We are living in uncertain times. This is a universal and perennial truth, but it sure does seem to have been exacerbated in recent history, with COVID, and now the Russian hostile invasion of Ukraine, with threat looming for a global confrontation.
If you are feeling anxious, worried or even afraid, it is OK. You are not alone, and it is understandable. Most of us are feeling similarly, to varying degrees. Humans are creatures of habit. When things go as planned, we feel in control. But when life throws a curveball, it can leave us feeling anxious and stressed. And uncertainty, as I have argued in talk after talk, is the trigger for that anxiety or stress experience.
Findings from the APA’s Stress in America Survey highlight that more than three in five people (63%) agree that uncertainty about what the next few months will be like causes them stress, and around half (49%) said that the coronavirus pandemic has made planning for their future feel impossible.
So, though research and my own experience as a coach and counselor shows that people react differently to uncertainty, the truth is that no one can avoid the unexpected and that EVERYONE can adopt a few mental health strategies to rise above the uncertainty back to – at the very least – inner peace.
Here are my top 5 strategies for coping with uncertain times:
1. Reflect on past successes.
It is so easy to get caught up in the moment of uncertainty and discredit how far you have come or how far the world has come: but do not forget who you are, nor the resilience of the people and states around you! Chances are you’ve overcome stressful events in the past—and you survived! And guess what? SO has the planet! Give yourself – give us ALL – some credit, or just the benefit of the doubt. To shore yourself up: reflect on what you did during that event (one in which you overcame, or succeeded) that was helpful and what you might like to do differently this time.
2. Limit exposure to news and to social media.
When we’re stressed about something, it can be hard to look away (it’s called “Doom Scrolling” for a reason, right?). But compulsively checking the news only keeps you wound up. Try to limit your check-ins and avoid the news during vulnerable times of day, such as right before work or right before bedtime.
3. When you DO watch the news, do your best to avoid dwelling on things you can’t control.
When uncertainty strikes, many people immediately imagine worst-case scenarios. Get out of the habit of ruminating on negative events and do your best not to “Catastrophize.” An attack does not automatically mean we are all going to die (I remind my dear husband of this very fact often). Instead: focus on what IS in your control – which is to focus on your perspective and on what you CAN do. There are actions you can take that are better than whining or worrying – and I say that with respect. Take them, they will boost your confidence in success.
4. Seek support from those you trust.
Many people isolate themselves when they’re stressed or worried, but social support is important, so reach out to family and friends. Ask for help. If you’re having trouble managing stress and coping with uncertainty on your own, find a therapist or – ask yourself if it is time to consider coaching. Coaching changed the way I think for life. If this is the right time for you – and you are ready not only to “cope” but to thrive, schedule a consultation with me: https://calendly.com/kereneldad/consultation
5. ABOVE ALL: Be easy on yourself and kind to yourself.
It is a tough time. It is hard for you and for everyone. Some people are better at dealing with uncertainties than others, so don’t beat yourself up if your tolerance for unpredictability is lower than a friend’s. Remind yourself that it might take time for the stressful situation to resolve and be patient with yourself in the meantime. I assure you, you are doing way better than you think.
I hope these tips have been helpful. Wishing you all good mental health.