Moving forward in the face of uncertainty
We experience uncertainty every day of our lives. It’s part of what makes us human. Without uncertainty, there would be no surprises in life. We’d know the outcome of every movie, or the contents of a birthday gift before opening it. It’s part of what gives us a sense of freedom and the ability to make our own choices. In small doses, uncertainty can make life exciting.
But since COVID-19, it may feel like nothing is certain anymore – our health and the health of loved ones, job security/finances, or even previously mundane and predictable things like where to buy toilet paper. It is normal to experience some level of stress or anxiety when life occasionally becomes unpredictable. But with an unprecedented situation like COVID-19, the feeling of uncertainty can increase to the point that our normal ways of coping no longer seem as effective. And unfortunately, uncertainty doesn’t care how we feel. It gives us no choice but to keep going in spite of its presence – to keep being a parent, a sibling, a caregiver, a son/daughter, a co-worker, or friend. Fortunately, we all can learn new ways to manage stress and the feelings of uncertainty, or different ways to utilize the tools we already have.
Below are some online resources to manage uncertainty and the feelings associated with it. A wide variety of strategies are presented, so explore the ones that feel right. Here are three of them:
Focus on the things that are currently stable and certain in our lives, and things we can control.
When uncertainty makes us feel out of control, it can help to focus on the things that are still stable in our lives. Everyone has access to different resources, but here are a few examples:
- Ask for support from stable relationships like a reliable friend, co-worker or family member.
- Practice routines and rituals that help us feel normal, such as eating regular meals, waking up at the same time each day, getting dressed in the morning, exercising, practicing our faith rituals on days of worship, or even continuing to “meet” with friends for coffee.
- Engage in activities that provide us with a sense of control over a situation (good hand hygiene, social distancing, wearing a mask).
For more specific information about how to implement these and other strategies, please access the links below:
Plan for what we can.
When we become anxious about something that may happen in the future, being proactive and developing a plan can help to decrease that anxiety. When putting together a plan:
- Try to focus on the concrete issues you can actually problem-solve or change.
- Don’t get stuck on finding the “perfect” option.
- Once the plan is developed, put it aside and access it only to update it or when it's ready to implement.
For more specific information about how to implement this strategy as well as other tips, please access the links below:
Manage our feelings in the moment.
Worry, stress or anxiety can feel like a series of thoughts or images that can take us in many different directions. In times of significant stress, feelings can quickly escalate and make us feel frozen or even panicked. A few things that can help:
- Practice identifying the different types of worry (like worrying about current versus hypothetical/future situations). Doing this can help us to respond more effectively.
- Try strategies like muscle relaxation, mindfulness and deep breathing to manage those in-the-moment emotional and physical sensations associated with worry and stress.
For more specific information about how to learn and implement these suggestions and other useful tips, please access the links below: