Coping with Uncertainty by Dr. Elizabeth Justine Devlin

Coping with Uncertainty

Uncertainty is the only certainty there is –John Allen Paulos

Living with uncertainty as a human being is one of the most trying and challenging concepts to cope and come to terms with. Whether that be existential crises about the meaning and purpose of ones life and what occurs after death, or day to day struggles and feeling a loss of control over ones life. The ambiguity of life can be overwhelming and as humans, we have a primal instinct for this need to control our lives, even though we know the only certain thing in life is uncertainty itself.

However, over the past several years, this anxiety and fear has been exemplified by a pandemic, global issues with war, and loss of control related to employment, losing jobs and businesses that effect entire communities. If you are experiencing feeling on edge, fear of the next catastrophic event occurring, and finding ways to cope with this uncertainty that may be unhealthy such as substance use, emotional numbing, isolation, then this blog may be helpful for you or someone you know who may be struggling with these symptoms. Below are some helpful tips for dealing with uncertainty.

1. Normalizing and Allowing Oneself to Feel the Emotion

Feeling and allowing yourself time to process, grieve, and feel the emotion of being on edge in these uncertain times is a healthy way to cope, despite societal beliefs at times that internalizing emotion is best because of the fear of being vulnerable. Internalizing emotion can lead to unhealthy ways of coping rather than being open and vocal with people you trust about your struggles and realizing that you are NOT ALONE. Giving oneself compassion instead of punishing yourself for experiencing these thoughts will be relieving in itself. Anxiety has a way of convincing the brain that there is no hope, and things will only get worse without evidence to suggest otherwise. In psychology we use the terms name it to tame it as a mechanism of externalizing and naming the emotion you feel so you can then cope with and express these feelings without providing them the ability to control your state of being.

2. Investing in Self-Care

In these uncertain times, the best medicine one can give oneself is investing in YOU. Taking time to do things you enjoy can restore the sense of normalcy in your life. COVID created a barrier for some to getting out and enjoying the activities you use to enjoy which has lead to increased rates of anxiety and depressive disorders. Finding a new normal and taking care of your body and mind are essential in these times. Some activities or treatments that could be beneficial other than seeking a therapist are getting massages, acupuncture, exercise, getting sun exposure, going on walks, and meditation. We all know the saying, pouring from an empty cup and many people have expressed that the global events have led to just that. Fill your cup, invest in self-care, invest in YOU, you are worthy.

3. Finding and Expressing Gratitude for the things you Have

When the world seems to be spinning and you find yourself captivated by this state of fear and anxiety, gratitude may be the last thing on your mind. However, we know according to research that when someone feels a loss of control, creating a list of gratitude for the things one has in life can offer a sense of stability and sanctuary from the world around them. Whether that be gratitude for having a job, roof over your head, ability to pay your bills, children, family, friends, having good health, or simply waking up and having another day and opportunity to experience life, its a reminder of the things we have rather than the emphasis on the things we may have lost. This may seem silly, but visually seeing the things you still have and are in control of is a reminder that things arent
all bad despite anxiety trying to convince us otherwise.

4. Awareness and Grounding Oneself when the Loss of Control Emerges

Have you ever started your day by asking yourself, How am I feeling today? or checked in with yourself throughout the day to gain insight into what emotions you may be experiencing? This auto-pilot mode that people have been dealing with over the past few years, just focused on survival, has the capacity to numb emotion and diminish awareness of how youre doing and what your needs are. Only when one becomes aware of their anxieties, fears, and trauma responses can one truly work on gaining insight into whats missing (i.e., self-care) and creating a daily routine that includes grounding oneself into the present moment. You see, anxiety only exists in the past or in the future about things that may happen or overanalyzing things that occurred in the past. Grounding is a skill that brings oneself into the present moment, away from the what-ifs and into the now.

Some forms of grounding are meditation (you can find guided meditations for beginners on youtube if this is something you are unfamiliar with). Also, other skills for grounding once you become aware of your state of being is diaphragmatic breathing, grounding yourself with items of comfort (sensory input is crucial in grounding). These items can be a smell thats comforting, something texturally you can hold that provides relief, or something as simple as taking a mindful walk and being attentive to the color of the leaves on the tree, things you smell like fresh cut grass, and observing the environment around you to get out of your head and into the world around you. You deserve and are worthy of self check-ins and providing yourself the ability to cope with and be immersed in the now rather than the what could bes

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