Yet one more day of continuing uncertainty ……
- We won’t find out until 5:30pm today whether lock down restrictions move up or down.
- We don’t know how long the country (and the world) will be in the grips of the pandemic
- We don’t know how long till we get a vaccine.
- We don’t know what the impact on our lives is going to be.
Fear of the unknown
Fear of the unknown is perhaps the fundamental fear that underlies all anxiety. Our minds hate not knowing and while it’s hard for anyone to struggle or face the unknown, some people are less comfortable with it than others.
This is reflected in the fact that across NZ and around the world the COVID pandemic has triggered a second pandemic – a mental health pandemic. Our mental health is suffering because we’re struggling in the current environment to meet our emotional needs. For example:
- stay-at-home orders and social distancing have left many people isolated, hindering their ability to meet their need for connection.
- we have a need for autonomy (a sense of control over our lives) and there is so much about this current situation that’s out of our control that we can start to feel like we’re losing control.
Because our minds hate uncertainty, they try to create some semblance of certainty by imagining how the future will be. If that imagined future is filled with threats to our emotional and physical wellbeing, we experience anxiety.
We’re all familiar with anxiety. It’s an uncomfortable, uneasy feeling. That feeling is a signal from our mind/body that we need to act now to deal with the threat or avoid it if we can. When we’re unable to take action, our anxiety level rises.
Unlike Zoltar, none of us has a crystal ball to see into the future, so what can those of us less tolerant to uncertainty, and feeling anxious, do to survive this period mentally and emotionally intact?
The good news is tolerance to uncertainty is like a muscle and can be strengthened.
One of the ways is to control what you can by creating predictability and order when and where you can. It really helps to focus on what’s happening right now, right in front of you, that you can control.
Patricia Frazier, a professor at the University of Minnesota advises that at least once a day, we need to take time out to reflect on what we have control over, what we don’t have control over, and what we can do about the things within our control. Frazier’s research shows that when we focus on the things we can control about our daily lives, we tend to be less, anxious, stressed, and depressed and feel more satisfied with life. “You’re not just spinning your wheels dwelling,” Frazier says. “When you focus on what you can control, it’s more energizing, it promotes that sense of agency.”
It might seem counterproductive to also reflect on what you can’t control, but making that distinction is important because when we mistakenly think we can control the future, we can actually feel more distressed. But, once we acknowledge the things we can’t control, and accept that as a fact, we can make a conscious decision to stop worrying about them. Conversely, refusing to accept those things over which we have no control only helps to ramp up our anxiety level.
Spend some time thinking about where you have control
Starting today you might like to adopt Professor Frazier’s advice and spend some time thinking about where you have control and what actions you can take in those areas. And if you start to worry about things you do have control over, you can remind yourself of your plans to address them. For example:
- I’ll be sure to sanitize my hands every time I come home.
- I’ll be sure to wear my face mask when I go out.
- I’ll get a COVID test if I show any signs of symptoms.
- I’ll go for a walk every day
These are just a few suggestions of the many small ways in which you can build your tolerance of uncertainty and find a sense of control in adversity.
Without the skills and experience to manage anxiety we are at risk of developing an anxiety disorder or experiencing chronic stress or depression. Anxiety and stress fuel poor sleep, creating a vicious cycle. The more we lay awake at night rehashing worries about situations we have no control over, the worse our mental health becomes.
To help reduce your anxiety and stress level set aside some time each day to practice some anxiety busting techniques like these 3 tools to help lower COVID-19 Anxiety.
Perhaps at 5:30pm we’ll get some certainty about what the near future holds.
Schedule a free, no obligation Discovery Consultation
If you want some help managing your anxiety or stress level simply schedule a free, no obligation Discovery Consultation by clicking here – https://bit.ly/2Z2lmmy . Alternatively you can call/text me on 021 056 8389.
Stay safe and well.
I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible enjoy lives free of unnecessary stress and anxiety. If you’d like my help, or you know someone who would benefit, call/text me today on 021 056 8389 or email firstname.lastname@example.org