We’re happy little souls in Norn Iron! According to a survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics for the year ending 2015, our residents rank as the happiest people in the United Kingdom.
Though it’s not all good news as we came out top as the most anxious tribe in the UK. In particular, those who live in Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh emerged as the most anxiety prone amongst us.
Overall, the age group reporting the highest level of worry in the UK are those between 45 and 59.
Researchers think one possible reason for the lower levels of happiness and higher levels of worry in this age group is having to care for children and elderly parents at the same time.
I would agree with this theory. I’m in the lower age of this group and found that when I was attempting to look after my father full time who had Alzheimer’s, whilst also being the mother of a new baby, my anxiety and worry levels
went through the roof!
For me, anxiety was like a huge Honey Monster-shaped character following me around all day, a creature I could constantly see in my peripheral vision. I called this anxiety monster; ‘Gerry’ as in Gerry Adams because each time I thought I was beginning to relax, it would tap me on the shoulder and whisper into my ear; ‘I haven’t gone away you know!’
Being the provider of essential constant care can leave you in a high state of nerves. Women in particular tend to carry heavier caring loads than men.
I remember being at a wedding where the vicar likened marriage to two people travelling along on a motorbike each, then selling these bikes and beginning to travel life’s road in a car together after marriage.
I knew what he was getting at, but for most women I know, this biking theory seems to work in reverse.
Before marriage you are travelling in the same vehicle then you acquire a bike each.
The groom’s is a low slung easy rider sort, he purrs along in it, King of the road, going at this own speed.
The bride acquires a Wallace and Gromit-style motorbike with sidecar, flying along at lightning speed with the kids, elderly parents, shopping and possibly the cat, all crammed into the sidecar, late for a very important date.
She is sitting forward in a go-faster style, wearing steamed-up goggles, scarf flying behind her, her face set in an anxious expression, intent on getting everyone to their destination.
Now that my father has sadly passed away and my boy is nine-years-old, I feel less stressed. Most of the worrying I did when my father was alive was wasted energy. We were on a one-way street with his dementia, though I raged
against it and nothing I did was going to change us reaching that horrible, final destination.
In my son’s baby days, I was riddled with lots of ‘what if?’ anxieties, which spoiled many of those extremely precious days which I will never get back. Thankfully, none of my imagined maternal fears materialised.
In many cases of anxiety, it’s as Mark Twain wrote: ‘I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened’.
As we get older and encounter loss, grief and the realisation that there is little in life under our control, we begin to relax a little more. Perhaps this explains why in the above mentioned survey, the happiest age group were those aged over 65.
I’m in my late forties, but if I had it to do it over, I would have got a restraining order for anxiety monster Gerry, excluding him from coming within a reasonable distance of my home.
I could have done this by letting others help me instead of striving for perfection from myself as a mother and a carer, as many women do.
I could also have had less imaginary troubles. But as they say, we live and learn. Eighty-six-year-old Nadine Stair put it nicely when she realised in reviewing her life, that being less anxious would have enhanced her experience, she wrote: ‘I’d take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances, I would eat more ice-cream and less beans. I’ve been one of those persons who never went anywhere without a hot-water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute.
‘‘If I had my life to live over, I would ride more merry-go-rounds, I would pick more daisies.’’
There speaks the voice of anxiety-ridden experience!