Health

6 Ways to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed by Uncertainty, Fear, and Anxiety

In this time of overwhelming uncertainty, it’s natural to feel anxious about what’s ahead. Here, experts share how to calm fear and turn worry into hope:

Cool Off Your Mind

The deluge of unknowns we’re all dealing with easily triggers racing thoughts. “We’re experiencing heightened anxiety, and it’s important to remember, it’s okay not to feel okay,” assures expert Luana Marques, PhD.

To tamp down these worry spirals, imagine a red “clear all” button on the center of your palm. Gently press the thumb of your opposite hand into this “button” while visualizing the color change from red to pink and finally to white. Simply seeing this hot color gradually fade is shown to help cue calm.

Watch The ‘Leaves’ Fall

A proven way to gain perspective is to simply observe your thoughts, says mental health expert Pooja Lakshmin, M.D. Instead of trying to “solve” worries, look at them like leaves caught in the wind, fluttering down from a tree. Accept that they exist without judgment — and like the leaves, you can let them fall away.

You Can Handle It

When we worry about the future, we tend to think of the worst-case scenario. But research shows 85 percent of what we fear most never happens, and when it does, we handle it much better than expected. Indeed, we overestimate threats and underestimate our ability to cope, says therapist Kathleen Smith, Ph.D. Rather than say, This terrible thing will happen, tell yourself, At this moment, it’s not happening. “When you can respond to realitybased challenges rather than imagined nightmares, you become much more resilient.”

Don’t Blame Yourself

It’s important not to beat yourself up over having doubts or misgivings about the future, says Dr. Lakshmin. “You can only do so much with the information you have in this moment.” Whatever decision you’re struggling with, just tell yourself, This is the best choice I can make with the facts I have. Simply hearing yourself say this out loud curbs self-blame and boosts confidence.

Ignite Your Curiosity

One of the best antidotes for anxiety is the act of discovery. Whether you’re experimenting with a new recipe or trying an origami tutorial on YouTube, learning triggers activity in your frontal lobe—the part of the brain that solves problems and resists panic, explains Smith. “Once you discover that spark, you’ll likely find it translates to other areas of life.” And before you know it, you’ll be fanning the flames of new interests.

Let Others Inspire You

What’s the opposite of fear? Hope. “But if you don’t have the energy to feel it right now, borrow hope from other people in your life,” encourages Smith. “Who in your friend group is showing joy and resilience? Who in your community is engaging in acts of service?”

“Piggybacking” off their optimism helps inspire it in you. Hope is contagious, promises Smith. It sends out a ripple effect that will calm fear and helps you embrace the future.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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