The climate crisis, world politics and the rise of extremism can make us anxious. Sometimes our anxiety can leave us paralysed, but it can also be alleviated in various ways. Here are some tips for tackling anxiety from a study counselling psychologist.
Too many students today are struggling with world weariness and anxiety. Have I chosen the right career path? Can I have a big enough impact on the future – both my own and that of the world? Do I have the skills, knowledge and abilities required to meet the challenges of our global world? Studies have shown that the post-millennial generation, or youths aged 15–25, are worried about the state of the world. Their anxiety is not limited to worries about their personal future, but they also worry about global crises. “This generation was born and raised in a world saturated with social media and technology. The amount of information that is constantly available is stupendous and young people feel that they have an enormous responsibility on their shoulders. It is understandable that this gives rise to strong emotions”, says study counselling psychologist Sanni Saarimäki.
Know your worth and your strengths
Anxiety can be alleviated in many different ways. Everyone should start with their own values. Think about these issues: what do you want from your relationships, your working life or from your time off? What would you like to move towards?
“People fare better if they feel that they are doing things that line up with their values”, Saarimäki says. Conflicting emotions can form in the workplace, for example, if one feels that the work tasks do not align with their values.
Regulating one’s energy level is also important. “You shouldn’t make a huge number of changes all over the place. What kind of activity would help the most while ensuring that your energy reserves last? What would serve you the most?” In addition to thinking about your values, you should also know your strengths. Think about what comes naturally to you. What am I good at? How could I make use of my strengths? You should also avoid binging on things that make you anxious. Saarimäki advices people to set a limit: how much factual information can I receive right now? “You should not deny facts, but you can always give yourself a break.”
Cooperation is empowering
Study counselling psychologist Sanni Saarimäki hopes that in the future there would be less competition between individuals and more genuine cooperation between people. “Nobody needs to have all the strengths. Nobody can save the world by themselves, but together we have a better chance”, Saarimäki says. When people belong to a community, they are better equipped to nurture their creativity, which is important in technical fields when new modes of thinking are called for.
“But anxiety can also reduce one’s problem-solving abilities”, says Saarimäki.
According to her, many people would like to get rid of their anxious emotions, but this cannot be done. “You should think about what could help you accept the emotions. You must accept a great deal of uncertainty, but you are both allowed and able to live with this uncertainty. Never in your life has it been certain that everything will work out just fine.”
Saarimäki emphasises that you shouldn’t create false hope, but you shouldn’t give up hope either.
“Hope comes from coming together and striving to do things that align with your shared values. Students have a tremendous amount of creative energy. If it can be harnessed, this energy sparks action and hope.”
Stop for a moment and write freely about your thoughts and feelings. What makes you worried or anxious? How are you feeling? Where are the feelings coming from? Do not censor yourself.
Which of these things can you do something about in the present moment? Which issues require more time and consideration? What do you need so that you can keep moving forward with your emotions? You should strive to learn to live with your emotions, not try to get rid of them.
Notice which issues are important to you right now.
Text: Michaela von Kügelgen
Photo: Getty Images