The Anxiety Economy – How You Can Find Relief for Free Through Meditation and Mindfulness

Manisha Priyadarshan
February 20, 2024
woman meditatively breathing in lotus position

Close to 19% of the American population reported living with debilitating and constant fluctuations of anxiety last year. Due to a contentious political environment, constant media exposure, and an increasingly technological world, many people are unable to shrug off this quivering balance between the present and the future.

This new trend of anxiety is very recent, as book stores like Barnes & Noble reported a 25% jump in anxiety books around June 2017. These books, along with courses and devices, that promise to treat anxiety are products within a special economy known as the “anxiety economy.”

It’s an entirely new marketplace that is worth billions today as adults purchase fidget spinners, coloring books, and stress toys to help them manage anxiety. Companies are aptly rising to the occasion and creating products that focus on fluctuating mindsets, making them money while it costs you even more to manage your mental health.

The Case of the Fidget Spinner

Fidget spinners dominated the 2017 news cycle as a stress-relieving toy for adults, teens, and kids riddled with ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and nervous energy. The spinning lights in a triangular shape was designed to focus our attention and bring us back to the present, calming our worried minds and wandering thoughts.

To date, many estimate that over 50 million fidget spinners were purchased during this surge, as more people than ever before can admit to living with anxiety. Basically a modern-day squishy stress toy, people were using these spinners as a physical relief of their mental anguish, buying a product to “make it go away” as opposed to treating the root cause of the problem.

Meditation for Money

App programmers weren’t far behind with their medically aiding meditation apps, charging a fee for people that wanted to add more meditation to their lives on a daily basis. This concept was integrated into other industries, like skincare and air fresheners that claimed to lower your sense of panic while providing you with a calming and mindful state.

Don’t forget the sleep-health industry, with weight blanket sales launching the industry to a $30 to $40-billion-dollar value. Anything that could claim it had a meditative association was a hot ticket item and still is today, in this new kind of economy.


CBD Solutions

Marijuana enthusiasts began to push the prevalence of CBD, which is a cannabinoid that is separate from THC, otherwise known as the compound that can get you high. As a result, CBD packs all of the calming and pain-relief elements of marijuana without the hallucinogenic properties of THC.

This industry is expected to hit $22 billion by 2022, with products like candy, vapes, ice cream, and tea available. Moving into skincare, Estée Lauder was one of the first mainstream beauty brands to release cannabis-infused products, sharing the benefits of topically applying CBD to your skin and rubbing it into your pores for an anti-anxiety beauty regime. However, there is a massive mislabeling element associated with CBD as far as the psychoactive and hemp-related ingredients are concerned. Studies have yet to prove that CBD does anything tangible at all for your body, especially when rubbed into the skin.

But due to its marketing positioning as an anti-anxiety, natural solution, consumers are eating it up in droves.

As you can see, the anxiety economy is showing no signs of shrinking today. With white noise machines, salt lamps, and meditation clothing that all promise to help you get out of that fear-of-the-future state, the products released in this kind of capitalistic mindset are only going to increase.

Many people are worried that these kinds of products are normalizing the illness, making it average and even “cool” to need a fidget spinner. Is anxiety being commoditized? Are these products increasing its prevalence and acceptance in our society? It is true that as a society, we rarely deal and address mental illness, leaving individuals to their own devices. As a result, companies are filling the gap and providing the products our employers and educators won’t provide in the interim.

There is a way for you to address your anxiety for free. It doesn’t have to be this glorified problem with a chest of adult toys in tow.


Mindfulness for Anxiety

Humans have been battling – and managing – anxiety for thousands of years without commercial products. The root of anxiety exists in our minds, where we develop a fear for the future and the unknown. Therefore, to treat this problem, you need to go to where these thoughts are coming from. Don’t treat the effect; treat the cause.

Mindfulness is a practice whereby individuals learn to focus on present experience. They learn to pass over the anxious thoughts that carry no meaning and no weight, while remaining grounded in the present, regardless of setting. After practicing it for just a few minutes each day, individuals are able to wield this tool in any setting, sending anxious thoughts away.

Other forms of meditation and mindfulness you can practice for free include:

  •  Exercising: Aerobic exercise, like jogging or swimming, helps your brain release serotonin, which improves your mood.
  • Eliminating Caffeine: Caffeine provides you with a fake spike in energy and positivity that can come crashing down afterward. Don’t add this drug to your system; embrace the day soberly.
  • Meditation: Set up a meditative spot in your home, and dive into the world of mindfulness. There are dozens of free mindfulness for anxiety apps you can download to help you get started.
  • Breathing: Set alarms on your phone a few times per day, reminding you to stop, slow down your breathing, and consciously change your inhale/exhale pattern. Do it for a few minutes. You will instantly feel better!

If you still feel like these four things aren’t helping, you can always contact a mental health support group! These are free nonprofit or government-sanctioned groups that can help you work through your anxiety without the costs.

Anxiety is not a product for purchase; it’s a mental state that you can manage with patience, meditation, and transparency.