Living with Uncertainty

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Change is a part of life and change often brings uncertainty. None of us can avoid the unexpected. As John Allen Paulos wrote, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” Today the entire world is uncertain, and when we add to that our personal unknows, life can feel stressful. Each of us reacts differently to uncertainty, especially if things are out of our control. If we can accept that uncertainty is part of life, we free ourself to focus on what is in our control which changes our attitude and perspective.

This is especially helpful to me right now because an immediate family member is dealing with cancer. What was thought to be the answer turned out not to be enough to feel confident that the cancer was gone. We just returned home from helping her through the first surgery. Now a more difficult surgery is being scheduled and we’re waiting to see if our help is needed again. There are lots of questions that don’t have answers right now so uncertainty is a daily presence.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has researched this topic and come up with simple and helpful steps we can take to build resilience during uncertain times. I’m taking to heart what the APA is sharing. The first suggestion is to love and be kind to ourself because each of us has a different level of tolerance and all of us need self-nurturing. Most stressful situations take time to resolve so let’s take care of ourself and be patient with the process.

Here is Richard Rohr’s definition of self-love, “By self-love I mean a healthy delight in your true, imperfect, uniquely wonderful, particular self. I mean an unconditional appreciation for who you are, head to toe, inside and out: quirks, foibles, beauty, and blemishes – all of it. I mean seeing yourself truthfully and loving what you see.”   Part of loving and being kind to ourself is engaging in healthy self-care. When we’re stressed let’s remember the importance of diet, exercise, sleep, spiritual practices, believing in ourself and being with supportive people.

One thing to avoid is what psychologist Albert Ellis called “awfulizing.” We can bring ourself to the breaking point by imagining the worst-case scenarios. Let’s disrupt our negative thinking. A gentler and more effective way of dealing with the unexpected is to stay in the moment and live today fully. When we spend the day anxious about what might or might not happen tomorrow, we’ve sacrificed this day for tomorrow. Let’s deal with tomorrow when it comes and live a loving and meaningful today.

The APA also suggests reflecting on past success and giving ourself credit for what we have done well. We’ve overcome uncertainties in the past and we can do it again. Let’s be confident about our coping skills. Another aid to help ourself unwind is to limit news time. If we’re feeling weak and vulnerable the last thing we need is an overdose of the world’s problems. Let’s avoid dwelling on what we can’t control and focus on what we can control so we can make the plans that need to be made.

Let’s not compare and judge ourself against others because some of us need more time to adjust to uncertainty than others. This is the time to love ourself, honor our strengths and build resilience. It’s the time to be with people we trust that are emotionally supportive. If needed, ask for help from professionals. Let’s keep our humor in good form because laughter is a great stress reliever. It is possible to find peace and calm in the middle of chaos by choosing healthy, helpful behaviors. Let’s love ourself through the uncertainties of our life knowing the moment we’re in is our focus.

Until Next Time – Sylvia