You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
-- C.S. Lewis
Judging from the clients I see in my practice, it seems that anxiety is reaching epidemic proportions. What is startling to me is that I am seeing it in children as young as five or six, in teens, young adults, the middle-aged, and seniors.
At the same time, I see how speeded up and intense life has become, and I cannot help but think the two are related. Modern life can in no way be considered our natural habitat. Think of how important it is to us that animals, if they must be kept in captivity, are provided with as natural an environment as possible. Well, we are animals.
Imagine if you took animals and performed the following experiment: alter their diet providing them with food that is highly processed, lacking in nutrition, and high in sugar, salt and perhaps even caffeine. Alter their sleep schedule so they can no longer rest when tired, and keep them stimulated with noise and activity so they do not get sufficient sleep at night. Put too many animals in together so they cannot have their own space, and to increase the likelihood of conflict. Force them to keep running on a treadmill, even when they are tired, because they must follow a schedule, and reduce the amounts of sunlight and fresh air to which they are exposed.
Without a doubt, what you would get would be animals suffering from anxiety. They would have more illness, more stress, would fight with each other more often, and may even pull their hair out.
Life was not always as it is now. When I think of paintings that were done in the 16th and 17th centuries, there seems to have been a lot of lounging around. That was not just a solitary activity, but rather seemed to be a social event. The people look very relaxed and content, comfortably dressed in flowing robes and bare feet.
There was a time when people went to sleep when it got dark, and awakened with the sun. They also spent a lot of time in nature, because nature was everywhere. In big cities we have children who have never seen a forest or a river. I remember in Sunday school when I first heard the Twenty-Third Psalm. I did not know for sure what the words: "He leadeth me to lie down beside still waters; He restoreth my soul." really meant, but I was filled with a sense of calm.
How do we reconcile the pace and demands of modern life with the need to frequently restore our souls? Will we forget what it feels like to experience our soul? What will happen to children who never lie on the grass looking up at the clouds, search for four-leaf clovers, chase butterflies, eat carrots from the garden, or make mud pies?
Anxiety may be an alarm going off when we have become disconnected with our souls and all that is good, true and meaningful. The more natural our lives, the more soulful we are. Time in nature, fresh air and sunshine, organic whole foods all keep us grounded and connected to the soulful part of our being, and help to release things that may be physically or emotionally toxic.
Anxiety can also be a sign that our lives have become out of balance. If you no longer feel you are driving your life, but rather are running along behind just trying to keep up, it is time to do an inventory. What may be needed is more unscheduled time for breathing, walking, talking, looking at stars, or even taking a nap.