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How to respond to uncertainty and change

February 27, 2023

There are many things that can make life feel uncertain, but with the cost of living crisis and so many other global challenges being a major stressor for many people right now, coping with the unknowns can be especially challenging.

While we can’t control what happens outside of our own lives and actions, we can control how we respond to this uncertainty. We’ll all react differently to change. Sometimes we can be hard on ourselves when things don’t go as we planned or hoped – in these moments it’s important to be patient with ourselves. We can also look at building our resilience to cope better with whatever comes our way.

Acknowledge how you feel.

It’s normal to experience feelings like anxiety, stress, sadness and anger when our normal way of life has been challenged. Allowing ourselves to fully feel our emotional reaction helps us to understand and process what’s happening, and to move forward.

Recognise what’s out of your control.

Accepting when there’s nothing you could do to influence the outcome can help you to handle your disappointment and frustration. Focus on making plans in the areas of life that you know you can control, whether that's starting a new hobby, discovering more activities you can do with the family, deciding what to watch on TV, or listing the books you want to read.

If you’re anxious, test your assumptions.

In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), we teach exercises that encourage people to change the relationship they have with their thoughts, which enables them to manage their feelings better.

If you’re worried about the uncertainty that lies ahead and believe that you won’t be able to manage well if life is shaken up because of this unknown, try doing something that has an uncertain outcome and see how you get on. For example, what would happen if you switched from your favourite brand of cereal to another? Why don’t you try getting the bus instead of the train? How about ordering something completely different from your local takeaway? The message your brain will receive is that you can deal with uncertainty.

Challenge negative thoughts.

Examine your negative thoughts and beliefs and ask yourself if they are accurate to the situation you are currently in. Remember, challenging negative thoughts takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself and don't give up if you don't see immediate results.

Resist the temptation to constantly check the news.

Although you may feel like you need to be updated with the newest information on what’s happening around the world, make sure you’re taking breaks from the news cycle. When our minds are flooded with negative stories, this can increase our stress and anxiety levels, particularly if the events covered are distressing or personally relevant.

Be kind to yourself.

Despite everything that’s happening around you, it’s important to treat yourself with compassion, understanding and care, just as you would your loved ones. This is something that can be easily forgotten, but it’s important that you practice self-care to help maintain good mental health and overall well-being.

 Self-care can mean different things to everyone. Perhaps it’s getting some fresh air, going to a yoga class, or allowing yourself to relax and watch your favourite programme without feeling the need to be productive. Whatever works for you, do that.

Seek support if you need it.

If you have an existing mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or OCD, and current circumstances are having a significant impact on you, then please do reach out for support. This also goes for people who may be experiencing symptoms for the first time.

You can find out more about how CBT helps us to manage our feelings here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
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