Dealing with Uncertainty.
Let’s do a check in.
How are you feeling from a scale from 1–10?
These times have been anything short of easy. Regardless of your political affiliation, your background, or who you are as a person, at some point we have all experienced a trying moment. One that has pushed our boundaries for what we can take or has tested our ability to compromise.
As someone who is typically joyful and finds things to be thankful for on most days, I’ve had my fair share of questioning moments. Some where I got sick of calculating risk over reward. Moments where I became so overwhelmed, that I couldn’t move. Times when I became so uncertain of myself that instead of reaching out like my usual extrovert self, I turned inward and lay paralyzed.
Uncertainty can come in two forms. When uncertainty is bad, it is anxiety and consequence. When uncertainty is good, it is excitement and opportunity. So how do I bring myself back from anxiety to stability?
- Pause. Take a moment to step back from the situation that is causing the anxiety. I try to make myself aware the moment I’m feeling scattered and jumping from one thing to the next, but realistically accomplishing little. The moment I feel the jitters in a bad way I sit myself down and close my eyes and then…
- Breathe. I keep my eyes shut as I focus solely on the sensation of the air coming into and out of my nose. Whenever my thoughts wander to something, I reel that thought in, I see what I was thinking about, I thank it, and like Marie Kondo, I let it go. Thus, returning to my breath. For this practice, I use square breathing, which is the practice of breathing in for 4 counts, holding your breath for 4, breathing out for 4, and holding for 4, and then repeating. I do this until I have calmed myself down and am only focusing on breathing. When I open my eyes, I begin to…
- Write. I have now grounded my mind and removed the noise that was once cluttering my thoughts. I take my journal or open a blank document and I write everything that comes to mind. I write until I have nothing left to say. When we keep everything in our minds, our brains are doing multiple things — It is processing, it’s trying to remember, it’s trying to categorize, and it’s trying to prioritize. Therapy comes in many forms and sometimes it is all about getting everything out of our minds and onto paper. This frees up space in our mental hard drives to process the real issues at hand. With everything down on paper, I then…
- Assess. What themes came up in my writing? Was my brain just trying to make sure I didn’t forget that very important thing I had to do tomorrow? Was I caught in a loop where I overcame a situation and found a solution only to forget that I solved it and was trying to fix it again? Was I just lost on where to start first? I circle and highlight the main pieces that come up and then I start to…
- Process. “What is the single most impactful area I can take action on to get me to my next step?” If it’s something I’m working through, I create a mind map with the question I need to answer boxed in the middle of a blank paper and I write every answer down. If it’s a big project, I also create a mind map with the goal boxed in the middle and write every possible task that needs to happen to execute on accomplishing this project. If it’s my to do list, I go through it and add anything else I need to do. And then I…
- Plan. I create a plan of action. What is the first and next step I can take towards getting me closer to my single most impactful area. What is the next, and what follows that? And then I…
- Act. I am now grounded. I have planned. All I need to do is go.
For me, I know I have moved past the fear of uncertainty when I take my first step towards a direction. It’s the feeling of making a decision and taking those steps that signal to me that I am making progress even if future steps are unclear. It’s the same thing when you get lost, but orient yourself based on the location of the sun and find your way home.
These steps are nothing short of comprehensive and yet they are the first steps towards getting back to grounded. I read a quote recently that resonated with me:
“You can only control 3 things: 1) Your actions, 2) Your words, 3) How you handle your emotions.”
As we navigate this ever changing world, we need to accept what is out of our control and know what is. Only by grounding our minds can we open ourselves up to the possibilities and, more importantly, opportunities that await us.