Feeling of uncertainty

I love the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” because of the line “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.”  The line is not “all I have wanted” nor is it “All I have asked for.”  Praise God for that!  Sometimes our desires are the last thing we really need!  But the line is, “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.” Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness to me, to help me overcome the feeling of uncertainty.

The verse I’m meditating on today is:

‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, Who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10

We’ve all lived through turbulent times. The pandemic was certainly turbulent. Others of us have lived through very difficult times of loss, illness, and disappointments. Turbulent times will happen for us all, but take comfort that they do not undo the truth about God. Circumstances can be very unstable, but His love for you is constant and sure.  His love for you will never be shaken or removed – it will remain. He knows that you face uncertain times, and He still loves and cares for you.

Living with so much uncertainty is hard. We crave information about the future in the same way we crave food, sex, and other primary rewards. Our brains perceive ambiguity as a threat, and they try to protect us by diminishing our ability to focus on anything other than creating certainty. 

I found some research that shows job uncertainty, for example, tends to take a more significant toll on our health than actually losing our job. Similarly, research participants who were told that they had a 50% chance of receiving a painful electric shock felt far more anxious and agitated than participants who believed they were definitely going to receive the shock.

So how can we best cope when everything feels so out of control? Here are seven surprising strategies.

7 Strategies To Overcome The Feeling Of Uncertainty

1. Don’t resist

There’s no doubt: We are living through challenging times. But resisting this current reality won’t help us recover, learn, grow, or feel better. Ironically, resistance prolongs our pain and difficulty by amplifying the challenging emotions we are feeling.

There’s an alternative. Instead of resisting, we can practice acceptance. Acceptance is about meeting life where it is and moving forward from there.

Because acceptance allows us to see the reality of the situation in the present moment, it frees us up to move forward, rather than remaining paralyzed (or made ineffective) by uncertainty, fear, or argument. To practice acceptance, we surrender our resistance to a problematic situation, and also to our emotions about the situation

2. Invest in yourself

The best resource that you have right now for making a contribution to the world is YOU. When that resource is depleted, your most valuable asset is damaged. In other words: When we underinvest in our bodies, minds, or spirits, we destroy our most essential tools for leading our best lives.

We must get enough sleep and rest when we are tired. We need to spend time having fun and playing, just for the joy of it.

Don’t be confused: Self-care is not selfish. Selfishness is an anxious focus on the self. Selfish people tend to refer back to themselves a lot by using words like I, me, and mine. They pursue extrinsic goals, such as preserving their youthful beauty or cultivating an image of themselves on social media. They often hunger for more money, power, and approval from others, and they are often willing to pursue these things at the expense of other people or the expense of their integrity. That sort of self-focus is linked to stress, anxiety, depression, and health problems such as heart disease.

So, I’m definitely not recommending selfishness. I’m suggesting self-care and personal growth.

3. Find healthy comfort items

One of the most important ways we can invest in ourselves is to comfort ourselves in healthy ways.

If we are to stay flexible, we need to feel safe and secure. When we feel uncertain or insecure, our brain tries to rescue us by activating our dopamine systems. This dopamine rush encourages us to seek rewards, making temptations more tempting. Think of this as your brain pushing you toward a comfort item…like the entire pan of brownies. Or an extra little something in your Amazon cart.

But instead of turning to social media or junk food to soothe our rattled nerves, we do better when we preemptively comfort ourselves in healthy ways.

Make a list of healthy ways to comfort yourself. Can you go for a hike with a neighbor? Schedule a call with a friend? Reflect on what you are grateful for? Let yourself take a little nap? Perhaps you could seek out a hug or watch a funny YouTube video.

Those things may seem small—but they enable us to be the people that we want to be.

4. Don’t believe everything you think

Perhaps the most essential stress-reduction tactic that anyone has ever taught me is not to believe everything I think. In uncertain times, it’s particularly important not to believe thoughts that argue for the worst-case scenario.

It can be helpful for us to consider worst-case scenarios so that we can weigh risks and actively prevent disaster. But when we believe these stressful thoughts, we tend to react emotionally as though the worst case is already happening in real life, rather than just in our heads. We grieve for things that we haven’t actually lost, and react to events that are not happening. This makes us feel threatened, afraid, and unsafe when we are simply alone with our thoughts.

Our negativity bias can also set us up for failure. Expectations can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we expect the worst, we often feel too afraid or close-minded to seize opportunities or respond to challenges with creativity and grit.

Instead of buying into every stressful thought, we can actively imagine the best possible scenario. We can find silver linings to replace ruminations. 

5. Pay attention

The opposite of uncertainty is not certainty; it’s presence. Instead of imagining a scary and unknown future, we can bring our attention to our breath. From there, we can check in with ourselves. Every time we wash our hands, for example, we could ask ourselves: How are you doing right now?

Notice what emotions you are feeling, and where in your body you feel those emotions.

Attending to what is happening within us at any given moment keeps external reality from determining our inner truth. It allows us to cultivate calm, open-mindedness, and non-reactivity.

6. Stop looking for someone to rescue you

When we act as though we are powerless, we get trapped in narratives that leave us feeling angry, helpless, and trapped. And we start hoping other people will save us from our misery.

Rescuers tend to permit us to avoid taking responsibility for our own lives. On the other hand, emotionally supportive friends see us as capable of solving our own problems. They ask questions that help us focus on what we do want instead of what we don’t.

In short: To best cope with uncertainty, we need to stop complaining. When we drop our fixation on the problem, we can focus on the outcomes we desire. How can we make the best of this mess? What can we gain in this situation? 

When we take responsibility for our lives, we trade the false power of victimhood for the real power that comes from creating the life we want.

7. Find meaning in the chaos

When we see something that needs improvement, our next step is to recognize what we can do to be a part of the solution. What skills and talents (or even just interests) can we bring to the issue? What matters to us, and how can we be of service?

Meaning and purpose are wellsprings of hope. When the world feels scary or uncertain, knowing what meaning we have for others and feeling a sense of purpose can ground us better than anything else.

PRAYER: Lord, thank You that amid uncertain times that I can still have full confidence in Your love and care for me. I will rest in Your unfailing love and Your covenant of peace towards me. Amen.

Have you ever felt burned out or overwhelmed? Me too. Once I was so overwhelmed and anxious that I did not realize I had used one whole bottle of shampoo in one single shower. But I found a way to channel and triumph over anxiety, it’s all summed up in ten simple and effective steps here, in my book

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