Blog Content kindly Provided By Joanne Edmond from Core Psychology
How to Thrive through Uncertainty
There are not too many times in our history that we can observe a time that we as people have collectively in our community and across the globe felt the same feelings. Fear is the main word I have heard people describe in the last few weeks and it is completely understandable as we try to make sense of difficult situations and what might become the future. There are numerous things we can do to reduce the feelings of overwhelm, but first let us understand fear and anxiety a little more.
Fear is our natural response to things or situations that are uncertain and is important in protecting us from further fear or threat. However, when fear becomes overwhelming or the constant chatter and feelings it can lead to anxiety. In some cases anxiety and fear can improve our performance when we understand it well and can allow us to adapt to changing environments.
If left unchecked anxiety, fear and stress can change our brain form a calm state to that where we operate from tan alarm state or survival system. When this alarm system is turned on constantly another part of our brain system reduces in capacity, our smart brain and this part of the brain helps us to think rationally, solve problems and learn (pre-frontal cortex and hippocampus). When our alarm system is turned on in shock, fear and anxiety cortisol is released which is a stress chemical, our heart rate increases and both sleep and our digestion systems change getting us ready for our primal survival responses to fight, flight or freeze. As fear helps us to avoid dangerous situations in the future. In these time we can’t learn very well if at all as the pre-frontal cortex or smart brain doesn’t have all the information it needs to accurately predict the future as emotions are flooded and we get cloudy thinking and we can go back to default or unhelpful behaviours. One of these it turning to the media as we think we need this information to make future decisions, but it’s creating more fear and flooding. Another example is we decide to just let the day unfold as things are overwhelming when in fact what we need to regulate our emotions is to set schedules and routines and stick to them.
We have an opportunity as a community to thrive through this uncertainty and the research is clear on how we can do this.
We get into the right mindset, a powerful place for change and we have honest acceptance of the harshness of our current reality and say, “we are all in this together, but it’s going to be tough”. This thinking calms the brains alarm system and takes us into problem solving.
We start a positive social contagion where we generate healthy ideas in social platforms and focus on one thing or idea at a time as fewer things or tiny behaviours have the greatest affects. We ask questions as a community such as, “what are we doing together to create shared goals. This platform created by Emma is a great example of working together for the ultimate purpose of connecting and support along with shared healthy ideas.
We start one habit this week, which is self-care, it’s not always an automatic response as we have so many carers among us. However, if we continue to go, go. Go there will be more burn out so to thrive through this self-care is paramount. Send these messages of positivity to one another, look out for one another as this also has a calming effect on the brain. Visualise filling up your self-care cup with some of these things.
1 Empathise with others, as people feeling heard, calms down the brain along with your own brain, we get the feeling that we are connected.
2 Acceptance of things we cannot change and helping ourselves stay in the present moment. We can do this through mental dumping. Saying things to self like “right now I’m feeling sad or anxious 8/10. This validates our own feelings and experience and puts the breaks on the stress/alarm response.
3 Calm breaths and mindfulness, inhale for 6 counts, hold for 6 counts and exhale for 6 counts (6,6,6). Set reminders in your phone and share messages for others, ( stop and B) as when changes are happening rapidly we forget to breathe and full “stop B” reminds us to stop and breathe or simply just B. Imagine this social contagion of calm and connection.
There are many other self-care practices and if you and your loved ones could select just one thing to focus on this week and share what your doing with others we can stay socially connected while physically distancing.
And finally, we are all in this together and we can thrive in uncertainty.
B.A. Psychology, P.G. Dip Psychology, Assoc MAPS
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