Fear is a feeling the majority of us have experienced in the last six months. There is a continued sense of uncertainty giving rise to many questions without any clear answers. As our minds tend to prefer control, certainty and safety, this is all highly uncomfortable.
The messages received from the government and media have been the opposite to control, certainty and safety. The result is a continued sense of anxiety and fear.
Views differ across the population, seeming very dependent on own personal experience and perspective. Rules have also changed and interpretations have been varied, leading to further confusion and conflict. It feels as though the initial outpouring of compassion has been followed by more emotions of anger and frustration.
With the disruption and effects wide reaching and ongoing, our mental health is more important than ever. Feeling in danger has a direct impact on our brain and bodies, as it works hard to try to gain control and protect us from harm. Feeling unsafe triggers the fear response in our mind to go into action, releasing adrenaline to get our bodies ready to run or fight. If this continues it is exhausting and very distracting. Continued avoidance also keeps the fear response active and on alert, as we tune in to the potential dangers and risks around us, creating a more bias towards fear. This silence other parts of our mind that help maintain a healthy balance around coping, resilience and calm.
So what can we do? Here are some points to consider that may help:-
- It is so important that we maintain the many aspects of life that help maintain mental health and wellbeing. Activities such as exercise, being in nature, reading, creativity and adventure, are all beneficial.
2. We have to be careful how we are managing risk and interpreting it. Our fear system will be focused on receiving messages of potential danger, which means that we don’t make enough space for accepting balanced perspectives. So seek all the facts first before believing in what your fear is saying.
3. We can’t compare our experience with that of others. Everyone will be having a different experience, being affected in a variety of ways.
4. Learn some strategies. By making time to learn breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques, you can feel more able to cope with fear and uncertainty. This provides greater confidence that whatever the future holds you can cope with any discomfort or difficulty that may (or may not!) arise.
5. Remain present. Anxiety searches and seeks out potential dangers. This results in a very future focused thought pattern. It highlights the worse case scenarios and the what ifs, desperate to find a solution. However, this is not usually very helpful at all, especially as anxiety lies and exaggerates. Learning mindfulness skills helps us notice when our thoughts have wandered into the anxiety rabbit hole, and brings attention back to the present. This means we can engage in certainty, control and activities that provide us with pleasure and fulfilment in the here and now.
6. Seek support. Sometimes it is hard doing it alone. Whether it is talking to others or seeking professional support, you are not alone.