It’s been said time and time again and although it is becoming somewhat of a cliché, we are really living through unprecedented times. What this means is that it is almost impossible to predict what next year, month or even week will look like and for many, this uncertainty is causing their anxiety to spiral.
In a culture where it is quite normal to have a five-year life plan all mapped out, living in the moment and not knowing what tomorrow will bring is playing havoc for those scared about what their future looks like. Although there’s not much we can do to control what is going on in the world, we can have a say in how we respond to it and manage our own stress levels with a few simple techniques.
The worst-case scenario
Often in life we try and manage our emotions and imagine what the worst-case scenario would look like. With our norm shifted, it is very easy to tip over to catastrophising about what’s coming next. Recognising that your emotions are spiraling is the first stage in calming your anxiety. Telling ourselves that we are powerless to control the situation and ultimately let go is a good way of reducing our stress. Identify that there are in fact many different scenarios from best to worst and try and settle your mind somewhere in the middle.
When we worry, it is easy to get stuck in our thoughts. By approaching a situation mindfully, it helps to identify anxious thoughts and understand when they are irrational or distorted. Mindful thinking will help us to see the situation more clearly and help us deal with day to day tangible things rather than repeating scary scenarios in our head.
Pen to paper
Listening to the news and hearing words such as pandemic and death tolls will easily create panic and make intrusive thoughts spiral. One way to calm the mind is to write down how you are feeling and then the facts of the situation. It’s easy to jump to conclusions, but actively listening to your rational mind rather than your emotional mind will help you to draw the most accurate conclusions.
Grounding techniques in the form of breath work help to bring the mind back to the present and stop anxious thoughts getting out of control. It is also important to bring down our adrenaline levels, which will be raised with catastrophic thinking. There are lots of simple exercises for breath work to try; start with just a few minutes a day and gradually build it up. Relax your neck and shoulders, keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for two counts, purse your lips and exhale to the count of four. For diaphragmatic breathing, lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and your head on a pillow, place one hand on your upper chest and one hand below your rib cage to feel the movement of your diaphragm. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling your stomach pressing into your hand, exhale slowly as you tighten your stomach muscles and keep your upper hand still.
Create a healthy habit
We are not suggesting you attempt a marathon or learn how to speak Mandarin but doing little things throughout your day will help create healthy habits that you can stick to. Choose one trusted news source to keep in touch with ongoing events and delete the rest. Try and do one form of exercise every day, could be as simple as a ten-minute stretch session or a gentle walk. If you are feeling really overwhelmed and you are working from home, speak to your employer about taking a mental health day from work to give yourself time to recharge.
Whether you are in full-time employment, have been furloughed or are looking at redundancy, there are ways to manage your anxiety over money and future careers. Look for new employment opportunities or ways you can use your skills in a freelance capacity. One of the first things you may want to do is update your CV and LinkedIn page. Adding testimonials from people that you’ve worked for is a great way to help you stand out and contacting past employers may also lead to new opportunities. If you have the time, now may be a good time to further your education. There are many courses that can be completed online and to help in this current pandemic, many institutions have either waived the fees or are offering discounts. If you have currently been put on furlough, it’s legit to volunteer for a charity. So take this opportunity to get a taste for a new career or retrain to pursue something you’ve always wanted to do.
Today’s actions, tomorrow’s benefits
- Get plenty of sleep, have a lie in but don’t take to extremes.
- Keep up with friends and family on the phone or video chat.
- Plan a structure to your day.
- Exercise at home.
- Get some fresh air every day, even just a walk around the block or sitting by an open window.
- Try new healthy coping skills such as journaling, deep breathing or meditating.
- Eliminate bad thoughts by getting up and doing an activity to distract your brain.
- Reach out to a professional if you are struggling.