How I am Learning to Get More Comfortable with Uncertainty
Over the past several weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about dealing with uncertainty. Generally, I feel comfortable with changes and realize that certainty in life is just an illusion. There are a lot of outside circumstances that we have no control over and there is no guarantee of how the future will unfold.
My comfort level with uncertainty substantially decreased over the last few weeks as I have been dealing with a personal issue, which is very demanding physically, emotionally, and financially.
The outcome of this situation is very important to me. With all the time, effort and money invested, I desperately want some reassurance that things will work out. However, I recognize that I do not have any control over the end result, and this uncertainty is driving me crazy.
When we deal with uncertainty, our mind tends to create negative expectations, which could lead to anticipatory anxiety that is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting.
As you might be dealing with your own life uncertainties, I’d like to share several techniques that have been helping me to get more comfortable with uncertainty in life.
Recognize your thoughts and emotions
Many people believe that emotions are created by outside events. In reality, most emotions are the result of our thoughts about those events. When something happens, we try to make meaning out of a situation and instantaneously generate thoughts.
Some of those thoughts are rational, others are not. Depending on the thoughts, the same situation can bring different emotions.
We generally do not evaluate how we think about things. The human brain produces thousands of thoughts every day (different sources cite the number between 60,000 and 80,000). Most of those thoughts are negative and repetitive. At least 95% of our thoughts are unconscious and we are simply not aware of them.
You do not have control over thoughts that come into your mind, but you do have control over how you respond to those thoughts. Instead of unconsciously going wherever your mind wants to take you - usually down the dark rabbit hole - you can consciously take control of and guide your thoughts in a different direction.
The first step is to notice and acknowledge your thoughts. Many of the negative thoughts relate either to dwelling in the past or worrying about the future.
Once you realize that you got caught up in excessive negative thinking, the next step is to move your focus into a present moment and replace negative thoughts with more powerful and constructive ones.
“You are not a helpless victim of your own thoughts, but rather a master of your mind.”
As I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with different emotions that range from excitement and hope to anxiety, resentment, sadness, and fear, I make a conscious effort to notice my thoughts that trigger all these emotions. I bring myself to the present moment by asking myself the following questions:
- How true is this thought?
-What’s the other way to look at this situation?
-How can I reframe this thought?
Daily meditation practice along with journaling helps me slow down the emotional waterfall and better express my thoughts and emotions.
Define what you can control
You can’t always choose or change the circumstances of your life. You can’t change your past. You can’t change the actions of other people. There are a lot of things in the world and in your life you have no control over.
However, in any given set of circumstances, you have control over yourself, in particular your attitude and your actions. And that makes a huge difference.
It is your choice how you respond to the outside environment and what actions you take. There are times when you make this choice consciously, but most of the time it happens without your realization.
Every day you have a choice how to live your life. There is always something you can do to change your life and move in the direction you want to go. Focusing on what you can do - right now - and taking action can give you the ability to move forward.
"Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”
In most life situations, you have two options to choose from: you can either accept what’s happening or resist it/fight against it. In my situation, I feel like the stakes are too high and I am still trying to figure out how to fully accept things as they are.
Acceptance means experiencing life just the way it is. It does not imply feeling weak and giving up. You might still want to change things in the future, and you might want to take actions towards the desired outcome, but you let go of your expectations of how your life should be and accept it the way it is.
Surround Yourself with Support and Give Support to Others
It might feel uncomfortable to share your experiences when you are going through challenging times and feel vulnerable, but close personal connections can be very helpful.
Sharing your thoughts and emotions helps release the tension and gain more clarity. It also puts things in a different perspective. Even when you are not looking for any advice or a solution, just being heard and acknowledged can make a lot of difference.
While I usually prefer to resolve my issues by myself, I admit that I greatly appreciated the support I got from several people.
At the same time, as I expected some support and encouragement from several people whom I considered close friends and never heard from them, it made me reevaluate those relationships in my life.
“Surround yourself with people who make you happy. People who make you laugh, who help you when you’re in need. People who genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through”.
I also found that helping and supporting others often improves my mood and boosts my happiness. Every day I try to do at least one random small act of kindness - smile at a stranger, hold a door for a person walking behind me or help somebody.
Take care of yourself
When you feel overwhelmed, exercise, sleep and nutrition become even more important.
Find the type of exercise you enjoy - walking, running, swimming, playing tennis or strength training - and make sure to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. When you exercise, the body releases endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, which improve your mood and reduce stress.
A lot of research has been conducted that shows all the negative impact that sleep deprivation can have on our brain and body. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night will make you feel more focused and boost your well-being and happiness.
Instead of giving in to emotional eating, try to increase healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, plant-based oils, fish, seafood, lean proteins, whole grains, unsaturated fats, complex carbohydrates) and reduce processed foods.
As I had to significantly reduce my exercise routine and eliminate running, it created some anxiety and resentment. I replaced running with long walks and continue reminding myself that this change is only temporary, and it is my choice to pursue different life priorities this year.
“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward”.
Martin Luther King, Jr.