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Overwhelmed With Anxiety? ‒ 9 Ways To Overcome Anxiety

Written by: Hilary Rowland, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Based as I am in the UK, I’m wondering when we last faced such a conflation of causes of fear and anxiety. We’ve had two years of the pandemic and while the acute effects are past for the time being there are still many cases of COVID with people not being able to work because they are ill. Then for businesses, there is the effect of Brexit on the ease of doing business, higher taxes, changes to patterns of working and many employees are choosing a hybrid model which some managers find difficult. Affecting both business and individuals are higher and more volatile energy prices. We will all start to feel the effect of an increased cost of living. Some may have been affected by extreme weather events caused by climate change. And on top of all of that comes a war in Ukraine. The biggest factor in all of this is that a lot of it is beyond our control.

Personally, before the invasion of Ukraine, I felt that I was getting back to flourishing as opposed to burnt out or languishing which I had been for quite a while as a result of lockdowns and prolonged working from home. However, it’s hard to feel a sense of flourishing with so much uncertainty which can’t be ignored. I’ve also noticed a mixture of feelings in since the news of the invasion: shock, fear, anxiety, helplessness, anger, hatred, and wondering whether all this was normal or whether there was anything else I should feel.

It is very easy to doom scroll and get not only the actual news (and how trustworthy?) but also get caught up in people’s reactions – is World War Three about to break out? What is the most constructive response? I’ve concluded that I just need to keep going with all I was doing before. Letting my anxiety overwhelm me doesn’t serve anyone, especially the people who depend on me, my family, others in the business, my clients. Our business is now showing signs of taking off, but my happiness is tempered by guilt that things are going well for us when for so many others they aren’t, and then more anxiety about how we might be affected by the war.

It has led me to wonder what the effect of prolonged fear and anxiety is, and they aren’t the same thing. According to the Mental Health Foundation [i] fear is of something particular and determinate, and anxiety is of nothing in particular and indeterminate. I can’t help feeling that while there are plenty of specifics for us to be fearful about and understandably so, the whole combination of fear factors we have faced and are facing are going to lead to more of us feeling generally anxious, low-level and acute, and something like a black cloud that constantly lingers.

The Mental Health Foundation report ‘Living with anxiety [ii] was written in what now looks like the halcyon days of 2014, before all of this happened but it still points out that we are more anxious now than people have ever been in the past. Persistent anxiety causes real emotional distress and can lead to us becoming unwell and, at worst, developing anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, phobias and obsessional behaviours.

It is also very easy to focus on ourselves and how other people behave in very difficult circumstances can be enormously inspiring. We’ve all been moved by this story that appeared in The Times [iii] on 3rd March.

In a field surrounded by the people he had been sent to fight, a young Russian prisoner of war hungrily gulped down the tea and bread they offered him.

A Ukrainian woman calmed him, telling the soldier not to worry. Using her phone, she made a video call to his mother. As soon as his mother appeared on the screen, he burst into tears.

“Everything is OK,” his female captor said, while others stroked his back. “Natasha, God be with you. We will call you later. He is alive and healthy.”

Video of the incident has circulated on Ukrainian and Russian social media channels, and has been hailed as an example of human compassion in wartime.

Such stories enable me to find courage. What else can we do to prevent ourselves being overwhelmed by anxiety?

  • Being disciplined in our use of social media. The constant stream of news can be very addictive, and doom scrolling doesn’t help. There are plenty of people catastrophising which is only likely to increase our anxiety.

  • Check our sources of information especially at a time when there is plenty of misinformation on all kinds of topics.

  • Routines can also help. During lockdowns I’m sure I was not alone in finding that daily and weekly routines gave me a structure which helped me get through, for example, making sure I took breaks and went outside.

  • Keeping a sense of perspective. One of the things that can help with this is gratitude practice. Thinking of at least three things to be grateful for before going to sleep makes for a much better night and reminds us of all that is positive in our lives.

  • Mindfulness. How this works when it comes to anxiety is that we need to stop and observe ourselves and how we’re feeling to help us manage our feelings. Mindfulness creates a gap between feeling and responding and stops us from just reacting in a way which might not help.

  • Look for a way to get involved, especially in the Ukrainian situation. There is no shortage of charities who need money, clothes or food which they are transporting to Ukraine to support the people there.

  • Random acts of kindness can change our mindset and make a difference to others.

  • Exercise. There is plenty of evidence that shows that exercise is a very good way of dealing with anxiety.

  • Talk to someone. Stay connected, don’t get isolated, don’t withdraw. Keep in touch with your family and friends and if you need professional help don’t be afraid to admit that you need help. There is no shame in feeling anxious, especially now.

Hilary Rowland, Managing Director

Next Chapter Retreats

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Hilary Rowland, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Hilary Rowland founded Next Chapter Retreats with her business partner Peter Hyson following an accomplished career, with more than 30 years experience in business advice, professional speaking, coaching and HR. She has worked with senior executives across numerous companies including the BBC, PWC, Academy for Chief Executives, and a variety of SMEs.She's passionate about helping individuals find their sense of purpose and then live it. They have had considerable success with their unique retreats over many years working with senior executives in groups, witnessing how effective the power of people working together can be on their personal development. This approach allows the creation of an environment for true reflection and exploration by taking participants ‘off-grid’, free from the distractions of their professional and personal lives, and with the time to work at real depth.





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