Corona virus concerns seem to be everywhere: the television, the internet, the news, and our homes. Our children are out of school, and our college students are likely home early. And it seems like there are no clear answers or ways to help. These concerns represent a lot of uncertainty, and as a result, cause us a lot of stress.
Life is full of uncertainties.
As humans, we encounter new things or unknown outcomes every day. Just simple things, like the weather, vary from one day to the next. And then there are the bigger things, like our health or the health of our loved ones. Other large uncertainties can include our job outlook, our financial outlook, or whether our relationships will end with a break-up or divorce. Students may wonder if they will graduate, get into college, or get a good job. It can be overwhelming at times. The list of uncertainties never ends.
If you are prone to worry, uncertainty may seem almost paralyzing at times. You may find your mind continues to find the unknown, wondering things like, “What if I lose my job?” or “What if my partner and I break up?” Lately, you may wonder, “What if someone I love (or even myself) gets sick?” You may find your mind floating among different types of uncertainties throughout the day.
People in general have a very strong preference for certainty.
Research has found that people would rather have an immediate electronic shock than the possibility of being shocked later. More so, people showgreater sympathetic nervous activation when waiting for an unpredictable shock than an expected one. To translate, it may imply that people would rather experience a difficult fate immediately than to wait and see if something bad may happen. Our bodies are primed for certainty. Unfortunately, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to know our futures.
Here are some things to consider in these trying times.
Decide what you can and cannot change
For example, you may not be able to 100% control the outcome of your relationship, but you can control things about your relationship now. You can focus on enjoyable activities to do together, how you treat one another, and how you talk to one another. Make a point to think about what you can control and take time to do those things. It may be choosing an online appointment, even if it is not comfortable. You may choose to help your children learn from home, even if it is not perfect. You may also choose to follow your values, and make decisions that are consistent with these values, rather than allow your thoughts to dwell on fear.
“Jacob: Tell me — has anyone ever believed you when you told them not to worry?
Newt: My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.”J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay
Make a list of a few things that you DO know for certain
For example, although you may not know how your next review will turn out at work, you may know you will have a job tomorrow and that you enjoy the work that you do. Reminding yourself of the things can help your thoughts lock into something other than your fears, and go a long way to tolerating distress.
Remember that the worst things hardly happen
In fact, one study found that when people worry about something negative happening, 85% of the time something good or neutral happens. Only 15% of the time did the participants rate the outcome as negative, and less 1% of the time did participants rate the worst occurrence happening. Like the quote above says, many times, when we worry, we prolong our own suffering.
Try to use mindfulness and find joy in the moment
One thing that can be helpful is to take inventory of all the good things happening in the moment that you are in. You may notice the sun shining, a loving family, a warm home, or a soft bed. Offer up some thoughts of gratitude for those simple joys, and the future’s uncertainties lose their importantce.
Remember, there are blessings of uncertainty as well. The future would be quite boring if we knew what to expect all the time. Eckhart Tolle said, “When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.” Here’s wishing you a life with possibility and adventure!