How to deal with uncertainty

How to deal with uncertainty

Uncertainty can be overwhelming and stressful, but it can be dealt with.

It’s painful because we’re taken out of the comforts of knowing what will happen tomorrow. Not knowing leaves open hundreds of possible scenarios of what can happen, and that’s simply too much information for our minds to handle. With so much information we can’t plan and strategize on what to do.

All of a sudden, we’re not in control anymore, and in our modern times where everything is planned and mapped out for years and years, that uncertainty creates anxiety.

 

If you have a few scenarios of how tomorrow might unfold you can easily make preparations and plans in your mind about how to resolve a potential issue.

And in your everyday life those few scenarios are usually what to have for dinner, when to pick up the kids from school, if you should meet up with friends instead of working out, and so on.

You brain can easily handle that information and plan for the different scenarios, so the uncertainty doesn’t seem overwhelming.

That’s the difference between having an average day where you feel no moderate stress and stepping out of your comfort zone, going on a vacation.

  • “Will the food be OK? Will we miss our flight? What if there’s a que at the airport?” – all these uncertainties that your brain has difficulty handling because of an overload of scenarios and information.

You mind is a computer

If you ask it to answer which route to work will be fastest at 8 in the morning next Tuesday, it will quickly analyse the specific data and give you a clear response. But if you ask it if you’ll feel fulfilled for the rest of your life or if you’re wasting the unlimited potential you’ve been promised by Hollywood feel-good-movies, it won’t be able to come up with a good answer. It will drown in a flood of (flawed) data.

It’s the difference between filling out a few cells in an Excel spreadsheet and filling out a few thousand. Unless you have a super computer, it can’t handle the data and it gives an uncertain answer.

Break down the uncertainties into smaller bits where you can analyse them

But if you take a deep breath and break down the various uncertainties one by one, you can focus your mind on one scenario at a time.

  • What if the food is not OK? We can do some research on TripAdvisor about where to eat
  • Will we miss our flight? If we leave in extra good time we’ll make it
  • What if there’s a que at the airport? If we leave a buffer for it, it shouldn’t be an issue

If you’re unemployed and don’t know what to do with your life, there’s more uncertainty than going on a holiday, but the basic issue is the same.

There’s too much data and your mind can’t find a way through it.

Focus on the present and take action

You’re afraid of the uncertainty of tomorrow, but as it is with all worry, it doesn’t help you. What does help you is focusing on what you can do to change the situation you’re in.

Keeping your mind on the present stops you from worrying about tomorrow, and it allows you to focus on what you can take action on to take a step towards less uncertainty.

It’s so easy to get caught up in thought, overanalysing what your next step should be, or what might be the right decision years from now. Thinking that if you apply for this job will you have to move? Will that make you more or less happy? Should you even do it then?

Well, what if you don’t get the job? You put so much effort into worrying about a future that might not happen. If you stay in the present your next step is to apply for the job, and if they offer you the job you can weigh the positives and negatives of accepting it.

Avoid the unpleasant emotions of uncertainty by staying present and taking action

By applying for the job you limited the variables of that scenario to a point where your brain can deal with the data. Now there’s a road laid out in front of you and following it, you will be given more data, which you can use to figure out if this is the right decision for you. Thinking about it without action would only have created anxiety over what could have been, but never became.

 

Conclusion

Anxiety from uncertainty comes from an overload of data in your mind. Break down the uncertainties into smaller issues where there’s less of an overload to answer them individually and gain more clarity.

And take action. Always take action. No matter the uncertainty of your life, it will become no less by staying in your mind without making a change and acting on it. Even if it is small action.

 

Do you know someone who’s dealing with uncertainty at the moment? Share this article with them and let them know it doesn’t have to be painful.

 

All the best, you’re the best. EZ Philosophy


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