Depression and anxiety are sisters. They like to hang out together much of the time. Sometimes they even look alike. Depression brings with her hopelessness, sadness and a loss of interest and motivation. Anxiety brings with her irrational fear and dread, excessive worry and nervousness. Both are isolating and dark. Both bring irritability. Both are total buzz kills.
It may be the work I do, the regular exposure to people of all ages struggling with depression and anxiety. Perhaps it’s because these oh-so-real conditions are more present than ever. Perhaps there have been real gains made in our general understanding of what these words mean and our willingness to discuss them openly. Regardless, the terms “depressed” and “anxious” are increasingly part of our vernacular. It would be fairly safe to assume that if you are reading this, you (a) have experienced anxiety and/or depression at some point in your life; or (b) you know someone who has experienced anxiety and/or depression in his/her life.
Anxiety and depression are caused by genetic and environmental factors. If you lost the genetic lottery, you may be prone to experiencing one or both conditions regardless of your environment or experiences. If you are lucky enough to have won the lottery, you may still be at risk.
The United States is frequently cited by the World Health Organization as one of the most (if not the most) anxious and depressed countries in the world. With all our first world luxuries and comforts, it almost seems counterintuitive. Upon closer inspection, however, we find a culture with staunch commitments to productivity and involvement, poor diets, sedentary lifestyles, increasing social isolation and individualism, a growing detachment from nature, and a gross absence of or emphasis on restful activity. We are a culture of noise and busyness. Rest is frowned upon. Convenience is a lifestyle. All these things have an impact on our mental health.
None of us is significant enough to alter the course of our culture in and of ourselves. We can, however, start by taking ownership of our own lives. Consider the following: