Cope better with anxiety about uncertainty

The rules have been scrapped, you are free to make your own decisions about where to go and how to behave when you get there. Does this make you happy? Or are you consumed with anxiety? Frightened of the consequences or your own and other people’s behaviour and terrified about making the wrong decisions?

 

This level of uncertainty can be very difficult to adapt to and it fuels our perception of threat – causing us to feel increased stress and anxiety. Some of us are living in a state of perpetual high alert, looking out for danger around every corner, and this is an exhausting way to live. When we are always looking out for the negative, for the bad news and for a reason NOT to do something, then we will always find it. Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic I have found the news relentlessly negative. Even when there is positive news, the journalists have been questioning what could go wrong, what if this doesn’t work the way we hope, and this attitude of negativity has been seeping into our brains and influencing the way we perceive the world.

 

So, is there anything you can do about it, while not putting yourself or your family in danger?

 

Yes, is the answer. Let me explain how I have been helping myself and my clients…

 

Practice relaxation

And no, I don’t mean chilling on the sofa with a glass of wine and a Netflix binge. I mean learn how to totally relax both your body and your mind. Your body and mind are structured in such a way that it is impossible to be both anxious and relaxed, so by increasing your relaxation, you can decrease your anxiety.

 

Some people love mindfulness apps and find them very helpful, other people meditate, but if neither of these methods are for you, then don’t despair. There are guided breathing relaxation techniques that are easy to learn and very effective for reducing stress, there are methods of relaxation that involve tensing your muscles gently before letting go that can be very easy to practise and deeply relaxing. When I’m teaching a client how to relax, I always explain that it is about finding the technique that is the right on for you – there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to relaxation.

 

I run a guided relaxation class so that people can try different techniques and find out which is the one that suits them best. Once you have found what works for you – then practise regularly!

 

Notice how you think

Does your head buzz with ‘what ifs’? What if I go out and get pinged? What if I let my teenager go to that party and they get infected? What if I can’t work? What if I pass the virus on to someone else?

 

It is rare that our ‘what ifs’ are positive. They are almost always unrelentingly negative. But the question we need to ask is, ‘how likely is it that my worry is valid?’ and then ‘what would the consequences be?’

 

One of the reasons why we are finding things so challenging at the moment is that the answers to these questions may not be clear and we haven’t got years of experience to fall back on.

 

When you begin to notice the thoughts that you are having, then you can begin to challenge yourself, to ask yourself whether your worries are valid and what you might be able to do to change your thinking patterns to a more helpful way of thinking. For example, do you always assume that the worst will happen and you won’t be able to cope. Ask yourself how often the worst has actually happened in your life, and whether you did manage to cope.

 

Think about what really matters to you

Life is about more than simply being safe. What matters to you? Is it family, friends, working for your community, learning and education, spiritual matters, work? Does how you spend your time fit with your values? Asking ourselves these questions can help us to figure out where we might need to step outside our comfort bubble. If your family matters enormously to you then your assessment of how important it is to spend time visiting would be different from someone who values spirituality most, for example. If you have been keeping away from relatives for fear about compromising their health, how long before you begin to compromise their, and your, emotional health by remaining separated?

 

These are difficult questions and now we are in charge of the rules, there are no easy answers. But don’t let anxiety rule your decisions – life is too short for that.

 

Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy and EFT (tapping) can help to tackle anxious thoughts, teach you how to adapt unhelpful thinking patterns and to recover from difficult, stressful events so get in touch if you would like to ask whether it could help you.