Freedom is desirable even for a bird in a cage who is fed and safe. Freedom means having the power to choose and act without being forced, restricted, or oppressed. It allows us to express ourselves, chase our dreams, and practice our beliefs and human rights without fear.
But often it comes at a price. Having freedom means greater decision-making and responsibilities to bear. Coming to terms with this seeps in a sense of anxiety about what to do and how to do it.
That’s why in this post we will dig through;
- The 2 major reasons for freedom anxiety, and
- 10 ways to enjoy your freedom without anxiety.
What Is Freedom Anxiety?
Freedom Anxiety is a feeling of unease, nervousness, or apprehension that comes when people have either too much freedom or not enough. This often happens because we have ambivalent desires – we love to be free and have adventures, but at the same time, we want to feel secure and have a predictable routine.
Reasons People Experience Freedom Anxiety
Deciding what to do can be hard. It can feel risky and requires careful consideration of various factors, especially when you feel restrained or when the stakes are high.
Below are the two major reasons for freedom anxiety
Self-Determination Theory: Why Too Little Freedom Can Increase Anxiety
I know a little 4-year-old who always wants to experiment with her fashion sense. Even if she most times looked like a mismatched superhero, she thinks she knows best. And whenever her mom says no to her ideas, she tries to bring down the house with her “ultrasonic” scream. She often felt like she had too little freedom to do what she wanted, which led to more tension and eventually outbursts and rebellion.
Humans (even a child) have an innate desire for autonomy and self-determination.
Self-Determination Theory (SDT) suggests that; people have a natural urge to control their own lives and make their own decisions. When they don’t have that control, they can become unhappy, anxious, or go berserk.
This can happen in various settings, such as;
- a workplace with strict rules and policies
- a relationship with a controlling partner
- living in a society with limited civil liberties
And the like.
Not being able to make decisions for ourselves can be frustrating. You may feel like you are not living your life to the fullest and may experience a sense of existential dread. And, since you cannot exercise your freedom, you feel like you are missing out on experiences and opportunities. This can lead to fixating on the idea of freedom and happiness as well as feeling anxious about not getting enough of them.
“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”– Charlotte Bronte
But what happens when you have too much freedom?
The Paradox Of Choice: Why Too Much Freedom Can Increase Anxiety
For instance, having a large food menu can cause decision fatigue and anxiety. As a result, you may not be able to choose and enjoy your meal because choosing one also means forfeiting the others. This phenomenon is known as the paradox of choice.
To have a better understanding; another instance is moving out from your parent’s home.
As exciting and rewarding as it could be, it comes with the pressure of making numerous, complex choices. Such as;
- Managing finances
- Time management
- Deciding where to live
- Taking care of yourself
- Finding and keeping a job
- Feeling lost and uncertain about the future
- Balancing independence with maintaining relationships
And so on
Life is full of choices you will have to make all the time. Every decision you make is like a snowball that gets bigger and bigger as it goes down a hill. And for that; you must be careful with the choices that can add up and become big problems. Because they can make you feel worried, and stressed, and even cause big troubles that might lead to freedom anxiety.
“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose yours.”– Paulo Coelho
10 Ways To Enjoy Your Freedom Without Anxiety
Recognize and understand your fears
Take some time to think and ask about the specific cause of your anxiety. For example; do you get anxious when you have too much freedom and no rules, or do you get stressed out when you’re being micromanaged and can’t make your own decisions?
Focus on what you can control
Instead of stressing over the uncontrollable, prioritize what is within your capacity. Like your time, energy, and resources. It’ll save you headaches and undue suffering. Remember, “serenity now, courage to change what you can, and wisdom to know the difference” (Reinhold Niebuhr)
Limit your options
Similar to a fast food restaurant’s concise menu, limit the number of your options. This will simplify the decision-making process and can reduce fatigue and strain, allowing for greater focus on only the essential factors.
Know the difference between wants and needs
Needs are essential things like food, water, and shelter. Wants are things like fancy phones, vacations, and teddy bears. To make decisions, prioritize what you need, narrow down choices, and accept that there is no perfect choice. Just make a decision and move forward.
Accept that making mistakes and experiencing failures are a natural part of life. Instead of striving for perfection, focus on progress and learning from your experiences.
Set Clear And Realistic Goals
Creating clear and realistic goals is like making a treasure map. Without one, you’re digging through rocks. If goals are too high, it’s like seeking Atlantis – you’ll end up lost. Specific objectives give direction and control, reducing fear and boosting confidence. You’ll be less influenced by others, and feel focused and determined.
Take small steps
Think of it like building a tower block by block – every little decision counts. Making small decisions can help you become more confident and less anxious. Start small; like choosing what to wear or what to eat for breakfast, and then move on to more important decisions. This can help you build momentum for more complex choices.
Stand Up For Your Freedom
Take charge of your life. Protect your magic, and feel less stressed out.
To do this; you may
- engage in political activities,
- find a community that supports personal development (like Pawns),
- scrutinize and improve your beliefs and values, and
- educate yourself on your rights.
It’s like putting on a cape and becoming your own hero.
Be mindful! Meditating can help you stay in the present and stop stressing about what’s to come. So take a breather and enjoy the now, your future self will thank you!
Welcome The Idea Of Death
The Fear of Death is uncomfortable. But you must accept your limited time here. Use the sense of uncertainty to appreciate what you have and a sense of urgency to take your life seriously.
Amor Fati means loving your fate. As you constantly try to improve your situation, bear in mind there is so much you can not control. But rather than accepting your role as a victim of circumstances, embrace the lessons from unpleasant outcomes and use them to fuel your goals and life journey.
“The only true freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude toward our circumstances.”– Epictetus
Assuming personal responsibility entails not only recognizing the importance of enriching your overall well-being but also taking action to seek help when necessary. This involves reaching out to trusted friends or family members for support and seeking the professional guidance of a therapist to alleviate feelings of anxiety and promote emotional freedom. So don’t be afraid to ask for help with your fears. Even heroes need allies to win their battles.
“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.”– Aung San Suu Kyi
Freedom is crucial if you must live your lives to the fullest. But it’s also important to clarify what freedom is to you and develop a structure and routine to feel comfortable and calm. This is because a vague definition of freedom can lead to confusion and too much structure can feel limiting.
The solution to freedom anxiety is finding a balance between freedom and structure. This can make you feel in control of your life, reduce undue stress, make yourself happier, and be less anxious about life.
A mindful self-help writer and photographer