How to Cope with Brexit Stress

It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you’re on, leave or remain, or even if you’re on the fence with your fingers in your ears, Brexit is stressing out the UK population big time. Yes, there’s even a new name for it, ‘Strexit’.

Counsellors and psychotherapists are seeing a rise in clients who cite Brexit as a trigger for their anxiety issues and to be honest, I’m not surprised. It appears that as we are virtually experiencing a civil war and this includes our politicians.

Talk about airing your dirty laundry in public…

The profusion and detail in current affairs reports means that every thought, feeling and opinion by everyone, bar the Queen, is being aired and after almost three years of conflict we’re simply overwhelmed!

As the population struggles to cope it is becoming ever more divided. One of my clients stated that it has now become a key question when she dates someone for the first time; ‘Did you vote to leave or remain?’ Give the wrong answer and they’re instantly dumped.

Another hasn’t spoken to his best man at his wedding since finding out his preference and I was recently sworn at by a complete stranger on the train when it became obvious during a conversation which side of the fence I was on.

Why is Brexit having such a profound effect on us?

Well neuroscience gives us the clues as to how this is affecting our minds.

As humans, we like certainty and what we struggle with big time is UNCERTAINTY. Uncertainty makes us feel out of control and powerless and subsequently stressed, angry or anxious.  

Knowing what’s happening and where you’ll be going is important to our mind. It will find ways to get you there safely. And on top of this, the mind will generate an expectation of what the likely outcome will be – this is a key part of our survival mechanism. It’s also something that keeps us positive. If an outcome is met then dopamine is released in the brain as a reward and this makes us feel good. Dopamine is important for our drive, focus and positivity. The worst thing we can experience is a violated expectation.

Bring in Brexit and we have immeasurable uncertainty about our future both economically and personally and to make matters worse, we expected to leave on March 29th and we didn’t, which, no matter what your persuasion, meant a drop of dopamine in the brain, which lowers mood.

The country is depressed, anxious and feeling out of control. So what’s the answer? It’s time to take control of your mind.

Take a break from the news.

Reduce the amount of information you’re receiving about Brexit. You could turn off news notifications on your phones, avoid watching the news when eating breakfast or dinner and wake up to music rather than the news.

Put Brexit news in context and even view it with humour.

Everything is still hypothetical, which is what’s causing the uncertainty.

Avoid heated discussions with family, friends and colleagues.

Perception is reality and everyone will have their own story. It doesn’t necessarily make them wrong and you right, it’s the rich tapestry of human life when we’re actually all individuals and have our own take on things, informed by our personal values and experiences.

Do something that switches down the volume of the internal chatter in your mind.

Even switch it off if you can. You do this by absorbing yourself in an activity that makes you feel good, such as reading a great book, doing some gardening, taking part in sport, volunteering at a local charity, or maybe listening to some music or seeing an upbeat friend. Watching television is not likely to help.

When you feel wound up go for a walk or do some exercise.

This helps to use up the ‘fight or flight’ stress hormones that affect us physically and mentally. Cortisol raises your blood pressure, increases blood glucose levels, suppresses your immune system, slows your digestive system and alters your decision-making and memory capacity to the extent that if it goes on for too long, it can seriously affect your health (think cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, susceptibility to viruses and inflammatory illnesses, irritable bowel disease, insomnia and depression).

If you need to voice your opinion then look for where you could join a rally or take part in a debate.

Lobby your MP or join a campaign. If this isn’t possible then start a journal to record your experiences and opinions and set yourself activities.

If it is all becoming too much for you then seek out some support.

Talk to a good friend, maybe someone in HR at work, and even your doctor. Mental health charities have confidential help lines that may be able to offer the advice you need. It is not a sign of weakness or failure, just an indicator of how passionate you feel about the situation and how much you care.

Remember, you are not alone, and there will be a way out of this, in time.

Written by: Susan Scott

Susan Scott is a nutritionist, business psychologist and the author behind Life Force.

Life Force is the Revolutionary 7-Step Plan for Optimum Energy and is available in paperback, ebook online and in all good bookshops for £14.99.

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