What does uncertainty mean and why does it make us so uncomfortable?
Uncertainty means not knowing what will come next. It’s unsettling, a bit scary and may lead to emotional, and sometimes even physical, discomfort. This is because when we are uncertain we do not feel safe – most often because we lack control over our current situation. Illness, losing a job, natural disasters and other unprecedented events lead to uncertainty. The trick is being able to handle it to the best of your abilities.
So, how do we do that?
Handling uncertainty starts with confidence in yourself, that you can rise to the occasion. You need to tap into your resiliency, which is in all of us. It’s our capacity to recover from the setbacks and challenges life throws at us. There are three key aspects of resiliency;
1. Ability: Do you have the know-how and the skills to take action and respond appropriately? This may require having, or finding, the resources necessary to help you deal with whatever stands between you and the safety you seek for yourself and/or for others when uncertainty prevails.
2. Identity: This is where we take a “narrative approach” to helping ourselves and others. We determine what comes next in the scenario; how we should act? Sometimes, we instinctively know what to do and other times the scenario is unusual. For example, if you are in an airplane and the oxygen mask comes down you should put yours on first and then that of your child, which goes against conventional parenting wisdom. However, in such a situation, this means taking care of yourself so you will be able to help others who depend on you.
3. Community: During widespread uncertainly, people typically pull together and help one another – by doing so, we can put our mind on the needs of others and later walk away feeling healthier and happier for the future.
During uncertain times, we also need to provide ourselves with activities over which we have some control. For example, while awaiting the daily news of the troops from overseas during the Second World War, millions of civilians sold war bonds and took on domestic and community activities.
While uncertain about job prospects, health issues or during a crisis, people can take time for self-improvement, by enrolling in an online class or enhancing their personal skills, whether it’s magic, athletics, writing, dancing or learning a language. After the uncertainly of where her life would take her following the death of her husband, one woman sat down and decided to write a historical novel based on the life of an ancient king. She toiled day in and day out until she completed an 894 page novel.
Seizing opportunities in uncertain times can translate into any number of possibilities. In some cases people take on home improvement projects which range from cleaning out closets to installing new counter tops to having new windows installed. In fact, during times of uncertainty we often hear from people who want new windows to bring in fresh air and have a healthier and happier home.
In uncertain times I always feel grateful and humbled to be able to help others, whether it means working with clients, taking part in charitable activities or spending time with my family. Uncertainty can be unpleasant, but you can make it more palatable by seizing opportunities for yourself and those around you.