Most people do not like uncertainty but we’d better get used to it because it is one thing that will never change. Life is full of uncertainty and there are many things that are out of our control. You might be feeling anxious just reading what I’ve just written.
I hate uncertainty and my mind usually defaults to the typical “what if” questions in an effort to increase certainty in my life. Sadly, overthinking and worrying just increases your anxiety rather than helping you to cope with uncertainty.
So how do you cope in an ever changing world that presents you with uncertainty on a daily basis?
Developing inner strength
When you develop a strong inner core, you believe in yourself more. You tell yourself that you will do the best that you can whatever circumstances are thrown your way. You can’t change the circumstances that will be thrown your way but you can encourage yourself by talking to yourself in certain ways. Positive coping statements help and remind us that we have come through so much adversity already and why would that be different now?
Positive coping statements such as “this will pass; I will find a way through; I will cross that bridge when I get there and I have far more coping skills than I realise” can all help to increase your resolve and in resilience to manage whatever life throws at you.
In an ever changing world, we have all been through COVID together, so give yourself a pat on the back for that one. No doubt you have experienced heartbreak in your life – that’s a tough one and really hard to overcome. I am sure there are other adversities that you have had to deal with in your life and look at you you’re still here in one piece… mostly… I hope.
The anxiety equation
Anxiety is a product of overestimating what we fear and underestimating our ability to cope. So if you have social anxiety you may believe that you will be the laughing stock of the group you have to be in and that you will run away in tears with your tail between your legs. The reality is probably not as bad as you have anticipated.
Our brains have this naughty habit of trying to freak us out. Really it’s true. Our brains worry as a way to try and stay safe but there seems to be an evolutionary fault with this process. Worrying or rumination does not solve the problem it just marinates you in more stress.
Real vs hypothetical worry
When you catch yourself worrying, remind yourself that worry in itself is wasted emotional energy. You can also ask yourself whether what you’re worrying about is a real worry or a hypothetical worry. A real worry is happening now and you will be able to have some control over the outcome – for example your dishwasher has broken down or you have lost your car keys and need to leave the house. You can do something about this by calling in a dishwasher experts and with regards to your keys you can search the house.
Hypothetical worry on the other hand has not yet happened and as such there is not much that you can do about a situation that has not yet arisen. If the situation that you are worrying about has not happened yet, try to dismiss it and focus on something else. Of course there are a few exceptions, for example if you are about to take a ski trip and you worry that you might break your leg, you could get travel insurance. As you have not yet broken your leg (and hopefully won’t), try to focus on something else once you have your travel insurance in the bag.
Our brains send us a lot of scary thoughts and many of them are just based on our fears and insecurities and not on fact or reality. Getting into the habit of challenging and analysing your thoughts rather than believing them verbatim is a very important mental skill. I laugh at some of my thoughts and want to myself why on earth my brain has sent me one that is completely useless. For example self criticism – it’s not helpful and it makes me feel bad about myself. Learn to dismiss self critical thoughts and also learn to dismiss thoughts that are catastrophic in nature because catastrophizing is another source of unnecessary anxiety. Often the worst does not happen but our brains set up the scenario as some sort of practise for us. It’s nonsensical and you should just dismiss these ridiculous thoughts.
Mind reading is an error in thinking
Mind reading is another error in thinking where we assume that we know what somebody else is thinking. For example you get into work and say hi to someone and they completely ignore you. Your brain might immediately mind read and assume that this person is mad at you or that you’ve done something wrong. Now unless that person turns to you and confirms that they are mad at you, it is all conjecture. Be careful of mind reading because it often leads us down the wrong path and if you do not have the facts or the evidence to support your thinking try to dismiss it and move on to something else.
We spend far too much time up in our heads and not enough time living our lives. Learning to live every day to the best of your ability means letting go of the worry especially the things you cannot control.
Simplify your life
We’re all in this boat together and although there are people with dubious intentions, living your life in an honest and pure way will help you to feel calm and face uncertainty. A balanced attitude is incredibly important when everything around us is so unbalanced.
There is constant negativity, wars going on around the world, homelessness, immigration issues, poverty and so many more problems. It’s important to buffer yourself from the negativity in the world. This doesn’t mean turning away from the problems but it does mean limiting the time that you spend focused on all the bad things in this world.
What you focus on will become your reality. What do you focus on every day? If there is a lot of worry then you will no doubt be anxious and possibly depressed. If you focus on solutions you will feel more empowered. If you’re indecisive you might feel hopeless. Making decisions is better than procrastinating. We all have to take risks in life and wouldn’t it be sad to look back at the end of your life and feel that you did not take the chances that were there? You might end up wondering how your life could have been if you’d lived with a few more risks.
In summary, in an ever changing world, develop your inner strength and believe in yourself more. You are more resilient than you give yourself credit for. Self doubt will always creep in but be brave and take risks and make decisions. Try to be kind and compassionate even though the world will often not reciprocate. Don’t overthink and learn mindfulness which involves really being present in your life and tuning into your senses – what can you see, hear, touch, taste and smell?
We often mind read and assume that others are so different to us but at the end of the day when you really get down to it, all that most of us want is to feel loved and appreciated and to feel that we have a safe place in this world.
Life has become far more complicated than it needs to be so try not to tie yourself up in knots and learn to simplify your life. Be careful of the what if thinking, remind yourself that it’s not based on facts and refuse to focus on your brains scaremongering.
Ultimately all we can do is live one day at a time, to our best to put good energy out there and to take the next right step that will lead us in the direction we want to go