Uncertainty has become an indisputable part of life. Let’s talk about how we can deal with it better.
In the early months of 2020, our collective sense of certainty dissolved in what felt like a moment’s notice. The Covid-19 pandemic created a lot of change that was sudden and quickly evolving, leading to a perpetual state of uncertainty for many. It impacted several of us in many ways, inducing chaos, fear, frustration, and anxiety. However, the pandemic has presented an opportunity to raise awareness of uncertainty distress and how to best cope with it in the general population. So, let’s talk about what we know of ‘uncertainty’.
Uncertainty, lack of control, a shortage of answers—these nebulous unknowns, whether sweeping or mundane, are natural and very normal catalysts for anxiety. While anxiety is a natural physiological response, it induces worry about the future in us so we can plan and prepare ourselves for diverse situations. It increases our vigilance of surroundings and engages the fight-or-flight response. Yes, it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious when things are uncertain!
As a matter of fact, everyone often responds to uncertainty in different ways, based on individual, cultural, or community factors. Some people can “roll with the punches,” adapting to changes quickly, while others struggle with the unknown and are likely to experience changes in mood, sleep/appetite patterns, and coping. Evidently, all kinds of responses are absolutely normal. In this article we share ways to cope better with uncertainty
Tune out unproductive worrying
How does one differentiate between productive and unproductive worrying? Here’s the answer: Productive worries lead us to actions that give us more control over our environment for example, making sure there’s enough food in the house, whereas unproductive worries make us feel even more anxious and uncertain, for example staying up all night thinking about worst case scenarios, hence creating a vicious cycle. Just remember, if there’s nothing you can do about it, it’s not yours to worry over.
Create routines and develop habits
Creating our own routines gives us structure and control on a smaller, more individual scale, which acts a remedy for anxiety caused due to uncertainty. It is suggested that holding yourself accountable for things like daily exercise, household chores, or trying out new cooking recipes can make you feel more in charge of your life. There is no right or wrong routine, but choosing a few things and sticking to them help more than you realise.
Practice perspective check
As you reflect and list your thoughts about what is uncertain, it is also important to consider whether these thoughts are realistic or not. It is common for thoughts to unintentionally become distorted in various ways that can fuel distress and anxiety. Some common examples of this include:
a. Catastrophizing: “Nothing will ever be the same”
b. Jumping to Conclusions: “This pandemic is never going to end”
c. Polarised Thinking: “I didn’t have time to call my family, so I am a bad person”
Practice mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness is active and intentional awareness. You can exercise mindfulness when simply sitting at the kitchen table itself, for example. Consider taking a few deep breaths, and then take a few minutes to identify 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you smell, 2 things you feel, and 1 thing you taste. Activities like these train you to divert and manage racing thoughts efficiently while staying grounded in the present when unsettling uncertainty rises because the opposite of uncertainty is not certainty; it’s presence.
Keep faith and focus on gratitude
Finding the silver lining in an uncomfortable spot is a vital part of practicing gratitude. It remarkably transforms anxiety into acceptance. You may not always know the why, how, and when of things, but you can reframe your perspective by being thankful for what you do have and having faith that things will work out for the good eventually. During this quarantine, for example, we spent more time with loved ones, finally got the time to pursue long-lost hobbies, etc.
Look out for shared experiences
There are times when uncertainties are unique and specific to your life, while there are also instances where uncertainties are applicable to numerous people. In this case, it can be helpful to talk with someone to process as well as connect over shared experiences.
Accept what you can't control
This is easier said than done, admittedly, but acceptance is a big step toward regaining peace of mind. Paradoxically, obsessive consumption of information—grasping for certainty—can make things worse, for example, constantly refreshing your news and social media. This only adds to anxiety. People who excel at managing uncertainty aren’t afraid to acknowledge what’s causing it. They know that the only thing they really control is the process through which they reach their decisions.