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Uncertainty, Opportunity and Protecting Ourselves

Posted on 01 November 2017

Whatever your political views, you may have noticed how everything seems to be a bit up in the air at the moment. Whether it is Brexit, or how the NHS is going to be funded, or what is happening to our education systems, or North Korea . . I could go on and on. You could think that it is all looking a bit dangerous and uncertain out there.

You might be thinking, ‘Oh no, if I want yet more politics, I’ll go to the BBC News. I come to read Fiona’s blog to get away from all that.’

Please stick with me for a few minutes, there is a logic here. The reason I mention all these things is that I want to talk about uncertainty and how it can worsen anxiety. All the political things I mentioned have something in common ­­– they all make it hard to guess what is going to happen next.

Think about it, look at the major issues in the news on any day recently and ask yourself, ‘what will be happening about this in a year’s time?’ Often it is very difficult to give an answer with any certainty, and that can make us feel a lack of stability, familiarity and safety. Stability, familiarity, safety are all good things, aren’t they? They are the sort of things which most of us strive to achieve and to hold on to. If they feel out of our grasp we worry.

Uncertainty hurts

So why is uncertainty so often a problem for us? We human beings are pretty much hardwired to dislike uncertainty, it makes us anxious and uncomfortable. There are very sound evolutionary reasons for this. What is around the corner could be dangerous and therefore may be best avoided.

Sometimes in human society there is some uncertainty and a lot which feels familiar. Perhaps this was true for our parents and grandparents – then we tended to live in the same place for a lifetime as did everyone we knew; our friends and family networks were very stable. Jobs and career patterns tended to be clearer and longer-lasting and our social lives felt more predictable.

At the moment the balance is weighing on the side of uncertainty and this may be causing increased anxiety and poor mental health. Now it seems change is rapid and never stops. Where we live, relationships, jobs, all are less permanent than they used to be. And, as I have already said the outside world can seem just . . .nutty.

Mental health problems at work

I did wonder how much this uncertainty is contributing to the enormous problem of mental health problems at work. A recent report commissioned by the Prime Minister has found 300,000 people lose their jobs every year because of mental health conditions, and there are even more people struggling on, working at a sub-optimal level.

Many are afraid that if they speak out about their mental issues they will lose their job or harm their career progression. The report’s authors call for businesses to take mental health much more seriously and to implement a proper plan to help employees.

It is very welcome to see action on improving mental health coming from the very top. I hope that the publicity this initiative gets will encourage more people to seek help.

I have noticed that, in some of the interviews around the report, people who suffer from mental health problems talk about overwork and uncertainty about their future, making it worse. For people with a mindset which strongly dislikes uncertainty, this can be a hellish time to live and work, and there is a lot of research which suggests that people who can’t tolerate uncertainty are more likely to suffer mental health problems.

Cognitive hypnotherapy and welcoming change

If this is the world in which we are living, how can we be happy? Cognitive hypnotherapy can help.

Often when people arrive at my cognitive hypnotherapy clinics in Henley or Harley Street, they will describe their anxiety symptoms, but they can find it very difficult to pin down exactly what is wrong. They just have a general feeling that things are not right and every challenge feels difficult, if not impossible.

When I see people like this for anxiety hypnotherapy, I first of all reassure them that this is a soluble problem. It is possible, and often comparatively easy, to get new and healthier ways of thinking, and that is where I come in.

Getting good habits

One of the things I begin with in my cognitive hypnotherapy for anxiety clinics is breaking habits.

We all have habits of thinking, we created them and we can change them. Sometimes, we develop defensive coping strategies and habits. These habits might have begun as a protective mechanism, but are maybe now holding us back and causing damage

With targeted therapy, which recognises your unique way of seeing the world, we can change these habits.

I help my clients learn to feel comfortable with and even welcome uncertainty and change. Through the work we do, issues become ‘reframed’ so they start to see them from a completely different viewpoint.  Uncertainty may be scary, but it also means innovation, change and advance. If there was no uncertainty and no-one ever stepped into the unknown, we would make no progress at all.

If we can change and overcome our fears and the feelings and beliefs that are holding us back, we can find new paths and open up new horizons. I can work with you to make those changes.  Pretty soon uncertainty can look like opportunity.

Everyone’s feelings and experiences are different. Each of us builds up his or her own, unique world view and our belief systems are a rich and infinitely complex mix.   But there are some common issues which can make it difficult for us to tolerate uncertainty. Bad experiences in the past can teach us that danger is always around the corner. That fear can be like the ghost in the machine. With some help from me, we can fix this. Your memories are yours and you can change how they affect you now. I can work with you to take away the emotional charge a memory holds and to stop it impacting on you in the same way.

And that is just one example of the change you can experience. You will be better able to cope with the ups and downs of work life and the changes it brings. And you will be able to do some of that fun stuff which you have always avoided as being too scary.

You can live more happily in an uncertain world. Come and see me and I will show you how it is done.

Fiona Nicolson on Google+

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