Dealing with uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic
Uncertainty is all around us, never more so than today. The current COVID-19 pandemic has heightened uncertainty over the economy, employment, finances, relationships, and of course, physical and mental health. Yet as human beings, we crave security. We want to feel safe and have a sense of control over our lives and well-being. Fear and uncertainty can leave us feel stressed, anxious, and powerless over the direction of our life. It can drain us emotionally and traps us in a downward spiral of worst-case scenarios about what tomorrow may bring.
We’re all different in how much uncertainty we can tolerate in life. Some people seem to enjoy taking risks and living unpredictable lives, while others find the randomness of life deeply distressing. But all of us have a limit. If we feel overwhelmed by uncertainty and worry, it’s important to know that we are not alone; many of us are in the same boat at this time. It’s also important to realize that no matter how helpless and hopeless we feel, there are steps we can take to better deal with uncontrollable circumstances, alleviate our anxiety, and face the unknown with more confidence.
While we may not wish to acknowledge it, uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. Very little about our lives is constant or totally certain, and while we have control over many things, we can’t control everything that happens to us. As the coronavirus outbreak has shown, life can change very quickly and very unpredictably. There are individuals who may have suddenly become sick, lost their job, or found themselves struggling to put food on the table or keep their families safe. We may be anxious about when the pandemic will end or if life will ever return to normal.
To cope with all this uncertainty, many of us use worrying as a tool for trying to predict the future and avoid nasty surprises. Worrying can make it seem like we have some control over uncertain circumstances. We may believe that it will help us find a solution to our problems or prepare us for the worst.
Maybe if we just agonize over a problem long enough, just think through every possibility, or read every opinion online, we’ll find a solution and be able to control the outcome. Unfortunately, none of this works. Chronic worrying cannot give us more control over uncontrollable events; it just robs us of enjoyment in the present, depletes our energy, and keeps us up at night.
However, there are healthier ways to cope with uncertainty—and that begins with adjusting our mindset. We can focus on controlling those things that are under our control, challenge our need for certainty, learn to better tolerate, even embrace, the inevitable uncertainty of life as well as reduce ouranxiety and stress levels.