5 ways to create safety, security, certainty in an uncertain time
In this article I’ll explain why this unusual period is raking up enormous levels of fear and anxiety, and offer ways to lower anxiety, provide security and build certainty so that you can get through this difficult period with some powerful resources and confidence for the future.
Our survival mechanisms
Human beings are not too good with uncertainty overall, in fact, we’ll do anything to steer away from situations where we feel unsure. We have a natural biological urge to make the uncertain certain; it’s how we create safety and security within a chaotic world. Biologically we are rigged up to survive. In fact, in terms of our base motivations, this is our most fundamental urge.
The anxiety people currently have surrounding the COVID-19 virus is normal. Our brains are designed to calculate danger and eradicate that threat as swiftly as possible so that we can once again feel safe.
In other words, the mass fear and anxiety leading the behaviours which people are feeling and adopting, are, in fact, natural survival mechanisms.
These are simply clever ways our bodies respond in order to protect us and our nearest and dearest from death.
Fear needs an object. If we know what we fear at least we can avoid it. If you’re cringed out by spiders you can avoid them or get someone who isn’t fearful to deal with them. If it’s flying we can avoid it or develop steps to calm ourselves down. It could be any ‘thing’. The problem with a virus is that we can’t see it, and when we can’t even see what we fear our anxiety and threat response goes through the roof. Suddenly everything and everyone is a threat because we have no physical ‘thing’ to focus our fears upon and deal with.
We can’t control what we can’t see, but we can control how we deal with it, how we think, and what influence we do have over our lives.
Here are five ways to create safety, security and certainty in an uncertain time:
1. Change your focus
There’s a saying, ‘where focus goes energy flows’. Whatever you turn your focus towards is what you’ll feel. We naturally move towards feeling good but we are also designed to notice threat for survival. But knowing this gives you an element of choice. What you focus on is what you’ll feel. Looking at social media, the news, or obsessing over what could harm you in every moment will make you feel highly anxious. Whereas focusing on a short or long term project, for example; the garden, painting, building something, writing or anything which you are interested in, and can immerse yourself within, will change your feelings. Focus on illness and death = feel fearful. Go through funny photos with friends online = feel happy. Choose how you want to feel.
2. Write down what you can influence
In times like this, it's easy to feel disempowered and feel a lack of control; that’s normal. There are restrictions on where we can travel, what we can eat, and who we can visit amongst others. So it appears we have less control. But control is about where we place our attention. Nelson Mandela spent time restricted to a tiny cell for 27 years, and yet he used the entire time to develop his fitness and mentally preparing to lead South Africa. He had no control over his environment, what he ate, where he slept, but focused instead on his body and mind. So here’s an influence exercise for you to engage in;
- Draw a line down the centre of a page. On the left side write down what you can’t control. For example, how people think and feel, the virus, there are lots - so fill your boots!
- On the right side write down what you can control. For example, what you watch, what you focus on, who you speak to, what you eat, personal fitness, and what you can do within this period. These are within your influence.
Ask yourself how much focus you currently put on the left side of the page; you’ll realise why you feel so fearful. Then turn your focus towards the right side and action those things. You’ll feel a much stronger element of control and influence.
3. Help others
It’s easy to obsess over our own lives. When we centre everything on ourselves things can become obsessive. It’s easy to develop anxiety with negative self-talk. Doing this minimises reality and creates fantasy. It’s hard enough in everyday life to keep rational. But at this time of uncertainty and isolation, it's easy to become distracted with thoughts about the worst-case scenario. Therefore distract yourself by helping other people. Helping others to solve a problem by using your skills and talents will take you away from your worries and empower you. Helping will make you feel useful and offer you valuable perspective outside the fantasies conjured up by your own mind.
4. Work out every morning
Exercising is commonly known to have an incredibly positive impact on your well being, especially in the morning. It’s well documented that exercise lowers stress, makes you happier, helps you sleep better, increases your focus and supports weight loss among other amazing benefits. You’ve probably heard of the term ‘psychosomatic’ (from the mind to the body) but it also works the other way around. Changing your physiology changes your mind. If you are anxious, exercising will help keep that under control. How? During stress the hormones ‘cortisol’ and ‘adrenaline’ increase in order to help you prepare for a fight, flight or fright response. Exercise reduces these hormones and elevates mood by producing brain chemicals called endorphins. These change the way you think. So work out regularly, it’s an excellent way to maintain a healthy body and mind.
5. Speak to a counsellor or coach
Sharing thoughts and feelings with a counsellor is a superb way to alleviate stress, feel validated and change your mood. It’s rare to have someone to talk to who actually listens to complex, difficult thoughts and feelings without the emotional investment family members and close friends usually have. The current climate has brought lots of past memories and fears to the surface for many people.
Speaking with a counsellor is a great way to make sense of confusing feelings so that you can understand them and bring back a sense of control and peace to your life.
Equally a life coach can help you explore your strengths and build a plan for you to work towards. This will help you to progress in your life and offer a powerful sense of certainty in an incredibly uncertain period of time.
Need help alleviating fear and anxiety? A professional counsellor can help you to understand your thoughts, feelings and move towards a sense of safety, certainty and confidence.
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