Helping clients to get back in charge of their lives, with the confidence, calmness & self-sufficiency to flourish.

Coping with uncertainty in difficult times.

Right now there’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the world, as the impact of the spread of the Corona virus is felt in so many different aspects of our lives: The word I keep hearing is ‘surreal’, and this sums up the strange mixture of normality and difference, along with the lack of certainty that comes with such a rapidly changing situation.

Naturally enough, this makes things even harder for people who tend towards anxiety, and perhaps feel a strong need for certainty and control in their lives. So I’d like to share a simple process that can help to take the edge off those moments of rising anxiety. The word ‘APPLE’ can serve as a reminder for the steps in the process, but if you always find it hard to remember what each letter stands for, just make a note of the steps and practice it until it becomes automatic. Spend just as long as you need to on each step, it might be seconds or a few minutes on any of them, but there’s no need to rush.

Acknowledge: This involves noticing when anxiety and uncertainty arise, and simply acknowledging it’s here – like a guest arriving at your front door. It may help to simply acknowledge it in the voice of your mind: ‘Ah, hello uncertainty’, letting the voice tone be as friendly as possible. ‘Come in, have a seat’.

Pause: What normally happens next is an automatic reaction, a reflex action that may involve seeking to control or avoid the feeling or situation. Instead we pause, rather than react. Take a deep breath… Feel your body release a little tension as you slowly breath out. Take as many deep breaths as you wish, then let your breathing settle into a slow, comfortable rhythm. By not reacting automatically, you’ve taken control of the way you’re responding.

Pull Back: Tell yourself that this is simply a feeling that has arrived, it may stay awhile, and it will pass too. Recognise the thoughts in your mind are just some words or images, and they’re coming from that feeling; in a sense, they belong to that ‘guest’ that’s come to visit, so there’s no need to own them yourself. You may like to use the idea of a radio playing, and all those thoughts are simply the radio program – and right now the radio just got tuned to ‘Radio Worry’. The thoughts can be there, you don’t need to be the thoughts.

Let Go: Standing back a little from the thoughts and feelings, observing them rather than being them, makes it possible to let them go, in their own time. I like the image of standing on a station platform, the trains are your thoughts and feelings, and you can watch them come and go. From time to time, you find you’ve boarded a train and been taken for a ride… This step is like getting off the train, and letting it go. You might prefer the image of clouds in the sky, with your mind the blue sky behind the clouds, and the thoughts as clouds that float by.

Explore: Be present, and explore what else is here in this moment. Notice your breath. Notice your body, and feel how you can control it: Push your feet into the floor a little, have a stretch, let the tips of your thumbs gently pass over your finger tips and feel the rich pattern of sensations as they do. These difficult thoughts and feelings are here, but there’s a body around them, a body you can control. Notice what is around you, and name five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear. Actively choose where your attention rests, rather than simply letting it get pulled around by thoughts that are playing on ‘Radio Worry’. Let your attention come to rest wherever you need it to be, such as the task you’re trying to get done, or the activity you had been enjoying…

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