Coping with uncertainty: 3 essential practices

Think Better – Coping with uncertainty

Uncertainty can really throw us.  We like to know what is coming so that we can be confident we can deal with it. Learning the art of coping with uncertainty is a valuable life skill.  If you can manage your thoughts and emotions when things are uncertain you will be able to manage life’s tricky ups and downs with grace.  Here’s 3 powerful practices to get you on the way to coping with uncertainty:

Acknowledge your feelings

The first step when faced with uncertainty is to acknowledge your emotional response.  Uncertainty can bring up a range of emotions such as sadness, anger, agitation and fear.  We have a habit of trying to avoid uncomfortable emotions by suppressing, projecting, pretending and justifying (to name just a few!). Rather than shoving the feelings down or venting them, simply acknowledge, “I am feeling anxious and this will pass“.  It is important to acknowledge your uncomfortable feelings will pass.  We get stuck when we believe the feelings will stick around for a long time.  Once you have acknowledged your feelings make a conscious decision about what you need in the moment.  It may be a walk to clear your head, to phone a friend or simply to sit and breathe.

Identify what you can control

The next step in coping with uncertainty is to gather information and establish what is within your control and influence.  In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey explains we operate in different zones – control, influence and outside our control or influence.  Those of us that can deal with uncertainty quickly establish where we have control and influence and accept what is outside of these spheres.  For instance, if current circumstances dictate we have to change the way that we work we adapt with a growth mindset and adopt flexible or new ways of being.  This is directly within our control.  How this is received by others is outside of our control.  When we act with integrity we may influence those around us.  If we can neither control or influence, we accept what is, safe in the knowledge that this too will pass.

Treat yourself as your best friend

How we feel and act is often determined by our self talk.  Self talk is the voice in your head offering constant commentary on everything.  Sometimes the things we say to ourselves are profoundly unhelpful and we wouldn’t dream of saying them our best friend.  Imagine saying, “You’re not going to be able to cope with this.  You’re hopeless with change”.  I’m guessing you wouldn’t even think it, let alone say it!  So watch what you say to yourself!  Practice listening to your self talk and try imagining you as your own best friend.  Offer words of appreciation and encouragement.  Maybe something along the lines of, “You’ll get through. You always do.”  Be kind to you.  Most people don’t respond well to being stood over by a hard and unforgiving taskmaster.

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