The existential dread is mounting, and you can feel the anxiety coming on. Your mind starts racing, your heart rate increases. You start questioning why you’re here, what you’re doing, where you’re going…what the meaning of it all is. What do you do?
Anxiety and existential crises are pretty intertwined. When an existential crisis hits, your anxiety will shoot through the roof, which certainly doesn’t help calm (or answer) those deep questions you’re asking yourself or the universe at large.
While we can’t help you find the meaning of life, we can give you some tips on how to manage those waves of anxiety that usually accompany an existential crisis. Hold onto your philosophy books and let’s dive into our guide to managing anxiety during existential dread.
Understand Your Existential Crisis
An existential crisis occurs when you start questioning your very purpose in life. Who are you? Where are you going? Why are you here? What are you supposed to be doing? What’s the meaning of it all? These are some big questions to answer and can prove to be too much for anyone. Religions will claim to have all the answers, gurus will offer advice, and philosophers will offer…philosophy. But is there really an answer to all of this?
Some warning signs of an oncoming existential crisis are:
- Increased anxiety about life choices or events
- Feelings of overwhelm or despair
- Increased isolation from the people you care about
- Constant questioning of your purpose, direction, or choices
- Lack of motivation or drive to move forward or complete daily tasks
Knowing you’re in the threshold of an existential crisis can help you hit the brakes before you tumble over the edge into the uncertainly of existential dread. The anxiety that follows can cause you to overthink, making the crisis worse as you move through it.
Fear of the unknown is often the cause of anxiety. Whether it’s minor anxiety from not knowing the results of a test, missing a bill, or experiencing relationship troubles, or major anxiety from something like an existential crisis, it has the power to disrupt your entire life.
Your eating, sleeping, and daily health habits can suffer. Your brain goes into overdrive, overthinking things, coming up with thousands of possible outcomes, and you’re left with emotional overload.
One of the first steps to managing anxiety from an existential crisis is realizing that you might just have to make peace with a sobering fact of life: you might never truly understand your “purpose” here. Who is to say what our purpose is in life? A thousand people will give you a thousand different answers, none of which might be the right one for you. You’ve got to find your own answer or make peace with the fact that it might just be an unanswerable question.
Breathing Exercises: Many people swear by breathing exercises and mediation for managing anxiety. When existential dread strikes, take a moment to breathe deeply, clear your mind, and focus on something positive.
Explore Your Thoughts: It’s ok to explore those thoughts you’re having. Take a deeper look at why you’re wondering where you fit in. Have you just reached a liminal phase in life where you’re unsure what the future holds? Existential dread often has its roots in sudden life changes, trauma, or uncertainty of the future.
Writing/Creative Outlets: Sometimes, writing out how you’re feeling can be a great way to come to terms with those thoughts. If you don’t like writing, you can draw, paint, create music, or take part in some other creative outlet.
Identify Your Triggers: Figuring out what triggers your anxiety can help you stop or reduce it before it ever happens. Certain things can’t be avoided, but if you’re aware of them, you can be more prepared for them when they occur.
Diet: Diet plays an important role in both physical and mental health. What you eat can affect mood, drive, energy, and even increase your overall anxiety. Focusing on a healthy diet and health routine can make a difference in the amount of anxiety you feel. In fact, exercise has been proven to reduce stress and improve mood.
Professional Help: If your anxiety reaches the point where it’s affecting your daily life and you can’t function, you might want to seek the help of a counselor or other mental health professional. This could be an indicator of a more serious psychological condition.
An existential crisis can make you question your very purpose in life, but managing the anxiety that accompanies that feeling can help you navigate the crisis without losing your way. Understanding that some questions simply don’t have a definitive answer is an important part of the process. Sometimes, all you can do is accept that you may not find what you’re looking for. Acceptance can equal peace in some cases!