The last few days have been fraught with the highest levels of anxiety and uncertainty, every hour brings us something new, and there is more uncertainty now as to what the coming days, weeks or even months can bring us than there ever has been. We’re all playing what-if scenarios in our minds, and feeling helpless with our complete lack of control. ‘Uncertainty’ is a very powerful word in case you haven’t noticed. It is this ‘uncertainty’ that is causing us all this stress and anxiety. True it’s the current coronavirus situation that is causing this uncertainty, but it’s the uncertainty that is increasing our levels of stress and anxiety. Uncertainty stems from our ‘lack of control’ over things and this lack of control is causing us all this stress. So how do we deal? Since we have more time on our hands now than we ever did, why don’t we take a few minutes to sit with ourselves and stare uncertainty in the face and find our ways around it.
1 || Plan For What’s Under Your Control
To slightly alleviate the stress caused by uncertainty we need to plan. Plan for what you say? You will need to put plans regarding the things that are currently under your control, whether you put plan B for your job, or plans for what the children can do while in the house, or plan for what groceries you will need for the time being or what to cook, or just simply put a plan for what you intend to do during the quarantine. Feeling slightly in control can drastically reduce the stress of uncertainty.
2 || Observe Your Feelings
Allow yourself the luxury of feelings and observe how you feel. When you’re doing your frantic online searches for new information witness how stressed or anxious you are? Where do you really feel it? Is it tension in your chest? Is it stiffness in your neck and shoulders? Does it feel like nausea or shortness of breath?
3 || Label The Experience
When you realise that what you’re physically feeling is connected to what you were doing or thinking earlier, you are then able to label this experience as being “uncertainty” or “useless thinking”. When you’re anxious you activate the amygdala which is the fear centre in your brain. Once the amygdala is activated, the prefrontal cortex becomes less active. In case you’re wondering why you can’t think straight or make sound judgements? It is because the prefrontal cortex is becoming less active. When you label your experience you help yourself reverse this pattern, and allow the prefrontal cortex to take over and help you regulate your emotions and make proper decisions.
4 || ‘I Don’t Know”
You need to acknowledge the uncertainty to be able to detach or disengage from it without trying to ignore it. It is okay to respond to all the scenarios in your head but telling yourself “I don’t know”. Admitting to yourself that you do not have answers for everything allows you to gradually disengage from these thoughts, as versus forcing yourself to stop thinking about things which will only make you dwell on things more.
5 || Breathe
Take slow breaths or check out any number of breathing exercises to help ease your anxiety and to provide your brain with ample amounts of oxygen.
6 || Grounding
You need to expand your awareness to be able to gain back your perspective. Take your focus off your discomfort by focusing on the sights, sounds, and smells surrounding you. Take in the sky above, feel the ground beneath your feet, the couch you are sitting on, the smells surrounding you. Now look internally, focus on your breath, your heartbeats, on any sensations you may feel such as an itching foot. This grounding exercise helps you shift your focus to make you realise that the uncertainty is only a small part of your overall experience. This in turn will help you give less weight to your discomfort.
7 || Practice Mindfulness
Practice staying in the moment; do not fret about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow or after a week. Practice meditation and if you haven’t learnt how to yet, now’s the most perfect time. Be grateful for what you have and write them down in a gratitude journal. And simply journal your feelings, don’t think about what to write just write what comes to mind and how you feel. Read, declutter, relax and simply take it slow for the whole planet is on a slower pace right now.