Anxiety and Uncertainty...And The Amazing Disappearing Rabbit!!

If you are currently dealing with anxiety, or even if anxious overthinking and worry are your habitual ways of thinking, then anything that involves uncertainty or waiting for something to arrive, like an appointment date, can lead to that anxiety escalating massively. 

In fact it can take over your every thinking moment. 

Those anxious thoughts can be there from the moment you open your eyes and all the way through to when you try to get to sleep at the end of the day (and you can find anxiety impacts on your dreams when you do sleep too, as I wrote about last year in this article, Anxiety and Dreaming - How Your Anxiety Impacts While You Sleep).

And here's the thing; when you are in the midst of some stressful or anxious moment and you can keep active and focused and 'doing stuff' then you probably feel at least a bit better. You may feel you are being productive, getting things done, taking action. You may feel like you are dealing with that anxious or stressful thing and that you are coping. That anxiety can, of course, come back to bite you when things calm down again and are quieter and you have less to occupy you.

Yet sometimes some of the trickiest times for anxiety and your mental health are those moments when there is nothing at all you can do, when you have to just sit back and wait for something to happen and where events are outside your control. What can we do then?

And Now For Nibbles, The Amazing Disappearing Rabbit!

This morning in the Regan household started like many others. I was up at 5.30am to get ready and out for bootcamp (it was below zero....again! Flaming freezing!). I came back, showered, and we were all getting ready. Everything was running as normal on a school day. In fact, we were probably running a little early, a precious and rare morning occurrence at our house.

As she does each morning, my daughter went out to feed her rabbit. She put the food in the hutch and, unlike other days when she's lucky to escape with all her fingers intact, all was quiet. Too quiet. 

Still, it was freezing cold so perhaps any sensible rabbit worth its weight in carrots would stay covered up and warm in the hay. That's what I'd do if I were a rabbit in winter. In fact, I was beginning to daydream of how nice it would be to stay indoors under a nice warm blanket, cup of tea in hand and a good movie on TV....

So we waited a bit and still nothing. My daughter opened up all the doors on the hutch and there was no rabbit! (And, incidentally, no obvious means of her having escaped.) Later we would discover how she had forced her way out but for now I assumed she had been busy building her own version of Tom, Dick and Harry (the tunnels in The Great Escape) while we weren't looking. Anyway, however it had happened there was no rabbit in her hutch and no rabbit on our garden anywhere or within sight around the street.   

Like something from an old magician's trick, she had vanished in a puff of smoke!  (Or, given the weather, perhaps more a puff of ice if that's possible).

missing rabbit anxiety hypnotherapy ely

I'll be honest, it was freezing cold that night and morning and I was all braced for having to tell my daughter (who was in tears) the news that Nibbles was no longer living with us. It was all set up to be a harsh lesson in the realities of life for two primary school age kids...

As it turned out, we found Nibbles some half an hour later hiding in a small gap behind our next door neighbour's shed. For some reason she had decided to squeeze her way out under a tiny gap at the back of our fence and, perhaps having heard that the grass is always greener on the other side, she squeezed her way under an equally small gap and into their garden. Forty five freezing minutes later she was back in her own hutch and busy munching away on a carrot. 

Now searching for a rabbit isn't necessarily the most anxiety-provoking situation. Having said that, I am fond of the rabbit and I'd have missed our little chats and no doubt, if there had been no sign of her, it would all have been a bit sad and stressful when we all got back home that night.

And, of course, this was one of those situations where there was something to actively do, namely, searching the bushes and gardens and asking neighbours whether they had seen Nibbles.

But what about those situations where there is nothing you can do about something that is happening or that is coming up? It may be a medical appointment, a dentist visit, an aeroplane flight, an interview, waiting for a result of some kind or any other situation where you either have to just sit tight and wait for the time to arrive, or wait for someone else to do something that is outside your control.

Anxiety & Uncertainty

Anxiety can thrive on uncertainty. All that time to think and worry and overthink can start to mentally snowball until you just feel exhausted and want it all to just be over, whatever the outcome. At least then you will have something to actually think about, focus on or decide about. Until then, there's a lot of thinking time for worst cases scenarios and possible unwanted outcomes that can fill you with dread and worry.

It's common with important medical appointments.  You may have been told that it requires further investigation or tests, or you may have been told what it 'could' or 'might' mean for you now and in the future. They have to tell you the possible implications and things that could happen and so the worry and stress fixate upon those things and lose that perspective that all might be well or those things may not happen at all. Anxiety and fear can take away thinking logically and rationally about something and turn what is only a possibility into a full blown likely fact that will mean only one thing: that the worst case will happen and it will be terrible.

So when there is nothing that we can actually do, what can we do? What will help to ease that anxiety here?

Certainly the more you can build and develop the ability to be mentally calm and physically relaxed the more resilient you will feel about the future. Like any skill, the more you practice calming down those thoughts and feelings, the better and more capable at it you will get. You could grab a copy of my free hypnosis download or another one of my audios to guide you in doing this.  At the very least you will give your brain and body some time off from all that worrying and that can be all the difference in whether you are able to cope calmly or whether thoughts spiral out of control.

You can also use your breathing to do this. You could simply focus on your breathing and watch how every in breath and out breath happens so automatically and the rise and fall and even the slightest of sensations of each and every breath. You can extend your out breath, drop your shoulders and encourage calmness in that way. Or even gently say the word 'calm'  to yourself slowly as you breathe in and then say 'relaxation' to yourself as you breathe out. The more you can calm your anxiety, the clearer you can think about that particular thing, as well as your thoughts in general.

Sometimes I will have clients 'diarise' their worry for a more appropriate future time. Let's say they have a medical appointment in a couple of weeks' time. They could spend every waking moment over that two weeks going over and over the same thoughts and ramping up that anxiety. Or, they could 'postpone' thinking about it as much as possible until nearer the time. Sometimes I will even have them put fifteen minutes or so into their paper or electronic diary so they won't forget to worry (!!) and so they can relax a little more now knowing it is taken care of then. Anytime a thought comes up before that time they can defer it to that 'appointment' with themselves. In other cases, that time to think may even be better placed after a medical appointment or whatever the thing is when you know more about what may or may not be happening.

And you can also use distraction to help you to be more in the present moment rather than a possible worst case future. Distraction often gets a bad rap from people who dismiss it or describe it as 'only' distraction. Yet if you want your focus to on something else and to break habitual patterns of thinking and feeling then it can be very useful indeed. 

If one of my kids is upset or sad or has hurt themself, distraction is often the first thing I call upon. It's instinctive to try and shift their focus and get them thinking about something more upbeat and positive. I don't worry that they are somehow 'suppressing' their sadness or hurt, I simply want them thinking and feeling better (even if later we talk about something going on, although in most cases it is simply forgotten about). I might get them thinking about something or doing something different or try and make them smile or laugh (I wrote about using laughter to deal with anxiety in another post). 

When we are concentrating on something else or even laughing, we are now thinking and feeling differently and our focus is on something else. In the same way as when we turn the TV over to another channel we probably aren't spending the whole time thinking about the thing we decided to no longer watch, when our focus is elsewhere we will likely find ourselves thinking and feeling differently, rather than amplifying unwanted thoughts and feelings. 

In situations like this, it will nearly always make sense to limit stimulants like caffeine and nicotine, keep alcohol levels low, eat healthily, get enough rest and exercise and generally take care of yourself AND be kind to yourself.

And, if you have a mischievous rabbit like Nibbles, make sure she can't be going walkabout into another garden anytime soon!

The more you adopt these type of approaches, the more you will find yourself feeling and being mentally calm and that means that we can be more in the here and now and adopt a perspective where we think clearly and view things for what and how they are (rather than distorting them into our imagined dreaded future that may never happen). At the very least you will get some much needed 'time off' from all that worry and anxiety - and that can only be a beneficial thing.

To your success

 Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket

Looking for more about anxiety and how to overcome your anxiety? You can read more of my articles here: Anxiety & Anxiety Help

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