This is the time of year we are likely to set resolutions. And why do we do it? Likely because we are hoping for some sense of control during the new year. Like, I made mistakes last year, but this year i’m doing it right. And all this boils down to dealing with uncertainty.
Personally, I HATE uncertainty. Seriously. I wish I could live my life with everything tied up in a little bow of comfort. But the one thing that life has taught me is that the unexpected happens. And rebuilding my life means learning to embrace uncertainty.
What do I mean by uncertainty?
When I was a kid, I thought being an adult meant I could count on certain things. I would have a home, with a stable job, and family and friends who love me. I would be healthy, and happy, and live to be 101. This expectation changed after I entered the unstable world of adulthood.
As an adult, I realized that I could actually lose any of these things at a moment’s notice. What if I lose my job – how will I pay the bills? What if my relationship falls apart – how will I exist on my own? And what if I get sick – how will I face a threat to my mortality?
These uncertain things can cause a lot of fear. And dysfunctional behavior. And it just leads to not leading the most fulfilling life. So I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how to embrace uncertainty – no easy task, by the way.
But embracing uncertainty makes life a lot better. And quite a bit less stressful. I mean, who enjoys lying awake at night worrying about things they can’t control? Not me. So here are 5 ways I’m trying to embrace uncertainty. Maybe you can try them with me?
Imagine the absolute most catastrophic scenario
This might sound counter-intuitive. I mean, aren’t you supposed to think positive? But for me, thinking positive doesn’t always take away the fear. So why would the opposite work?
Think of something you’re stressed about. And now think of the worst case scenario. But don’t just be general about it. Really “color in” the details. For instance, I don’t just say I’ll be homeless if I lose my job. I say I’ll be living in a box on skid row, without family, or food, or any help to get myself out.
Sadly this is a reality for many people. But it is very unlikely to be reality for me if I lose my job. And by painting such a vivid and exaggerated worst case scenario. It helps me put my fear in perspective. And it makes me feel a lot more safe with my existing uncertainty.
Practice mindfulness or meditation
Mindfulness is a practice of focusing on the here and now. So often I find myself living in the past or the future. But the only moment I have control over is the present. So training the brain to live in the present moment is extremely healthy. And it’s one of the benefits of mindfulness.
A good way to start developing a mindfulness practice is to close your eyes and focus on the breath. Feel your chest expand as you take in a breath. And feel it collapse as you exhale. By focusing on the breath, you’re staying in the present moment.
If you don’t like focusing on the breath, you can shift your attention to focus on sounds in the room, or body sensations. It doesn’t matter how you do it. You just want to train your brain to focus on what is real now, instead of an imagined uncertain future.
Eat nourishing foods
Nobody talks to us about handling uncertainty and stress in school. Which is curious since that’s a skill we’ll all need at some point. So, if you’re like me, you might have taught yourself to self-soothe feelings of uncertainty by overeating comfort foods.
I had a problem with overeating in college. And looking back, I was just trying to comfort the stress I didn’t know how to handle. But after I overate a bunch of junk food, I always felt tired, emotional, and even more overwhelmed with life. I didn’t get the safety I craved.
So eating nourishing foods will help heal you physically. But it also plays a part in how you feel mentally. Comfort foods can be a safety blanket. And while ripping off the safety blanket can feel bad initially, it can help you get to the other side to embrace uncertainty.and find true comfort.
Choose a personal mantra
A mantra is a statement or slogan that’s repeated. How do you choose a mantra? You can find one in a book, from an inspirational quote, or from listening to a lecture from someone you find inspirational.
You can use your mantra whenever you find yourself repeating stressful thoughts, Your mind can only focus on one thing at a time.So your mind can focus on stressful projected thoughts about the future. Or it can focus on the positive words of your mantra.
The trick is to find a mantra that really speaks to you. Pick the wrong mantra for you, and it won’t be very effective. Pick the right one, and it can change your life. For me, it can help me embrace uncertainty when I’m living through lots of it.
Keep a stress diary
Years ago when I was going through a hard time, my mother encouraged me to write my thoughts into a diary. But this wasn’t because she thought the act would help relieve my immediate stress. She wanted me to do it for my future self.
She thought it would be good to be able look back after I’d moved through that time to see what I was thinking. And I have looked back at that diary since then. And looking at my thought patterns now that I have distance from the stressful trigger is really enlightening.
Looking back at a diary can show you how your mind works when faced with uncertainty. And it can assist you in identifying destructive patterns. And this can help give you impetus to stay in the present when faced with an uncertain future.
So those are 5 things I’m doing right now to help embrace uncertainty. Do you have a favorite way of dealing with the stress of the unknown? Let me know in the comments!