Britons are battling existential anxiety due to Brexit, psychologist warns

There is a rising tide of anxiety sweeping over the UK, according the Mental Health Foundation, who report an increase of over 12 per cent in the 14 years between 1993 and 2007.

One of these is generalised anxiety characterised by a constant sense of dread in the absence of clear-cut catalysts.

Clients present with an array of existential worries, a set of big ‘life questions” that they are unable to answer resulting in feelings of unresolvable distress

Existential worries

For example, climate change is linked to solastalgia which is a nebulous fearfulness that environmental deterioration has reached the point of no return.

Societal death anxiety (related to the end of the world) is another variant of this.

Months of uncertainty during the Brexit negotiations can act as one of the macro-happenings that tips some people with sub-clinical anxiety over the edge.

To a degree, I believe that we are feeling the effects of a collective hyper-vigilism. Our modern day 24/7 lifestyles and the ensuing sensory overload means that inadvertently we are training our brains to stay ‘on’ almost all the time.

24/7 lifestyles

And because bad news gets more media attention than good news, we have become conditioned to expect a threat whenever our devices ping.

This serves to activate our sympathetic nervous systems (SNS) into a flight-fight-freeze response putting it out of balance with our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which oversees rest and recovery.

A dominant SNS has a severely disruptive effect on sleep, which in turn undermines metabolic health so impacting energy levels and mood states.

Understandably, in such circumstances, we can turn to self-soothing behaviours, such as comfort overeating, bingeing on box sets, too much time gaming and on social media – this can all too easily become a self-reinforcing vicious circle.

The run up to 29 March means that many of us may be feeling the build-up of existential anxiety. We don’t have much choice but to push on through.

Vicious circle

But we can take control when it comes to the quality and quantity of the information that reaches us, we can curate our news feeds, we can turn off news notifications, we can ensure a two hour tech-free window before sleeping.

In short, we can decide to switch off.

Originally published by iNews.

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