Responding to Unpredictability
When a person experiences anxiety, it can feel like nervousness or fear. Anxiety involves anticipating some kind of danger or negative event, either real or imagined. Anxiety can lead to physical reactions like an increased heart rate, shallow breathing, and/or muscle tension. It is an emotion that can be experienced both in the moment and over longer periods of time. When anxiety endures, it may indicate a more serious health concern that you may not be able to resolve or overcome on your own.
If you are experiencing significant worry or anxiety that interferes with your day-to-day life (e.g., work, relationships, sleep, or other important parts of your life), it is recommended that you consult your health care provider.
PSP families learn to expect the unexpected, but it is not easy to do. Anxiety is a response to something that is on our mind but has not happened. There are many factors associated with PSP work that can heighten worry, tension, and fear. We must understand the sources of our anxiety before we can think about strategies to manage these emotions. Below are a few of the factors that can cause anxiety in PSP families.
PSP family members may learn about an incident in real time. When they cannot get updates or reach the PSP family member, worry and anxiety can surge.
PSP work can be high-risk. Family members can worry that physical or mental injury could happen at any moment.
Media and public perception
Families can be worried and stressed by reports from media and social media. The public can react to particular events or sectors in ways that can create anxiety for PSP and their family members.
PSP work is unpredictable and there is always a possibility of danger. An individual PSP can react in a variety of ways to different incidents. There is always uncertainty about how someone will react to trauma or trauma exposure.
PSP can get unexpectedly called into work or be required to work overtime. At other times, they are unable to leave their shift as planned because of shift overruns or personal debriefings. SSOs may have to explain why PSP family members aren’t at family events and celebrations.
After an incident at work, PSP can feel a range of emotions. They may not be able to be emotionally present when they return home. It is difficult to predict whether they will want to talk, or need some quiet time. Families can experience anticipatory vigilance and feel like they need to ‘walk on eggshells’.
- When we don’t have all the information about something, we can fill in the blanks. When we fill in the blanks with worst-case-scenario possibilities, we experience catastrophic thinking.
- The unpredictability of PSP life can lead to anxiety and anxiety can easily lead to catastrophic thinking. For example, if a PSP is late coming home because they are filling in paperwork, anxiety could lead a family member to think that their PSP is hurt or dead.
- While it is completely normal for PSP family members to have these fleeting thoughts, what is important is that they have ways to work through them. For practical suggestions on how to reframe catastrophic thoughts, please visit PSPNET Families Wellbeing Hub.
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References for this page (click to expand)
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