About twenty of us sat in the living room on plush chairs, recliners and an elegant sectional. Though we were friends, the conversation began to feel like a twelve-step meeting, as everyone shared all manner of anxious thoughts.
On a whim I asked, “How many of you struggle with overwhelming anxiety, like the need-to-breath-into-a-paper-bag-and-tuck-your-head-between-your-knees kind?” Hands shot up, nearly all of them, to which my only response was, “Whoa.”
Some said the breakneck pace of life was wearing them thin. Others spoke of work pressures or material need. Some noted that the stress of weddings, or moving, or the yada-yadas of life had upended them.
The world loads us down with external pressures, and we pack it on ourselves. It’s what humans do.
After our impromptu group therapy session, I stopped to consider how to train my children about the pressures and anxieties baked into their one little life. And so, writer as I am, I jotted a simple list:
7 things I want my children to know about anxiety
1. In this world, there are neither winners nor losers; there are only brothers and sisters.
2. Stress and anxiety do not make you weak; it is part of the human condition.
3. The well-adjusted are not those who stuff their anxieties; the well-adjusted men and women are the ones who face their fears.
4. Find a good therapist. Talk to him or her. Tell him or her about your problems.
5. Materialism breeds anxiety; don’t give in to the myth of scarcity.
6. Lying about your own anxiety creates a barrier to presence; it keeps others from knowing who you really are.
7. Love casts out fear; learn to accept love and know that you are loved.
The point, more succinctly, is this: I want my children to grow into authenticity, truth and the tenderest expressions of adulthood. And so, I’m training them to know their anxieties, to speak them to the wind, to pray about them, to accept them as part of their humanity and to learn peace in the midst of them. I think it’s only fair.
Do you struggle with anxiety? Do you feel upended by the stresses and pressures of life? If so, welcome to the human condition. The real questions, though, are these: 1) what are you doing about your own anxiety; 2) what are you teaching your children about their own anxieties?