“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” ~John Allen Paulos
Uncertainty is all-embracing us, never more so than today. The present COVID-19 pandemic has increased uncertainty over the economy, employment, finances, relationships and of course, physical and mental wellbeing. Yet as humans, we always long for security. We desire to feel safe and want to have a feeling of control over our lives and well-being. Fear and unpredictability can lead you towards feeling stressed, anxious and powerless over the direction of your life. It can wear you out emotionally and confine you in a downward spiral of endless “what-ifs” and worst-case scenarios about what tomorrow may bring.
The moment you are uncertain, stressed and anxious, your negative thoughts assault you involuntarily. The thoughts keep playing on your mind and become more and more unhelpful and destructive – they become the root cause of distressing emotions – and this prevents us from doing things we wish we could or would do.
How to cleanse your mind from negative thoughts:
- Change body language: Take a minute and notice your body language. Do you hunch or have a closed posture? Do you frown? If so, then you are inclined towards thinking negatively. To feel positive you must open your posture and smile more. Perfect your body language and you will feel much better and would be able to eliminate those negative thoughts.
- Feel free to talk about the subject: Sometimes negative thinking arouses because there are problems or emotions that you need to communicate. Articulate your thoughts into words, shape them and make them noticeable. That will assist you to put the problems in perspective, so you can solve them more effectively.
- Try not to occupy your mind with multiple thoughts for a minute: When your mind is running at a mile per hour, it can be difficult to stay calm. In such a situation, it is more difficult to control the thoughts, especially the negative ones. Be calm for a minute.
- Change the focus of your thoughts: Negative thinking is the outcome of having a bad perspective. Look at the point of view that you have for the things that happen around you. Think Positive!
- Be creative: When there are negative thoughts, it is very useful to have creative insights. Write, draw or paint something and explore emotions through creative activities as these work as self-therapy and it will help brighten up your mood.
- Go for a walk: As thoughts stay in our minds, it is easy to presume that this is where they are formed, but that is only partially true. Sometimes our thoughts are a product of our surroundings. To escape from the negative environment one can start taking a small walk in a park or a museum, that could be enough for keeping us away from negative thoughts.
- Appreciate good things in your life: Have you forgotten all the good things around you? One must learn how to focus your mind on all the good that happens around you.
Few Tips to cope with current uncertainty:
1.Take charge of the things you can control: At the moment, life is pretty uncertain and many things outside remain out of your control. We don’t have control over the spread of the virus, the recovery of the economy or whether we will have a paycheck next month. The best thing one can do is to stop worrying about the fears and the uncontrollable circumstances. Instead try to refocus our mind on taking actions over the aspects that are within our control. And in certain cases, what we can only control is our attitude and emotional response towards the situation.
For instance, if your Job is lost during this difficult time, you still can control the situation by putting all your energies in searching for work online, sending out resumes or networking within your social circle. Similarly, if you are worried about your health amid the coronavirus pandemic, you can take action by following all precautionary measures.
2.Challenge your need for certainty: While uncertainty and change are an inevitable part of our lives, we often develop behaviors in order to try and cope with the discomfort that comes with it. Instead of bothering too much you may:
–Make a habit of asking your friends or loved ones if you are making the right decision, research information online or seek out expert advice in an effort to remove uncertainty from your life.
–By avoiding or procrastinating decisions related to any situation, which may lead to negativity during uncertain times.
–Check on your family, friends and kids to make sure they are safe so that your mind is at ease.
–Re-check emails, texts or forms before sending them and double-check lists to ensure you have not missed anything that could have repercussions on the predictability of the future.
Ways to challenge one’s behavior in order to reduce the discomfort of uncertainty is by asking the following questions:
I. What are the advantages of certainty and what are the disadvantages? : Life is unpredictable and can change at any moment, it experiences unexpected events and surprises—but that is not always a bad thing. Good things happen out of the blue as well—a dream job offer; a surprise pay rise or an unexpected phone call from an old friend. Opportunity often arises from the unexpected and facing uncertainty makes you a stronger individual.
II. How much can you be absolutely certain about in life? : It is difficult to predict the future, no one can guarantee a job for life, good health or a life without hurdles. The reality is no matter how much you try to organize and prepare for every possible outcome, life will surprise you. All that striving for certainty really does, is fuel worry and anxiety.
III. Do you assume bad things will happen just because an outcome is uncertain? What is the likelihood they will? : When there is uncertainty, it is easy to assume that something bad might happen and also underestimate your ability to cope with it. Instead of presuming, ask your friends and family how they cope with uncertainty in specific circumstances.
3.Learn to accept uncertainty: No matter how much you try to remove doubt and volatility from your life, the truth is that you already accept a lot of uncertainty every day.
Whenever you cross a road or eat in a restaurant you are accepting a level of uncertainty but you trust that you will not have an accident and that everything you are eating is safe. The possibility of something bad happening in these circumstances are very little, so you accept the risk and move on without the need for certainty.
When reasonable fears and worries take hold, it can be difficult to think logically and accurately and so we contemplate the probability of something bad happening. In order to assist you to become more tolerant and to accept uncertainty, listed below are a few steps:
– Identify triggers of your uncertainty. Uncertainty is self-generated and is the result of excessive worrying or a pessimistic outlook; however, some uncertainty can be generated by external sources, such as our following media stories which focus on worst-case scenarios, spending time on Social Media especially at a time like this. Try to recognize your triggers and take action to avoid or reduce your exposure to them.
– Recognize when you require the need for certainty. Notice when you start behaving differently than usual, start feeling anxious and fearful about a situation, begin to worry about what-ifs or feel that a situation is far worse than it actually is. Observe the physical signals that your body gives when you are feeling anxious. You might notice the tension around your neck or shoulders etc.
– Let go. Containing the what-ifs running through your head by accepting that you are not a fortune-teller; you do not know what the future is. All you can do is let go and accept uncertainty as a part of life.
– Shift your attention. Focus on issues that you can solve, taking action on those aspects of a problem that you can control or simply resume what you were doing.
4.Focus on the present: Uncertainty is often centered around worries about the future and all the bad things you can anticipate. It gives you the feeling of hopelessness and depression coming in the days ahead, it overstates the scope of the problems you face and even paralyzes you from taking action in order to overcome a certain problem.
One of the best ways to stop worrying about the future is to enjoy your present. Instead of trying to think about what might happen, shift your attention to what is happening right now. By being fully attached to the present, you can disconnect with the negative assumptions and destructive predictions running through your mind.
You can start a mindfulness practice by following audio meditation or incorporating it into an exercise program, such as walking. Utilizing mindfulness to remain focused on the present can take perseverance.
5.Manage stress and anxiety: Taking steps to reduce your overall stress and anxiety levels can help you interrupt the downward spiral of negative thoughts, find inner calm and cope with the uncertainty in your life.
– Get moving. Physical movement is a natural and effective stress reliever. Concentrate on the stir of your feet hitting the ground as you walk, run or dance. Or focus on the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the sun or wind on your skin.
– Make time for relaxation. Choose a relaxation technique such as meditation, yoga or breathing exercises and try to set aside some time every day for regular practice.
– Get plenty of sleep. Too much worrying and uncertainty can affect your sound sleep—just as the lack of quality sleep can fuel anxiety and stress. Work on your daytime schedule and take out some time to relax.
– Eat a healthy diet. Being inclined towards having healthy meals can sustain your energy levels and prevent mood swings. Avoid sugar and processed foods.
Very soon this pandemic will end. The Human race is amazing in dealing with such adverse situations and paving the way forward. Being afraid is completely normal, but one must not lose hope and control in life.