6AM: Alarm goes off
6AM-7:30 AM: Get ready for school and eat breakfast if lucky
8AM: Class begins
8AM-2:30PM: Finally done with classes!
5PM-7PM: Dinner and Homework
7PM-8PM: Group project/club meeting
This is just a glimpse into my daily schedule. I barely have time to process what I just did before having to move onto the next part of my day. I struggle to schedule time to stop and take a breath, let alone something fun that is outside of work and school. And I know that I am not alone.
Many of my peers are experiencing the same thing. It’s no wonder that so many young people are faced with high levels of anxiety. Maybe we could just chalk it up to us being over-achievers and wanting to be the best. Or maybe our culture tells us that we need to be the best at what we do.
In the United States, anxiety is the most common mental illness plaguing at least 40 million people (According to the ADAA). There is no doubt that people in the United States are hardworking and that they put their heart and soul into what they do. But we never stop. We are constantly compared to our peers and making sure that we keep up with them, if not, surpass them. We are focused on high GPAs, job promotions, etc.. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love some good old competition and I even think that a good amount is actually healthy. Competition is a good motivator. But I also believe that too much competition can be quite unhealthy and cause anxiety. Eventually, it gets to be too much, and we just burn out.
I’ve be throwing around the term “anxiety”, but what exactly is anxiety? What is going on in our brains?
A Quick look at the Science
The main component of anxiety is that it is linked with memory formation and thus, stems from our “memory pathway”. In order for us to form a memory, two things must be present in the brain: glucocorticoids (type of hormone) and glutamate (excitatory neurotransmitter). When present, they will ultimately turn on a protein called ERK, that will lead to gene expression. Gene expression in this pathway forms a memory. When we encounter traumatic or stressful situations, glucocorticoids and glutamate levels increase, which increases gene expression and thus, the memories associated with negative situations are stronger. This also makes it easier to recall these memories.
Since our society is so fast-paced and fairly competitive, people are encountering more stressful situations, which in turn, are creating more negative memories and leads to some anxiety. My advice? Schedule some “Me-time” into your day, allow yourself to enjoy some peace and stop worrying about what other people are doing. Also, it’s okay to not be the best, there is nothing wrong with being average.
Featured Photo: Pixabay