We’re all feeling the impact of global uncertainty and upheaval at some level. Here’s how to spot the signs of world anxiety and what to do about it.
Off the back of the pandemic, we’ve seen war raging in Ukraine and natural disasters in Turkey, Syria, New Zealand, Pakistan and Brazil dominating the media. There’s a sense of uncertainty in international relations, capital and job markets. The state of our world is, by any measure, overwhelming. So if you’ve been hit by bouts of anxiety over all this, you’re not alone.
‘World anxiety’ is an umbrella term for when we experience anxiousness simply by being aware of distressing global events that don’t directly impact our lives. According to the World Health Organisation, anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the world, affecting one in 13 people worldwide. The signs are well documented, but since opening my private energy healing and coaching sessions for clients this year, I see more people seeking support for world anxiety.
Signs of anxiety + How to deal with all the bad news in the world
1. The dreams are manic
For some, dreams take on an unsettling nature. These can be dreams of past traumatic events such as car crashes or working in emergency wards. Others may experience nightmares without specific reference to a personal past, like a mother having to choose which child to save in a natural disaster.
2. You start catastrophising
This is a feeling of vastly reduced emotional and mental bandwidth to cope with personal challenges – which would otherwise be handled with resilience and clarity. Being overwhelmed can cause us to leap to worst-case scenarios where our personal outlook in relationships, work or health is temporarily uncertain.
3. You retreat into yourself
You might feel like withdrawing from connections, social situations or exposure to world news. Our instinct is to fold in, literally, to try and create a sense of safety. But this is when the connection with trusted friends and talking through our feelings can be imperative to working through it.
4. You feel downhearted and powerless
Feelings of deep sadness and helplessness are perhaps the most common symptoms I observe – these can be confusing and conflicting. While life within our own field is going well, we can still feel like we’re moving through the day under a pall of sadness that we just can’t lift.
5. The life is sucked out of you
People seek support because their tank is empty. They have little or no energy for activities that keep them well and connected, despite their diet and sleep not changing. Even though world events may not impact our lives directly, knowing they’re happening around us and people are suffering can have a direct impact on how we feel, think and behave.
Easy, small steps to lift your vibe
It’s important to recognise that what you feel is natural and common. Rather than judging yourself, recognise the feelings, name them and describe them in your journal or with a close friend. When we cast light on our feelings and acknowledge them, they loosen their grip. If you’re generally well but feeling down and low on energy, here are my suggestions to deal with world anxiety.
P.S. If these signs of anxiety are a constant state of play, or you’re unable to turn up for loved ones or operate effectively, please seek the help of a reputable psychotherapist, healer, coach or counsellor.
Press pause, be present and reflect
There’s relief and reassurance in keeping things real for yourself. When overwhelming feelings arise, a simple practice is to take a break and think about the key areas of your life that provide safety and happiness. Running an audit into each aspect with a mantra of affirmation can set yourself into presence and truth.
Here’s an example of a mantra: Today, my body is well and strong. I have a beautiful home where I can dwell freely. I am surrounded by possibilities and options, and I can nurture my body with good food and rest.
If world news exaggerates your feelings of anxiety, switch it out for inspiring content instead.
Pay it forward: It’s all about altruistic action
Feeling the pain of the collective? Intentionally bringing compassion into your engagement with others can work wonders to uplift you and assuage feelings of helplessness. Give goods and funds to charities that support the world events creating your greatest disquiet. Even the smallest donation can help relieve tension!
In your everyday life, cultivate gratitude for your loved ones and do small intentional acts of kindness for those you encounter.
Breathe in 3, 2, 1…
Our breath is our in-built mechanism to regulate the nervous system. Simply pausing and putting all your awareness on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of your body will deepen and lengthen it naturally. Making time for 10 to 15 minutes of intentional breathing daily has incredible benefits for the body and mind.
If you need guidance for your busy mind to follow, breathwork that engenders balance and grounding can be hugely helpful. My four effective practices are Four Fold Breath, Nadi Shodhana, Ujjayi Breathing and Mindful Breathing. Tip: take your breathwork outdoors for additional grounding.
Offer your awareness and energy
If you’re not in a position to donate, or you’re choosing to hibernate for a time, psychically assisting the suffering through heart-centred meditations runs energy through your heart space and creates a feeling of interconnectedness.
The best practices I know for this come from Tibetan Buddhism: Tonglen (to transmute fear) and Powha (to assist the dying). I’ve been practising Tonglen daily since the first earthquake in Turkey-Syria and it’s created a beautiful heart expansion and a deep sense that, in some way, it helps alleviate the suffering. There’s a reason why these ancient practices prevail today.
Ultimately, you have self-agency in how you feel and think when it comes to uncertain times. The power lies in taking affirming action for yourself and others.