We’re creatures of habit and consistency us humans. We tend to seek stability and certainty in times of change and uncertainty, particularly during difficult times when the need for something predictable to hold on to intensifies. Uncertainty avoidance could be my middle name, I’ve spent most of my life working to eliminate uncertainty from my life. Living in survival mode meaning the only way to survive was to attempt to ‘control’ the outcomes – epic fail, of course it’s impossible!
The Scientific American clarified a few things for me though. Explaining just why I am the way I am.
“Over time, if we grow up in a secure environment with supportive parents, we learn to feel safe when there is no obvious danger. We become better able to tolerate uncertainty. But for those of us who grew up abused, neglected or otherwise deprived of feeling safe, uncertainty is threatening. and ..
“Those of us who grew up with unpredictable danger or inconsistent safety are ever vigilant for harm. “People consistently high in IU(S, Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale) have trouble recognizing when they are safe,” (Mark) Freeston says. “Just telling them it’s safe isn’t enough.”
Uncertainty is, of course, a natural part of life and can manifest in many different forms. It can be related to personal relationships, career decisions, financial stability, or even global events. While orchestrated uncertainty can be exciting and motivating, such as travel for example, for many it can also be a major source of anxiety and even triggering of other mental health disorders. The good news is that there are many wellness tools available to help us navigate uncertainty and manage our anxiety.
One of the most effective ways to cope with uncertainty or ambiguity is through mindfulness and meditation practices. Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and focusing on your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without judgement. This can help us develop a sense of awareness and acceptance of our thoughts and emotions, rather than trying to suppress or ignore them.
Meditation is a form of mindfulness that involves sitting quietly and focusing on our breath, a mantra, or a visualisation. Both mindfulness and meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation and reducing negative thoughts.
Another effective tool for managing uncertainty is cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT). This type of therapy focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to anxiety and other mental health disorders. CBT can help us learn how to challenge negative thoughts and beliefs and develop more positive and realistic ways of thinking. This can help us feel more in control of our thoughts and emotions and reduce the impact of uncertainty on our mental wellbeing.
Exercise is another important tool for managing uncertainty and anxiety. Regular physical activity can, actually I will go so far as say, will help release tension and stress, improve mood, and increase self-esteem. Exercise can also help improve sleep, which is crucial for maintaining good mental health. Physical activity can be anything from going for a walk, jogging, yoga, cycling or swimming.
Another important tool for managing uncertainty is social support. Having a network of supportive friends and family can provide you with a sense of security and help you feel less alone in your struggles. Joining a support group can also be a great way to connect with others who are going through similar experiences.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, in addition to these wellness tools, it is important to take care of your physical health. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding alcohol and drugs (which mess with your gut microbiome, which affects your mental health – see where I’m going here?) can all help reduce the impact of uncertainty on your mental health. Taking care of your physical health can also help improve your mood and increase your overall sense of wellbeing. We are the master of our own health destiny.
It’s important to remember that uncertainty is a normal part of life and that everyone experiences it in different ways. It is also important to be kind to yourself and to recognise that it’s okay to feel anxious or stressed. Remember that everyone’s journey is different, and that we must be patient and compassionate with ourselves.
Uncertainty is a main ingredient for triggering anxiety and other disorders, but there are many wellness tools available to help us navigate it and manage anxiety. Mindfulness, meditation, CBT, exercise, social support, and taking care of your physical and mental health are all effective tools that can help reduce the impact of uncertainty on mental wellbeing.
Oh, and how am I doing now? Thanks for asking. Well after much work, I’ve done a full 180, ok, maybe 120 so far, but I decided that as the ‘super control freak’ position didn’t work, heaven knows I spent long enough trying, it was time to ‘leave it up to the universe’ – seems to be working so far. Certainly, for my mental health!