Coping with Uncertainty
By Raechel Russo, LMFT Candidate
With all the current events going on in the world, it is natural to feel some uncertainty about the future. You may find that you are worrying more than normal or that your mental health is suffering, even if you aren’t directly affected. It is normal to be feeling uncertain, anxious and/or stressed during these times of unexpected new challenges. You are not alone in your struggle. Though the uncertainty in the world continues, there are ways to cope and get through these challenging times. As a therapist, I often help people cope with their anxiety and uncertainty. Here are some tips that I suggest to others, and also try to practice myself.
1. Have Compassion for Yourself
Compassion means to care in a kind and gentle way. It is important that during these times of uncertainty to practice having compassion toward yourself. Sometimes, it can be easy to become frustrated at yourself when your mental health is struggling. You might be angry that you keep worrying, or you might be upset that you are having a difficult time focusing on things that you normally do. When you find yourself becoming frustrated, try to have compassion instead. Remind yourself that it is okay to have feelings of anxiety and frustration. Remind yourself that it is okay that you are not functioning in the same way as you did before these stressful events. Remind yourself that you are not alone in these feelings. Being compassionate toward yourself is a great way to take care of yourself during difficult times.
If you want to try some exercises that will help you have more compassion on yourself, visit this website: https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/
2. Connect to the Present Moment
Additionally, uncertainty and anxiety can often cause us to focus too much on the future, instead of what is happening in the present moment. When things are out of your control, thinking about the future is usually not very helpful and can make anxiety worse. The present moment is the only time you can control, so it is important to practice connecting with the present moment. One way you could do this is by paying attention to your five senses. What are some things you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell? What are some thoughts and feelings that you are experiencing? Try to focus on your breathing. Take a few deep breaths in and out, while being sure to fill your lungs all the way up and empty them all the way out. Simply pay attention to what it is like to breathe. Once you are connected to the present moment, pick one small thing you could do in the moment to help yourself feel better about the future. For example, if you were worrying about a friend or family member, give that person a call to check in with him or her.
For more ideas on how to connect to the present moment, download the MyLife Meditation, Headspace, or Calm apps on your mobile device.
3. Practice Self-Care
If there is nothing you feel you can do in the present moment that is related to your worries, it can also be helpful to practice self-care. Self-care is when you do activities that will help your physical and mental health. This could be many different things such as exercising, resting, sleeping, reading a good book, calling a friend or family member, going outside, taking a bath, listening to music, practicing a favorite hobby, journaling or going on a walk. Taking time to do things you enjoy is essential to help you physically and mentally recharge during challenging and uncertain times. Though these activities might not usually be in your daily schedule, try to find a way to take at least a little time for yourself every day. Another form of self-care during uncertain times might be to distance yourself from the media or limit the kinds of news that you read, watch or listen to. When there is a lot going on in the world, you may feel overwhelmed by all the news, therefore it might help to take a little break from some of the information that might be increasing your anxiety. Uncertain times can be really challenging, and you are not alone in this struggle. If you have having problems with your mental health, be kind to yourself, stay present in the moment and take good care of yourself. In addition to practicing these strategies, it is also important to reach out to a mental health professional when you are struggling. Overall, in these stressful times, be sure to put your physical and mental health first.