Overcoming anxiety in an uncertain world
Human beings love certainty and hate loss, which is why with the current political landscape there are more people seeking therapy. The biggest fears are around jobs, pensions, the price of food going up and the increase in racism. According to the Guardian newspaper it’s beginning to filter down to children through their parents being so negative. Once we start this process of negative thinking then it’s difficult to stop and so that in itself increases anxiety, depression, anger and jealousy.
So what can we do ourselves, to not get so drawn into the fray? First is to keep a level head, before things calm down we need to accept there will be a period of chaos. We can think about the things we do have control over. Sometimes the best way of dealing with uncertainty is to think about all possible outcomes in how you would like to deal with a situation.
In his book 'Smarter, faster, better – the secrets of being productive', Charles Duhigg gives an example of two plane crashes. One where the pilots had no model of how to deal with similar conditions and one where the pilots had practised and gone through in their minds many times what they needed to do if certain problems arose. The example with no model crashed and they were able to land the one where they had a model. If the model of our world becomes influenced by outside unwanted problems many of us will start to feel anxious, as we feel the need to change things but don’t know what to do. If we understand what the problem could be, even if it hasn’t happened yet, having a model can help us act.
We are not in a position to panic every time decisions are made for us on our behalf. We need to create positive steps to take if that situation becomes reality. We use a very similar process in sports hypnosis. Visualising what you want to happen, not allowing yourself to be sidetracked by events. By rehearsing something over in your mind it creates new neural pathways in the brain, so when you do experience the event for real it is already familiar.
Where hypnotherapy can help is to help calm, focus and create the visualisations that are needed. When using a solution-focused approach, it will help build a model of what to do in small steps. Planning, coming up with a logical model, helps keep us in the rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.
Those individuals that overcome major problems time and again are those who learn from their mistakes and move on. They don’t spend their time berating themselves, and worrying or thinking “what if”. They accept that it didn’t work and focus on the next project. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in that cycle of negative thought we stop being proactive and able to come up with ideas and solutions.
Keep calm and carry on may seem a cliché today, but it was invented in our country’s darkest hour, and there is great sense in staying calm, focused and in control.
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About Penny Ling
Penny Ling is an experienced solution focused hypnotherapist specialising in fears and phobias and many anxiety related problems in between. She was Editor of Hypnotherapy Today magazine for five years, and supervises other hypnotherapists. She has published an eBook - How solution focused hypnotherapy can help with life, accessed from her website.