Uncertainty is a part of everyday life; you can never be 100% sure of the future and how things may pan out. This is a big form of stress and, for some people, can lead to struggles with their mental wellbeing and negativity towards uncertain elements of their life - past or perceived in the future.
These individuals may seek to control situations to the best of their ability and eliminate spontaneity or things they cannot control. For others, this can lead to excitement and provide a thrill for pursuing uncertainty whilst having positive beliefs.
Would you prefer to live your life knowing exactly what was going to happen? Is certainty something that is always needed, and can the constant strive for certainty be damaging?
The constant need for certainty and the inability to cope with uncertainty can be a key factor in negatively affecting wellbeing. People who are negatively affected by uncertainty may find themselves in constant ‘fight or flight’ mode, which is known to be how the body processes stress.
This constant fear of uncertainty can make someone more prone to fear and anxiety. It can also increase worrying, whilst reducing resilience, confidence, self-esteem, and decision-making ability. This is something everyone may experience, especially when going through a difficult period in life.
It is easy to see uncertainty negatively, when in an experience in which uncertainty has brought difficulty. It may be difficult to see a positive way forward, due to uncertainty of the outcome, or even more uncertainty the situation may bring.
One way to deal with uncertainty is to learn to live with it to reduce need for certainty.
It may be effective to reduce the need for certainty using these steps, APPLE -
Acknowledge - When uncertainty happens, take a moment to acknowledge it within your mind.
Pause - Be aware of how you would normally react, then do not react at all. Just pause and breathe.
Pull back - Take yourself out of that moment of negativity, remind yourself that this is just worry talking. Be aware of your need for certainty may not be helpful and that it is only a thought. Thoughts are not statements of fact.
Let go - Then let go of this thought. Accept that it will pass; imagine it floating away. You do not have to respond to it.
Explore mindfulness - Try and explore the present moment, here no stress exists. Focus on your breathing, taking notice of everything around you. Then shift your focus to something else, allowing for positivity to take space instead. This can be very powerful, especially when the stress is based on a huge uncertainty in the future that is recognised as not being within your control to influence.
Tips for gaining certainty and embracing uncertainty
- Control what you can
Whilst using the A-P-P-L-E technique, consider focusing on what you can control, as this can bring a certain level of certainty to your day, whilst giving you peace of mind towards uncertain elements.
- Take your own advice
Next time you are unsure and worried about something, consider the advice you would give to someone else in that scenario. Hearing this in your own voice can be very powerful, as it is a trusted source the brain recognises. This can be a powerful experience, showing that you can find the answers you need- therefore increasing confidence, self-esteem and resilience.
- Know your limits
You may get the urge to keep up to date with the latest information about something or to keep submerged in a stressful situation desperately trying to find an outcome, but ultimately this can be severely detrimental to your wellbeing. So, if you cannot do anything about it, try and take a step back and reassess. They say ignorance is bliss and sometimes it really is.
One thing is for certain…
If your stress levels build to an unmanageable level, you are likely to experience burnout.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when an individual feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands (TheLearningArchitect).
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