Uncertainty in many ways is the refuge of hope and with the vaccine being rolled out we can at least start to imagine how much better our lives will be as each day unfolds. There is however still so much uncertainty about and our imaginations, if we are not careful, could also start to spiral into negative overdrive.
Speculating about the future leads us to crystal ball gazing and trying to second guess what is going to happen next. We may even find ourselves filling in all the missing gaps of information with the worst-case scenario. By doing this we will start to worry and get overanxious about things that haven’t even happened yet and that we don’t have any control over.
Uncertainty can fuel fear; anxiety and paralysis, which can inhibit our ability to cope well in times of flux. Our brain essentially is hardwired to react to uncertainty with fear. As we face uncertainty, our brain could so easily push us to overreact. The ability to be able to override this reaction and move our thinking into a calmer and more rational direction is so important in terms of dealing with uncertainty and the associated anxiety that can be triggered.
There are many ways that we can help ourselves to live better with uncertainty and here are my top ten suggestions:
1. Avoid the gossip and drama
Uncertainty can create a playground for the doomgoblins and gossips who perversely enjoy stoking up any negativity they can. They will be predicting all sorts of doom and gloom and if you get absorbed with the gossip, scaremongering and toxicity it will drag you down and make you feel anxious. Balance your exposure to negative media and remove yourself from environments wherever possible where this kind of behaviour is rife. You don’t have to listen to it and you certainly don’t have to be part of it. That is entirely your choice.
2. Stay positive
One of the great benefits of positive thinking is that it can quiet the fear and irrational mind chatter by focusing your mind on something that is more calming. Thoughts are powerful triggers for emotions and for every negative niggling doubt that you have, on the flip side, there will always be a more hopeful alternative. Give your wandering mind a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. By simply identifying and dwelling on one positive thing that has happened in your day or in your life, no matter how small it is will help to distract the intensity of what you could otherwise be thinking about and give it less energy.
3. Avoid crystal ball gazing
Sometimes a fertile imagination can be your own worst enemy and you may find yourself getting lost in your own feelings. If you are not careful you may take out the imaginary crystal ball and start to “catastrophise” about the future. The what ifs and speculation can lead to feelings of despair and then those feelings can lead to more speculation and then you may become lost and paralysed in an overwhelming whirlpool of fear. Sometimes you need to be able to detach yourself from your situation and consciously observe your emotions and reactions and gently guide yourself into a calmer space. You cannot possibly predict the future; you can however feel less anxious by fostering positive thoughts about the alternative possibilities.
4. Manage your inner control freak
Let’s face it we all like to be in control, however, in some situations you have to put your trust in others hands. For example, if you found out that you were going to be made redundant or you were diagnosed with an illness you would need to accept that you couldn’t just wave a magic wand and make the situation go away. It would be impossible to be totally in control of absolutely every situation in your life. You run the risk of putting your body under immense stress if you focus on trying to control things that are simply out of your control.
5. Believe in yourself
Part of dealing with uncertainty is having the self-belief and confidence in being able to handle whatever comes your way. True confidence is about taking a positive stand, listening to others, asking for help and not being afraid to be wrong sometimes. Owning mistakes and learning from them will help you to be better informed so that you can deal with whatever life throws at you. The future will always be uncertain and trusting and believing in your own ability to deal with uncertainty is the best way to deal with it.
6. Let go of the complete picture
Sometimes in life we simply cannot have all the information straight away. In an uncertain world you will never have all the information you need for absolute certainty. Sometimes all you can do is make the best decision based on the knowledge available to you at the time.
7. Be flexible
Living in a world that is in a constant state of flux will require you to be better at dealing with rapid change and to be flexible and responsive. Flexibility will also help you to deal with stressors and unexpected demands and allow you to let go of the original plan, switch tasks when needed and positively embrace change. Ultimately, agility and speed of responsiveness is the key to success and a flexible approach will allow you to be able to adapt well in times of volatility and uncertainty.
8. Learn to reduce tension and relax
When you are dealing with uncertainty you can feel a level of tension and elevated stress levels. Over time the body’s stress levels affect blood pressure, blood sugar, muscle tension, cholesterol levels, breathing rate and every organ in the body. It is really important to research ways to relieve tension and stress during times of uncertainty and learn how to relax.
9. Practise mindfulness
When you are obsessing about tomorrow you are too busy judging what hasn’t happened to fully experience what is happening right now. Appreciating the beauty and magic of the here and now you will release you from being trapped in a fear driven thought cycle. The practise of mindfulness, which is about being present and fully experiencing the moment, is very powerful. I can certainly say first-hand it is possibly the most effective technique when it comes to dealing with uncertainty.
10. Take action
Uncertainty can have quite a paralysing effect as you may feel that with lack of information you simply don’t know which way to turn! Decision-making on occasions can be an agonising process, especially if you have a very analytical mind and you feel that you are not well informed enough. Uncertainty, on some occasions, may mean that you don’t necessarily make the right decision. However, don’t let that put you off, sometimes even a wrong decision is better than no decision, and besides, a mistake sometimes is simply a learning opportunity in disguise.
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