3 Keys to Coping with the Stress of Uncertainty
My last blog post – Lessons in Uncertainty – touched a nerve with a lot of people. It seems many of you can relate to the stress that uncertainty can create.
Since I wrote it, I received and replied to so many comments, emails and other responses, and have thought a lot more about the stress that uncertainty creates. I realized there were three particular things that have been especially helpful to me in coping with uncertainty in the moment, and want to share those with you.
Life is full of uncertainty – yet it feels more real or intense at certain times.
In business there are many opportunities for stressful feelings of uncertainty to surface. You might feel insecure in your job, maybe you worry that your boss doesn’t like you or you’ve heard rumors about layoffs. You might not know where your next client is coming from, or how you’re going to meet your sales target, or how a new project is going be received. The list is endless.
Close to my heart right now, of course, is the business of caregiving – being responsible for the care of a loved one who is ailing in some way and no longer able to take care of him or herself. If there’s any situation that’s fraught with uncertainty, it’s that. Things change all the time. That’s pretty much the only thing you can be certain of!
The three key ideas that I’m finding especially helpful when dealing with the stress of uncertainty are:
I aim to accept, without judgement, how I’m feeling in any given moment. Acknowledging that it is hard, that I’m feeling upset, distracted, angry, confused, inadequate, is important. Whatever it is that I’m feeling, it is OK. This is not always easy, for sure, but it is key.
Acceptance means in that moment I don’t have to change anything – there’s nothing I have to improve or do better. That in itself, paradoxically, can be the mindset shift that helps the most. We have so many ideas about what we “should” or “should not” be feeling, which only end up layering one stress on top of another. We can end up worrying about worrying about worrying about worrying…
Some thoughts that help me remember to accept myself however and whatever I am feeling in the moment are:
“There’s nothing I have to change,” “I am free to feel what I feel,” “I am free to feel all my emotions,” “I am free to be me,” and “I am free to be myself.”
I bring my attention to my support. I notice that I do have support – literally, physically. The ground is under me. If I’m sitting, the chair is right there supporting me.
When we’re stressed – and maybe especially when we feel like we don’t know what’s going on and every possible scenario is going through our mind – we get very “in our heads.” Noticing that the ground is there helps bring me to the present in a helpful way. I feel more grounded – in reality perhaps, as well as literally!
And when I’m more present and am aware of my physical support, that sometimes also helps me become aware of other types of support I have – the support of friends and family, for instance.
My favorite thought to help me remember my support in the moment is:
“I am free to accept the support of the ground.”
I have a choice in any given moment to pay attention to the ease that’s already there – in my body, in my surroundings, in my life. In any moment I can choose to “scan for easiness,” in the words of my friend and Alexander Technique colleague, Laura Donnelly, and something shifts. When you get curious about ease, you get more ease. (Conversely, when you focus on tension, you get more tension!) And when you feel more at ease in yourself, your connection with the situation – in this case the stress of uncertainty – changes. My reaction to the uncertainty shifts. In that one moment, everything can change, and I can feel more comfortable with the situation.
My favorite thoughts to help me shift my attention toward ease are:
“I am free to notice ease,” and “Where do I notice ease right now?”
These three things, acceptance, support, and ease (not necessarily in that order), won’t magically change your circumstances.
BUT…they help shift how you feel about those circumstances. And when you feel calmer and less stressed, it’s easier to deal with anything!
How do you cope with the stress of uncertainty? Did you try out these ideas? What did you discover?
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please comment in the space below.
I especially love the idea of feeling support from the ground. It’s something that is always there no matter what else is going on. No matter where one is.
The concept reminds me of something I read about Native American cultures. Their belief that everything is alive, and everything is a relative. So when you sit on a rock, hear the trees rustle, or watch a bird fly, you are not alone, but with family.
Yes it’s very comforting to know that something (the ground) is always there no matter what. And what a cool concept. I didn’t know that exactly. That is comforting too.
When we feel uncertainty, self-doubt started. Some does not recognized that they are stress. Undeniably accept medical and emotional help from the family. That is very alarming because it can leads to many more conflicts at home or at work.