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How to deal with uncertainty

I was thrown back into work on Monday with very little notice. Luckily, I have been planning and implementing procedures during my time off, and although it felt a little like … no, you can't work … no, you can't work (and we don't know when you can) … yes, you can work, off you go … I was ready, and so were some of my clients. However, there was still a little bit of me that was uncertain about how the new COVID-19 secure workplace procedures were going to work in reality and not just on paper.

The events of this year so far have made us all familiar with the idea of uncertainty. None of us was likely to predict the outbreak of a global pandemic that would change our lives beyond recognition, and not knowing how long this was going to last, or the long-term implications it will bring, has left us in emotional turmoil.

But, worrying about a sense of uncertainty isn't something new. Setting up my business ten years ago was a period of uncertainty, as was quitting my full-time job to do this instead. How did I know for sure it was going to work?

Many of us thrive on knowing exactly what we are doing in the days, weeks, and even years ahead. We like to plan for our futures, whether that's a weekend away, or a change of career – we have an idea of what we want to do with our lives.

And so not knowing where we stand – whether in our career, relationship, or financial situation – can throw up all sorts of anxious feelings. How do we learn to live with this, and even flourish in times of unknown?

Ancestral coding

First of all, it's important to understand how our feelings of security impact us and where our desire for control comes from. From an evolutionary aspect, people who were in control of their environment had a higher chance of survival. Therefore, we have gained an intrinsic need to achieve and maintain a sense of control in our lives. This inner coding means that when there's uncertainty, we can often experience feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, hopelessness and helplessness. In fact, studies have suggested that a sense of control is the most important aspect of a person's mental wellbeing.

So the key then is to look at how we can establish a sense of power, even when the unknown seems overwhelming. The experts suggest being mindful, looking at what's important, and taking positive action steps can all help. There's also the idea that if we can train our minds to look at the unknown as an opportunity for personal growth, then we can change the way we approach things.

Feel more secure

If you are looking for ways to feel more confident, here are some expert tips:

Be gentle with yourself: When we are feeling insecure, we tend to be over-critical of ourselves. We listen to our inner voice telling us we are falling short, or failing in some way. But this isn't the time to listen to the chatterbox in your head, it's time for a little self-compassion and treating ourselves the way we would treat a good friend. Remind yourself that you are doing your best and note down all the things you are grateful for. Our brains are really receptive in the morning, so looking at your 'thankful list' as part of your morning routine can set you up for the day ahead.

Journal your feelings: In times of uncertainty, you can start to feel overwhelmed by your worries, so try writing it down to help you to process these thoughts and feelings. Remember that's it's ok to have these sorts of emotions – don't beat yourself up if you need an outlet. Getting it all down on paper helps to separate it as a 'feeling', not an identity. It's a great way to remind yourself that your worries do not define you, they are just there.

Create daily routines and habits: One of the easiest ways to create a sense of control is to incorporate rituals that will benefit your mind and body into your day. Perhaps you could try adding 15 minutes of stretching into your morning routine or take a few slow, mindful breaths before going to sleep every night.

Prioritise your health: Getting a balance in your life will help to maintain your health and wellbeing. If you're feeling more stressed or anxious than usual, then it's time to start looking after yourself. You could aim to get a good night sleep, eat well, move your body, enjoy relaxing activities, or spend some time in nature and with the people you love.

Find the opportunity: The only thing certain in life is change. It never goes away, no matter how much we want things to stay the same. So it's time to accept this and look for the potential in it. There will always be parts of change that are out of your control, for example, the state of the economy, the behaviour of the pandemic, or the security of your job. However, there is also a chance to stop and reflect. Look at where you are placing your energy and directing your thoughts. A crisis may bring challenges, but it also brings opportunities. For me, I had the chance to learn new things via online courses, add some useful pages to my website, which will help my clients, and spend some quality time with loved ones.

Check-in and reflect to see if there were parts of lockdown you enjoyed, like spending quality time with your family. Things that you would like to continue doing in the future, or something that you started dreaming about that you could start working towards achieving.

If you really struggle with change, then an excellent book to read is 'Who moved my Cheese' by Dr Spencer Johnson.

Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later

– Bob Goff

If you are struggling with stress, anxiety and change and want to find out how you can get a FREE coaching session with me, get in touch to find out more.

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