Coronavirus - Coping With Anxiety & Stress Through The Chaos
How To Manage Uncertainty in Uncertain Times
- The world is in the grip of a global pandemic.
- We are living in extremely uncertain times - and that uncertainty 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.
But help is at hand - you CAN learn to live with uncertainty.
Facing Uncertainty is Scarier than Facing Physical Pain
A new study shows that the uncertainty of something bad happening can be more stressful than the knowledge of something bad happening....
- In 2016, a group of London researchers explored how people react to being told they will 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.
- Researchers recruited 45 volunteers to play a computer game in which they turned over digital rocks that might have snakes hiding underneath.
- Throughout the game, they had to guess whether each rock concealed a snake. When a snake appeared, they received a mild but painful electric shock on the hand.
- Over the course of the game they got better about predicting under which rocks they’d find snakes, but the game was designed to keep changing the odds of success to maintain ongoing uncertainty.
- When we’re facing outcomes imbued with uncertainty, it’s the fact that something bad might happen that “gets” us.
- The volunteers’ level of uncertainty correlated to their level of stress. So, if someone felt “certain” he or she would find a snake, stress levels were significantly lower than if they felt that maybe they would find a snake.
- In both cases, they’d get a shock, but their stress was loaded with added uncertainty.
Archy de Berker from the UCL Institute of Neurology said: "Our experiment allows us to draw conclusions about the effect of uncertainty on stress. It turns out that it's much worse not knowing you are going to get a shock than knowing you definitely will or won’t.”
Uncertainty Ignites our Primitive Survival Instinct
- If we can’t neutralise a perceived threat, we engage in the unhelpful process called “worry”.
- We grapple with whatever the problem is to find solutions to the threat, but there are none.
- Does this make us feel better? No, of course it doesn’t - it makes us feel worse.
- In our need for certainty, we are wired to “catastrophise” - we view or talk of a situation as worse than it actually is. This leads to worry, which in turn leads to anxiety.
- The modern brain struggles to distinguish between real threat and perceived threat.
- 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 more…?
- Should I be doing less…?
- What if my business is threatened…?
What if my livelihood is threatened…? What if my life is threatened…? The lack of answers can lead to: Anger Aggression Frustration
What Can we do to Mitigate Uncertainty?
There are a number of things we can do to lessen the effects of uncertainty:
- Awareness is your superpower - be aware of your feelings and emotions
- Notice the “worry story” you are telling yourself - try to distance yourself from it
- Focus on breathing - long slow breaths
- Recognise the need to rise above fight-or-flight
- Accept uncertainty - allow yourself to stop the struggle
- Stand up to Anxiety with Some Mood-Boosters
- Exercise and movement
- Meditation, self hypnosis
- Achievement-oriented activity
- Something pleasant or fun
Just 15 minutes a day, focussing on yourself, will help you regain a sense of balance.
The more you practice all these strategies, the better you will become!
I would highly recommend incorporating the following strategies into your daily life to minimise anxiety:
- 1. Exercise for thirty minutes per day - ideally outside. Exercise has such a profound effect on happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming stress and anxiety.
- 2. Accept that anxiety is a learned behaviour - Remind yourself that the feelings of anxiety do not belong to you. When you feel any of those old unwanted sensations, look around and reassure yourself that there are no dangers.
- 3. Eat three meals a day - choose nutritional foods, and limit your sugar, alcohol and caffeine intake because anxiety is physiological, stimulants may have a significant impact.
- 4. Increase the joy in your life - Build a complementary set of neural pathways so that your brain begins to default to feelings of joy and relaxation. As you continually instruct your brain's attention to good feelings, it will notice them more and more often. From this moment forward, anytime you notice yourself feeling particularly good, put your hand on your heart and take a moment to acknowledge how good it feels. Next, give your mind the instruction to seek out more of this good feeling in the future or simply say out loud: “I feel good!”
- 5. Get plenty of sleep - Good quality sleep is essential for a healthy mind and body. Insufficient sleep can have a detrimental effect on your mood, and sleep deprivation increases anxiety levels.
- 6. Anxiety Distraction Techniques - Distraction is simply taking your focus onto something else for a few moments. It can be a good way to fend off any sudden symptoms of anxiety. This can also allow you to “take a step back from the world” and take a more considered approach to the situation, rather than a “reactive” one. If you do this for around three minutes, you will find that any sudden symptoms will dissipate.
If you need support in any way please feel free to Contact Sheila to discuss your needs with a complimentary phone call.