How To Cope With Brexit Anxiety? Part 2by Dr Holly Kahya - 11th July, 2016
“Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present” Bill Keane
Brexit fallout continues as the future of European migrants living in the UK becomes unclear and the Bank of England announces risks to the financial stability of the country. Understandably many people are experiencing elevated levels of stress, anxiety and even depression in response to such uncertainty.
When faced with uncertainty and a sense of increasing danger we all cope in the best ways we know how. The human mind can be wonderful time traveller, revisiting the past and anticipating the future over and over, in an attempt to understand and gain control. Whilst this intelligent capacity to learn from past experience and problem solve is what makes us so adaptable as human beings it can have some unintended consequences.
Sometimes instead of solving the problem we can find ourselves caught up in negative and circular thinking. Our mood drops as we repeatedly go over what has happened, hoping in vain to see something different, or we become increasingly anxious as we worry about the future. This kind of thinking can trigger our fight-or-flight system, causing us to feel as if we are in imminent mortal peril, when in fact we are just having a cup of tea and watching the Channel 4 news.
One of the best ways to manage a time travelling mind is through mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of deliberately redirecting our attention back to our present moment experience without judging what is happening as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We can mindfully eat, drink, walk, listen or do just about anything when we bring our full attention to what we are experiencing in this moment, right now: Right now, what are you hearing? What are you smelling? What are you tasting? What are you feeling in your body? By simply noticing whatever you are experiencing with a friendly curiosity you are gently bringing your mind back to here and now.
That’s not to say it’s bad to think about the world, or to care about our individual and collective future. It’s more a case of making a conscious decision about when and how we think about the things that matter to us so that our time travelling minds don’t accidentally leave us feeling over-anxious, panicky or depressed. It’s about allowing our nervous systems to have a break from fight-or-flight mode so we are better rested and prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. And it’s about having the mental clarity to be able to think problems through and decide how best to respond if and when the time comes.