existential anxiety

Questioning Existential Anxiety (So You Don't Question Yourself)

Every morning, you wake up and you go through the motions. As you stand there, toothbrush in hand, it feels like you're doing the same things over and over again; like it's a script you already know by heart. This makes you wonder what's the point of it all! Have you ever been there? I certainly have. Anything (and everything) I would do would follow the same, persistent thought: 

What's the point, really?

It feels like you’re constantly sinking. A state of mind where you're stuck in a never ending loop of mundane tasks and routines; each seeming more insignificant than the other. Everything around you blurs together, and the world appears to be a vast, purposeless void. Questions about the meaning of life (and its value) become louder and more frequent. You may find yourself contemplating whether all the effort and energy you’ve invested in your daily activities (like work, chores and socialising) truly matter in the grand scheme of things. It's a deep and introspective questioning of the very essence of existence. It becomes hard to go about your day when you're thinking, "What’s the point of any of this, anyway?" This feeling of purposelessness can be… overwhelming.

To help understand this existential anxiety a little bit more, let's break it down:

Questioning Normalcy: Sometimes, the things we thought were normal or usual might start to seem strange or without a clear reason. It's as if they happened by chance.

Self vs. Society: We might feel worried when we realise that taking care of ourselves and our own happiness is more important than trying to always meet society's expectations and pressures.

Awareness of Time Running Out: As we grow older, we become more aware that we don't have endless time. This can make us think more about our lives and what we want to do with the time we have left.

Choices and Uncertainty: We have many choices in life, but because we're human, we can't always be completely sure which choices are the best ones. We don't have all the wisdom to make perfect decisions all the time. Therefore, we are bound to make mistakes along the way, and that's okay because it's part of being human.

When you're caught up in the overwhelming sense of "what's the point" and facing existential questions, it's important to know that there are steps you can take to navigate through these moments. 

  1. Understanding the human experience: The existentialists offer a helpful perspective to challenge the common belief that making intelligent choices can always be easy and free from sadness. They remind us that the idea of achieving perfection in life is not as simple as it may seem. Feeling overwhelmed by choices and their consequences is actually quite normal and a significant part of being alive. It's not unusual at all. It's comforting to know that everyone, in some way or another, deals with regrets in their life. A life without regrets is something we only see in movies and hear in songs. To reduce our anxiety and fear, we should realise that sometimes, we may not have had the perfect options to choose from, and that's okay. Feeling a bit disappointed at times is just part of being human, as existentialist philosophers have beautifully expressed. It's a natural part of our existence.

  1. Living with intentions: It means understanding the 'why' behind your actions and evaluating every aspect of your life to ensure it aligns with your purpose. Your 'why' is your source of motivation, providing energy and direction.

Without a clear 'why,' you'll end up busy for the sake of busyness, gradually losing the joy in your life. You may become a victim of societal comparison, following the crowd without considering what truly matters to you. This leads to a life shaped by external influences like family, friends, or society.

Living with intentions involves making choices that bring you closer to the life you desire. It's about seeking to understand the reasons behind your actions. For instance, if you asked yourself:

  • Why am I in my current career?
  • Why am I in this relationship?
  • What truly drives me?

  1. Consider your honest responses. Do they bring you joy and satisfaction, or do they evoke guilt and fear? Explore these feelings. If your answers don't bring happiness, it's a sign to reevaluate your actions and make necessary adjustments.

  1. Create a "Hope Folder":  I keep one handy for those moments when I feel disheartened about my work and life. This folder contains heartwarming messages, stories, and artwork from people I've met and known. It's a reminder of meaning and bright pockets in my life. You can make your own "Hope Folder," where you have jot down instances when you've witnessed acts of kindness. Keep this folder handy, and when you need a dose of hope, give it a read.

Remember that moments of questioning and existential doubt are part of the human experience. The path to finding meaning and purpose may be winding and uncertain, but it's a journey we all undertake. So, when you find yourself pondering "what's the point," take solace in the fact that you're not alone and approach each day with the understanding that it's okay not to have all the answers, for it is in our very imperfections that our unique and meaningful stories are written!

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Zahra Diwan

Zahra has over 4 years of experience working with clients within the therapeutic framework. She works extensively with young adults, and maintains a diary on Things That Help Us which is collation of insights she gains in therapy.

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