Living with so much uncertainty is hard. A natural part of being human is obsessing about the future and what's to come. None of us really know where our lives are headed, what the state of the world will become, or if all our hopes and dreams will come true. It can feel so nerve-wracking to not know what our future holds.
Some people may use tarot readings or astrology apps to predict the future, while others may use religion to pray and seek comfort in their own way. We all have our own coping techniques to try and mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for the unknown.
However, sometimes it's okay to not have certainty in our lives. "Though evolution might have rigged our brains to resist uncertainty, we can never really know what the future will bring. And in improbable situations like the pandemic, which has massively disrupted our routines and utterly destroyed our best-laid plans, we need to learn to live with ambiguity. " (Christine Carter, Seven Ways To Cope With Uncertainty)
So how can we best cope when everything feels so out of control? Here are six effective ways to be happy without all the answers.
Embrace Uncertainty Head On
As much as we may want to resist uncertainty, at the end of the day, we can't. So instead of using all your energy to resist change or uncertain times in your life, practice embracing it with an open heart. Embracing uncertainty allows us to see our reality in the present moment, therefore, freeing us to move forward.
Invest In Yourself
Self-care is so important. During uncertain times, our bodies can experience an increase of stress - our hearts pound faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become heightened. Remembering to take care of yourself every day can help relieve tension in your body that's stored up from obsessing about the unknown. Investing in yourself means scheduling a massage, going to therapy in person or online, working with a life coach, using face masks, buying relaxing candles - you get the gist. Invest in services or products that encourage self-care on a daily and weekly basis.
Create Healthy Coping Skills
On top of investing in yourself for self-care, it's important to create healthy coping skills when dealing with uncertainty. For those moments throughout the day when you feel a wave of anxiety, stress, sadness, anger, or whatever uncomfortable emotion comes up, it's important to practice healthy coping techniques to ground yourself again. Healthy coping skills can include deep breathing, drinking water, giving yourself a massage, taking a walk around the block to clear your head, listening to calming music, journaling your thoughts, or talking to a friend.
Don't Believe Everything You Think (Or Hear)
"In uncertain times, it’s particularly important not to believe thoughts that argue for the worst-case scenario. It can be helpful for us to consider worst-case scenarios so that we can weigh risks and actively prevent disaster. But when we believe these stressful thoughts, we tend to react emotionally as though the worst case is already happening in real life, rather than just in our heads. We grieve for things that we haven’t actually lost, and react to events that are not actually happening. This makes us feel threatened, afraid, and unsafe when we are simply alone with our thoughts." (Christine Carter, Seven Ways To Cope With Uncertainty)
This also goes with not believing everything you hear. Other people may have their own worst case scenarios about an uncertain situation and share it with you, but that doesn't mean you have to take on their beliefs. Instead of buying into every stressful thought or conversation, we can imagine the best possible outcome for the uncertain situation. We can find silver linings to replace ruminations. This counters our natural tendency to overestimate risks and negative consequences.
As mentioned above, our thoughts can take us a wild rollercoaster ride. When you find yourself getting carried away with your thoughts about the future, bring yourself back to the present moment. Look at the environment around you and use the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique. Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. Acknowledge THREE things you hear. Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. This technique is one of many options you could use if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed with your thoughts.
Find Meaning In The Chaos
"We humans are best motivated by our significance to other people. We’ll work harder and longer and better—and feel happier about the work we are doing—when we know that someone else is benefiting from our efforts." (Christine Carter, Seven Ways To Cope With Uncertainty) When we see something that needs improvement or support, our next step is to recognize what we can personally do to be a part of the solution. What really matters to us, and how can we be of service?
Finding meaning in the chaos creates purpose that then translates into wellsprings of hope. When the world feels scary or uncertain, knowing what meaning we have for others and feeling a sense of purpose can ground us better than anything else.
So, embrace uncertainty in your life and find peace from within.
“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.” - John Allen Paulos