Living in the unknown is hard. It’s also really scary. We fear the unknown because we can’t predict the outcome. Not knowing what is going to happen next or what we’re going to do takes us out of our comfort zone.
Most people like to know what’s going on and to have a sense of control in their life. That’s why some people stay in uncomfortable situations because they know what to expect. You might know someone who won’t quit their job they hate because it’s familiar. Maybe your best friend stays in a relationship that doesn’t make her happy because not being in a relationship means not knowing what will happen.
Life is filled with uncertainty and these days a lot feels uncertain, like climate change, the election, and the coronavirus to name just a few. While many things remain outside of your control, there is one thing you do have control over and that’s your mindset.
Learning to cope with uncertainty is maybe one of the best gifts you can give yourself. John Allen Paulos says it best, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security”.
The following 3 key strategies can help you to feel more secure and in control:
- Identify where you have control in your life and make a list. You might be surprised to find many things remain outside of your control but don’t let that discourage you! For example, you can’t always control your health and there’s a possibility you might contract COVID-19. So, instead of worrying endlessly about the coronavirus, take action instead. Do things that are in your control such as, frequently washing your hands, wearing a face mask and minimizing contact with people outside of your home.
- Be kind to yourself. Take some time to sit with your feelings. Dealing with the unknown might mean you’re experiencing worry, stress, anxiety or anger. Tell yourself that whatever you’re feeling is NORMAL and OKAY. Everyone responds to the unknown in different ways. Remind yourself you’re only human and that you’re doing the best you can.
- Practice mindfulness. Give yourself at least 5 minutes each day to be mindful. Set a timer on your phone then close your eyes and focus on your breath. Notice your thoughts and your feelings. The goal isn’t to change your experience but rather to simply become aware of it. A mindfulness practice helps to reduce stress and anxiety, both of which are ramped up during times of uncertainty.
Living in the unknown is hard. Focus your energy on what’s within your control. Be kind to yourself and practice some self-care. Practice these strategies as much as possible, especially during times of heightened stress and uncertainty.
Christine Holmberg, LMFT