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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Learning to Stay Calm During Uncertain Times - Part 1

At one time or another, we've all experienced anxiety that's fueled by uncertainty.  We live in uncertain times, and learning how to tolerate uncertainty and to stay calm is important to overall health and well-being.  But how can you really learn to stay calm in the face of uncertainty? I will begin this discussion today by describing this common problem, and in my next article, I'll discuss how I help clients using a mind-body oriented approach to therapy.

Anxiety and Self Doubt, Fueled By Uncertainty, Is a Common Problem
As a psychotherapist in NYC, I see many clients who come to therapy because they're feeling anxious and filled with self doubt about uncertain aspects of their lives.  Unfortunately, for many people, uncertainty permeates every aspect of their lives.   This makes it difficult for them to cope and maintain a sense of emotional balance.

Anxiety and Self Doubt, Fueled By Uncertainty, Is a Common Problem

Uncertainty in Our Personal Lives and at Work
Uncertainty can occur in just about any area of our lives, including our personal lives and at work.    The ambiguity that is involved with uncertainty can cause a lot of stress, especially if you allow yourself to go over and over a situation in your mind trying to figure out every angle, every possibility, and every possible solution.

Worrying About Uncertainty Makes You Feel Worse
The more you allow yourself to worry, the more anxious you'll become because, in many situations like this, there are too many unknowns that you can't control, and worrying obsessively only makes you feel worse and less able to cope with the problem.

Worrying About Uncertainty Makes You Feel Worse

Let's take a look at an all too common example of uncertainty:
Imagine that you're dating someone that you really like. You always look forward to seeing this person, and she (or he) seems to really like you too.  All along, everything seems to be going well. It looks like this could develop into a wonderful relationship.  Usually, you talk or text every couple of days.

But then, suddenly, out of the blue, you stop hearing from her (or him) for several days.  You leave phone messages and send email, but you hear nothing.  There's only silence and a rising sense in you of uncertainty and anxiety as you wonder what happened.

Uncertainty Can Lead to Anxiety and Self Doubt
This type of situation, and the uncertainty that goes with it, would cause many people to feel anxious.  They would wonder if they were responsible, somehow, for this sudden lack of communication.  A lot of people would obsess about what they said or did during the last date that might have caused this sudden estrangement.

As Anxiety and Self Doubt Build, Even a Negative Response is Preferable to None
A clear answer is usually preferable to ongoing uncertainty, and most people would rather have a definitive answer, even if the answer is "I don't want to see you any more" than to continue to wait and wonder.

Often, in situations like this, the need for clarity can lead to making mistakes as self doubt and anxiety build to an intolerable level.

Anxiety and Self Doubt Can Lead to Regrettable Mistakes
So, let's say you're in this situation, your imagination takes over and your thoughts are off to the races:  "Maybe she (or he) started dating someone else that she likes better and she doesn't want to see me any more."  And as anxiety and self doubt build inside you, you might say to yourself, "She's got some nerve brushing me off this way!  Who does she think she is, anyway?" and you might allow yourself to get carried away by your thoughts and send an angry text in haste.

Then, a day or so later, you get a text back and she tells you that she has been home very sick with a nasty flu, so sick that she couldn't even pick up the phone or write or read a text.  But the first text she saw, as she started to feel a little better, was your angry text, which made her feel awful.  She says that she'd rather not date anyone who can be so cruel, and she asks you not to contact her any more.

So, maybe you wouldn't go as far as sending an angry text, but it's not hard to imagine that many people would.  The point is that in this case and many other similar examples, the anxiety that was fueled by uncertainty and self doubt can lead to your making big mistakes because the imagination conjured up the worst case scenario.

Maybe the situation can be salvaged or maybe not.  But this example highlights the need to be able to develop the capacity to tolerate uncertainty with a sense of calm and emotional balance.

The Mind-Body Connection: Mind-Body Oriented Psychotherapy
Over the years, I've discovered mind-body oriented psychotherapy is usually the most effective type of therapy for learning to deal with anxiety that is fueled by uncertainty.   In upcoming blog articles, I'll give you tips on what you can do for yourself to help you get through difficult times.  I'll also discuss how I use the mind-body connection and, specifically, clinical hypnosis, Somatic Experiencing therapy, and EMDR to help clients to develop the capacity to stay calm during uncertain times.

The Mind-Body Connection: Mind-Body Oriented Psychotherapy

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW -- NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com.

Also see:  Learning to Stay Calm During Uncertain Times - Part 2


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