In this era of COVID-19, we’re all living with uncertainty every single day. We may be having thoughts like…
Will the grocery be out of what I need?
Am I going to get the virus?
What if I can’t get a job?
Will my graduation / wedding / vacation be cancelled?
In this post, I’ll talk about why uncertainty is uncomfortable, how to accept it, and how to tell the difference between planning and worrying.
What makes uncertainty uncomfortable?
For the most part, human beings prefer routine. Our bodies and minds work better when we have some predictability in our daily lives.
Change can be hard, and people need time to process it. We to think things through and explore our feelings. Sometimes that takes days, weeks, even months and years.
So when change happens quickly and unexpectedly, our thoughts and feelings can spiral out of control. We might start experiencing anxiety, anger, helplessness, and fear. We may have thoughts like…
What other changes will come from this change?
If a change this big can happen this quickly, what else is in store?
What if this is the catalyst to my entire life falling apart?
If that last one sounds familiar, see my post on catastrophizing.
If we’ve all learned one thing from the Coronavirus, it’s that life is unpredictable. You can think ahead all you want, but the universe can throw a curveball at any time.
Uncertainty is unsettling. And yet, it always has been, and always will be, part of life. The sooner you can accept that, the easier life becomes.
How exactly do you accept uncertainty? Here are some ideas.
Return to the Present
When you notice yourself trying to anticipate what will happen in the weeks, months, years ahead… pause. Bring yourself back to the present. You can’t time travel, and you don’t have a crystal ball. All you can do is be here in this moment, and cope with what’s in front of you.
Go on a walk or run. Do yoga or an exercise class. Take a hot shower. Laugh. Have sex. Do just about anything that takes you out of your head and into your body.
Adopt a Mantra
Choose a helpful saying you can use when you notice yourself worrying or fortune-telling. Here are some ideas:
- Que sera, sera / Whatever will be, will be
- Let go and let God
- I’ve survived change before, and I’ll survive this, too
- I can only do what I can do with what’s in front of me
- The Serenity Prayer
- I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it
What about planning for the future?
There’s a difference between planning for the future and worrying about the future.
Planning for the future involves identifying and taking specific steps that will help you down the road. When you plan for the future, you’re focused on things that are within your control.
Worrying about the future involves ruminating on all of the possibilities about what could happen and how you would handle it. When you worry, you thoughts get tangled up in things you can’t control.
Even though worrying might feel productive, it isn’t. It can increase feelings of anxiety and panic.
Do YOU have any tips for how to accept uncertainty? Leave them in the comments below. And if you liked this article, press “like” or share it with someone who could use it.
Wishing you health and safety,
Rebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who provides compassionate tele-therapy. She helps folks heal from anxiety, depression, people-pleasing and burnout using their strengths and inner wisdom.