3 Tips To Tolerate The Uncertainty From COVID-19

feeling trapped

I think at this point, its safe to say, things feel out of place for all of us – all over the world.

What makes it more challenging is the fact that we do not have any answers to our rapidly increasing questions.

Do we have enough food at home?

Should I leave the city and go stay with my family?

If I cancel my appointment, when should I reschedule it to?

Will things settle down by April?

Should I cancel my trip this summer?

These are some of the questions that have been on my mind. I don’t know what’s going to happen next and the uncertainty of things feels unsettling.

Uncertainty is a normal part of life – all of us experience it. Some of us feel excited about the unknown experience, whereas others find it stressful and will take measures to avoid it. This is where several of our ”control issues” flare-up. Because the thought of being uncertain of things just makes us uncomfortable. As a result we might engage in certain behaviors, strategies to avoid or eliminate uncertainty.

In my world, we label this as intolerance of uncertainty (IU).

People who are suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) often exeperience intolerance of uncertainty.

Behaviors associated with anxiety, such as worrying and avoidance, can be attempts to increase certainty in one’s life.

Intolerance of uncertainty involves the tendency to react negatively on an emotional, cognitive, and behavioral level to uncertain situations and events. 

Dugas, Buhr, & Ladouceur (2004) 

Problematic Strategies for managing uncertainty.

It is very normal to want to control things in your environament and avoid unpredictable situations.

Worrying

Worrying allows us to think about foreseeable potential negative consequences.

What this looks like is asking ”what if” questions. This leads to increased anxiety about the uncertainty because our minds typically run WILD with the ”what if” questions.

When our minds run wild, they typically tend of be negative thoughts, which often times does not even happen! I can personally attest to that.

Once the “what if” questions start, so does the planning to fix these potential problems, thereby leading to a false sense of certainty.

Here is a quick overview of how worrying can be problematic strategies to manage uncertainty.

Avoidance

Avoidance behaviors tend to make us lean towards things that we are aware of and know of. Sticking to things that we know about, helps make us feel safe.

For instance, this can look like ordering the same item off the menu at a restaurant, because if you have eaten it before and like it, why take a chance to order something new, that you might not like?

While eating the same meal might not be a problem, avoiding certain situations or conversations can become problematic over time.

For instance, think of a time when you avoided having a challenging conversation with a close friend. That might have led to further miscommunication and frustration.

Avoidance also limits your exposure to new opportunities and can cause anxious in new situations.

Also, avoidance will let you miss out of things that might have been fun.

Research has shown that intolerance to uncertainty has been linked with other mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders as well as eating disorders.

Here is a quick overview of how avoidance can be problematic strategies to manage uncertainty.

3 Tips to manage uncertainty

1. Uncertainty is part of life: Accepting that uncertainty is a part of our lives means you will no longer need to deny it. Rather than worrying, try being curious about it.

 2. Embrace uncertainty: Rather than fighting uncertainty, embrace it! This will allow you to accept what is coming your way and cope better. Sometimes, you might find new ways to enjoy things!

3. Rethinking uncertainty: Ask yourself this – what if you were given the answers to every single step of your life. There would be no surprises, just plain jane life. Uncertainty can bring about new experiences, some great, some meh and some interesting.

Conclusion

COVID-19 has brought about a lot of uncertainty within our lives. Along with this uncertainty, come the ”what if” questions.

Moments ago they announced that all restaurants, movie theatres and several other businesses will have to be closed by tonight, March 16, 2020.

Earlier today, our clinic has also proceeded to support clients through phone and video sessions going forward, in order to minimize exposure.

We are all taking a day-by-day approach as the world deals with this pandemic.

Which of the 3 tips will you use during these times of uncertainty?

Leave a comment below, you know I would love to hear from you!

Stay healthy, stay safe and buy what you need!

Until next time,

Sarah Ahmed electronic signature

Sarah Ahmed
Co-founder
WellNest Psychotherapy Services

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