There are two things certain in life, death, and taxes. Well, actually three. Death, taxes, and uncertainty. The wheel of life and fate is continuously spinning, and nothing ever stays the same, so no matter how much we plan or how much we convince ourselves that we have it all figured out, there will always be some things that do not turn out as planned. Uncertainty is unavoidable.
To our brains, uncertainty equals danger. Your limbic brain activates and it starts picking at you until it feels like the danger has passed.
This year has surprised us all, and many of us have faced moments of uncertainty during this pandemic. Uncertainty [typically] arises out of a lack of control or understanding of the situation. Though these newfound challenges cause distress and anxiety, the one thing you can control is how you approach or react to the uncertainty.
It is easy to ruminate about what you could have done better, differently, or how you should have prepared. It gives you a false sense of control, but the unexpected happens without your consent. Thus, there is no way you could have prepared yourself.
Rather than ruminating, sit with your emotions. It is okay to feel worried, stressed, or anxious. Do not repress your emotions or punish yourself for what you are feeling. It might make matters worse. Be compassionate with yourself. Do not allow your feelings to devour you. Instead, observe your thoughts and emotions, and create room for a response. Doing so overrides your limbic system and boosts your emotional intelligence and rational brain.
When placed in an unknown environment, it is normal and instinctual for us to reject it. Rejection of the uncertain can lead you to feel exhausted and eventually demotivated. But, adaptability is the key to evolution. The fastest way to adapt is through acceptance.
You believe that you have control of your life. Our illusion of certainty relies on our perspective of ourselves. We see our lives not as they actually are, but as we perceive they are. So, in reality, you have far less control over your life than you think.
You might not understand what is happening or how you will get through it, so you might as well surrender. Surrender and accept the ambiguity. Remember, beautiful things can come out of the unexpected.
Focus on the present and what you can control
When uncertainty takes over your life, it can quickly spiral out into self-doubt and anxiety.
Doubt and anxiety usually arise because you are expecting a negative experience, so take a step back and breathe. You cannot predict the future, so focus on what is happening now. Shift your focus.
Remind yourself to stay in the present. Meditate or pick up yoga. Practice any activity that helps ground you in the present moment. If you find yourself really anxious about something, here are some simple grounding techniques that can help. Try sitting in a chair with your feet on the ground and focusing on the connection between you and the floor or holding something and focusing on the weight and how it feels in the palm of your hand. Even doing something that can release the accumulate adrenaline.
Create self-care routines
When dealing with moments of uncertainty, it is easy to forget your basic needs. You become stressed and disoriented, and thus your general well-being suffers.
Creating routines can help you cope with uncertainty. They provide some safety because they are actions that you can control. Some techniques that can help ground you to the present are: working out, connect to your breathing, and practicing gratitude.
Expect the unexpected and plan around it.
“Always account for variable change.” This quote is from the 2008 movie 21.
Though the quote was referring to gambling, it can be applied to life. So, how do you plan for the unexpected? You don’t. You plan for how you will react to the unexpected. Think about the moments of uncertainty that you have faced in your life and observe how you reacted. Ask yourself how you managed that situation, how did you create compassion for yourself, what self-care habits or healthy coping mechanisms you can rely on, and who you can reach out to?
Having a reaction plan in place will make you feel a lot more comfortable in moments of uncertainty.
Ask for help.
Going through uncertain times is difficult when you do it on your own. It is okay to ask others for help. Reach out to loved ones who understand your situation and can provide you the guidance and support that you need. If you do not have support, reach out to a licensed therapist and counselor for help.
Uncertainty is part of life. Sometimes it is vital. It allows us to see things in a different light and helps us learn and grow. According to Yale Professor Daeyeol Lee, it helps us learn, foster resilience, and develop a growth mindset– tools you need to succeed and prosper.
So, let go and make peace with the unknown.
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