Uncertainty is a part of life. Worrying about the future and being unsure about what life holds is normal. Like many things, your mindset is the key to coping with facing the unknown with confidence and successfully tackling what comes your way. But is recent uncertainty triggering your anxiety and making it harder than usual for you to manage it? We break down uncertainty and anxiety, and what you can do about it in these unusual times.
The role of uncertainty in life
We are all able to tolerate uncertainty differently. Whilst some of us seem to thrive in unpredictable situations, there are those who find uncertainty very distressing. For those who suffer with anxiety, uncertainty can lead to feeling stressed, anxious, and powerless. Learning to deal with uncertainty with coping techniques that work for us is an important part of managing the everyday uncertainty we all face. This comes more naturally to some of us than others, and for those living with anxiety, more robust coping techniques are often necessary.
Learning to cope with uncertainty and anxiety during the pandemic
Although uncertainty is all around us every day, the last couple of years has thrown a spanner in the works for everyone. This is a situation that none of us saw ourselves in, and for someone living with anxiety, recent events have made it more difficult to overcome anxiety. Here are some of the first things that may help, when uncertainty triggers your uncertainty:
- Avoid using worry as a way of predicting or controlling the future – it’s rarely accurate and only leads to more stress and deeper anxiety.
- Focus instead on knowing what you can control and working on those things.
- Actively challenge your need for control and certainty with questions like “Why do I feel the need to control this situation?” and “Will worrying about this, change the outcome?”
- Practice managing uncertainty by embracing or at least tolerating unpredictable situations. Use statements like “Whatever happens, I will be able to deal with it” and “I am strong and capable and am ready for what the future holds.”
- Avoid things that exacerbate your anxiety unnecessarily, such as watching too much news, drinking coffee, or not getting enough sleep.
- Invest in habits that reduce your stress and anxiety such as exercising, eating well, getting enough rest, or seeing your counsellor.
Although each of these techniques may helpful for your anxiety at any time, the pandemic has perhaps lumped you with an added level of uncertainty that has fueled your anxiety and made these tried and tested strategies less effective for you. This doesn’t mean you should stop practicing these helpful techniques. On the contrary, you should continue to use them, and bolster their efficacy by adding in some new strategies, if and when you need them. Here’s how:
1. Schedule an appointment with your counsellor or psychologist: The best thing you can do for your anxiety, especially if a heightened level of uncertainty is triggering your anxiety, is to get ahead of it. As soon as you feel your anxiety worsening, or are faced with a heightened level of uncertainty, it’s time to speak with your counsellor and air your concerns. Not only will speaking about your concerns help you to feel better, but it will help you to feel more in control. In addition, your counsellor will be able to help you with strategies you can begin using immediately, to tackle your growing anxiety and the uncertainty you’re currently facing.
2. Take proactive action over the things you can control: Being proactive is an excellent way to deal with uncertainty, as it places the power back in your hands and reassures you of your capabilities. If you’re worried about losing your job in the current pandemic, for example, you can speak to a financial advisor, call Centrelink to discuss your options for when or if it happens, speak to family and friends about your concerns, tighten your belt and begin budgeting for the future, have a conversation with your employer about what their plans are, or begin looking for another job. Although there may be no need to take any action today, having a plan for the future will help to reduce your stress and know that if the worst happens, you are well prepared.
3. Tackle your emotions head-on: Although you may already be using the strategy of challenging your emotions and reactions, the current level of uncertainty you’re facing may mean you need to take things up a notch. It’s easy for our emotions to creep up on us when we’re feeling heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. So, make time each day to jot down what emotions you’re feeling, and challenge the negative or pessimistic worst-case-scenarios playing on your mind. Be sure to discuss these with your counsellor at your next appointment, so that they can assist you with managing these.
4. Shift your attention: It can be hard to challenge your need for certainty, and for someone living with anxiety, the ‘need to know’ feeling of trying to control your circumstances is almost second nature. If you’re struggling with the need to control everything, one helpful coping technique is to shift your focus to something more productive. This might mean:
- Focusing on your breathing and grounding yourself in the present moment
- Focus on solvable problems that you can control, such as your diet, exercise, getting enough rest, budgeting and managing your finances, planning your work or study schedule in advance, or sticking to a routine that incorporates all of these things.
- Put more energy into things that make you feel good, from getting outside for a walk, to cleaning the house, visiting friends, cooking, watching feel-good shows on TV, reading a good book, playing sports, or taking a relaxing bath – whatever feels good for you.
- Avoid triggers such as watching the news, or scrolling through social media stories – this is especially important during the current global pandemic as bad-news stories are rife.
If you find uncertainty triggering your anxiety, it’s important to get in touch with your counsellor as soon as possible. Here at Integrated Health Specialists, we have helped many people to manage their anxiety, by identifying their triggers and teaching the tools to deal with anxiety when it does arise. From regular counselling sessions to our specially designed, one-on-one, 8-week program for tackling anxiety and taking back control of your life, we can help you to better manage your anxiety, and begin to move forward in a more positive way. Reach out to us today to find out more.