This spring, you might have thought that we’d be back to somewhat normal lives by now. But here we are six months later. We continue to live in an environment that sometimes still feels out of a movie and where everything could change in an instant. Nobody can tell when this will be over.
If you are feeling more anxious because of the uncertainty surrounding us, you are not alone. Loss of control and our old, familiar lives has made most of us feel sad, worried, stressed, and powerless.
No matter how helpless you may feel, there are coping mechanisms to better deal with uncertainty and decrease your anxiety. Here are 7 tips that you can try out:
1. Focus on what you can control
No matter what situation you are in, usually there are still some things that you can control. It might be helpful to pause and write down a list of things that you can do.
For example, you may be concerned about getting COVID-19. You can follow the AHS guidelines and do your best to wash your hands, avoid crowds, wear a mask, and physically distance to prevent catching the virus.
When you focus on things that you can do, you are actively problem-solving instead of aimlessly worrying and feel more in control.
2. Be present
A sure way to avoid worrying about the uncertain future is to fully focus on the present. Don’t try to predict what may happen, and don’t let yourself think of everything that could go wrong. Instead, connect to and appreciate the present moment. What do you see and hear around you?
You can learn to focus on the present moment by practicing mindfulness.
If you feel especially anxious, you can try this grounding technique to get back to the present situation. Take a few deep breaths and say out loud:
5 things you can see
4 things you can feel (your feet against the floor etc.)
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste (you can leave your spot to find something to savour)
3. Take time for self-care
You can better deal with what life throws at you when you consistently manage your stress and anxiety levels. Self-care is always important, but now it is essential.
Exercise - try to move a little bit every day.
Get enough sleep.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Avoid sugary and processed foods.
Spend time outdoors.
Do activities you enjoy and help you relax.
4. Eliminate your triggers
Do you know what your triggers are? Are you able to avoid or reduce those triggers, so that you can worry less? For example, you may feel better and more positive about the future if you don’t pay attention to conspiracy theories, rumours, and incorrect stories about COVID-19.
5. Reflect on your coping strategies and your need for certainty
We can never control absolutely everything. Unexpected events are a part of life. No matter how much we plan and prepare, in reality, anything could happen.
Unexpected turns aren’t always a bad thing. Good things can happen out of the blue, too. Have you ever met a new friend or a partner unexpectedly? Have you stumbled upon a memorable experience when you least expected it?
Even unexpected, negative life events can have something positive. They can build your resiliency and help you grow as a person.
You can answer these questions to challenge your need for certainty and reflect on the coping mechanisms that you already use to deal with uncertainty.
What are some good things about uncertainty?
Did things turn out fine even though you were not absolutely certain about what would happen?
If things did not turn out okay, what did you do to cope?
Can you use those coping strategies again?
6. Learn to tolerate uncertainty
If you feel ready, you can try to build your tolerance for uncertainty slowly. Start with something that gives you just a little bit of anxiety.
For example, you always bring a thorough list when you go grocery shopping. If the thought of going without a list gives you just a little bit of anxiety, you can challenge yourself to go shopping without a list. Afterward, reflect on your experience.
How did you feel?
What happened, did everything turn out fine?
What did you do if things didn’t go as you expected?
When you keep practicing, you may, in time, notice that things that once caused you anxiety have become much easier to handle, and your tolerance for the unexpected has grown.
7. Do not hesitate to seek professional help
We all feel anxious from time to time – especially now. If anxiety is more than just a passing feeling for you, our mental health therapists can help to identify coping mechanisms for you.