Life is full of uncertainty. Nothing is ever guaranteed to us. Not even the next minute of our life.
People use various coping skills to manage that uncertainty. Many people just ignore it. They pretend that life will all go according to their plans or their god’s plan and that everything will be okay in the end.
Here on Planet Reality, we are less inclined to believe such things.
People with anxiety struggle to live with the uncertainty of life. When the path or reaction is not clear, it creates room for your mind to find things to worry about or things to question. Those worries and questions create anxiety within you.
There are some ways to manage the uncertainty so that it affects you less severely. Here are a few.
Work Toward Acceptance
A big step in the right direction is to learn to tolerate the discomfort of uncertainty. Nobody likes it. It is difficult and unpleasant. It is also necessary.
The world is constantly changing. So are you. Uncertainty is required for growth and progress. If you want your life and situation to improve you need to learn to accept uncertainty.
Work on keeping calm. Try deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, or yoga. Things that help you to focus on the here and now and let the future take care of itself for a little while.
Try to expose yourself consciously to small doses of what makes you the most uncomfortable. Pick the part of the future that feels uncertain and scares you the most. Think about it. Examine it. Try to keep your emotions out of it and dispassionately consider the worst-case scenario. Set a timer so you only allow yourself to focus on the issue for a brief period of time. Try a couple of minutes at first and work your way up until you can sit with it and examine it without getting upset for longer periods of time.
Small steps build up over time and soon you will be able to tolerate uncertainty easier.
Look at The Past Honestly
Because the idea that there is some sort of order or plan to the universe and your life is so comforting, we have a tendency to try and shoehorn events into what we imagine is our grand life adventure. We look back and ignore how uncertain past events and times were. Instead, we try to ascribe meaning to randomness so that it looks like there was a plan all along. Like the middle school kid who falls over his own feet and then insists that he meant to do that.
Maybe you got a disease and had to give up on your childhood dream. The disease forced you to walk away from something you had worked toward for years. You may not have had a Plan B. Later you found a job in a different field and maybe you enjoyed it and went to school part-time at night so that you could advance in that job.
You end up with a degree in something you didn’t intend before your illness redirected your life. If you have found a way to be happy with what you are doing, you may convince yourself that your illness and the loss of your dream was all part of some plan so you could end up where you are now. Where you convince yourself that you were “supposed to be.”
It wasn’t. It was a random bag of shit that happens in life. But you persevered through the uncertainty and fear and made the best of a bad situation. It was all you.
Instead of pretending that it was because of some grand scheme of life, admire yourself for turning things around. For taking a profoundly uncertain set of circumstances and making them into something you could be proud of.
Control Your Focus
Do your best to keep your focus on the things you have control over. Keep your focus off of the things you cannot control.
You can control how you react to things. You can control whether you work hard. You can control whether you make safe choices for you and your family.
You cannot control how other people behave. You cannot control the status of your employment (usually). You cannot control adverse weather or natural events.
Work on making sure you are prepared in case bad things happen (which they sometimes will). Don’t worry about trying to prevent them.
Limit Exposure to Triggers
This one falls somewhat into the control of your focus category. You need to limit exposure to triggers if you can.
Limit your news access. Yes, we all need to know what is going on in the world, but the news is usually negative. You need to control how often you read it and when. Don’t look at the stories right before you try to sleep. Don’t look more than once or, at most, twice a day. Less if you can stand it. Take regular breaks from it. Maybe take an entire weekend where you don’t check the news. The shitstorm will still be there on Monday. Believe me.
Try to avoid negative people. This is not always easy or even possible. Sometimes you have to deal with them. They may be family or co-workers. Keep contact as minimal as possible. If they are co-workers, try to limit interactions to ones required for work and try to keep them as brief as you can. Try to keep them on the work topic. If they are family and you have to spend time with them for the sake of peace, try to come up with a list of neutral topics that will be least likely to set them off onto a rant. Make yourself boring. If you don’t feed their bullshit, they may try to find someone else who will.
We all have to contend with an uncertain world. Those of us with anxiety need to make a proactive effort to keep those uncertainties at a manageable level for our own mental health.