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  1. The world is still experiencing a global pandemic, even as we start to exit ‘lock-down’

    We are living in extremely uncertain times - and that uncertainty can be difficult to cope with. 

    You may feel worried right now.  You may struggle to keep anxious thoughts in check.  And you may feel unsure about the future.

    But you and your children CAN learn to live with uncertainty.

     Facing Uncertainty is Scarier than Facing Physical Pain

    A recent study shows that the uncertainty of something bad possibly 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 the snakes were lurking, but the game was designed to evolve, constantly changing the odds of success to maintain ongoing uncertainty.

    When we’re facing uncertain outcomes, it’s the fact that something bad might happen that makes us anxious.

    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 try to find solutions to the threat, but with no certainty 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.  We become like those meerkat sentries who stand guard over their territory, seeing threats everywhere.You see, the modern brain struggles to distinguish between real threat and perceived threat. The result is that the primitive brain takes over and triggers the primitivesurvival instinct - fight-flight- or freeze.

    question-mark-2306526_1920It asks questions:

    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 emotional responses including:

    Anger

    Aggression

    Frustration

    Fear

    What Can we do to Mitigate Uncertainty?

    There are a number of 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, natural breaths

    • Recognise the need to rise above fight-or-flight

    • Accept uncertainty - the 'I don't know' - allow yourself to stop the struggle

     

    Stand up to Anxiety with Some Mood-Boosters

    • Exercise and movement - dance to your favourite music perhaps

    • Meditation, mindfulness and self hypnosis (I can help you and your kids with these)

    • Achievement-oriented activity - set manageable targets and celebrate your successes

    • Something pleasant or fun - and if it gets you laughing - all the better.

     Just 15 minutes a day, focussing 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 free download

  2. Today I left the house for the first time in 3 weeks.  19 days ago, I developed a cough and a whole variety of symptoms and have stayed home ever since.

    Don’t ask if I’ve had Covid 19 – maybe - who knows!  I’ve certainly been quite poorly and rather generously shared it with my youngest daughter and my husband.  I still wouldn’t rate my chances in a battle to escape a paper bag, although today I am definitely sure I’ll probably be fine.

    If you know me at all, you’ll know I am mentally pretty strong. I have wobbles like anyone else, but mostly I am a mindset mentor and I walk my talk. Heck, I make my living helping people overcome their fears and mental blocks.  Today though, faced with doing an entirely essential food shop, I was a quivering mass.  Going out of the safe confines of my home was truly scary and, had my husband been well, I would not have gone. I would have found a reason to stay here, cocooned in my lovely safe home.

    I remember, during a somewhat prolonged hospital stay after the very premature birth of my first child, a nurse telling my husband that I must be taken out for an ‘airing’ after a week – to prevent me becoming institutionalised!  I was fascinated by their view that it only takes 2 weeks for us to hand over all responsibility to ‘the institution’. Now my home is nothing like the Special Care Baby Unit, nor does it resemble any other form of institution.  However, it is a place where, feeling vulnerable and ill during a time of huge worldwide anxiety, I have been safely contained for three whole weeks.

    You can probably tell by the fact you are reading this – I survived.  I drove my car down the hill, my heart was palpitating, my palms sweating and my head pounding.  There was no traffic, which made driving less stressful, but it was seeing a half empty supermarket carpark which allowed me to breathe normally. It was strange, curious, bizarre, but I was fine. 

    Now, let’s just talk about that fear. 

    I am a strong, relatively well mentally balanced woman. 

    I was scared. 

    So how do you think those people who are already experiencing anxiety are doing right now?  It is a scary time, which is why some people will do crazy things to exercise some level of control.  We’re pretty good at getting a survival plan in place – it is a basic human instinct – but taking a pause to breath and be rational is more challenging and effective.  Once we know we are safe there can be a tendency to sink into that safety and lose sight of the bigger picture – to lose sight of what happens next.

    At some point, whether a month, two, three or more into the future, we will return to some level of normal activity. This will involve leaving the safe sanctuary of our homes and re-starting life in the big wide world, and it is going to make some people’s anxiety go through the roof. 

    The time to start dealing with this is now, before it becomes deeply engrained. 

    Being afraid of the unknown is perfectly normal.  The “I don’t know” is challenging for everyone.  Just know, that you don’t have to let the fear overwhelm you.  Reach out – if not to me, then to someone.

    As a clinical hypnotherapist, I can support you via Zoom, Skype or Messenger and am greatly experienced working with all types of anxiety and fear. Including my own!