First there was Brexit, then there was the pandemic, and now Russia is pummelling Ukraine. If your levels of anxiety are creeping up again then you are most certainly forgiven. This morning after I dropped off my daughter at school, I had a conversation with a fellow school mum about the state of affairs and I walked away with that familiar yet unwelcome feeling of anxiety gripping my chest. When we are constantly being thrown curveballs of the unknown, the sense of dread about what will happen next becomes palpable. This, my friends, it what it is to be living through a permacrisis.
However bad whatever the world seems right now, it all feels a bajillion times worse thanks to the never ending news feeds which are constantly being rammed down our throats thank to the phones in our pockets and our attachment to social media. We can’t bare to look, yet we become disgustingly addicted to doom scrolling all in one fell swoop.
So now we are firmly here in the age of the permacrisis, how the heck do we live through it without completely losing our marbles? First let’s take a look at why we are all feeling so damned anxious now:
Why world troubles fire up your anxiety
Terence Watts, psychotherapist and author of the new book BWRT: Reboot your life with BrainWorking Recursive Therapy says:
“It can be difficult to get your head round… after all, Covid is nearly over, and Mr Putin and his army are hundreds of miles away. So why on earth are so many of us not sleeping properly and perhaps quietly wondering if we’re mentally ill? Well, the answer is actually quite simple.
It’s because most of us are control freaks, whether we want to admit it or not!
In the UK we’re so used to being in control of our lives that it’s the ‘norm’ and we really don’t think about it very much in the usual way. We have freedom. Then, suddenly, control is wrenched away from us, and we’re subject to mammoth changes almost overnight.
The problem is, everybody’s psychology is already exhausted from two years of Covid, and just as things start to feel normal again, up comes this new threat… and resilience has taken such a beating that it all feels just too much.”
What can you do about it?
So now we understand why we are mentally where we are, what can we do about it?
Watts offers some hope: “What can you do to relieve that nagging anxiety at the back of your mind, that uncomfortable feeling somewhere in your gut? Take time to detach yourself from it. We can’t stop what’s happening in Ukraine, but you can give yourself a psychological break from it for a while. Here’s the perfect exercise to do just that. It works best if you can learn it and then do it with your eyes closed:
Step 1: Imagine how you might look from the outside
If you knew exactly how to deal with the situation and make it as vivid in your thoughts/mind as you can. Don’t worry if it seems daft or unlikely, or what anybody else might think or say if they knew – just imagine it anyway in the privacy of your mind, and store that image of the ‘competent self’ anywhere in your thoughts.
Step 2: Now think of a clock
…with an hour hand, a minute hand and a hand that shows the seconds so that you can see the clock is working. Make that vivid in your mind, too. (You don’t have to think of both this image and the first one at the same time.)
Step 3: Take a moment
…to imagine how you look from the outside when you’re at your most anxious and make that vivid too – be honest now and make it look real!
Step 4: Imagine you can stop the clock
…and actually stop time by simply staring hard at the image so that it’s frozen in the past. In fact, everything has stopped except you. You can just walk out of that frozen scene and see yourself with each step adopting that ‘competent self’ you created at step 1.
Step 5: Zoom in
Now zoom right into that image to actually become that competent self as if you’re on the inside looking out on the world as you stride forwards and notice how good that feels.
Step 6: Repeat
Repeat steps 3 – 5 at least three times and notice how it gets easier each time. Stop when you’re happy with how you feel, or after six repeats which is about the maximum useful number.
This exercise has helped a good few people to get through trying times – and the good thing about it is that you can do it as often as you like and it gets better every time. You can’t change what’s happening in the world, of course, but you can change how you react to it!”
The power of distraction
The ability to shift our attention away from negative experiences (note: not ignoring them), is a powerful one, in particular when it comes to managing anxiety at times like these. Dr Marianne Trent, Clinical Psychologist, founder of Good Thinking Psychological Services and host of The Aspiring Psychologist Podcast ellaborates:
“Whilst as a mental health professional I know that distraction is not the cure, it can be helpful to use strategies which keep us mindfully in the present. This might include things such as affirmations, or even just practicing skills in mindfulness such as rhythmic breathing or yoga. When creating affirmations it can be beneficial to include ways you can have a positive impact upon your thoughts and actions such as: I am choosing to focus on the things I can control, I am learning skills to soothe and calm myself, I can trust myself to take action as an when needed.
Where we do have to use a little bit of caution with positivity is if we are using it in a way which might actually be gaslighting to ourselves. For example, in the past I have worked with people who were feeling very sad and having a truly horrid day but were telling themselves that they were feeling really strong and were going to have a great day. This runs the risk of invalidating important needs and feelings and communications. So if you are having a horrid time right now then it is always a good idea to reach out to someone qualified and experienced to help you feel better.”
Other tools to try and reduce the anxiety of living in a permacrisis
I am a big believer in having a bank of tools for dealing with tough mental times, of which we have been having plenty of over the last few years. Here Lisa Butcher, hypnotherapist, reiki master and shamanic practitioner shares some additional tools we can use during these times when we feel anxious about things we can’t control:
When you start to feel your palms getting sweaty or your tummy twisted in knots it’s good to work on your breath. Every time you breathe in imagine there is calming beautiful energy coming into your body and every time you breathe out imagine letting go of fear, worry and anxiety. I like to do 7/11 breathing which is when you breathe in for the count of seven, through your nose, hold for a couple of beats and breathe out through your mouth emulating a sigh for the count of 11. Do this upto 10 times. Another great technique is to breathe in through your nose for the count of four, hold your breath for the count of three and then breathe out for the count of eight. It’s important to count the breath as it makes you concentrate on what you are doing and helps to take your mind off the feelings of anxiety.
Grounding is a brilliant way to get out of your head and into your body. Imagine yourself as a big oak tree. With the roots growing out the bottom of your feet, going through the different layers of the earth vertically and horizontally firmly grounding you. Now imagine pushing the energy swirling around your head (overthinking and fear) down through your body and down into mother earth to be transformed. I like to do this practice every morning when I wake up. I lay in bed and visualize my body being grounded. I then take this feeling with me on my morning dog walk. It helps me to connect with nature and feel like I’m connected to the earth.
The TIPP Technique
If you are in the middle of a panic attack the best way to deal with it in the moment is to fill a wash basin with ice cold water. Put your whole face in the water and hold for 20 seconds. Take your head out of the water and take two or three deep breaths. Repeat this three times, and then do star jumps or move your body for 60 seconds. After sit down in a chair and take 20 long deep breaths – breathe in for the count of five and out for the count of seven. This technique is called TIPP – it stands for Temperature, Intense Exercise, Pace Breathing, Paired Muscle Relaxation. It might sound dramatic but believe me, it works.
The Five Senses
Look for five things around you and describe them. Listen to four different sounds and only focus on them. Smell three different things – try to distinguish three different scents around you. Touch two different textures. Taste one thing. By doing this you are using all of your senses to get out of your worry/fear. By stopping in the moment and using all five senses you relieve negative thought patterns and ease the anxiety.
How have you been feeling anxious with the recent world developments? Do leave a comment and share below and join our Instagram community here for more support.
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