Are Your Surroundings Making You Anxious?

by Kate on May 11, 2012

in Healthy Living, Healthy Mind, Simple Living

Where Does Your Anxiety Come From?

Although work and family issues may obviously cause anxiety, much of your day to day angst may simply come from the city you live in. My surroundings certainly make me anxious: I live in Los Angeles, the City of Anxious.

Let me describe what I experience and tell me if you feel something similar:

I’m driving home from work. I’ve had a good day, but a little up and down. Someone cuts me off in traffic. I gasp a little but think “whatever” and continue on. I’m driving down Wilshire, billboards left and right full of color and images, some that even flash. A bicyclist veers in front of my car because after all I’m supposed to share the road. I’m a calm driver so I simply firmly press the break and don’t honk. But then a minute later I’m cursing myself for not honking thinking “why didn’t I honk, it was his fault?” Then I’m hitting every red light as I drive down La Brea. It’s only 3 o’clock on a Thursday and this drive is already taking twice as long as usual. ‘Ugh I hate these people,’ I think as a turn down my street. Why do they live here? There are no jobs here. The weather’s great, but the pollution means going outside to enjoy it is like asking for cancer. And then I pull into my parking spot.

See that? I started with “I’ve had a good day” and ended with “cancer.”

Maybe you live in a walking town so what makes you anxious is different. Maybe for you it’s those people who bump into you and almost cause you to spill your coffee, or the long lines on your lunch break, or the loudness of everyone and everything around you. We don’t realize it, because with 7 billion people in the world, events like this are just common. But I tend to think each one causes just a little hiccup of anxiety and over time these hiccups build up into this constant hum of anxiety. It’s always there, almost like white noise.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, anxiety is bad for you. It’s bad for you emotionally, mentally, and physically. The emotional and mental negative effects are pretty obvious, but physically, anxiety is linked to all kinds of illnesses including migraines, asthma, IBS and cancer.

How Can We Quiet The Anxiety?

Mindfulness.

Start by practicing awareness of your breathing on a day to day basis. While you’re driving or working, does it become shallow or uneven? Relax your breath by focusing on long exhales.

Also be mindful of tension in your body. Are you shoulders relaxed or scrunched up toward your neck? Relax your shoulders and neck and relieve headaches by using this little trick from the Alexander Technique:

  • Imagine there’s a string coming out of the top of your head. Imagine it’s being pulled forward and up. Don’t reach your neck up. Let the thought of “forward and up” guide your body.
  • Rotate thinking forward and up with thinking wide and open across your chest and upper back.

Remember this is really a visualization. It’s not about posture. Or if it is about posture, then it’s your internal posture. Whoa…this just got really granola huh? Hah! But truly if you can do these visualizations at times when you’re likely to be holding stress (while working or driving especially) you’ll be in much better shape mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I have other tips that I’m sure I’ll share later, but I think those are my favorites and the best ones to start with!

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*In the spirit of full disclosure, links to products in this post may be affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you decide to purchase any of the products I recommend. Know that I only recommend products that I have used and love myself.

*I am not a doctor, a nurse, or any kind of health practitioner. I’m just a gal with a pretty keen intuitive sense, great research abilities, and curiosity that is easily peaked. Please understand that my advice is really just another opinion and it’s for you (and your doctor) to decide the best course for your health and well-being.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

CTW May 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

I can relate to your experience of living in LA. I lived in LA for 11 months, and the image that most readily enters my mind is “me behind the wheel of our minivan, with a line of brake lights ahead of me as far as the eye can see…” Ugh.

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lightcleansimple May 26, 2012 at 11:33 am

“Ugh” indeed. I’m definitely looking out for any opportunities to leave. But alas it seems pretty likely we’ll be here for at least another 2 years. My main concern is how I would raise a family here. Cost and bad public schools aside, I just feel it would be difficult to raise a healthy happy child in this environment. But I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it… :)

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CTW May 31, 2012 at 10:16 am

It depends on where in “LA” you are. It’s such a huge area, there must be some “hidden treasures,” little nooks and crannies where you can be happy and healthy. When I lived there I was in a 3 story walkup near the downtown, in the Little Tokyo / artists’ district area, mere blocks from skid row. Very strange, dirty, noisy. Yet the little Catholic mission across the street was lovely, the downtown library was an incredible resource. It was not a very good place for small children, but we made do while we were there.

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