I wrote a post yesterday about uncertainty and how it can often be a great time in retrospect. But how do we deal with it in the moment?
As someone who has a tendency towards anxiety, I find uncertainty really difficult. When dealing with anxiety and panic attacks in the past, one of my coping mechanisms is to increase my knowledge of a situation I’m going into. For example, I don’t enjoy flying and although there have been times when I actively dread getting on a plane. I don’t like turbulence, I’m claustrophobic and when I was flying to Spain quite a lot, I would spend up to a couple of weeks investigating what my journey might look like.
I would check out the weather over the UK, France and Spain to see if there was likely to be any turbulence so I could prepare myself. Because I went to the same place quite a lot, I got used to when there would be turbulence (over the Channel, going over the Pyrenees) so got used to that. When I discovered the Flight Radar 24 website I would spend so long checking actual flight times, flight paths and how weather affected them.
It’s safe to say that none of that really helped 😂.
What it did do however, was give me the illusion of having some control over a situation in which I was completely out of control, out of my comfort zone and had the uncertainty of not knowing how I would get through the journey.
I’ve done the same in other situations, especially when I was a smoker. I would go to meetings or training at work and worry about whether I could smoke and I always got there early so I could sit near the door and escape if necessary (not just to smoke, but to ease my anxiety in case I needed to get out of the room for some reason).
What I discovered a couple of years ago was that all of this planning to try and ease my anxiety was actually just exacerbating the situation. I read a great blog by a hypnotherapist called Sara Stevens where she explains that feeding the situation by continually thinking about it or finding ways to escape/lessen the anxiety, you’re making it worse (if you want to read the original, you can find it on her website hypnosara.blog and read the section on the cat).
After I read this, I tried to just distract myself before going away so I wasn’t giving this worry all my energy. And you know what? It worked! I was amazed!! I was still nervous about the flight but it didn’t take up two weeks of my time being distracted and feeling on edge all the time. Instead of looking forward to holidays, I kind of ruined it by worrying.
In times of uncertainty, I experience the same kind of anxiety sometimes and at the moment, it’s been happening fairly often. I just need to remind myself that no matter how much I worry, it won’t change the future. I now try to write in a journal and try to coach myself a little (not as easy as you might think!) by thinking of the questions I would ask someone else in my situation. What can I do to improve my situation? What do I have control over? What do I have no control over and can push to one side for now?
Above all, trying to be kind to yourself is key. If I’m feeling stressed, I ask myself what I would say to a friend in the same situation 💖