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How to cope when the world feels scary: Tips from The Mind Geek

By January 16, 2021No Comments

Psychotherapist Sarah Crosby, aka @themindgeek, gives her tips on how to mind your mind when the doom and the challenges just keep coming…


For many of us, the world feels like a scary and uncertain place right now. Given everything 2020 threw at us, we may have experienced mental health struggles for the first time, or we might feel our emotional bandwidth further stretched by the year that has passed us by. Some days, we feel unmotivated and lethargic and others, anxious and restless. If you’re feeling the undulations of an emotional rollercoaster, believe me, you’re not alone.

While the New Year may not be off to the fresh start we’d envisioned, there are some practical ways we can protect our mental health and navigate the uncertainty residing within us.

1. The paralysis of analysis

Sometimes, we hasten to label what we’re feeling. We board a freight train of analysis, bypass our senses and plough straight into intellectualisation. Essentially, the more we hurry to name the what and more so the why of our feelings, the further it takes us away from actually feeling them. Give yourself some time for whatever it is you’re feeling to simply exist. It may feel like a messy jumble, toing and froing in your head. Perhaps, given the circumstances, that’s what it needs to be for right now. Perhaps, given the circumstances it makes absolute sense that you would be feeling muddled.

Uncomfortable feelings serve an important function by helping us make sense of our experiences. The problem is not in having them but in holding on to them, and not allowing them to move through us as they are meant to. In order for us to understand, integrate and move through it, we must first stop distracting ourselves from sitting with our feelings. Allow uncertainty to have its say.

2. Handling difficult emotions

As adults, we’re expected to just know how to manage our mounting anxiety, our anger and all other emotions in a way that is not only socially palatable but that’s also beneficial to our wellbeing and our relationships. It’s a big ask, particularly when we’re being bombarded with information every day detailing the fate of the world. When we’re dysregulated (unable to manage emotional responses or keep them within an acceptable range of typical emotional reactions), we’re at a greater risk of sacrificing our boundaries, being pulled toward old coping mechanisms and saying yes when we mean no.

Some good news: We’re never too old to grow our capacity to handle difficult emotions. Regulation practices can help to bring you away from the ‘there and then’ of past experiences and anxiety-laden thought spirals happening presently. There are many practical examples you can utilise right now that encourage a healthy mindset and healthy self-regulation. The 4-4-4 Breath Technique is as handy and helpful as they come. Start by placing your feet on the floor and straightening your back. Inhale for a slow count of four. Hold your breath for the count of four. Exhale for the count of four. Repeat this cycle three more times and observe how you’re feeling.

3. Rest isn’t an indulgence

It’s a necessity. When was the last time you truly gave yourself decent rest? I’m not talking a Sunday night of one eye on Bridgerton and the other on your reels. Can you rest without multitasking? Can you rest without social media? Can you rest without a portion of energy silently collating your ‘To Do’ list for the next day? We live in a time where exhaustion and overwork are held in high regard. It has become aspirational to spread ourselves thin. We admire the on-the-go ethic, to the detriment of our own wellbeing. If this is true for you and you find rest difficult to gift to yourself, schedule it in and commit to an hour of genuine unwinding, preferably phone free. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

4. Losing motivation

Are we working from home? Or are we attempting to recreate a working environment from the safety of our homes amidst a global pandemic? Chances are the novelty of setting up for the workday from the comfort of the sitting room couch has worn thin.

Without the usual respites of the workday, be it the brief chat in the lunchroom, the office ‘in-jokes’ or even the humdrum of the daily commute, we’re logging on and attempting to meet the same standards we set pre-pandemic. The work/life balance myth is even more tenuous now, as all our previously separate worlds overlap. Our work life is now frequently interrupted by household responsibilities, parenthood and relationship maintenance.

This is why marking the start and end of the working day is more important than ever. A possible way of kicking off the day is by writing down three things you would like to accomplish by the end of it. Likewise, to signify the end of the working day, schedule in a walk, a chat with a friend or even a mug of tea.

Creating routine helps us to differentiate between what hat we need to be donning at any given time, as well as giving us moments of certainty and structure in our day.

It may also be worthwhile rewiring the expectations you have placed on yourself. Are they realistic, given the nature of things? Might we be expecting a bit too much of ourselves some days, and underestimating what we’ve accomplished on others? Take some time to consider where your expectations fall and whether you’re overlooking everything you have done for the few things left on the list.

It’s an uncertain time, and while the guidance above may help us traverse some of what we’re holding, it is important to reach out for additional support if and when we’re in need of it. Right now, we’re having to adjust to circumstances at a faster rate than we’re accustomed to, so give yourself a bit of compassion for having to do just that. And remember, it’s okay to feel unmotivated. It’s okay if you completed Netflix. It’s okay if you have to mute the group chat for a while.

Take gentle care of yourself, and mind your mind in the process.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

5 Minute Therapy by Sarah
Crosby, €14.99, published
by Random House is available
to buy now.