As I’ve reached closer and closer to 30, I’ve noticed lots of things within me change. I feel as if I’ve had a very intimate view of how my body and mind has evolved since I was seventeen for example.
It seems that there have been hormonal changes happening within me that have caused me to feel and look slightly different, all this progressing as I’ve moved through my late twenties.
What’s interesting to me is, although my body and appearance have changed somewhat, my mind has become more stable, as far as I can tell. Blogging and talking about anxiety have helped me to externalise how I have felt and the knowledge I have gained has made me more well rounded.
Alongside this, educating myself on anxiety has helped me to understand and deal with it.
As well as hormonal changes happening, when we reach the ripe old age of 30, we find ourselves with very different responsibilities than when we were an anxious, confused teenager.
Notably, we find ourselves with jobs, rent or mortgages, children and payments that we have to uphold. Transitioning from a child to an adult was incredibly difficult for me as I did not feel ready to take on responsibility for myself. I was a bit like Peter Pan if I am being brutally honest.
Because I was such an anxious mess, I couldn’t imagine being in scenarios where people counted on me. Fortunately, (or by some miracle) I was able to get my act together to some degree and get myself a job in my late teens.
Fast forward a few years and I’ve got a partner, a child, a job and rent to pay. – all the things that I was once terrified of having.
Luckily, I have been able to push through the phase of freaking out about being responsible for ‘adult things’. And although I now feel calmer when it comes to anxiety and the responsibility I may have put on myself, I have still hit walls that have crippled me.
There is no escape from responsibility as we get older, we must all sacrifice our youth for a structured life with responsibility. If we do not do this voluntarily, we only find it harder to accept when we have to sacrifice it.
Now that I find myself swimming in responsibility, I find myself asking what it is I need to do to regain some of the child-like attitudes I once had. Not because I want to go back to having no responsibility, but because as we get older we lose the magical wonder that we once had as we view the world around us.
The walls I have hit have been the stresses of adult life. Worrying about money and my job. Worrying about my health and my future. These are all very real things that can leak into our psyche as we get older.
Where our ‘tank’ used to be full of potential, it can become drained and replaced with fear.
Are We Really ‘Adults’?
Here’s how the dictionary defines adults;
Pretty accurate right? But even the Dictionary doesn’t have much excitement towards being a typical adult. It’s almost as if being an ‘adult’ boxing you into being a repetitive robot.
Although I like to see myself as an adult that (mostly) has my act together, there are still raw moments that make me feel like I’m reverting back to being a shy child again. It’s almost like I’m transported back to sitting in my classroom totally confused as I rack my brain for the answer to the teacher’s question.
Through these experiences I have learned a couple of important things that have helped to shape my view of life;
We are still those kids in the playground – I do not believe that there is a rigid age we reach that flips us into adulthood. Although I know more information now, I still have flickers of child-like feelings that come to the surface every now and again. I still occupy the same body I did as a child. The only difference is now I have had more experiences.
There has been more time lived which has given me more time to think and change my beliefs.
Playtime is still important – There is something interesting I feel when I ‘play’.Like the awkward situations that make me feel like a vulnerable child, playing also transports me. It suddenly makes the world feel bigger again and I forget all the other thoughts that usually tumble through my mind.
“O, to be sure, we laugh less and play less and wear uncomfortable disguises like adults, but beneath the costume is the child we always are, whose needs are simple, whose daily life is still best described by fairy tales.”
It has been fairly obvious to me that the only difference between a child and an adult is time. The child lives through wonder and the adult lives through anticipation and anxiety because they know what the world can offer in the forms of suffering or delight.
As the adult grows, the world shrinks and the things we worry about replace the innocent playfulness that once dominated our lives.
Being an adult can often feel as if you’ve been stripped of your playfulness as if you have shackles across your arms and legs. The time you once spent riding your bike is now the time you spend in the daily commute.
This loss of playtime is enough to make anyone anxious or depressed.
Adults still need the same things that children need;
- a place to call home
Whilst our view of ourselves change as we age, the basic needs remain the same. Perhaps the stress of adulthood clouds the fact we still need these things to function properly.
Overcoming Anxiety Through Play
Arguably, the most important thing an adult forgets to do is play. Not in the sense that they go out drinking on a Friday night or they play on a games console, but really play.
Whilst we might think that we know everything there is to know about the world, we must reconnect with our child-like selves and enter into the state of mind a child does when they play.
Why do I believe this is so important?
- It puts you into a flow state
- You find yourself living in the moment
- Anxiety decreases
The burdens of adulthood that weigh us down can disappear when we play. So why are we so shy to play? Maybe we think people will think we’re silly or maybe we feel as if we need to act grown up all the time.
However, learning to play or ‘goof’ around again has helped to decrease the anxiety I experienced.
When my anxiety was at its worst I realised that I had become someone who took everything super seriously. I felt as if I was the furthest away from my one child-like self where I didn’t care about anything apart from what dinner was going to be that night.
I had forgotten how to be playful. Instead I was a ball of stress and seriousness.
So what did I do?
Play Is Something We Must Practise
Play is something we practise as we get older. We have to find pockets of time to do it. Working full-time, appointments, friends, family and all the rest can eat up all of our free time when we get older.
To make an effort to play more, I first had to realise that I had been so pent up about everything in life. Only then could I give myself room to be more playful. I knew that if stress was a killer, which it is, then playing must be the antidote.
My anxiety was causing me to stress too much and I knew that I would have to get out the ‘box’ if I was to overcome anxiety or at least ease it.
I made time to do things that I enjoyed and didn’t let myself feel guilty about it. I started to get myself involved in more social interactions no matter what they were. Even if it was just going to the park, I would commit to doing more, laughing more and joking more.
Whilst I worked every week day, I started to plan my weekends so that I was doing more. Having a young son made it easier for me. Because he can’t and could never sit still, he was always wanting to go and do something.
Watching his excitement about going out and seeing the world made me feel inspired, as if he knew something I didn’t. His raw joy and happiness was directly linked to the fact that the possibilities the world had to offer were exciting.
I realised, a child is playful because he or she is seeing everything as potential.
My own view of ‘potential’ was stumped by the anxiety the world made me feel. So, with this realisation, I committed to loosening up and tried to reconnect with the child that I once was, before the world made me fearful of its possibilities.
I felt myself growing older because I was no longer taking things with a pinch of salt. I was anxious and worried about almost everything. Being able to reconnect with my inner child made me feel lighter, less anxious and more excited about things.
I used to tell people that I didn’t get excited about anything. Now I know how to channel my inner child when it’s appropriate and I’m able to see potential in things again.
- Go on a walk somewhere in nature
- go camping without your phones
- try something new that scares you
- go to a concert
- go out somewhere without plans and see what happens
- build something
- do any kind of activity that involves thinking and using your hands
- play a board game
- go boating
Here’s an example of a playful thing that I’m doing right now – currently myself and some friends are building a raft to take part in the local annual raft race. It is something we have never done before so it is a challenge.
It is an exciting activity that has no real end goal but is something new that we can all experience together as a team. The process is tough and requires that we all chip in and work on it with our hands. To me, it’s playful and is something to get lost in.
It makes my brain feel frickin’ alive because I have to find a way to make the challenge at hand work. There’s a playful beauty in that.
It is playful human experiences like these that engage our minds, freeing them from anxiety. They break up the seriousness of life for just a minute to allow us to remember what being human is all about.
Yes We Must Work But We Must Also Play
Whilst I used to think that being an adult was all about being serious, I now know that there must be a balance. And that balance must be 50 /50 for an optimal healthy mind. Of course, we can work more than we play but we will always most certainly pay the price for it.
Overcoming anxiety through play is something we all have access to. The hardest part is arguably not allowing ourselves to feel guilty for doing it. Our play time shouldn’t hurt anyone or take all priority in life but it should be payed attention to.
It is an area of life that many of us feel we ‘grow out of’, when really it still needs its own time every now and again at the very least. With stress-related illnesses and anxiety becoming more previlant in society, it’s never been more important to play.
Play shouldn’t interrupt your responsibilities but it must be treated with higher priority because, well, we’re still those kids in the playground, mortgage or not.
This post was previously published on Projectenergise.com.
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The post Overcoming Anxiety: One Thing We All Need To Be Doing appeared first on The Good Men Project.