According to Merriam-Webster, Uncertainty is defined as: doubt, dubiety, skepticism, suspicion, mistrust, or lack of sureness about someone or something. Uncertainty may range from a falling short of certainty to an almost complete lack of conviction or knowledge especially about an outcome or result. While you may be sick of hearing this word, it truly defines 2020. If you are a planner by nature, not being able to plan, or a constantly changing schedule can wreck havoc on your nervous system. You may be feeling a lack of control, disheartened or uncomfortable, which can lead to stress or lack of motivation.
Do you live by your calendar?
Even those of us who are ultra planners can adjust to uncertainty in the short term, but living within it for months, with no end in sight, can break the planners spirit. While you may not be able to change your circumstances, you can learn to manage how the uncertainty impacts you.
Step 1: Acknowledge, accept and trust
Uncertainty about the future and constant change is stressful and sometimes just saying that out loud is helpful. I don’t like unknowns, I admit it. I don’t think well on my feet, so when I don’t know details of an event, for example, the unknowns can stress me out. I also find I’m more productive throughout the day with a schedule, and last minute changes can throw me off. I have found it helpful to acknowledge my emotions, and avoid dwelling on what I can’t control by accepting that there are some things out of my control. I’ve also learned to place trust in myself. I have experienced significant periods of uncertainty in my life (aka, cancer) and I’m still standing. I trust that if I can get through that, I can manage anything. Trusting I can get through the uncertainty results in trusting that I can handle the fall out of whatever comes next.
Step 2: Embrace the unexpected free time
When events are cancelled embrace it and fill it with things you typically may not make time for when life is hectic. Maybe it’s binge watching a show, taking a day trip to a state park, or even cleaning out a closet. Adjust your mindset from the disappointment of change to embracing the opportunity to suddenly do whatever your heart desires. Ideas may not readily come to mind in the moment, so plan for opportunities of a changed schedule. Similar to a bucket list, perhaps create an unexpected free time list of things you’d love to do when you suddenly have time to yourself. Pull out that list when something is cancelled to bring you from being stuck in the disappointment to embracing the free time.
Step 3: Set boundaries
When life throws a curve ball, know what is important to you, and what is definite on your schedule. Imagine that you made an appointment and someone comes along saying that they need you to do something asap, which conflicts with your appointment. Hear this loud and clear: someone else’s procrastination does not have to be your emergency. If it’s important and you can accommodate, then great. You can plan and be flexible! If the request does not fit your schedule, perhaps saying, “I’d like to help (or do X), but I’ve already got something on my calendar.” Then, discuss an alternative time, or a deadline for their request. Not only is this okay, but it is healthy to have boundaries in your life with communication in a respectful manner.
Step 4: Reduce stress
When you navigate the first three steps you will naturally reduce the stress that occurs with uncertainty, but regularly managing your stress level will also help you manage the changes that pop up. Imagine in are in a bubble, calmly going about your life. Just outside the bubble is chaos…you can see it, you know it’s going on, but you don’t have let it impact you, or invade your bubble. When you practice stress reduction on a regular basis you can have a sense of calm despite the chaos, uncertainty, and changes. Yes, of course, there are times when you will feel stress or lack of control, but that’s a cue that you need to take time for self care and reinforce your bubble. Some of the simplest, yet effective, ways to reduce stress are; journaling, laughter, and deep breathing.
While I list these as steps, they are really all linked together. More like stepping stones that you can hop to in various combinations. I invite you to take a look back at a couple of older blogs I wrote, Are You on the List and The Heart of Self Care where I dive deeper into stress management. Whether you are an ultra planner by nature at any time, or trying to manage the pandemic changes and uncertainty, making decisions and re-routing is better than standing still. Step forward, my friend!