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Finding calm in an over-anxious world

Nothing is certain. Everything changes. These two statements sum up life now. They also sum up how life has always been, but we’re not living in the past, we’re living all these statements right now – in April 2018 – when the plateau of daily news spews up chaos, we’re all witness to megalomaniac politicians wielding dangerous ideas and that damned economic uncertainty affects the price of a loaf of bread every single day.

I go and buy a punnet of strawberries and find the price has gone up; I pitch for a freelance job and find that I’ve been undercut by someone who can do it all for practically nothing in pound or dollar terms; I apply for a job and don’t get it. I am told I am going to be made redundant, then my rent goes up and I know I am going to have to find another place to live.

I realise that my degree or diploma or education or experience means not much at all now in 2018, that whatever I try to do I fail at miserably – not because I haven’t planned it right but because outside forces are playing Russian roulette with my life. It’s dangerous and we’re all out of control. Seriously.

Recognise any of this? I am sure you do, because I do too. It’s all happening to me right now.  It’s almost certainly happening to you too. And for that I am sorry. It shouldn’t be this way.

A friend of mine is going through an awful time right now. He’s trying to be brave, but he’s in the headwinds of an emotional and physical hurricane that he didn’t wish on himself. But it’s arrived, big time.

On the phone to him I said – let’s just deal with certainties right now. Make a list of all the things that are FACT in your life and work only with these FACTS.

Now here’s the disclaimer; nothing is certain but some things are certain. The phrase ‘nothing is certain’ is in fact true from an existential point of view but within this lack of certainty, small certainties appear, and these are the certainties we’ll try to work with.

The larger uncertainties need not overwhelm the tinier ones; for example, I or we don’t know if I’ll have a job next year – that’s not certain, but today – as in right now – I or we have that job, and I’ll or we’ll work with that FACT. Let’s keep this in mind when dealing with anxiety.

In my friend’s case, and knowing his situation well, I say – you have a place to live right now, and you’re not behind in your rent – FACT!

You have that important decision to make, but you don’t have to announce your decision until the end of the month. You have time. FACT!

You have applied for that job in good time, now you can relax. FACT!

Everything else is beyond your control, so forget about all of that. Only focus on the FACTS and the little CERTAINTIES! The FACTS are above; the CERTAINTIES are as follows: you have a home, you have time to assess the situation before you announce your decision and you have applied for a job which will make your situation better. These are all certainties; things that have happened, are happening, are real, and nothing can alter these FACTS.

He agreed, said he would focus on these certainties and let everything else go.

You are alive. FACT! Work with that FACT, and only that FACT!

Don’t ever bother with things you can’t control, I said. And you can’t control just about everything. So save your energy for things you can control, doing things that you can turn into FACTS; for example – I have checked my online banking and know I have XX amount to last me until next payday. FACT. I have an interview next week for a job I like, and I am prepared for it. FACT. Forget about the rest.

Do this and you’ll find your heart-rate slows, you breathe better and you feel released from anxiety, even if it’s only for a few moments. When the anxiety reappears – and it will – go back to thinking about FACTS, even seemingly silly FACTS like I am 35-years-old and have brown eyes – FACT! Or I am a good driver. FACT!

Bringing your mind back to things that are certain really, really helps in this time of chaos and anxiety.

It’s a trick that works every time for me. Try it and let me know how it goes for you.