The Epidemic of Overwhelm: Why is Everyone Anxious & Stressed?

People are anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed. I see it everyday, all day. It’s not surprising with my working parent population – their daily load can be exquisitely heavy, their time divided up to slivers. I understand the challenge as a working mother myself.
But when a 15 year old comes to me with anxiety, or a 25-yr old with no mortgage, no kids, and no college debt tells me they’re overwhelmed and taking meds, it’s a bit more disconcerting. And a sign of the times.

From the clinical consult to the barber shop talk to the dinner table discourse, we all have our theories on why so many people experience anxiety and overwhelm and all the associated symptoms: irritability, fatigue, rapid heat rate, high blood pressure, brain fog, GI upset, hormone imbalance, inflammation, insomnia, muscle pain and tension, etc. What’s wrong? What’s going on with everybody? Is it our culture? Is it the foods we’re eating? Is it dysbiosis? Is it toxins? Is it the internet? Is it the absence of God?

We all have our theories on the current epidemic of overwhelm and anxiety. Here are the most popular theories:

  • Conventional doctors say it’s just stressful times. Our brain chemicals are off. Prozac and Xanax will do the trick.
  • The functional medicine docs often point to the gut, serotonin is wonky, too much sugar and gluten, leaky gut, dysbiosis. The cure is to heal the gut. Detox. Reduce inflammation. Eat better.
  • The naturalists, as well as many research scientists, say we are out of tune with mother earth and the rhythms and vibrations of nature. We would heal with more sunlight, fresh air, and meditation, and much less / no exposure to electromagnetic vibrations coming from microwaves, cell phones, and wi-fi.
  • Judeo-Christians say God has been pushed out of our culture and our personal lives. We hold few things sacred. We’ve abandoned God’s laws for self-righteousness. We think we can run this planet and our lives without Him, but without God as the center, we are lost.
  • Many people point to an addiction to our phones, selfies, and social media. We fall into comparison traps and end up feeling crappy. We long to unplug, but we stay driven to gain: followers, info, recognition, money.
  • Others say people are lonely. There’s no more community. The generational divides are greater than ever. Families are living in pockets and bubbles. Elders are no longer respected for their wisdom. Children think they know it all from Google and IG, and they’re runnin’ their parents. In the absence of true community, there are no challenges, checks and balances to people’s opinions and emotions. Which can lead to the point below.

Many people think our society has cultivated a “snowflake mentality,” a hypersensitivity that melts in the face of adversity. Easily thrown off. Easily offended. Emotionalizes everything. So they swing on the pendulum from anxious to depressed.

OK, so we’ve got a lot of theories on why so many people are anxious and overwhelmed. What do I think is wrong? I think it’s a bit of everything.

We’re completely out of sync with how God created us to live: in harmony with His Spirit, the earth, its foods, sunlight, and other (real, not virtual) people. We consume synthetic, chemicalized foods that degenerate our cells. We are doing too much because we think we have to do it all. We worship productivity. We have an unprecedented amount of stimuli coming in from the environment, particularly the internet, far more than our brains were ever meant to process. We are exposed to frightening amounts of electromagnetic radiation that has proven (but not popular or well-known) detrimental effects on our cellular health. We have negative family experiences but a lack of positive people modeling love, grace, vision, temperance, and peace for us. Our culture exalts self-expression, self-actualization, and self-healing above all else… this leaves little room for selflessness, sacrifice, service, and the sacred. I’m all for expressing and healing oneself – my career is largely based on this. But this can’t be the end-all, be-all. Because we are not all that is! God is, and has been… long before we came into existence. We need to hear Him more. We need to reconnect with our Source. It’s not the only solution, but it’s a major stepping stone. Indeed, we can take it stepwise. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Pray every morning in stillness for 15 minutes. Listen, don’t talk.
  2. Meditate, too
  3. Get sunlight every single day
  4. Eliminate sugars and gluten
  5. Heal your gut
  6. Commit to anti-inflammatory foods
  7. Shut down your phones from 7pm-7am. Vigilantly guard how much unnecessary information enters your brain.
  8. Unplug. I repeat, Unplug. Not just from your phone, but your laptop, tv, the internet, the news, emails, texts, etc. The science supports practicing digital minimalism to reduce anxiety and depression.
  9. Prune fruitless activities. Pray for wisdom to know what these are.
  10. Exercise 4 times a week. Move your body in new ways.
  11. Reach out to positive people. Ask for help. Have conversations.
  12. Limit your contact with negative people and “energy vampires.” Perhaps you can bless and enlighten them later when you feel stronger and more balanced, but for now, you’re working on healing and strengthening yourself.
  13. Read books that will help you overcome negative self-talk and cultivate a positive, resilient mindset.
  14. Choose not to take offense. Intentionally let things go. Put down the sword and shield and put on a peacemaker’s heart.

There are usually many roots underlying anxiety and overwhelm. Take care to consider the different areas of your life. Foods are a good place to start because they’re under your direct control. Also how you use your body and spend your time. Then evaluate your toxic load and take measures to eliminate toxins from your life. Then tenderly work through the garden of your work, family, social, and above all, spiritual life. Be encouraged! God – through His Spirit and through science – can establish peace in the most anxious of souls.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in all things through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind through Christ Jesus.