As we are all now passing through a second global wave of COVID I felt like sharing some thoughts with you about the situation from a Counsellor’s perspective. This current situation is a massive shake-up of the ways we used to live, and the ways we used to work. It is pushing us to make choices in the face of the unknown and it is also challenging us to band together.

However, when looking at our human make-up, this is easier said than done. Therefore, I felt that it might be helpful to address two core questions in this regard: why is do we feel stressed when facing uncertainty and how can we cope with stress and anxiety.

1.     Why do we feel stressed when facing uncertainty?

One of the main reasons for why we feel stressed by not knowing what lies ahead of us is because the human brain is not hardwired to deal with uncertainty.  Our brain has evolved to make predictions so that we can escape from dangerous situations. According to Neuroscientists like Archy de Berker et al,  having to deal with unpredictable situations is much more stressful than having to deal with bad news.  see also: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2016/mar/uncertainty-can-cause-more-stress-inevitable-pain 

 

2.     How can we come to terms with stress and anxiety?

There is a very practical way to manage stress and anxiety. In this regard, it may be helpful for you to know, that the same part of the human brain that coordinates our actions in stressful situations, is also responsible for our anxieties.

This functional section of your brain has stored all your past interactions with significant others and with the world around you.  This is why your reaction in times of crisis depends not only a lot on how you are wired but also on how you interpret your past experiences and your assumptions you made as a result.

To be able to  manage your stress effectively,  I suggest you take out some time and reflect on the above by noting how you relate to your own lived experiences  because the way you instantly respond in stressful situations is actually happening on an automatic pilot.

In other words, the way you manage your problem in times of crisis mirrors the way you automatically think, feel and act.  And because this is kicking in automatically, you are not necessarily conscious about it.

You may ask, ‘how can I control something that I am not conscious of?’

This is done by learning to switch your automatic pilot off and by learning step-by-step to become the pilot of your life. When circumstances of your life seem to be out of your control, the foremost thing that you can do is shift your focus from things that are not in your control.

Start taking stock of all the things that are in your control and keep your moment-by-moment focus on these. This will give you the inner space to explore your alternatives and possibilities.

Is there anything that needs updating? Is there anything that has outlived its usefulness, but you are still clinging on it? It is not the height of the mountain, but the pebbles in the shoe that becomes too painful to carry on.

Feel free to contact me when you want to explore more. I am just an email away: mdg[at]nullintercultural.com.mt