Upset? Anxious? You’re not alone
U.S. President Donald Trump is making some of us jittery
Mark Pratt has been feeling anxious lately.
The 32-year-old Hamiltonian, a graphic artist who works at an advertising company in Stoney Creek, says he’s been inundated with negativity at every turn. He feels as though “the world is in a state of chaos” that’s impossible to escape.
For Pratt, these feelings have a lot to do with a certain American president who has been dominating the news cycle for the past few weeks.
“I’d say the majority of it would be the U.S. election,” he said.
“It’s very uncertain what happens next. It’s kind of a wait-and-see thing, and people don’t like that — especially now, when everything’s immediate.”
Scott Shipton, who lives in Ancaster with
his wife and two young children, said he feels upset whenever he opens his Twitter feed and sees the new U.S. president’s bellicose statements.
“It inhibits my ability to be positive about things because it’s always sort of in the back of my head.”
From President Donald Trump’s actions to the recent terror attack in Quebec, it seems that many Hamiltonians are struggling with heightened feelings of stress, sadness and anxiety, said Karen Rowa, a clinical psychologist at the Anxiety Treatment and Research Centre at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Even the weeks of grey, dismal weather have taken their toll.
“I’m getting the sense that people are very anxious, upset and enraged about what’s happening in the world right now,” Rowa said.
Rowa, who practises cognitive behavioural therapy at the anxiety clinic, says her department receives at least 300 referrals each month — the highest volume of any outpatient service at the hospital.
“It just goes to show how prevalent issues with anxiety are,” she said.
However, Rowa also says it’s important to remember that anxiety can be positive. If your worry about the state of the world causes you to take action — sign a petition, join a protest, or voice your support for those who are marginalized — it can become a helpful tool.
The key isn’t to eliminate our anxiety, Rowa says, but rather to stop it from taking over our lives.
“This is a time when our emotions are telling us something that we should be listening to. It’s a very useful, very helpful emotion,” she said.
“We don’t want to pathologize normal increases of anxiety. You’re a normal human being reacting to some very upsetting circumstances.”
When anxiety starts to affect your appetite, your sleep, your ability to focus at work, or your relationships with friends and family, that’s when it requires real attention.
Rowa said it’s important to recognize that we’re not protected from anxiety just because we might not be directly affected by recent events.
“We can still be almost vicariously traumatized by things that are happening elsewhere,” she said.
“Humans are very empathetic, and we’re very capable of getting upset about things, even if they’re not very near to us.”
One of the natural consequences of heightened anxiety, Rowa said, is the tendency to “catastrophize.”
She said we tend to leap to the worst possible conclusions, or question our ability to handle crises if something goes wrong.
Having a healthy sense of the likelihood of imminent disaster is important to help keep our worries in check.
“We tend to think catastrophically when we’re anxious. We think about the worst-case scenarios. Our thoughts get twisted up and aren’t as balanced as we would like,” she said.
“We have to be careful not to think the world is going to end because Donald Trump is in power.”
You’re a normal human being reacting to some very upsetting circumstances. KAREN ROWA CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST AT ANXIETY TREATMENT AND RESEARCH CENTRE