Anxiety levels have increased drastically in recent times. Recent surveys indicate that 27 percent of respondents displayed anxiety disorder symptoms, up from eight percent reported in 2019. Youth are especially affected by this disorder.
Sufferers experience nervousness, an impending sense of danger or panic, rapid heart rates, quickened breathing, perspiration and lack of focus. Reports for the 18 to 24-year-old category reveal that as many as half experience anxiety or depression. Unfortunately, not everyone can effectively address these issues.
Different Kinds of Anxiety
The rise of anxiety is not limited to a single cause. Many sources of anxiety afflict the nation. These include:
- Extinction anxiety: The ecological debate questions humanity’s ability to survive in the near future. The daily reference to climate change or crisis creates the impression that the world might soon be ending. Emotional individuals and impressionable young people without any anchor in the notion of Divine Providence or even scientific data believe the rhetoric and respond with anxiety.
- Covid anxiety: The fear surrounding global pandemics is understandable, but implementing panicked policies made anxiety levels worse. This was not the best approach. Lockdowns, school closures, double masking, face shields, sanitizing groceries, social distancing, canceled events, closed churches, and mandatory vaccinations have contributed significantly to increased anxiety. Even today, after the lifting of these restrictions, some people still mask and take measures that reflect this anxiety.
- Status anxiety: Some people race to excel in their fields or social lives and feel inadequate and overwhelmed when they face rejection or failure. This sense of failure is hard-hitting for younger generations accustomed to receiving participation awards and constant validation without effort. This anxiety is made worse by social media, where people compete with one another to appear the happiest online. One result is the appearance of pampered youth, referred to as snowflakes.
- Speaking anxiety: Some people sense the need to be careful about how they express themselves in public. The rise of identity politics gives rise to manners of addressing others and the use of preferred pronouns. The wrong words can cause people to be labeled as oppressors, bigots or hateful individuals. The fear of offending sensibilities fosters a culture of microaggressions, trigger warnings, safe spaces and cancelation.
- Anxiety over technology: The increasing overdependence on technology leads to looking to this means as an end. People have started seeking solace and answers in virtual spaces like online meeting platforms, social media, streaming services and video games. They express the fear of missing out (FOMO) when they are offline. Consequently, these activities reinforce addictive behaviors, which in turn increase isolation and anxiety.
- Spiritual anxiety: The present materialistic culture fulfills many bodily needs. However, the spiritual side of humanity—the most important one—is left lacking. The soul seeks substitutes for true religion in drugs, superstitions, sects and the occult. Since these things never satisfy, anxiety and despair enter the soul.
Three Missing Ingredients
All these anxieties have three things in common: a lack of certainty, a suppression of sociability and the absence of God. Rather than rely upon medication or trendy psychological treatments, people should focus on the natural remedy to these deficiencies: the practice of the Faith.
The Catholic Faith addresses the lack of certainty by proposing to the believer a rational framework that explains the meaning and purpose of life. It offers the goals of sanctification and eternal life. Church teaching and morals provide the means that orient a person to a final end.
The Church provides a visible community to assist the person on this arduous journey. So much of life inside the Church occurs in a community and family-like setting, such as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, popular devotions or parish activities. People can have recourse to so many people to ease anxieties and build confidence.
Finally, people can appeal to a higher supernatural reality. Those with anxieties can turn to a personal God who understands them and desires their good. God allows the faithful to participate in His supernatural life by granting grace, which makes souls capable of actions beyond human nature. There is the Blessed Mother who will look after her children with solicitude and affection. The intercession of the angels and saints is assured to those who call upon their aid.
Turning Toward Real Solutions
The drastic shift in perspective and values among the general population, and especially the younger generations, led to the present situation of widespread anxiety. This shift hollowed out people’s lives and left them alone to face a cruel world.
Our Lady at Fatima appeared in Portugal in 1917 and addressed these issues that were already present at that time. She proposed solutions that included prayer, amendment of life and penance. She warned of the breakdown of society and order should these requests go unheeded. It is time to confide in Her, and as a good mother, she will put all anxious souls at ease.
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