Up­set? Anx­ious? You’re not alone

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is mak­ing some of us jit­tery

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA REILLY

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

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