Brexit, Britain & the EU: 3 Tools to Build Emotional Resilience in Uncertain Times
You know the bit in a novel when someone comes into the room and says, ‘The government has fallen!’ and everyone gasps, dowagers clutch their pearls and send the maid to make tea, (with a stiff whisky for the gentlemen)?
That’s how it’s felt here since Friday – financial markets crashing, house prices falling, politicians resigning in droves, and fear rising, rising, rising.
While I don’t believe in the catastrophizing, I have seen many people scared and hurting after the Brexit result, and I’ve felt the anxiety in several of my coaching clients and in myself. I want to address that fear here today.
I may not know all the political implications of Brexit, but here’s what I do know:
I know about living through tough times, austerity and uncertainty.
I know about building resilience.
I know about taking responsibility for the sovereignty and care of the only thing you truly can: yourself.
What is resilience?
Resilience is what allows us to suffer, to struggle, but to keep moving.
Resilience is when we bend with life rather than breaking. It’s flexibility, it’s an attitude of ‘I can handle it’.
Resilience is rising from the ashes, it’s about using the fires to refine yourself, it’s earning your phoenix feathers.
Resilience uses your skills and tools to manage setbacks rather than becoming overwhelmed or falling into using non-optimum coping methods. For example, binge watching old TV shows and turning to Twitter or other forms of social media procrastination are both non-optimum coping methods.
We all know that person who seems to come back stronger from every struggle. They aren’t the ones pretending nothing hurts, they fall apart, change everything but something in them allows them to move forward, rebuild and put themselves back together again.
[Tweet “Some cope well, not because they’re stronger or better than you. It’s resilience. #Brexit”]
Let’s build and bolster resilience today.
1. How to handle your emotions in the wake of the Brexit news
Recognise and re-direct fear/panic thought spirals.
So many of us have spent so long running from fear, from grief and from the pain that the idea of working with it is a foreign concept. Even more difficult to consciously practice it.
Instead of running, when you feel your fear, your grief, your pain – pause. (If it’s safe, of course!) Just take a moment. It may well be uncomfortable (rather than unbearable), but that moment is a valuable one. Ground yourself. Feel your feet.
Notice where the fear starts to hook you. Choose to unhook.
Visualise yourself and the fear, see yourself somewhere you feel safe and imagine unhooking any chords the fear has attached to your body – it can’t hold you anymore. Visualise stepping back from the fear. See yourself surrounded by a landscape/person/animal that feels safe.
If more fears crowds in, imagine them walking on by and taking your initial fear with them. Allow them to arrive and pass on. They are part of your life but they don’t have to squat in your mind forever. When you are ready, come back to your body in the room. Feel your feet, your seat and say, ‘I’m awake’!
If the fear is an old, familiar one, this can be an opportunity to get more familiar with your fear/grief/pain. Where are its edges? What is it really trying to say? Is it coming from a past part of you, a part of you that’s still scared, or something you’ve inherited from someone close to you? It’s not a problem if you still carry these old fears, but check in and see if you still need to be holding them.
Often, after emotion washes over you, listening to it will make the waves more gentle, or attune you to consciously using your feelings to warn or protect you in a loving way.
After you’ve paused, felt and listened to you fear/grief/pain, just as consciously, move on with your day if that’s appropriate for you.
2. Building resilience in times of struggle
Resilience supports us to cope with uncertainty. Resilience is something we can choose to build.
The factors which make up resilience have been identified by psychologists. We can learn resilience as surely as we can learn how to use Instagram or make a cup of tea.
Factors which make up resilience include a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate one’s emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback.
According to the psychologist, Susan Kobasa, there are three main elements that resilient people possess: challenge, commitment, and control.
She further explains, you can develop resilience in several ways:
If you can create an accessible, sustainable exercise routine and work on the quality of your sleep it will give you more resources to handle stress.
The stronger you feel, the easier it is for you to overcome challenges.
Connect to your community, so that you have a support network to fall back on.
Focus on setting specific and achievable personal goals, and work on building your self-confidence.
Identify as a survivor, be proud of what you are doing and of overcoming challenges.
3. Empower and Advocate for Yourself
With thousands upon thousands of articles at our fingertips, giving us countless opinions on the EU, Britain & the Brexit result, it’s tempting to get caught in a pattern of worrying about global problems that we struggle to influence. The worrying itself sucks so much energy that it’s a great block to effective action and advocacy.
When things are tough, when we are shocked and hurting, our boundaries can weaken. Worrying about Brexit can morph into anxiety about world poverty and future tripping.
Is it possible to protect yourself from any of the things that hurt or impact you negatively? Can you give yourself permission to let go of any guilt associated with doing so? For example, from continual news reports. Forget about what you “should know”, or the idea that it’s “wrong” to not be aware of the plight of others or of the latest developments following Brexit. News reports and developments play themselves out on 24-hour news feeds or other media.
Take a break. For an hour. A day. A week. Whatever works for you.
Stop watching the news. Turn off the radio. Close the laptop. Remember that watching, listening and reading the most does not translate into being the most well-informed (indeed, in this day and age, it can be quite the opposite!).
[Tweet “You don’t need to watch the news to make change. Take space & fill it with positive action!”]
Let’s save our energy for what affects us and what we can influence. We can vote, sign petitions, join a political party, volunteer, write, make art, speak, share and take (safe) action while keeping a boundary between ourselves and the global problem: it’s not yours to hold alone, we are in this together. I care about you and want to see you able to be effective and as well as possible.
From a psychological perspective, we could see the Brexit result as the rejected shadow side of the nation emerging, exploding to consciousness.
All the parts of the country that have been denied, ignored, that have been discontented with the government but disempowered to take action, everyone who has been pushed into the shadow, unspoken fears, unexamined social norms – they’ve suddenly hit the headlines.
It can feel scary but it can also be a catalyst for positive change in other aspects of the nation and of ourselves.
More awareness is called for in all of us – nationally and personally. Be aware of what’s going on in yourself as well as your nation.
Practice thought awareness. What parts of your life/country/self do you love and what do you hate?
How are you handling the news and how are you coping? Are you budgeting energy for a healthy you? Does your life give you time for things like exercise, loved ones, rest, food, a life?
If it doesn’t, then check in with how that’s affecting you and take the action you need. I am here to help.
How are you handling the Brexit result? What would help you feel stronger and more able to cope today? Let me know in the comments.
P.S. You may also find these useful: Mourning, healing and holding in the hardest times [trigger warning, mentions of Orlando shooting], When it hurts more than you can bear, read this, surfing emotional surges: how to cope when feelings overwhelm and how to create a trailblazing wellness toolkit.