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Dealing with anxiety

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                                  UNDERSTANDING UNCERTAINTY ANXIETY

Life is full of surprises; some surprises give us joy while some give us pain. 2020-21 have been such years of a rollercoaster ride. Some days there is hope and relief, while some days, we experience bouts of anxiety, fear, stress, and much more on other days. Nevertheless, it is only human to feel this way.

Humans have a way of looking at a situation from a holistic perspective. When we do not have sufficient information to fill in the missing gaps, we might feel distressed and uncomfortable to be caught in a situation with lesser control and a higher sense of ambiguity. This feeling is the anxiety caused due to uncertainty. Now, uncertainty has always been a part of our lives, but the consequences pre-pandemic was mostly not this fatal for us. Consequently, it gave rise to crippling emotional states of fear and anxiety that many times are perceived as a threat to our meaning in life. We might also feel anxious due to our inability to exercise control in life, social identity, and even moral values. We might experience distresses such as:

  • Uneasiness
  • Nervousness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rumination
  • Uncontrollable negative thoughts
  • Breathlessness
  • The frequent worry with or without any underlying cause
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Engaging in relief measures like seeking reassurance, avoidance, and procrastination.

Depending upon how this uncertainty is experienced, one can perform a range of behaviors to reduce the originating discomfort.

Let us discuss how uncertainty can be experienced and the ways to tackle it:

  1. Challenge your need for certainty:

Reflect on those situations where you realize you have an excessive need for control. Think of one such situation and write down the most disturbing thought. Now challenge the likelihood of that thought by,

  1. Questioning the reality of the thought
  2. Logically analyzing the basis of the thought
  3. Thinking of alternatives to manage the thought
  4. Share your emotions:

Many people tend to bottle up their emotions to put up a strong front for their families. This pattern may hamper your well-being and increase your anxiety levels. Sharing your emotions with your loved ones or journaling your thoughts provides a medium of expression. This can help reduce anxiety and come up with alternative ways to look at the situation. Go easy on yourself!

  1. Accept the present and be easy on yourself:

People prone to uncertainty anxiety may sometimes struggle with accepting the present or blame themselves for the same. For example, one may blame themselves for not having taken enough measures to protect their loved one who may have contracted covid-19. This self-blame can make the situation worse, leading to self-directed anger, guilt, and anxiety.

So, how can we avoid self-blame? The answer is self-acceptance! Acknowledging our limitations can help us prevent the self-directed anger and hatred towards our helplessness. For example, when you cannot prevent your loved one from getting sick, you can certainly take measures for their recovery. This way, you do not feel helpless by focusing on the ifs and buts. Instead, you view the situation from a newer perspective.

One can increase their acceptance of the present using mindfulness practices. Mindfulness helps us “switch off” our worry switch and “switch on” our awareness switch. Some quick and effective techniques are mindful eating, mindful walking, or mindful bathing. By focusing on the present task at hand, we get less anxious about those situations which are beyond our control.

We have also mentioned below some of the mindfulness-based exercises:

  1. Quick muscle relaxation:

When people get anxious, it increases their heart rate and their restlessness. Muscle relaxation can help in gaining some relief from these symptoms. Quick muscle relaxation requires you to lay down or sit in a comfortable place. Begin by stretching your toes muscles and continue doing so for 10-15 seconds and then slowly release the tension. Next, relax for a few seconds and repeat the same activity with other muscles of your body. Ranging from the knees, stomach, fists, shoulder, and lastly, your forehead. Disclaimer: Note this form of relaxation may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals experiencing depressive symptoms should consult a therapist before doing the same. Those who have health conditions like blood pressure or heart-related illnesses are also advised to stop if the exercise does not help. You can also contact our therapist for a tailored program suited to your requirements.

  1. Grounding techniques: 

Panic attacks and heightened anxiety can lead to disassociation from the present. Grounded techniques help to bring back this awareness. One such grounded technique is to look for 5 objects in your environment, 4 different sounds you hear, 3 textures you can feel around, 2 smells, and 1 taste.

  1. Deep Breathing:

Deep breathing helps us to calm down by lowering the stress levels. One simple technique is to breathe in a while, counting in 4seconds, hold the breath for 7seconds, and exhale while counting in 8seconds.

  1. Observe the pattern of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors:

Being mindful of our bodily reactions and our thought patterns gives us an insight into our inner functioning. Having said that, if you feel overwhelmed by your thoughts, behaviors and are unable to process them, we would suggest you contact a professional and seek treatment for the same. We would also like to request the readers to avoid self-diagnosis by relying on the resources on the internet or practicing self-medication because such practices can be detrimental.

Lastly, in the rush and chaos from last year, you did whatever was necessary to survive. Holding guilt and shame inside of you would only increase the pain. Although the situation around us may seem overwhelming and out of control, there is still one thing in our control: Our attitude! Positive thoughts and a positive attitude can help us fight this battle. If you feel overwhelmed or feel this uncertainty is having consequences in your daily life, try talking about it to a mental health professional.

Please remember we are there for you. We heal together; we grow together!

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