Are you worried about your exam next week, anxious about a job interview, not sure how you are going to pay your bills? Everyone feels these emotions every now and then. However, some people have persistent, excessive worrying that turns into anxiety. Anxiety is defined as “a general term used for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying.” Anxiety can range from being mild to severe. Mild anxiety can affect sleeping patterns and is unsettling, where as severe anxiety has an impact on social relationships, work, school, and simple everyday activities. So, why do we worry so much? What causes us to develop anxiety disorders? What can we do about it?
According to researchers, there are two different environments that play a role in why we worry. The first is called the immediate return environment. This is exactly what it sounds like. For example, a deer lives in an immediate return environment. When the deer is hungry, he/she goes over and grazes, if the deer is being shot at, it runs away. These are immediate responses. The second is called the delayed return environment. This means that the decision you make now isn’t going to be effective immediately. For instance, if you workout today you aren’t going to have abs by tomorrow. It takes time.
In modern society, we humans live in a delayed return environment. Many of our worries are related to the future. Scientists believe that many, many years ago humans lived in an immediate return environment, where stress and anxiety were useful emotions for a means of survival. This is how anxiety evolved, because it was used to protect humans. They believe the brain developed into its current form while humans still lived in the immediate return environment and now that the environment has changed, it has a big impact on our worry and anxiety today. Living in a delayed return environment leads to chronic stress and anxiety. We worry about finding a job after college, if we are going to have enough money for retirement, if our kids are going to live long healthy lives, etc.
So what can we do about it? How do we deal with our stress and anxiety in a delayed return environment?
- Measure something: For example, you don’t know for certain that you are going to get a good grade on an exam, but you can keep track of how much you study.
- Shift your worry: For example, instead of worrying about how much you weigh, go for a walk or go to the gym.
- Do something you love: read a book, do yoga, cook, draw, sleep, meditate etc.
To conclude, anxiety is the driving force in the lives of many people in today’ society due to our delayed return environment. Our brains were developed to live in an immediate return environment and the clash between our brains and the new environment causes us stress and worry. Although, anxiety is a very hard thing to cure, there are many tips and things you can do to reduce stress. I hope this blog helps better understand how anxiety evolved overtime. Thanks for reading!
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