“Helping you gain control over the things you want to change”

Fiona Nicolson

Confusion anxiety and Covid: time to change how we think

I notice many of my clients are saying that they are finding the current situation with Covid more and more confusing and this is making them very anxious, even though this variant does seem less dangerous. Many feel frustrated by this and ask me if there is anything they can do.

I always say that I understand this well. Confusion is one thing that can cause anxiety. Most of us find it uncomfortable when we cannot see a path ahead of us. We can often feel anxious if we feel that even the experts around us do not know what is coming next.

Changing situation is an opportunity

I then go on to say this can be an opportunity. This changing situation means it is a good time to reframe our thoughts and change our behaviour. So, how can we do this?

To do so we need to address how we can deal with those unhelpful ‘what if’ thoughts that can go around in our heads at times like this. These thoughts can be very common at times when we cannot know what the future holds. It is very rare that these thoughts help us, so if we can change them, it is good.

‘What if’ thoughts become ‘I can’ thoughts

If you have many ‘what if’ thoughts then you change them into some thoughts which are more useful? You can have thoughts that enable you to take useful action, and that will make you feel much more powerful and in control. This will lessen that feeling of helplessness, of being buffeted around by huge forces, which can lead to anxiety.

One technique I teach my clients is how to change the focus of a thought. Every time you think ‘what if’ then ask if you can replace that with ‘I can’. Here is an example. If you are thinking ‘what if I cannot travel by plane in the summer then can you say ‘I can make alternative travel arrangements just in case.’ If you are thinking ‘what if the children are off school again’ think ‘I can talk to my manager about what arrangements I will need if this happens. I got through it before and I can do so again if I have to’

Focus on a positive future

Another useful technique is to replace the negative future you are imagining with the ‘what if’ with the most positive outcome possible and imagine this instead. In our examples, imagine you flying to that longed-for destination, the children happily at school and doing well in their exams. This is just as likely as your fears, focusing on the positive can make you feel good and develop a more positive thinking habit.

Talk nicely to yourself

Finally, I encourage my clients to start to listen to their own self-talk. If you are constantly telling yourself off because you are anxious this is doing you no good at all. You can change this habit, even though it might take time. Start by changing the tone of that voice in your head. Talk to yourself as if you are valued and loved. Speak slowly reasonably and softly. Laugh with yourself.

You can build good thinking habits and you will feel much less anxious if you do so. Look after yourself.


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