“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” – John Allen Paulos
Humans naturally do not like uncertainty, especially if we have always been living in a predictable environment. Unfortunately, that’s not where we are today in the middle of a global crisis and pandemic with Covid-19. The uncertainty and streess that we are experiencing is not only the fear of becoming ill ourselves but also concern about loved ones, loss of income, changes to the way we live our lives and changes in the way we do things.
Uncertainty creates fear, panic, worry, anxiety, and all kinds of emotions, and a seeming need for certainty can contribute to low mood and even depression. The question is how do we deal with uncertainty?
Coping with uncertainty is an emotional skill that comes with practice. Here today, I’m sharing some practical steps that might help.
Recognise and acknowledge your emotions:
Be aware and acknowledge how you feel. If you are scared, acknowledge that you are scared. Even when you are in panic mode, acknowledge that. There is no prize or benefit in pretending your emotions do not exist. And it’s ok to feel these emotions. It’s ok if you are the head of the family and have people depending on you and you are now feeling scared. It doesn’t make you irresponsible or incompetent. Awareness is the first step, but what is important is how you respond to it.
The second step is to know what triggers you to experience those emotions. What are your panic buttons? What makes you feel in such a way? So much negativity around you? Over analysing the information and rumination causing your mind to spiral downwards? Asking too many ‘what if’ questions? At times like this, consider spending less time reading the news, just know what you need to know and why. For example, social distancing so that we can flatten the curve. What is the government’s order on new lockdown rules? This is not the time for you to find all the conspiracy theories available and start analysing who’s the culprit, it’ll drive you crazy with uncertainty.
We can never fully rely on being blessed with abundant resources. Our true success lies in doing our best with whatever we have. Change is constant and uncertainties are an inherent part of the change.
“Change is all about motion, motion is all about uncertainty and we are deeply uncomfortable with uncertainty.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Our society and way of living doesn’t usually prepare us to face such uncertainty. We are taught to make predictable steps that minimise uncertainty. However, life has its own weird ways and you can never expect to be in full control. Tell yourself every single day that you are lucky to be alive. Being alive is all the certainty that you are ever likely to have. Everything else can and most likely will change. If not today, then soon. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but train your mind to face every single day with no guarantees. When you can tolerate the ambiguity of life, you’ll start to feel so much better.
Try to maintain a positive attitude:
Maintaining a positive and forward attitude and taking control of your actions towards anything that happens in life, will give you some peace of mind.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a good start. It’s not exactly positive thinking or trying to fake things up, but purely training your mind to see what are the things that you can be grateful for all the time including during adversity. It is so easy to be grateful when things are great but hard to stay grateful during uncertain times. The answer is a matter of perspective. List out at least 10 things that you are grateful for. It could be something like this:
• It’s a beautiful morning and I am still alive.
• I am grateful that I am still breathing and oxygen is free.
• I am grateful that I have something to eat for breakfast.
Read this article for more on this topic: The Science of Gratitude and How to Apply It.
Optimism is also the effort that you need to put in to find opportunity in every challenge that you are facing. It helps to bounce ideas with others who are on the same page i.e. looking for opportunities.
“Human spirit is the ability to face the uncertainty of the future with curiosity and optimism.” – Bernard Beckett
Another way to seek optimism is to change from a pessimistic perspective ie PPP – Permanent, Pervasive, and Powerless to TIE – Temporary, Isolated & Effort. For example in this case of Covid 19, instead of seeing this event as the end of the world and we are permanently doomed, read up all the good news on vaccine discovery and the number of people who have recovered. China has managed to close down the hospitals that were used to treat patients. With this good news, we know that there is hope for recovery and whatever that we are facing now is temporary. Temporary lockdown and temporary Movement Control Order. I am not suggesting we ignore important matters that we need to be healthily concerned about, but that we can find progressive aspects of current life too.
Is it pervasive? Yes, if we don’t exercise precaution, but if we do the necessary steps as advised by WHO, like isolating ourselves, social distancing, and suspend all our travel plans and mass gathering, it can be isolated.
Instead of feeling powerless, focus on things that you can do at this time. Don’t feel powerless just because you have to cancel a long-scheduled family holiday to your favourite destination. Instead, choose to make an effort and do something about it. Negotiate with the airline and hotels for postponement and have another holiday to look forward to perhaps. Focus your effort on what you can do now instead of what you cannot do.
Uncertainty can be overwhelming, however, don’t let that affect you critically, simply take it in your stride and keep moving forward.
Learn to meditate and do it regularly:
Life is a verb. It’s always moving and changing. What we get to do is expand our capacity for and understanding of the wide variety of experiences it can give us.
“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” – Erich Fromm
Meditation gives you the gift of expanding your mind to do that. It softens and expands your edges. Then when life flexes and changes, you will not be thrown off course. A research by Cambridge University has also shown that meditation and mindfulness can have positive effects on both your physical and mental health, especially when things are hectic.
Ramp up your meditation skills and learn self-hypnosis too: Grab your free self-hypnosis roadmap here.
Don’t let anxiety and fear take over your mind:
Don’t dwell on problems, rather dwell on solutions. Dwelling on solutions means asking yourself, what are the options? What things are in your control? What are you capable of? What resources do you have? What do you need to let go of (in other words stop worrying about)? Whom can you turn to for help? Whom can you collaborate with? You might think of some other useful questions too.
“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
But try not to unnecessarily question what is going to happen tomorrow or the next day because the uncertainty can cause anxiety, and then fears and thoughts bombard our minds with occurrences that may or may not happen. The importance of living each day to its fullest, without worrying about tomorrow can help to erase the fear of uncertainty.
Make yourself relevant:
This is perhaps the most important lesson that uncertainties tend to teach us. We can prioritise our efforts towards the betterment of society and have the will to leave a larger impact on the World.
“A time of uncertainty, of not knowing exactly where we’re headed, or what kind of choice to make is a Zen moment.” – Brenda Shoshanna
Change “uncertainty” to “opportunity”, or look at it as a chance to grow and develop, it’ll change the way you feel about the changes happening. Not all changes are good when they occur, but YOU can DECIDE to make it good. Is it a good time to learn something new? Why not? A Yale University study on cognition shows that uncertainty boosts learning. That is a good thing.
Even with this present uncertainty, and considering our need to always think about survivability and supporting ourselves first, the concept of patience is still a key factor.
“The quality of your life is directly related to how much uncertainty you can comfortably handle.” – Tony Robbins
With patience, you can overcome what life throws at you no matter how server the repercussions are. Time possesses the most astounding ability to heal the deepest of wounds and diminish the most unpleasant memories. Maybe this is why they say time is the best healer.
Making things happen is hard, it’s especially hard in a world full of uncertainty. But time like these, we should be sharing things more, because we can all learn to have a bit more empathy towards each other, and importantly ourselves.
“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”- Erich Fromm
Empathy refers to our ability to feel what other people are feeling and to understand their behaviours from these feelings as well. It’s time to have empathy towards the unfortunate souls who are infected, the medical front-liners who are putting their best effort to manage the rise in the number of patients, the family of the medical front liners involved in the mission and there are other people who rely on daily wages who are definitely affected by this. Also, have empathy towards the senior citizens who are also in need of food supplies, that we don’t need to hog and clear the shelves on the supermarket out of panic.
Read this article on 8 Scientific Ways to Improve and Increase Your Empathy.
Remember we are all in this together. When we persevere through the difficult times, we develop deeper bonds of trust and understanding.
There is in fact no life without uncertainty, so we need to embrace beneficial changes and limit the potential for negative ones. Practicing mindfulness, or self-hypnosis and planning a little at a time, can help to grow confidence. Don’t worry about making mistakes so long as you learn something from them. We are all prone to error, so do the best you can as often as you can, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Fix what you can, when and if you can, and move forward. That’s life.
What’s life without a few bumps along the journey, we can never truly savour the taste of success unless we have dealt with a few adversities in our life, also it helps us remember that nothing is last forever not even adversities.
“Hope — Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us…A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.” – Barack Obama
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