Wednesday December 21, 2016

How to manage anxiety post-2016

2016 has been a stressful year, and according to psychologist Vanessa Lapointe, kids are literally marinating in it.

2016 has been a stressful year, and according to psychologist Vanessa Lapointe, kids are literally marinating in it. (Russel Kwok/flickr cc)

Listen 19:25

Read story transcript

Syria. Turkey. Berlin. Brexit. Trump. Putin. Clinton. Climate. Cohen. Pipelines. Prince. Bowie. Bombs.

You'd be forgiven for calling  2016 the year of living with anxiety. So how can we make 2017 different?

Chris Kutarna, author of Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that feeling anxiety after the events of 2016 is warranted, but it shouldn't resonate so deeply.

"My great fear, if we enter 2017 with a mindset that is only about anxiety, is that we lull ourselves into a fatalism about the world is happening to us," Kutarna says.

"This is not a moment to be fatalistic. This is a historic moment in which we need to be activists … We can't shy away from it. We need to embrace it."

​Related: Neuroscience Says Listening to This Song Reduces Anxiety by Up to 65 Per cent

The challenge we all face, says Kutarna, is that we have to ask ourselves what more is operating here beyond anxiety.


Historian Chris Kutarna says collective anxiety over the events of 2016 is partly due to linear thinking and narrowing expectations of what will happen. (aaayyymm eeelectriik/flickr cc)

"You know and arguably the big mistake that we made going into 2016 is just not being imaginative enough in thinking about where the world was headed." 

Kutarna blames very linear expectations of the future and the reason why 2016 was so shocking is that "reality kept breaking away from that line."

"The better mindset is to recognize that this is a deeply contested moment. That this is both, the best time and one of the most fragile times to be alive and to decide to act forward from that perspective."

'If a parent is anxious, then a child also will be anxious'

According to registered psychologist Vanessa Lapointe, t's not just adults that carry the weight of the world. She tells Tremonti that when big events happen in the world, there's an increase in referrals.

"We spent a considerable amount of time talking with children about the American elections that was actually a very significant theme in our office for a good number of weeks."

Lapointe points to kids being so connected to information and often have to come with things much earlier in life "in terms of what their developmental age and stage can cope with."

And if a parent is anxious, Lapointe says very certainly, "that a child also will be anxious."

'We have some power in this ourselves.' -  Psychologist Vanessa Lapointe

She tells parents the biggest thing to keep in mind is that the brain has a negative bias.

"It will very naturally go to a place of catastrophic outcome in the absence of any other alternatives."

Lapointe says the best way to help a child is to instill hope.

"Focus on that which is positive, that which is hopeful, that which is empowering so that they recognize you know it's not all doom and gloom," she explains.

"We have some power in this ourselves to begin to shift and turn and change and that can feel very hopeful indeed."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith, Ines Colabrese and John Chipman.