Uncertainty is the reigning emotion during critical times. The response to our feelings may depend on our physical, emotional, and mental health circumstances. The turmoil in the world can surely make for a perfect emotional daily storm. Our protective mind may advise us to curl up in bed and stay there. However, will avoidance provide us with moments of joy despite the turbulence and uncertainty around us?
We are constantly being triggered by external signals. We may be aware of how our body and mind respond, but sometimes we may not consciously recognize it. When awareness is absent, we can quickly become entangled with unpleasant and unhelpful thoughts. Uncertainty can take over and panic may follow.
It has been said that “if you are not willing to have it, you will.” The more you resist uncertainty, the more pain and suffering occurs. Just the prospect of embracing uncertainty is distressing. However, you know the alternative. Looking for certainty in life is like trying to find gold at the end of the rainbow. Will you then consider the following steps that can help when you feel overwhelmed by uncertainty?*
1. Acknowledge your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
When your mind begins to provide you with unhelpful advice, acknowledge what you are noticing in the moment of discomfort. For example, “I am noticing thoughts related to uncertainty; I am noticing the feeling of anxiety. I am noticing the bodily sensation of nausea and rapid heart rate.”
Thoughts, feelings and sensations are natural internal events. They come and they go, but when you start evaluating, try to fix, or fight them, you become stuck with them. Notice if acknowledging them is more effective. Acknowledge your internal events as needed throughout the day.
In and out slowly. As you exhale, picture the air flowing into the area of your body where you feel the sensation related to uncertainty. Do not misunderstand this step. You are not trying to breathe the sensation away. Your task is to notice your breathing and let the air go into and around the sensation to get you ready for the next step.
3. Create Space for Uncertainty
As you continue to breathe in and around uncertainty, imagine creating room for it in your body. Take a stance of curiosity. For example, think of the sensation as if it were a tangible thing. What shape, color, and texture does uncertainty have right now? Where does it begin and end in your body? Does it have a sound or vibration? Make space for uncertainty, and notice it with interest.
4. Decide to Allow Uncertainty
Uncertainty is unpleasant. You don’t have to like it. You only need to decide to allow it and keep expanding the space for it while it is visiting you in this very moment. Observe it, and let it take its natural course without pushing it away.
Sometimes your emotions and sensations related to uncertainty will change. If they change, notice and acknowledge as described above.
When you feel like you have created enough room for the initial sensation, go ahead and repeat the steps with the new emotion and/or sensation that has emerged.
5. Engage in What Matters Most
When you feel compelled to resist and/or obsess, will that help you become the person you want to be? When the urge is irresistible and you do something to find relief, will it take you closer to who and what matters most in your life? You can devote your precious energy and time to connecting with your loved ones and engaging life — doing what really matters.
Uncertainty is part of the human condition, and you can choose what kind of relationship you’ll have with it. Following the steps above is a way to start changing your mindset. You can develop curiosity as doubts present themselves. Remember that when storms are upon you, they are opportunities for personal growth and learning.
You are not alone. We are all in this together. You can embrace uncertainty, and as you build resilience, take advantage of your strengths and gifts to bring value to those around you.
You can do this!
“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” – Margaret Drabble
*Russ Harris, The Happiness Trap: How To Stop Struggling and Start Living, Boston, MA: Trumpeter Books, 2008.