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Stress & Anxiety - How to Manage Uncertainty in Uncertain Times.

Help is at hand - you CAN learn to live with uncertainty.

For the last two years we have been living in extremely uncertain times - The world has been in the grip of a global pandemic the likes of which we have never experienced before.

In the beginning we had no idea of what would happen or when. Life changed quickly overnight with little traffic on the roads, closing of venues, schools, and other businesses, queuing to get into shops, social distancing, wearing masks and economic uncertainty. Weddings and funerals were limited to the number that could attend, we were separated from loved ones to protect the vulnerable and the media reported the death and infection rates on a regular basis.

Vaccines were introduced but, for some, this led to more uncertainty about safety of the vaccines and should we get vaccinated or not. Conflicting information in the media and on social media platforms often enhanced the worry and stress.

We now have the uncertainty of covid variants, how they will manifest and how they will affect us. To top all of this off we have raising fuel and food prices along with uncertainty of jobs. There has been a lot of uncertainty over the last two years. Its safe to say that this uncertainty continues today.

Uncertainty can be difficult to cope with. You may feel worried right now. You may struggle to keep anxious thoughts in check.

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 such as:

· 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

· More worry

What Can we do to Mitigate Uncertainty?

There are several 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

· Address what you can – get financial advice if you need it

Stand up to Anxiety with Some Mood-Boosters

• Exercise and movement especially in the fresh air.

• Meditation, self-hypnosis

• Achievement-oriented activity

• Something pleasant or fun

Just 15 minutes a day, focusing on yourself, will help you regain a sense of balance.

The more you practice all these strategies, the better you will become!

To help you with the mood-boosting, check out my download.


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