependability.
Where can you look for community?
Keep your head up and seek positive relationships in your work-place, in your career. Consider joining volunteer or hobby groups and expanding your circle of friends. If you are a more introverted person, these relationships can be discovered and through different unique channels that are not as extraverted by nature.
What is the goal? Imagine a comfortable net of caring people who are happy to ease your load when you feel the weight of anxiety, people who will listen, hear, and understand you.
The Case for Being Together - Why Community Matters
Loneliness can be defined as the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. This definition implies that loneliness is subjective and varies with the individual. Social isolation, which is often correlated with feelings of loneliness, can be defined as a lack of social connections. We face a challenge in that social isolation can lead to loneliness in some people, while others can feel lonely without being socially isolated. Because of these realities, community matters tremendously, and there are many reasons why being together has profound benefits.
Having access to a community can have many health benefits that are broader than the management of anxiety. For example, although measuring social isolation and loneliness accurately is difficult, research conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely in ways that put their health at risk.
As we age, having a gentle community to rely on becomes essential to cultivating a healthy lifestyle, and there are various real risks that stem from feelings of isolation. For instance, a study on loneliness and isolation conducted in 2020 by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that:
- Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
- Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
- Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
- Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
- Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
Humans love connection; we are communal. And yet, finding communities of like-minded individuals starts with listening to one’s self. When you are looking for a deeper sense of connection with others, start with self-reflection. Being aware of what matters to you personally can help you discover natural ways to connect with other like-minded people and reinforce your own sense of self. Feeling accepted for who you are can provide validation and self-worth, a foundational aspect of managing anxiety successfully. Knowing that you are needed, that you have a purpose, is a powerful reminder of your importance in your own community and reason for being.
In an article published by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), Stephanie Gilbert, a program director and therapist at Mindfulpath, addresses the importance of community, saying:
“Where you find community is up to you; there is no one-size-fits-all. And if you haven’t found a strong sense of community yet, keep trying. No matter if your community is big or small, finding people you connect with is vital for your mental health. And remember, just as it’s important for you to find your community, it’s also important for others to have you as a part of their community. We all need each other.”
How Purpose-driven Communities Ease Anxiety
Communities exist all around us, even if we do not immediately notice them, and there is an element of solace in this humble realization. We really are more together than we feel that we are apart. This element of life reveals itself even in the most drastic of situations, showing us that we can find meaning and purpose to continue striving forward regardless of our environment. Communities can emerge where we often least expect them, and purpose-filled individuals are at the center of this.
Modern scientific research on human purpose famously attributes its origins to, of all places, a Holocaust survivor’s experiences in a series of Nazi concentration camps. While a prisoner at Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and two satellite camps of Dachau, Viennese psychologist Viktor Frankl observed that, within the community of prisoners, those who had a sense of purpose showed greater resilience to the torture, slave labor, and starvation rations to which they were subjected. And thus, survivors inspired and encouraged other observers in the concentration camps to live for each other. Community formed directly out of individuals’ sense of purpose.
How can we learn from these profound insights to manage our own anxiety and reinforce our dearest communities? We can start by understanding the psychology of purpose and how it relates to building communities. In psychological terms, a definition for purpose has emerged in the literature:
“Purpose is a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at once personally meaningful and at the same time leads to productive engagement with some aspect of the world beyond the self.”
Of course, not all goals or personally meaningful experiences lead to a sense of purpose, yet in the deepest crossing of goal orientation, personal meaningfulness, and a focus beyond the self, a realized conception of purpose manifests itself.
Studies and surveys investigating individual sources of purpose in life cite various examples of individuals realizing a purpose, ranging from personal experiences (the experience of being inspired by a caring teacher) to global affairs that feel distanced from our current circumstance (becoming an activist after learning about sweatshop labor conditions in another country).
When we keep our eyes open and notice others, when we listen to our feelings, we open the doors to newfound senses of purpose. What one may realize is that a sense of purpose and the communal feeling that follows is antithetical to the isolating, self-centered state of anxiety. We are more than the contents of our own thoughts and imaginations. We can think beyond our immediate surroundings and concern ourselves with others, with a new direction, and in that moment, anxiety tends to melt away.
The Bottom Line
Life is an evolution, a progression, and we understand little about ourselves. When it comes to managing anxiety, you do not have to confront the experience alone. Anxiety tends to be exacerbated with isolation, especially when you feel a lack of support. This is why we turn to build support systems and communities around us, why we turn to existing communities that welcome us with open arms when we feel anxious and overwhelmed.
Through these communities, we immerse ourselves in a sense of purpose that encourages our own abilities to persevere through challenges. And yet, our journeys do not end with finding a community. As things change and evolve, it’s our job to keep our eyes and minds to new horizons because in our realizations of freedom, we overcome the illusion of isolation.
At Empress Teas, we are here to help. We believe in the power of community and the importance of learning from each other. Managing anxiety and finding a sense of purpose within our community are ways to have a more positive lifestyle. Treat yourself to the daily rituals you deserve: sit, sip, and self-reflect.
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- Ritual Blend Teas: Why People Love the Tradition
- Cannabidiol Relief: Helping with Anxiety and Sleep
- Why You Should Introduce Meditation into Your Life