As a result of the recent COVID-19 we are still living in extremely uncertain times – and that uncertainty can be difficult to cope with. So I thought I would share some ideas about how to manage uncertainty in uncertain times.
You may feel worried right now.
You may struggle to keep anxious thoughts in check.
And you may feel unsure about the future.
But help is at hand – you CAN learn to live with uncertainty.
Facing Uncertainty is Scarier than Facing Physical Pain.
A new study shows that the uncertainty of something bad happening can be more stressful than the knowledge of something bad happening.
In 2016, a group of London researchers explored how people react to being told they will either “definitely” or “probably” receive a painful electric shock. They discovered an intriguing paradox.
Volunteers who knew they would receive a painful electric shock felt calmer and were measurably less agitated than those who were told they only had a 50 per cent chance of receiving the electric shock.
Researchers recruited 45 volunteers to play a computer game in which they turned over digital rocks that might have snakes hiding underneath.
Throughout the game, they had to guess whether each rock concealed a snake. When a snake appeared, they received a mild but painful electric shock on the hand.
Over the course of the game they got better about predicting under which rocks they would find snakes, but the game was designed to keep changing the odds of success to maintain ongoing uncertainty.
And when we are facing outcomes imbued with uncertainty, it’s the fact that something bad might happen that “gets” us.
The volunteers’ level of uncertainty correlated to their level of stress. So, if someone felt “certain” he or she would find a snake, stress levels were significantly lower than if they felt that maybe they would find a snake.
In both cases, they would get a shock, but their stress was loaded with added uncertainty.
Archy de Berker, of the UCL Institute of Neurology, said: “Our experiment allows us to draw conclusions about the effect of uncertainty on stress. It turns out that it’s much worse not knowing you are going to get a shock than knowing you definitely will or won’t.”
Uncertainty Ignites our Primitive Survival Instinct.
If we cannot neutralise a perceived threat, we engage in the unhelpful process called “worry”.
We grapple with whatever the problem is to find solutions to the threat, but there are none.
Does this make us feel better? No, of course it doesn’t – it makes us feel worse.
In our need for certainty, we are wired to “catastrophise” – we view or talk of a situation as worse than it is. This leads to worry, which in turn leads to anxiety.
The modern brain struggles to distinguish between real threat and perceived threat.
The result is that the primitive brain takes over and triggers the primitive survival instinct – fight-or-flight.
The fight-or-flight response switches on even from thought alone and it is really important to have tools to switch it off and send a calming signal to the brain so that you can think clearly, make better decisions, and have a healthy immune system.
You may be asking yourself:
What is going to happen…?
What is around the corner for me…?
Should I be doing more…?
Should I be doing less…?
What if my business is threatened…?
What if my livelihood is threatened…?
What if my life is threatened…?
The lack of answers can lead to:
Anger, Aggression, Frustration, Stress, Anxiety, Overwhelm and more.
What Can we do to Mitigate Uncertainty?
There are several things we can do to lessen the effects of uncertainty:
- Awareness is your superpower – be aware of your feelings and emotions
- Notice the “worry story” you are telling yourself – try to distance yourself from it
- Focus on breathing – long slow breaths
- Recognise the need to rise above fight-or-flight
- Accept uncertainty – allow yourself to stop the struggle
Stand up to Anxiety with Some Mood-Boosters
- Exercise and movement
- Meditation, self-hypnosis
- EFT Tapping – go here for instructions
- Achievement-oriented activity
- Something pleasant or fun
In less than 20 minutes a day, focusing on yourself, will help you regain a sense of balance.
For more tips watch this short three minute video