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Anxious about being anxious?

I am seeing many more clients approach me for help with their anxiety and stress levels. Our ever-changing world with new rules and regulations being announced on a regular basis is impacting more and more people as we struggle to navigate what is allowed and what isn’t. Add to that where it applies and where it doesn’t brings another level of uncertainty and confusion.


As human beings, we don’t generally like change, we like our routines and perhaps even our rules, at least that way, everyone knows what to do and when to do it. With constant change happening, it is not surprising that we start to feel ‘rattled’ that feeling of being unsettled, unsure and a little out of sorts. When that happens time after time, it can lead to our flight and fight response being triggered more than it should, leaving us with worrying more about the ‘what ifs’ which can be extremely unhelpful and to some, very damaging.


My sister and I had a villa booked in Tenerife for the month of July and in the months running up to it, the ever-changing travel advice was confusing, should we cancel, should we go, what were the rules, what was the right thing to do? We waited and waited and eventually decided to go because although it was on the amber list, The Foreign Office did not include the islands in their Essential Travel Only advice.


Once the decision was made, we should have been looking forward to an amazing wonderful working trip to the sunshine for a whole month – but it wasn’t as simple as that.


On a normal trip, the biggest worry is about remembering your passport, this year was different. What tests did we need? Tests before leaving the UK, paperwork to enter the Country, pre-departure tests before coming home, quarantine rules, passenger location forms, tests when back home, day 2, day 8, test to release.......


Well, I had the dubious task of sorting all of these out, I sought advice from BA on their rules, I sought advice from their recommended suppliers of testing kits and tried to learn all I needed to learn so that we wouldn’t get caught out and be on the wrong side of the rules and boy, did I find it stressful. I was not only responsible for all my tests but my sister’s too and that felt like a big weight.


Fortunately for us, days before the departure, Spain changed their rules so it was only a form to fill in. Did I have the right online one? Had I completed it correctly, WHAT IF I had got any of it wrong, WHAT IF the authorities demanded something else, WHAT IF one of us had done it right and the other hadn’t and so it went on. Well, we got Immigration without a hitch and then we could relax, right? No! I then spent the rest of the month with this niggling voice saying, well you have to do it all in reverse, WHAT IF, you get the test wrong or fail it. WHAT IF, the airline doesn’t accept it, well you get the idea, and again, so it went on.


When it was time to go home, it all went without a hitch, the online test was carried out, we were both negative, we flew home, my sister went to her house in London and I travelled home to Scotland to sit out my 10 day quarantine.


And then day 2 came, time to take my test, I got out my kit, went to register it on the Govt website and it came up with barcode not recognised, over and over and for one moment, the panic began to rise..... the WHAT IFS had happened, I didn’t account for this, it wasn’t in my thinking, the research I had done to get everything just right had gone wrong somewhere. WHAT did I do now? All the planning had gone wrong, and I was breaking the rules, what were the consequences of that, was someone going to come knocking on my door, a big fine – who knew?


After a few breathing exercises, I realised that there had to be a way through this, stressing, and worrying wouldn't resolve the problem or help in any way. The only option was that I had to take control of my thinking and take action and so I did, I asked myself what I could do about the situation because I couldn’t change the fact that there was a problem.


Well, I won’t bore you with the details but many phone calls later, it turned out that all my research hadn’t taken into account that there were different rules in Scotland and England as to where you could purchase the day 2 & 8 tests from. In England, you can buy from Private Companies (as BA recommended) but these aren’t valid in Scotland. You can only purchase via the Scottish Government website from one supplier (don’t get me started on that monopoly, to add insult to injury, the processing lab is in England but that is another matter).


So, the moral of the story is that you can research, plan, do everything you can to minimise problems but sometimes things do go wrong, and when they do, think about what you CAN control and what action you CAN take to begin moving forward. The alternative will leave you stuck in a place of worry and anxiousness that won’t change anything other than to leave you feeling awful.


Here are some tips to help you navigate that oh sh!t moment


Conscious Breathing

This is a great interrupt and an easy to remember, simple technique to use when your anxiety levels start to rise. 4 x 4 x 4 x 4 breathing

Take a deep breath in through your nose, completely filling your lungs for four seconds Hold this breath for four seconds Let out your breath emptying your lungs until they are fully deflated for four seconds Do this four times

Breathing techniques work by giving you something to focus on and stimulating your vagus nerve, calming chemicals are released into your body bringing about a soothing effect.


Grounding

Focus your attention on your surroundings to interrupt your negative thinking by Identifying the following things in your immediate area

5 things that you can SEE 4 things that you can FEEL 3 things that you can HEAR

2 things that you can SMELL

1 thing that you can TASTE


Acceptance

We often worry about things that are out of control and catastrophise about the potential outcome.

Ask yourself, can I change the situation? If yes, then create a strategy on how to implement change and do it differently. If the answer is no, and you are unable to change the situation then accept that it is the way it is, and that no amount of worrying will influence the outcome. Your energy will be wasted.


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