We know that things can seem tough when one fears the uncertainty resulting from personal, social, or historical changes. It is okay; most people have had similar experiences.
On the one hand, it is entirely natural to worry about the exam results or feel scared about the job application status. On the other, many of us feel incredibly overwhelmed with fear, anxiety, or worry that we develop intolerance towards uncertainty.
Due to the fear of the unknown, one avoids new situations. As one steers away from new experiences, he/she doesn’t learn and evolve in life. But don’t worry, as you read this article, you will get to learn about how to get comfortable with the idea of uncertainty. Before that, let us read more about the link between uncertainty and mental health.
UNCERTAINTY AND MENTAL HEALTH
For some people, it becomes so difficult to deal with experiences of not-knowing that it affects their mental health. There is evidence that shows that there is a link between uncertainty and mental disorders. A study conducted in 2020 shows that uncertainty is positively associated with developing mental disorders among college students.
This study makes an important observation that stress due to uncertainty is more likely to result in mental disorders than stress due to life-situations or studies.
To reduce the uncertainty, the individual resorts to compulsive checking behaviour like calling upon loved ones to ask if they were safe or double-checking the locks and switches of the house, etc.
There is scientific evidence to show that intolerance of uncertainty triggers symptoms of anxiety. In 1994, researchers from Quebec developed a scale called the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (IUS), and this scale measures to what extent people seek predictability and how they react to uncertainty.
Research shows that high-level intolerance of uncertainty is linked to anxiety disorders. The same research reveals that a higher IU level leads to an increase in worry.
GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY
By now, you understand that uncertainty influences the quality of everyday life. The fear of the unknown deters us from living our lives to their fullest potential, affecting mental health.
At this point, it is vital to ask the question- is it possible to get comfortable with uncertainty? Yes, it is entirely possible if you tweak your lifestyle a little bit. Wondering about how to do that? I suggest you keep reading.
WORK ON YOUR THOUGHT PROCESSES
PRACTICE RATIONAL THINKING
Regularly work on breaking up the association between negative emotions and uncertainty by flexing the rational part of your brain. Whenever you face something like the uncertainty of the job or results of the exam, approach the situation rationally.
Make it a practice to assess situations and arrive at sound conclusions through careful analysis of the facts and opinions. In the beginning, this might feel daunting, but slowly, you will learn to recognize and manage difficult emotions. As you learn, you will be able to remain calm and balanced during uncertain times.
DEVELOP FLEXIBLE THINKING
Fear of the unknown makes you resistant to change. Because of this, you might prefer to not open up to new adventures. By becoming a flexible thinker, you learn to cope well with change.
Now and then, increase exposure to new and different experiences to become comfortable with change. Start with reinventing your daily routine and try to do the same things differently. For instance, an exercise in the evening instead of morning, walk to the grocery store instead of taking the car. Consciously pursue new challenges or experiences. Take to new hobbies like painting or swimming.
SCHEDULE YOUR DAY
When you are not sure about how to start the day, make a schedule to organize your daily activities. Write down all the things you have to do for the day and order the tasks based on your priorities. Planning your day well ahead will give you a sense of direction and focus for the future. Moreover, following repetitive routines is beneficial as they make you feel more in control of your life.
STAY CLOSE TO YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEMS
You will manage the negative responses to uncertainty if you are around the right kind of people. Emotions like fear, anxiety, or worry are self-defeating in nature, so you need to find social support in the form of friends and family so that you stop dwelling on those emotions for long.
Open communication with your loved ones helps you see and understand that they are multiple perspectives to a situation. So, the next time you feel uncomfortable about uncertainty, don’t hesitate to call up a friend.
SELF-COMPASSION IS THE KEY
It is incredible to see that you are diligently working towards changing your attitude towards uncertainty. At the same time, show compassion towards yourself even if you falter. You know that old saying ‘Rome was not built in a day.
Trying to change old patterns of response is challenging but not impossible. Take your own time and be patient. Despite your effort, if you can’t get over the fear of the unknown, it is okay because there is always a next time for everything. Try not to resort to self-criticism as it leads you nowhere.
I know it is challenging but trust me, change is possible if you remain optimistic despite the setbacks. Remember, you are not alone in this journey.
It is entirely normal to criticize yourself when you fail. However, it is just that one should know how to not dwell on self-critical stories so much that it feels impossible to open up to new experiences.
To develop a healthy detachment from self-criticism, practice mindfulness, a simple practice, mindfulness, is about being aware of the present moment without judgment.
For starters, here is a simple and easy-to-do mindfulness technique that you can practice.
• Choose a comfortable posture; you can either sit or lie down. Let go of all the tension in the body. Relax.
• Be aware of the thoughts in your head and pay attention to them. Avoid labelling those thoughts. Acknowledge them and gently allow them to pass.
• Even you are distracted by a single thought, it is completely fine. Gently bring your mind back to focus on the thoughts.
Learning to change your response towards uncertainty will help you become a person who can make and accept changes. Now you know how to deal with uncertainty. All you have to do is start practising.