Do You Have 'Brexit Anxiety'? You're Not Alone. Here's How To Alleviate Your Stress

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Do the names Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk make you shudder? Do you feel disheartened by divisive social media debate? Does the mention of Article 50 make you want to stick your fingers in your ears and scream? Then you could be a millennial suffering from "Brexit anxiety."

It’s been almost two years since the British public voted to leave the EU and it still feels like there are a lot more questions than there are answers. Will the government meet the March 29 deadline in 2019? Can the UK stay part of the single market? Just how hard or soft is Brexit actually going to be? And what’s the difference anyway?

But while fears around Brexit and its impact might be dismissed as "snowflakery" or "remoaning," studies have shown EU-related uncertainty is taking a toll on mental health, particularly among young people.

A 2017 survey commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust of over 3,000 18- to 30-year-olds in England and Wales found that a third of participants felt their mental health had deteriorated in the year after the Brexit result, with two out of every five respondents naming Brexit as a cause of anxiety.

Given that 75 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted to remain in the 2016 referendum, it’s hardly surprising that so many are feeling stressed by the implications of exiting the EU.

But millennials aren't sore losers — they have plenty of legitimate fears. A 2017 report conducted by The London School of Economic and Political Science (LSE) found that millennials were most concerned about Brexit's impact on their ability to live and work in Europe, rising levels of racism and intolerance, and the underfunding of public services like the NHS.

But short of hoping and praying for a second referendum, what can you do to soothe the Brexit blues when they strike? Here are a few simple ideas to help keep your Article 50-related anxieties in check.


Get Clued-Up

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A landmark 1994 study at the University of Quebec found that those who dislike uncertainty are prone to further anxiety disorders. Seeing as the state of Brexit is, well, pretty uncertain, it’s not hard to imagine how that might lead to worry. The solution? Identify the main source of your fears and arm yourself with info. The more aware you are of exactly what it is that’s worrying you about Britain's exit from the EU, the better-placed you are to deal with it.

For example, if you dream of studying or working in Europe, why not research Brexit-proof ways to make it happen via the British Council? For information on the socio-economic impact, try Brexit Record, which gathers all the data in one place. And if you're concerned about what Brexit will mean for rights of residence, the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association offers handy guides.


Give Yourself A Break

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On the flip side, while an awareness of the facts can feel empowering, just because the 24-hour news cycle exists, it doesn't means you should use it to follow every twist and turn of the Brexit saga. A 2017 study by the American Psychological Association found 56 percent of those questioned reported an increase in stress after reading the news.

Give yourself permission to not read negative news stories when you need a break. Your mental health comes first, and if tuning out for a few hours or days is what you need to get in a positive headspace, then go for it.


Find Out What You Can Do To Help

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With uncertainty often comes a sense of powerlessness — if I can’t be sure of what Brexit means for me, how can I do anything to improve the situation? But you might have more power than you think. If you feel strongly about Brexit, get involved in shaping what it will look like.

A 2009 study published in Political Psychology surveyed 350 university students in the U.S. and found that being active in politics correlated with a higher level of happiness. Take part in marches and lend your support to youth-led campaigns like Undivided and My Life, My Say.


Approach Social Media With Caution

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When the latest doom and gloom forecast about Brexit breaks, it’s easy to head straight to Twitter to see what everyone’s saying about it. But "Brexiteer" vs "Remoaner" social media squabbles are unlikely to lift your spirits. Instead, when you hear news that makes you feel anxious, do something to take your mind off of it.

Try heading out for a run, meeting up with a friend, devoting some time to your favourite hobby, or hanging out with your pet. Journaling can also be an effective coping mechanism, and when you're ready and the dust has settled, you can scope out what it all means.


Be Kind

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This applies to both yourself and others. Don’t dismiss your anxieties around Brexit, acknowledge them. It’s one of the biggest political upheavals of our time, so it’s only natural to have concerns about its impact. Trying to fight off your fears by ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist only works in the short term. If you accept your worries and treat yourself kindly, they’re less likely to bubble up again later.

Likewise, if you’re worried about Brexit’s potential to divide communities, you can counter intolerance by showing how much you care. Whether it’s through random acts of kindness, volunteering at a local charity, or helping out an elderly neighbour or relative, small gestures go a long way.

When you’re struggling, sharing your concerns can also help to relieve the pressure you're feeling. Anxiety UK has information on helplines, support groups, and accessing counsellors. Turning to a best friend, partner, or parent can also help. And always remember: You're not alone.