The role of uncertainty in life
Uncertainty is all around us, never more so than today. The current COVID-19 pandemic has heightened uncertainty over the economy, employment, finances, relationships, and of course, physical and mental health. Yet as human beings, we crave security. We want to feel safe and have a sense of control over our lives and well-being. Fear and uncertainty can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, and powerless over the direction of your life. It can drain you emotionally and trap you in a downward spiral of endless “what-ifs” and worst-case scenarios about what tomorrow may bring.
We’re all different in how much uncertainty we can tolerate in life. Some people seem to enjoy taking risks and living unpredictable lives, while others find the randomness of life deeply distressing. But all of us have a limit. If you feel overwhelmed by uncertainty and worry, it’s important to know that you’re not alone; many of us are in the same boat at this time. It’s also important to realize that no matter how helpless and hopeless you feel, there are steps you can take to better deal with uncontrollable circumstances, alleviate your anxiety, and face the unknown with more confidence.
Learning to cope with uncertainty
While we may not wish to acknowledge it, uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. Very little about our lives is constant or totally certain, and while we have control over many things, we can’t control everything that happens to us. As the coronavirus outbreak has shown, life can change very quickly and very unpredictably. You may have suddenly become sick, lost your job, or found yourself struggling to put food on the table or keep your family safe. You may be anxious about when the pandemic will end or if life will ever return to normal.
To cope with all this uncertainty, many of us use worrying as a tool for trying to predict the future and avoid nasty surprises. Worrying can make it seem like you have some control over uncertain circumstances. You may believe that it will help you find a solution to your problems or prepare you for the worst. Maybe if you just agonize over a problem long enough, just think through every possibility, or read every opinion online, you’ll find a solution and be able to control the outcome. Unfortunately, none of this works. Chronic worrying can’t give you more control over uncontrollable events; it just robs you of enjoyment in the present, saps your energy, and keeps you up at night. But there are healthier ways to cope with uncertainty – and that begins with adjusting your mindset.
The following tips can help you to:
- Focus on controlling those things that are under your control
- Challenge your need for certainty.
- Learn to better tolerate, even embrace, the inevitable uncertainty of life.
- Reduce your anxiety and stress levels.