Uncertainty always exists to some extent. But right now, there seems to be a lot less certainty and a lot more uncertainty. And it’s about big things like “Am I going to keep my job?” “Am I going to be able to keep my house?” “Are my overseas family going to be ok?” Even things like “Is it worth planning a holiday?” “Is it safe to send the kids to school?”.
When we are experiencing uncertainty, we typically respond with one of the fear family of emotions (ie anxiety, worry, trepidation, terror and panic). These emotions switch on our alert mode which generates varying levels of uneasiness. This is completely natural and normal. We are biologically programmed to want life to be safe and predictable, and any situation that feels physically, financially or emotionally unsafe will likely have a number of effects on us: physical tension, racing thoughts, anticipating worst case scenarios... It’s like we are on red alert, and it’s not a comfortable experience.
Essentially fear’s job is to give us a message “There is a problem. You need to take action” but it's hard to know what exactly to do when we are missing key information like how long this situation will last and what the government’s or our employers or customer’s decisions will be.
This is where mindfulness can help. No, it doesn’t give us a crystal ball, but it does help us to get into a state where we can more easily take stock of the facts that ARE available to us. In particular it helps us to recognise the fear that may be impeding our strategic thinking, identify our best course of action and be efficient and positive.
When you notice fear (eg racing heart or thoughts, tension or irritability) take 10 slow breaths. This breathing actually communicates to the body that you are safe right now and that it doesn’t need to keep flooding your system with stress hormones (which prevent your mind from thinking logically and rationally). Aim to interrupt the spiral of fear - try taking a walk, talking to a good listener or playing with a pet.
Then notice what your mind is doing with all this uncertainty. Ask yourself:
If you begin getting caught up in worst case scenarios as you do this, take another deep breath and deliberately direct your mind back to the present and just focus on what is happening NOW (it may be both good and bad but it is at least known).
Once you are calmer, it’s empowering (and often calming) to identify exactly what you’re thinking, and then to deliberately utilise your reasoning capacity to show yourself the whole picture (not just the scary bits).
Mindfulness is not a magic wand that will remove all difficulties. What it will do is help you to find calmness and clarity and support you to act in a self-supporting way - even when life is hairy.
If you want to talk to someone about Mindfulness, please contact Liz on 021 988 468 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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