How to Deal With Anxiety During Uncertain Times
Here’s a SUMMARY of the points covered in this section:
- 6 Ways to Mitigate Uncertainty
- 5 ways to reduce and prevent anxiety levels
- Listen to your free Calm the Body and Mind Meditation
Panic and Fear in Times of Uncertainty
How do we cope with the chaos of uncertain times and the feelings they bring up that can be difficult to cope with? You may feel worried right now. You may struggle to keep anxious thoughts in check and you may feel unsure about the future. You may also be battling with judgments about your own emotions. Perhaps you say to yourself “I shouldn’t feel this way” and that makes suffering worse. So try to avoid judging yourself for having those feelings. When times are hard we need to be kinder and more compassionate towards ourselves.
As humans we have the ability to imagine the future. This is something that has served us well in aiding creativity. However, during times of uncertainty, when literally anything could be happen to anyone at any one time, this capacity can be our enemy. We may fill our minds with terrifying images of catastrophic possible futures. This is what anxiety is about.
In 2016, a group of London researchers explored how people would react to being told that they would either “definitely” or “probably” receive a painful electric shock. They discovered an intriguing paradox.
Volunteers who knew they would definitely receive a painful electric shock felt calmer and were measurably less agitated than those who were told they only had a 50 percent chance of receiving the electric shock. This study shows that the uncertainty of something bad happening can be more stressful than the knowledge of something bad happening.
Uncertainty Ignites our Primitive Survival Instinct. If we can’t neutralize a perceived threat, we engage in the unhelpful process called “worry”. We grapple with whatever the problem is to find solutions to the threat. Does this make us feel better? No, quite the opposite – it makes us feel worse. In our need for certainty, we are wired to “catastrophise” : this leads to worry, which in turn leads to anxiety. The modern brain struggles to distinguish between real threats and perceived threats.
The result is that the primitive brain takes over and triggers the primitive survival instinct – fight-or-flight. It asks questions: What is going to happen…? What is around the corner for me…? Should I be doing less…? Should I be doing more…? What if my business is threatened…? What if my livelihood is threatened…? What if my life is threatened…? How do I protect my family? Because we have no definitive answers this can lead to anger, aggression or frustration.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO MITIGATE UNCERTAINTY?
- Check in regularly and ask yourself: “How am I feeling?” Don’t turn away from the feeling, lean into it
- Distance yourself from the worry story you are telling yourself (see advice on how to use an NLP technique to do this at the end of this article)
- Use Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Recognize the need to rise above the flight or fight panic response
- Accept uncertainty: let go of the need to control what cannot be controlled. Instead focus on choice, where do I want to choose to focus my attention?
- Boost your mood: use Exercise, Meditation, Self-Hypnosis, Music, Comedy, Games with family at home, or online sharing
Just 10 -20 minutes, it doesn’t have to be long, can help you to regain a sense of balance.
5 WAYS TO REDUCE AND PREVENT HIGH ANXIETY LEVELS
If you listen to the radio or television everyday you would understandably and naturally become overwhelmed by the amount of new and changing official information being issued on a daily basis. The problem in itself is overwhelming in its magnitude and scope and it is easy to feel powerless when we think about the many ways it is affecting us all directly and indirectly. Our ‘normal’ way of life has already changed dramatically, whether we are in lockdown or not, and many people in our families and communities are left vulnerable.
Because of a heightened sense of uncertainty about the future, stress, anxiety and depression has a chance to abound. Here are some practical ways you can help yourself:
- Limit News and Other Triggers
It’s good to stay informed. However listening to the news several times a day and spending hours reading articles about Coronavirus is not going to help. In fact it is guaranteed to make you feel on edge, anxious and eventually depressed. Make sure you are in charge of when you are exposed to the news and for how long (particularly with children). Make sure you also discuss other topics when you are online with your friends and family.
- Change your Focus
Anxiety is all about imagining future catastrophic scenarios. Although it’s possible these scenarios may come true, it is too one sided to entertain only negative ideas. Balance is necessary. Do not try to push away these thoughts, as what you resist persists. Instead acknowledge these thoughts, but also remind yourself that there are other scenarios in the realm of possibilities and you could choose from these too. Things could turn out better than imagined. There are many possible options, take them into consideration.
- Move your Body
Changing physiology changes mental states. When you are feeling low, your stance and facial features change. How would your body move if you were feeling calm, playful or expansive? Now move your body that way. Notice how changes in your body movement and expressions, can change the way you feel. Experiment with what feels right for you. How does that influence your mood?
- Make Self Care a Priority
Self care is not selfish. Self care is a priority during a pandemic. Your immune system needs to be as strong as possible. So concentrate on eating healthy, organic food, exercising, resting and sleeping well, keeping your brain interested in stimulating activities and socializing online to a degree that’s comfortable for you and makes you feel connected. If you have to lower the bar in terms of chores in order to keep up with family needs, again balance is the key. Be kind to yourself, if need be lower your expectations of what you need to deal with in a day. Set clear but firm boundaries with those you share your home with that you will need some quiet time, not only for yourself but in order to be of service to them and their needs. Without looking after yourself, you can’t effectively look after others.
- Change Emotional State
When you are feeling in a non resourceful state, it is essential to know how to switch into a more resourceful one quickly. See below for a guide on how to navigate this state with NL (Neuro Linguistic Programming).
HOW TO USE NLP TO CHANGE FROM ONE EMOTIONAL STATE TO ANOTHER
Use Positive Language to Reframe your Experience
The way we use our words and minds matters. It literally affects your DNA. Reframe catastrophising language, such as “This is a disaster, how will we come out of this?” to “This situation is not one that I would have wanted, but I’m going to be able to cope and perhaps even come out the other side better”
Ask yourself Empowering Questions
Questions change what we are focusing on and how we feel as a consequence. The only thing that limits the type of questions you can ask yourself is your belief about what is possible. When you create a better question you create a better answer.
When you ask negative “Why?” questions you can end up feeling worse, because the questions can only be answered by providing negative reasons and therefore keep you in a static mindset. Questions such as “Why me?”, “Why did it have to happen now?”, “What else is going to happen?”
Consider instead empowering questions such as “What can I do to make this work for myself, my family and my community?” , “How can I turn this around?”, “If I could be happy or grateful about something, what could I be happy or grateful about?”, “What can I learn from this?”
Transform your Negative Imaginings and Rob them of their Power
Take a situation that is challenging you. Make a picture of it in your mind. Now imagine pushing it farther and father away from you. Stand above it and look down upon the problem, as if from a bird’s eye view, and view it from a new perspective. Make the image dimmer and smaller. Push it back and watch the sun melt it. Put the image behind you. Push it back until it’s miles and miles behind, until it Is a dot receding in the darkness.
Want a Quick and Easy Way to Relax?
Listen to my free hypnotic audio whenever you can. Allow yourself 10 minutes a day to get in touch with a sense of calmness, peace and comfort. This audio will provide you with a resource to get in touch with your own sense of safety and comfort and to find ta peace within that you can return to at any time you desire.
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