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Dealing with fear and worry in difficult times - 6 tips

By 
Mindfulife
|
16/03/2022

It is better to light one small light than to curse the darkness.

Confucius

The first rays of sunshine announce the beginning of spring, a spring that should actually herald the end of the pandemic season with falling corona incidences. However, hopes for a free, sunny summer are dimmed by events in Eastern Europe: The war in Ukraine is causing unimaginable suffering, and many Europeans are currently experiencing the worst time of their lives. But even people who are not directly affected by the situation in Ukraine are preoccupied by the situation. Fear of a further escalation of the situation and worries about repercussions that can also affect oneself are superimposed on everyday life.

In this article we present 6 tips that can help you deal with anxiety in difficult times.

It is perfectly normal to worry in the current situation. However, anxiety triggers a stress response in the body that, if it persists over a long period of time, increases the risk of mental or physical illness. Anxiety should therefore be actively addressed - there are some good strategies for dealing with anxiety in crisis situations:

1. be aware of your feelings

A first important step in dealing with fear is to be aware of your own feelings. Fear does not disappear if you ignore it: Instead, feelings of helplessness or powerlessness can arise if one's own sensations are not consciously addressed.

Therefore, try to become aware of your feelings. You might also sit down and write down exactly what thoughts are going through your mind. Try to think through your fears rationally: Why are you afraid? How likely is it that what you are afraid of will happen? What could you do in this situation?

In the context of meditation or mindfulness practice, you can also turn consciously to your perceptions. There are some studies that suggest a positive effect of meditation and mindfulness on well-being and stress reduction (Chang et al. 2004; Grossman et al. 2004). So maybe (guided) meditation can help you deal with anxiety too.

2. distract yourself

It is not helpful if you are thinking about your worries all the time. You are allowed to distract yourself and have fun. In emotionally challenging situations, distraction is at least temporarily a way to increase your well-being (Kuehner et al. 2009).

Am besten lenkst du dich mit etwas ab, was dich geistig beansprucht und dir Spaß macht. Wie wäre es mit einer der folgenden Aktivitäten?

  • Playing a (board) game with friends or family
  • Take an excursion in the fresh air
  • Go to the cinema/museum
  • Read a good book
  • Cooking an elaborate dish
  • Doing something you have been putting off for a long time
  • Learn something you have always been interested in
Umgang mit Angst - Ablenkung kann helfen

Another good way to reduce stress and get your mind off things is to exercise (Aylett et al. 2018). Maybe there's a sport you've always wanted to try.

3. limit your news consumption

It is of course important to be informed - but news and social media are filled with incriminating images. Therefore, spending a lot of time following news coverage can be detrimental to your mental health (Pfefferbaum et al. 2019, 2021). Try to regulate your media consumption: For example, make a resolution to watch the news only twice a day at fixed times. This way you won't miss any relevant information, but you won't expose your psyche to the images of the news for several hours.

4. set up a worry hour

The concept of worry hour comes from psychotherapy and is suitable for stopping constant brooding. So if you notice that you are worrying around the clock at the moment, this strategy could be a useful solution.

To set up a worry hour, proceed as follows: You set a fixed time for yourself at which you explicitly engage with all worries and fears. For example, you can take half an hour every day at 5 p.m. for the worry hour. The important thing is: anxious thoughts outside the worry hour are stopped early and kept until the worry hour. If you think to yourself at 3 p.m.: "But what if..."you interrupt the thought directly and decide to continue thinking it in two hours' time.

In this way, you not only reduce the time you spend worrying (to about half an hour), but also the intensity of the worries themselves - long circles of thought in which your anxiety continues to increase cannot arise in the first place.

5. become active

The perception that one has no influence on events in a potentially threatening situation is stressful in itself (Bandura 1988). In order to break out of feelings of powerlessness, it can be helpful if one becomes active oneself and brings about something through one's actions.

You may become aware that your level of control over your life has not changed. You are still in control of your own actions, and you can respond to challenges. Try to remember your self-efficacy by doing something good for yourself or someone else.

You can also become active in relation to the war: You can help by volunteering, donating money or goods. You can also put your feelings into a creative project that you share on social media.

6. talk to others / seek support

It is important not to withdraw and isolate oneself socially when anxious and worried.

It is therefore a good idea to talk to friends or family about the thoughts and fears that are bothering you the most. It can be helpful to hear that others have similar concerns. Talking to others can also be distracting, especially if you combine it with a pleasant activity such as a walk in the fresh air.

If you want to talk to someone but don't know who to talk to, the telephone counselling service (0800/1110111 oder 0800/1110222) a way to talk anonymously about your concerns.

Your regular doctor may also be a good person to talk to if you need more support - for example, if your worries and fears are affecting you a lot, are intense or regularly deprive you of sleep.

Summary

It is perfectly normal to be afraid, anxious and worried in the face of events. However, if you feel that your emotions are getting out of hand or are affecting you, you should actively address your feelings and use strategies for dealing with anxiety. After all, it doesn't help anyone if you are not feeling well.

Sources

Aylett, Elizabeth; Small, Nicola; Bower, Peter (2018): Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in
general practice - a systematic review and meta-analysis
. In: BMC Health Serv Res 18 (1), S. 559. DOI: 10.1186/s12913-018-3313-5.

Bandura, Albert (1988): Self-efficacy conception of anxiety. In: Anxiety Research 1 (2), S. 77–98. DOI:
10.1080/10615808808248222.

Chang, Vickie Y.; Palesh, Oxana; Caldwell, Rebecca; Glasgow, Nathan; Abramson, Mark; Luskin,
Frederic et al. (2004): The effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program on stress,
mindfulness self-efficacy, and positive states of mind.
In: Stress and Health 20 (3), S. 141–147. DOI:
10.1002/smi.1011.

Grossman, Paul; Niemann, Ludger; Schmidt, Stefan; Walach, Harald (2004): Mindfulness-based stress
reduction and health benefits.
In: Journal of Psychosomatic Research 57 (1), S. 35–43. DOI:
10.1016/S0022-3999(03)00573-7.

Kuehner, C.; Huffziger, S.; Liebsch, K. (2009): Rumination, distraction and mindful self-focus: effects
on mood, dysfunctional attitudes and cortisol stress response.
In: Psychol. Med. 39 (2), S. 219–228.
DOI: 10.1017/s0033291708003553 .

Pfefferbaum, Betty; Nitiéma, Pascal; Newman, Elana (2019): Is Viewing Mass Trauma Television
Coverage Associated With Trauma Reactions in Adults and Youth? A Meta-Analytic Review.
In:
Journal of Traumatic Stress 32 (2), S. 175–185. DOI: 10.1002/jts.22391 .

Pfefferbaum, Betty; Nitiéma, Pascal; Newman, Elana (2021): The association of mass trauma media
contact with depression and anxiety: A meta-analytic review.
In: Journal of Affective Disorders
Reports 3, S. 100063. DOI: 10.1016/j.jadr.2020.100063 .

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