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How to Cope With Uncertainty — Because There Are Too Many ‘Unknowns’ in Life

If you’ve ever been scared about what the future state of your health or economic situation could be, you’re in good company. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) most recent survey on stress in America determined that financial and health-related uncertainty are at the forefront of our worries. As we grow older, not knowing what will come next can be nerve wracking. There are so many questions about what will be happening in our bodies down the line, what the state of healthcare will be if or when we need assistance, and what our financial situation will be like when we’re ready to retire and settle down. With all these unknowns just floating around in our minds, it’s no wonder we are stressed!

Thankfully, there are a few practical actions you can take to combat your worries caused by the stress of uncertainty.  When dealing with uncertain feelings, the APA suggests being kind to yourself. We hear a lot about self-care and being kind to ourselves these days, but what does it actually mean? In this instance, it means acknowledging the fears that you have and making space for them without punishing yourself for being afraid. It’s the opposite of judging yourself for being overwhelmed or “unprepared,” because as much as we try to predict and assume, the nature of life is that things will happen that are out of our control, and feeling anxious is a natural reaction. Spend time acknowledging this, and know that it’s OK to be nervous. 

Another way to cope with uncertainty is to reflect on past instances when you were afraid and then experienced success. For example, was there ever a big challenge you were met with at work that you ended up totally nailing, though you were initially nervous? Have you ever had an extremely hard time in your life when you were convinced you’d never make it through? Well, you did! 

These are all good things to recall when you feel unsure. Often, we get stuck in our heads about how hard things will be, preparing for the worst and forgetting all the times we proved ourselves strong enough to rise to the challenges in our lives.  Generally, you might find that you’re in the habit of running through worst case scenarios. The mind does this as a survival mechanism to try and prepare us for what’s to come. However, as we know, doing this is not helpful. Try and get out of the habit of preparing for the worst, and replace those thoughts with memories of times you’ve succeeded and felt strong and capable. Tip: Journaling can be very helpful with this!  

Another extremely useful tool when dealing with feelings of uncertainty is to continuously develop new skills and make an effort to get out of your comfort zone. Exposing yourself to new experiences helps to reinforce the idea in your head that you are capable enough to meet adversity and overcome it as it comes to you. Thinking and acting on your toes is a valuable skill in life and will help you to manage the stress around not knowing what is coming your way. For more easy ways to banish stress, check out the seven sacred pauses you should make each day.

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