How to live in conditions of uncertainty: 8 tips from a psychologist

How to live with uncertainty

Uncertainty always increases anxiety, leads to stress and anxiety.

How to live with uncertainty: Also, anxiety is greatly enhanced by events that a person cannot influence, and unpredictable events for which it is impossible to prepare in advance.

People cope with uncertainty in different ways, but in any case, such situations negatively affect attention, cognitive functions, behavior, and the emotional sphere. Anxiety and anxiety can make us less able to perform daily activities, and this also affects the quality of our decisions.

I am a clinical psychologist working with children and adults, including dealing with anxiety and depressive disorders, phobias, panic attacks, and emotional disorders. I’ll tell you what simple tips will help you survive difficult times when the world around you is rapidly changing.

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Our articles are written with a love for evidence-based medicine. We refer to authoritative sources and go to doctors with a good reputation for comments. But remember: the responsibility for your health lies with you and your doctor. We don’t write prescriptions, we make recommendations. Rely on our point of view or not – you decide.


Admit to yourself that the situation is out of the norm

How to live with uncertainty: Of course, the concept of the norm is subjective and very distant from the material world. For example, if we are talking about coffee, everything is clear with it: it can be from a coffee machine, freeze-dried, and so on, but it remains coffee.

And everyone has their standard of living – this is what a person is used to his problems, tasks, ways to dream, think, make plans and manage money.

When events occur that destroy the conventional norm, it is impossible not to think about them, questions appear that have no answers. The set of needs and habits, the attitude to money, free time, and everything else is also changing.

Some people lean towards a particular point of view, just to calm down. For example, they are waiting for everything to end as soon as possible in any way – not because they wish someone harm, but so that they can return to the previous regime. Some may have frightening thoughts outside of their conscious desire.

At this time, it is important to recognize that now everything is not the way we are used to, which means that we cannot expect the same behavior from ourselves and others. If you accept the fact that change is happening, you may be able to decide what to do next.


Lose control over what is happening

How to live with uncertainty: When the situation goes beyond the norm, you want to control everything. A person strives to return to his fulcrum to feel stable again. The feeling of control over your actions and what is happening affects the level of anxiety.

In addition, there is evidence that anxiety increases the so-called reactive control  – that is, not the control that is needed to achieve goals, but the one that is associated with tracking changes. On the contrary, it distracts from purposeful actions. For example, when a person is constantly distracted by the news so as not to miss anything, instead of doing something really important.

Here we must recognize that not everything is under our control: there are things that we cannot control in principle.

It is better to focus on what we can control, while it is important not to be too hard on ourselves. That is, to understand our condition and sometimes allow ourselves to forget or lose something, even allow some things to go on without our participation.

You should not try to follow every little thing, so as not to overload the already overloaded psyche. Micromanaging and worrying about everything only creates the illusion of control, but does not help to return the certainty that we so much strive for.


Give yourself the right to make mistakes and do not criticize yourself

How to live with uncertainty: Anxiety depletes the resources needed for efficient memory operation and causes a person to focus too much on mistakes. At the same time, a negative reaction to them is also noted, that is, they are more upset and aggravate the emotional state, excessive concern for mistakes may appear.

Here it is important to allow yourself to make mistakes, not to blame yourself, to allow yourself, for example, sometimes to be the worst performer at work.

Now there is a lot of information coming in, and one that makes you tense up and worries. Nothing is surprising in being confused and overwhelmed.

Also, sometimes we can be more aggressive, for example, when talking to someone, because the nervous system is excited.

We should not forget about self-control, but we must understand that it will take time to recover, there may be difficulties. You should not immediately make verdicts, consider yourself a bad person.

If we give ourselves the right to make mistakes, then it will be easier to understand what kind of balance we want to go to. The point is, we can always do more if we don’t criticize ourselves harshly for every slip.

Criticism does not advance, it limits. It turns out that a person is either bad or not. Every time you have to win back this emotional quest, to show: “I’m not bad”, but it can be hard.

When we allow ourselves to be wrong and observe how we feel, we can examine our reactions and conclude. Including understanding that mistakes do not automatically make us bad.


Find footholds in habitual actions

How to live with uncertainty: Pivot points are little routine things. In difficult times, strong procrastination is possible, because the familiar world is collapsing. This may be somewhat reminiscent of the state that was at the beginning of the pandemic because habits change. What could be done yesterday is no longer possible today.

When we have the usual points of support, we are calmer, and when they are not, we worry more and try to stabilize.

It is important not to give up the habits that supported us during quiet times. It can be coffee in the morning, going to the pool or the gym – whatever. To cope with the situation, you need to cope with the disorientation due to change. Habitual routine actions help in this best of all.

What is going on around us can be hard, but to survive it, we need elements of familiar life.

The psychiatrist Viktor Frankl described his time in a concentration camp in his books. He writes that at some point the prisoners began to joke and sing songs – this is just about the fact that everyone needs support points that help them survive the terrible.


Accumulate positive experiences

How to live with uncertainty: Positive emotions are important for mental health. Some studies show a link between the tendency to reduce the level of positive impressions during stressful situations and the occurrence of anxiety and depressive disorders in the future.

It is important to accumulate positive emotions and impressions, to do pleasant things, even if it seems that they are generally inappropriate.

Of course, everything has its limits. Probably shouldn’t have a feast during a plague, but a compromise is needed. If someone bought a cake for himself in a cafe, this does not mean that he is a bad person, because somewhere there is a humanitarian catastrophe, and he is eating sweets here.

To cope with the situation, you need to help yourself survive this experience. To do this, you need any positive emotions, you should allow yourself to do something pleasant.

In general, it is now important to take care of yourself. If you need to treat your teeth, undergo an examination, and so on, you should do it. Also, do not forget about maintaining health: exercise, sleep more to recover, do not skip meals, and so on.

There is evidence that shows that self-compassion and self-care can be valuable resources for coping with negative life events. Self-compassionate people are less likely to catastrophize negative situations and experience less anxiety.


Keep a diary and analyze your experiences

How to live with uncertainty: In difficult times, we are faced with different experiences and feelings. They are worth analyzing and keeping for ourselves because we learn more about ourselves when we experience strong emotions.

Against the backdrop of strong experiences, we can understand our values, figure out what we consider acceptable for ourselves and what is not. It is advisable not to experience what is happening as an emotional shock and forgets about it, but to draw conclusions.

This is where an emotional diary can help. It is not necessary to describe what is happening in a literary way, you can write as you like. The main thing is to get into the habit of thinking about what is happening, how we live through negative situations.

It will also allow you to ask yourself questions and find answers to them: what can be done now, how to be more efficient, what to do, how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Also, with the help of a diary, we can face the negative and take it as a lesson for the future. For example, allowing yourself to find out why work fails or the same mistakes keep happening.

When a person describes how traumatic events affect their physical and mental health, it can be almost as helpful as talking therapy.

Another systematic review looked at interventions that helped improve the mental health of young people who were refugees and immigrant survivors of the war. They found that opportunities for creative expressions, such as writing or drawing, helped to cope with trauma.


Introduce a limit on leaving negative emotions and experiences

How to live with uncertainty: Try not to fall into too much anger, too much anxiety, too much sadness, too much guilt or shame. That is, in any negative emotions.

You need some surfing – diving into the streams of emotions and sliding along them, and here again, keeping a diary will help. To translate emotions into something constructive, it is helpful to write them down. We often think in emotional outbursts, and writing them down will help translate them into facts and analyze them.

It is worth limiting the time in which you allow yourself to work with emotions. Similarly with the news: they are also worth reading for a limited time. You can’t endlessly hang out in the news feed, sacrificing other things and sleep.

From reading the news, we get tired mentally and physically, we begin to worry even more. The limit on leaving emotions, on anxiety, on reading the news – for example, 30-40 minutes a day – will help save resources and continue to do what is important.


Permit yourself to panic

It happens that in difficult times, panic attacks, intense fear, even panic attacks appear or intensify.

You have to allow yourself to live through the panic by doing nothing about it, just by watching.

You cannot die from a panic attack, it does not cause physical harm. However, you can start to fear the panic itself, which will only aggravate the situation.

There is to treat such attacks as a variant of the norm and a reaction to overstrain, this experience will be easier to survive.

At the time of the attack, it is important to focus not on the fact that there is not enough air or the heartbeat has increased, but on what is happening around. This will help to cope with panic and increase stress tolerance.

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