How To Manage Uncertainty in Uncertain Times
We are living in extremely uncertain times and this uncertainty can be really tough to cope with.
Are you feeling worried right now?
Struggling to keep anxious thoughts in check?
Do you feel anxiety or fear about what might happen in the future?
The good news is that you CAN learn to live with uncertainty.
Facing Uncertainty is Scarier than Facing Physical Pain
A recent study shows that the uncertainty of something bad happening can be more stressful than the knowledge of something bad happening.
In 2016, a group of London researchers explored how people react to being told they will either “definitely” or “probably” receive a painful electric shock.They discovered a fascinating paradox.
Subjects in the study who knew they would definitely receive a painful electric shock felt calmer and were less agitated than those who were told they only had a 50 percent chance of receiving an electric shock.
Another study involved 45 volunteers who were asked to play a computer game in which they turned over digital rocks that might have snakes hiding underneath. Throughout the game, they had to guess if each rock concealed a snake. When a snake appeared, they received a mild but painful electric shock on the hand.
During the game they got better at predicting which rocks concealed the snakes, but the game was designed to keep changing the odds of success and keep a level of uncertainty. And when we’re facing outcomes full of uncertainty, the fact that something bad might happen packs a powerful negative punch!
The volunteers’ level of uncertainty correlated to their level of stress. So, if volunteers felt “certain” they would find a snake, stress levels were significantly lower than if they were more unsure they would uncover a snake.
In both cases, they would receive a shock, but their stress was loaded with added uncertainty.
Archy de Berker from the UCL Institute of Neurology said: “Our experiment allows us to draw conclusions about the effect of uncertainty on stress. It turns out that it’s much worse not knowing you are going to get a shock than knowing you definitely will or won’t.”
Uncertainty Ignites our Primitive Survival Instinct
If we can’t neutralise a perceived threat, we start that wonderfull unhelpful process of worrying! In our need for certainty, we are wired to “catastrophise” and this leads to worry, which in turn leads to anxiety.
Another problem is that the modern brain doesn’t actually distinguish between real threat and perceived threat with the result being that the primitive brain takes over and triggers the primitive survival instinct – fight or flight.
The brain in a situation like this attempts to answer questions such as:
What is going to happen…?
Should I be doing more…?
Should I be doing less…?
What if my business is threatened…?
What if my livelihood is threatened…?
The lack of answers can lead to emotions such as anger, agression, fear and frustration.
How can we cope more effectively with this uncertainty?
There are a number of things we can do to reduce the impact of uncertainty:
• Awareness is key – be aware of your feelings and emotions
• Notice the “worry story” you are telling yourself – try to distance yourself from it
• Focus on your breathing – long slow breaths or try box breathing or the 7/11 technique.
• Recognise the need to rise above the fight-or-flight response
• Accept uncertainty – allow yourself to stop struggling
Mood-Boosters to reduce anxiety and improve wellbeing;
• Exercise and movement
• Meditation, self hypnosis
• Achievement-oriented activity
• Doing something pleasant or fun
Just 20 -30 minutes a day, focusing on yourself, will help you regain a sense of balance and focus.
To help you with the mood-boosting, check out the audio downlaod and tip-sheet on my website!