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How to reduce the stress of uncertain times

What do you do when you quite literally don’t know what’s going to happen next?  If you’re a type-a, planner, creature of habit, perfectionist (or recovering perfectionist), life’s uncertainties and unexpected events can throw you for a loop faster than a Cedar Point roller coaster…  So what can you do to deal with the uncertain times in life?

It’s been a strange week.  Every hour or so, the news app on my phone chimes in with another event that’s been canceled, a school that’s been dismissed, or a normal part of daily life changing for the foreseeable future.  And I’m not quite sure what the next little bleep of my phone will bring! Or what tomorrow will look like.

Strange times, for sure, but it has me thinking. As much as I like knowing what to expect next, life doesn’t work like that.  And, honestly, it would be pretty boring if it did! Can you imagine always knowing with certainty what was going to happen? Easier?  Yes. Boring? Definitely.   

Life changes a lot.  Sometimes it’s planned, like moving across the country.  Sometimes, it’s unplanned, like a sudden change in family dynamics or an accident that leaves you scrambling.  And sometimes, it’s new to everyone at once, like a pandemic.

So, what can you do to ease your mind and feel settled when life is unsettled? 

Here are a few practical ways to deal with the uncertain times in life!

Keep calm & carry on

Sticking to your normal routine is one of the best ways to make life feel normal, even when it’s anything but.  Sometimes, though, that’s just not possible. So try to create a new, temporary normal routine. It may be for a few days, weeks, months, or even years, depending on the situation.  But having one little part of life that you can rely on for some daily “sameness” will calm your nerves and ease your mind.

List out the worst-case scenario, best-case scenario, and anything in between

Sit down and make a list.  List out around 5 possible outcomes for whatever uncertain situation you find yourself in.  Start with the worst case, then the best case, then a few possibilities in between. What might happen, what will probably happen, and what could happen.  

If you’re a planner like me, just having some idea of what may be coming down the road will give you peace of mind, even if you’re not sure which version will ultimately play out.  Because you can have a general game plan for each scenario.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE – This is especially important for the worriers and anxious folks.  Make your list, but DO NOT DWELL on the worst-case possibilities. Yes, they might happen.  They probably won’t. But spending your time worrying about the worst that can happen will not benefit you.  Consider it, have a game plan just in case, but then move on.

Make a game plan – and a backup plan

Planning can help you feel less off balance when life gets a little wonky around you.  Now that you have your list of possible outcomes, make a quick (and very flexible) game plan for each.  You’ll feel more in control, even if you have no control over the situation itself or its outcome.

Revise, revise, revise!

You’ve made your plans, but they’re going to have to change.  Sorry to break it to you (I don’t like it either), but we can’t plan for everything.  So instead, think of those game plans you just made as an outline instead of a fully written story.  You already have a place to start from, but now you can adjust as needed when the picture begins to come into focus.

Embrace the strangeness

You really just never know what’s going to happen in life.  But even when your life changes DRAMATICALLY, the strange times during that change will only last for a while.  Eventually, new and different will settle back into normal. And it may not be the same normal, but it WILL become normal.

So while things are up in the air, make an intentional effort to embrace the strangeness and uncertainty.  

Accept that things are different for now and make the best of it.  Make it memorable and keep it positive. One day, you’ll look back, and you can either remember the stress and anxiety of this chapter of life or you can choose to remember the things that make it interesting and unique.

 

What tips do you have for keeping calm, cool, and collected during uncertain times?

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