A friend, who is also a therapist and social worker, said something a few months back that has stuck with me. After several people and myself in our group text complained about our mounting anxiety, she interjected with a jarring perspective.
Who wouldn’t be anxious in our culture and society?
On a daily basis, we are inundated with messages that we need to do more, be more, improve, lose weight, worry about violence in schools, find the best way to feed our families, and the list goes on. This doesn’t even touch the issues of race, hate, privilege, environmental concerns and the list continues.
As a very important disclaimer, anxiety is legitimate. In many ways, it keeps us safe. However, disorders and hormones among others factors can make symptoms of anxiety debilitating. I completely support and advocate for the treatment of anxiety. I think it’s high time, though, that we address the undercurrent of worry that plagues us.
So many industries benefit from our anxiety. The feeling of needed control and the feeling that one needs to be and do better keep us looking for the next thing to quiet our mind and soul. This is extremely relevant to mothers. Think about the endless messages we are told about how to raise our children, what to look for, how to feed them, what school to choose and it never stops. For me, it’s a constant hum in the background and despite what I really desire, it always comes back.
I don’t want to promote an idea that we become completely skeptical of every little thing (because that definitely will not help fight anxiety) but meeting so many standards is impossible and so many of them conflict. So much of this is part of a new phenomenon entitled “hustle culture,” which is extremely prevalent, especially online. The idea is that if you work hard or “hustle,” you can get what you want, which is both exhausting and not completely true.
A second psychological phenomenon that is gaining a lot of research and attention is the idea of toxic self-improvement, which goes hand-in-hand with hustle culture. The idea that we constantly need to be making positive changes in our life drains us mentally and causes – you guessed it – anxiety. Feeling the need to constantly improve robs us of the present, which is really all we have.
The reason I am presenting this information is to help other moms gain some insight that I recently had into why I felt oddly anxious, especially when logging on to social media. It’s also spurred an interest in learning about the slow living movement, which is a push against hustle culture and the need to constantly do, and instead, be.