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Anxiety & the End of the World

The latest day of reckoning is almost here. It’s not the first time such predictions have been made, nor will it (hopefully :)) be the last. While these apocalyptic events are proven time and time again to be false, the anxiety associated with them is vey real.

There are numerous message boards on end-of-world anxiety, anxiety disorder groups, and a prevailing sense of dread among a percentage of the population. A study by the Ipsos Research Company found that 14 percent of people believe the Earth’s population will come to an end in their lifetime. And one in 10 think it will happen tomorrow, the official end of the Mayan calendar. Polling also indicated that eight percent of global citizens have been experiencing anxiety from this belief.

That often means trouble sleeping, eating and concentrating, frequent headaches and upset stomachs. And if it’s really bad, that means panic attacks. If you are one of these people, how do you deal with this perceived threat? Or anything else, real or imagined, that strikes fear into you and has you constantly on edge?

“Anxiety often arises from the belief that we will not be able to handle whatever shows up in our lives,” says Melanie Smithson, owner of Smithson Clinic. “Reminding ourselves of how capable we are will help.”

“When we are afraid of something, we start holding a picture of that in our mind,” Smithson continues. “The subconscious only registers in images, so it doesn’t hear ‘I don’t want this’. We are basically broadcasting a picture that translates to ‘I want the world to end’ (or whatever it is that we are afraid of). One very easy way to help dissolve the fear is to ask yourself ‘Can I let go of wanting that to happen?’ The conscious mind will say ‘I don’t want that to happen’, but the subconscious will also respond and let go of the picture, which may translate to a feeling of relief in the body.”

Some other suggestions from therapists where you’re not just resorting to drugs:

  • Separate real risks and dangers from those your imagination makes worse.
  • Challenge negative thoughts and do everything you can mentally and emotionally to move forward.
  • Change what you can and learn to accept the rest.
  • Figure out how to relax, whether it be through breathing retraining, yoga, meditation or exercise.
  • Eat a stress-management diet, featuring foods that boost serotonin levels and cut cortisol and adrenaline levels.

As with most things, this is all easier said than done, especially when it comes to anxiety. But just remember, it’s not the end of the world. And if it is, well … take comfort in the fact that you’ll be sharing it with 7 billion other people and will have to worry no longer.

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