“Live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find eternity in each moment.”
-Henry David Thoreau

This generation, more than those before it, faces an onslaught of external anxiety triggers. How we receive information has changed drastically, and we live in a world of seven-second videos and headlines with clickbait, fear-filled titles, and a non-stop feed of stress-inducing information.

The invisible riptide under the surface pulls them under, and a tidal wave of pressure and expectations is coming at them all at once. The world is in a state of extreme polarization; wars and conflicts are a part of this generation’s daily digest every time they turn on a streaming channel or open an app.

Arrows can be an example of how anxiety comes from both within and without. The arrows forced inward, representing the assault of stimulus from the outside causing anxiety. In contrast, the arrows outward are representative of the invisible riptide that swirls and whirls within each of us.

Special thanks to Roger Kennedy for the concept of the arrows.

Coping with this level of anxiety can be arduous. One of the most important things we can do is to learn the purpose these feelings serve. In adults, but especially in kids and teens, understanding emotions can be the key to learning to live with anxiety.

Steps to Understanding

First, we need to identify the emotion we’re dealing with. Anxiety can present with a variety of signs and symptoms, including irritability, feeling on edge, and tensing in the muscles. In children, it can show up in a loss of appetite, quickness to anger, feeling out of control, and having outbursts. Children often also cycle in negative thoughts and worrying about things.

Once we identify the emotion, the next step is to acknowledge and accept that emotion. Truly own it and embrace it. Often, kids and adults resist experiencing those emotions, either from fear or lack of understanding. Once we understand that those emotions serve a purpose, they become less scary.

How is it Different Today?

In my practice and observations, I’ve noticed a fascinating change in the way that anxiety presents itself.

Traditionally, anxiety was internalized, and often, there was an idea or an awareness of the source of the fear or where that anxiety came from—it was more localized. It was seen as a personal vulnerability, even embarrassing.

These days, on the other hand, anxiety is different; this generation is absorbing the emotions of the world. Kids are more in tune and aware and bring a different relationship to mental health and anxiety. These kids are indeed in tune with the emotional current of the world, even from a relatively young age. They are remarkably sensitive, and the heightened sensitivity to the emotional undercurrents of the world has shaped their perspective on both anxiety and, in general, mental health.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to recognize the profound impact anxiety has on our young ones. They are not merely experiencing anxiety in isolation; they are embracing the collective emotions of humanity. It’s a powerful testament to their empathic nature and their ability to connect with the world around them.

By acknowledging and supporting this profound shift in understanding, we can empower our younger generations to navigate their mental health journey with courage and resilience and create a brighter future for all.

An Example Ahead of Its Time

The movie “My Girl” is an excellent way to practice feeling. Though perhaps dated in some ways, “My Girl” was ahead of its time in others; it depicts the mind-body connection. Veda feels deeply and worries every time someone has passed away and is brought into their funeral home. When she is upset, she runs to her doctor, who knows nothing is wrong with her but examines her anyway to reassure her.

This is the kind of acceptance we need today and a deep understanding of the connection between the body and the mind. Sometimes, what looks physical is just a physiological response to a mental health issue we’ve been ignoring. This rings true, especially in kids and teens; how often does a tummy ache turn out to be a worry about an upcoming school event or a response to a situation at home?

Anxiety is a natural response, and it’s something that, if handled right, can teach us a lot about ourselves and our kids. Just remember feelings serve a purpose, and when we stop fighting against them and accept them, that’s when we can let them go!

Learn more about the swirling whirling feelings we all deal with in The Invisible Riptide

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