4 ways to reduce anxiety in uncertain times

By Joe Pane

4 ways to reduce anxiety in uncertain times
Human behaviour expert Joe Pane shares four effective strategies to reduce anxiety and navigate uncertainty with confidence.

Given the uncertainties existing in the world today, it is normal and natural to be feeling varying levels of anxiety. Certain levels of anxiety, typically known in psychology as eustress, are needed to perform or be effective. 

Uncertainty is part of the fabric of life. It is the precursory seed to growth. Growth is a perpetual need of the human condition. Everything from nature, to economies, to markets, to relationships, and to skill sets are either growing or dying, expanding or shrinking, breathing out or breathing in. As Ray Kroc, former CEO of McDonalds once said, “We are either green and growing or ripe and rotting.” 

This means uncertainty has always been and always will be present. How we respond or react will determine our levels of anxiety. If you are experiencing distress (anxiety) in any part of your life, here are 4 ways you can reduce your level of anxiety. 

1. Procrastinate

Really? Yes. Procrastination is an emotional regulation technique, which has both positive and negative qualities. Perhaps cleaning your desk for 6 hours so you can avoid a difficult decision or phone call may be on the negative side. However, going for a walk around the block as you prepare for the challenging activity at hand can be a resourceful and useful way to emotionally regulate. Research in structured procrastination shows how we can increase creativity. Being creative of mind can show us options to tackle the uncertainty we face in ways we had not thought of. 

2. Balance the certainty vs uncertainty scale

This scale is delicately balanced and never remains still.  When balanced, not only does anxiety reduce, but it can also disappear from our experience. When unbalanced we go from one extreme (boredom) to another (overwhelming anxiety). 

The more certainty we can bring into our daily or weekly activities, the more uncertainty we can handle.  Whilst having rituals in your daily routine adds predictability and structure, there is another way to build a psychological onramp to certainty which has more meaning. The most sustainable way to access certainty is to discover, embrace and action a hobby which truly sings to our soul. In other words, commit to a hobby you can do at least 2- 3 times per week which brings you meaning and fulfillment.

Harvard psychologist Howard Garner identified in his seminal 1983 book Frames of Mind that we have eight intelligences, later adding a ninth. All of us are intelligently gifted more in some than others. This would hugely influence the kind of hobby we find most enjoyable. Hobby categories which reflect Gardner’s work range from the physical, creative, musical, artistic, mathematical, intellectual and philosophical. Dedicate yourself to a hobby which aligns to your natural intelligence. This will uplift in magical ways.

3. Hope

Positive psychologist Richard Snyder coined the term ‘hope theory’. According to Snyder, hopeful thinkers achieve more and are physically and psychologically healthier than less hopeful people. Hope is having something to look forward to weekly, even daily. As already mentioned, embracing a meaningful hobby is a powerful way of connecting us continually to hope. This serves as a significant diffuser of anxiety.

4. Power of negative visualisation

This approach dates back many centuries to Stoic philosophers such as Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus. This practice is very useful in reducing anxiety because it takes the situation we are in, seeing a worse scenario, which in turn makes us grateful for the original situation we find ourselves in. In turn this generates a feeling of gratitude and appreciation which can often become antidotes for anxiety.

Consciously choosing to embrace structured procrastination, having a meaningful hobby you immerse yourself in several times per week, in turn generating a healthy level of hope, and connecting with gratitude and appreciation via the art of negative visualisation, you will sustainably reduce and keep anxiety at levels which will not negatively impact your life.  

Joe Pane is an expert in human behaviour specialising in emotional fitness and the author of the new book Courage To Be You – Your Guide To Mastering Uncertainty. With degrees majoring in psychology and sociology, Joe has delivered emotional fitness keynotes and workshops to tens of thousands of people since 2006. Find out more at www.joepane.com.au 


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