Coping With Uncertainty in Life

What should we do when the world feels out of control or our direction in life seems uncertain?

Uncertainty is at times a normal part of life, but as human beings, we often long for certainty and information about the future. We often like clear directions for where we are heading in the future, prefer robust labels in different groups or enjoy stable plans for our week.

Our brains can perceive uncertainty as a threat, and naturally, try to protect us by limiting our capacity to concentrate on anything other than establishing certainty. Uncertainty can often feel like “ambiguous loss”, that can reflect from lack of closure, anxiety, sadness or a time of loss. Living with a lot of uncertainty can be difficult. Accepting and being aware of your feelings about uncertainty can help in managing them. Fortunately, there are different strategies for coping with uncertainty.

“Our brains can perceive uncertainty as a threat and try to protect us by focusing only on establishing certainty.”

Attend to the present moment; the opposite of uncertainty is not a certainty, but a presence. Alternatively, to imagining a frightening and undefined future in our thoughts, we can try to focus on the moment and attend to what’s happening in our inner world, here in the present. Although everything would feel out of control, it is still possible to choose what to pay attention towards.

Explore healthy ways how to comfort yourself. It is required to feel safe and secure if we want to stay flexible in different life scenarios. When feeling insecure or uncertain, we can easily crave rewards and temptations for a comforting dopamine rush. For these moments it can be helpful to be aware of your healthy but comforting ways to calm yourself down. Is your way of finding comfort perhaps a call with a friend, a nap, good music, or a small run?

Listen to yourself and your emotions. This is vital when dealing with uncertainty. When we allow space for different feelings, we make it easier to continue with them and eventually move on from them.

Recognize that uncertainty can be a container of other feelings. These emotions can be anything between, for instance, self-doubt, anger, guilt or a difficult sense of loss. Again, creating room for these emotions can be helpful. 

Try making small decisions whenever you can. Even small decisions about your day can reassure you of being in control even when everything else would feel uncontrollable. Focusing on simple things and easy decisions can relieve tension away from uncertainty.

Look for moments of pleasure and joy and treasure those.

Consider talking to a professional. As uncertainty is a part of life, there are many qualified professionals, that can help in tolerating and managing these feelings if needed. Never hesitate in reaching out for professional help. 

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