According to the Mental Health Foundation, 22% of women experience anxiety all or most of the time, with 18-24-year-olds being most severely affected, with 29% suffering from anxiety.
“A racing heart, a mind that never switches off, rampant self-doubt and a creeping sense that you’re never quite good enough? That sounds like anxiety,” says Chloe Brotheridge, a hypnotherapist and coach at calmer-you.com who has penned The Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl.
But why is anxiety so prevalent amongst young women? Here, Chloe shares her musings on what could be causing anxiety, as well as possible solutions for anyone experiencing the health condition.
Despite that fact that your monthly cycle can derail your mental health for half of the month, we’re not taught about how our hormones can impact our moods and how to manage this. It’s only been in recent years, with the rise of period tracking apps and more conversations about the topic, that more and more women are becoming aware that your period can seriously impact your anxiety levels. Many women that I speak to are surprised to learn that period anxiety is a thing, but it is.
How to tackle this: As women, we have a cycle, but in this man’s world we’re expected to be on top form every day. Track your cycle and learn to recognise the days when anxiety is most likely to strike. Can you take it easier on yourself on those days? Schedule your meetings and presentations for other days of the month? Or just ensure you’re getting an early night? Equally we’re most likely to feel calm and confident when we’re ovulating so take advantage of that too. A bit of awareness and pre-planning can go a long way in helping you to feel calmer.
Despite often being associated with older people, loneliness is highest amongst young women, according to the mental Health Foundation. Our phones make us feel more connected than ever but it means we miss out on the real in-person connection that we truly crave and need for our mental wellbeing. Add to that the fact that anxiety can be isolating AF. You might be prone to staying home on days when you can’t face other people or the world right now. Anxious thoughts can also make us feel as though it’s only us who struggles this way, adding to the sense of isolation.
How to tackle this: Remember, you are not alone. Can you connect with other people experiencing the same as you? That might mean a support group, Meetup, women’s circle or workshop. Maybe for you, it’s about opening up to your friends and family about how you’re feeling so you’re not struggling in silence. Or logging on to Bumble BFF to find some new friends in your area. If social situations are hard for you, challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone.
From having critical parents to being exposed to airbrushed images of perfection from an early age – there can be a number of reasons why we might be a perfectionist. Don’t be fooled, having a messy desk or wearing odd socks doesn’t mean you don’t have perfectionist tendencies. From checking over emails 7 or 8 times to spot any mistakes to obsessing over your pore size, perfectionism can show up in nearly any area of our lives. It might look like feeling dissatisfied with the way you look, or feeling that one minor error in a presentation is disastrous. Being this way is bound to make us anxious as we never feel good enough and are constantly striving for more.
How to tackle it: In order to be ‘perfect’ we’d have to be perfect in the eyes of everyone we meet and since everyone’s idea of perfection is different, it’s an impossible task. It’s also impossible because as human beings, we are flawed, messy and imperfect. Investigate where in your life perfectionism is showing up and what the cost is of having such high standards. Ask yourself, what would it be like to lower my standards by just 10%? Chances are, no one would notice and you’d still do a great job.
Yes, social media gets a bad reputation when it comes to mental health and while it’s certainly not the only thing driving the rise in anxiety amongst young women – it plays a big role. Not only do we never switch off from our devices – the average person touches their phone 2617 times a day – but social media can be a trigger for FOMO, comparison and feeling like we’ll never do or have enough (why is everyone on Instagram either on holiday or getting married?!). All of this can lead to us feeling dissatisfied with our own lives and feeling less than, a sure-fire trigger for anxiety.
How to tackle this: Phone boundaries are a must so turn off notifications and delete apps from your phone if you can, to limit your ability to log on compulsively. Put your phone in a drawer or another room so it’s out of sight and mind. If the content of your feed is bringing you down, consider a cull. On Instagram and Facebook there’s no need to unfollow or unfriend, you can hide people from your feed and stories so your secret stays safe. If pictures of baby animals make you feel calmer than snaps of Kellie from accounts on her honeymoon, follow/unfollow accordingly.
Positive vibes only
Everyone wants to feel positive but right now we’re living in a culture where #goodvibes are all that we think we’re allowed to feel. We’re quick to label emotions as good or bad meaning that we suppress the less pleasant feelings and make ourselves wrong for feeling them. It’s exhausting surpressing our feelings and it leads to anxiety. This might manifest as numbing our pain or fear with booze or shopping, posting smiling selfies when in reality we’re feeling low and telling people we’re ‘good’ when inside we’re a nervous wreck.
How to tackle this: Remember, feelings are not good or bad, they just are. Feeling sad, angry or fearful is natural; it’s impossible to feel good all the time. Feelings want to be felt, but when we suppress them, it can lead us feeling numb and anxious. Next time you’re feeling something that’s far from positive, permit yourself to feel it fully. Journal, write, scream, cry or tell a friend how you’re feeling. Instead of distracting yourself from your sadness, investigate what it’s really about for you. It’s ok to feel whatever you feel.