Staying Calm In Times of Uncertainty

Date Published: March 1, 2020

Life is filled with uncertainty. At times this uncertainty can bring excitement, for example, anticipating the birth of child. While other times, uncertainty invites fear and worry. Not knowing what is to come can cause us to imagine and start to prepare for the worst.  We may start to lament our lack of ability to control the outcomes.

With mounting fears of the spreading Coronavirus, we, as a global community, are in a time of widespread worry and fear. For some, these feeling can feel overwhelming. Here are a few ways to cope with feelings of uncertainty.

Limit Exposure to the News

The 24-hour news cycle can be overwhelming. While it is important to stay informed, there is such a thing as too much information. To help remain calm, but also prepared and informed, limit your new consumption to just what you need to get the essential information. It is important to also take note of where you get your news from. Multiple small exposures to news throughout the day can add up. Watching the news for 30 minutes in the morning, listening to a radio update for 15 minutes while driving, reading a couple articles online at lunch, scrolling through posts on social media- by the end of the day, the exposure to the news may be upwards of a handful of hours! Being mindful of how much time you are spending each day on each of the various media outlets is important to manage overconsumption.

Helpful strategies:

  • Pick a Source. Decide on which form of news you want to get your information from and stick to those. This means choosing either an organization (like the CDC or the WHO), TV news station, public radio, or perhaps an online newspaper. Once you have chosen the way you want to find out information, avoid the temptation to look at the others.
  • Avoid the Rabbit Hole. Anther common pitfall is starting with one new story and jumping to the next similar article on that topic. This is especially easy to do online or on social media. Resist consuming multiple articles on the same fear-provoking topic and instead, stop once you have the essential info you need.
  • Refrain from Over Checking.  The news cycle moves fast, but unless there is a declared emergency, or impending emergency, checking the news multiple times a day will only feed anxiety.


Focus On What You Can Control

In times of uncertainty it can be easy to slip into focusing on what is out of your control. When this happens the mind races and all the potential outcomes and fears begin to surface. Whenever possible, start to refocus your thoughts on things you do have control over. This might be focusing on what you can do to prepare. It may mean making physical and mental health a priority to remain strong and grounded during an upcoming challenging time.

Helpful Strategies:

  • Meditate. Mindful meditation is a great way to help train your brain to refocus when it starts to go down a rabbit hole of worries. Here are some excellent meditations.
  • Breath. Tuning into the rhythm of the breath for just a few minutes can help calm the entire nervous system. When you notice yourself becoming anxious about uncertainty or what is out of your control, take a moment to notice your breathing and take a few deep breaths.
  • Engage the senses. Take note of all the smells, colors, sounds, and another other sensation around you. When feeling overwhelmed or fearful, using the five senses to bring calm and grounding. This practice supports being present rather than living in the past or the future.


Find Routines that Bring Comfort and Stick to Them

This could be a series of stretches each morning, taking a brisk walk or enjoying a cup of tea. Having predictable and enjoyable routines each day can help anchor you in times of uncertainty. As humans we naturally like to know what is coming. It is part of our survival instinct. While some novelty and challenges in our lives are welcomed and necessary for personal growth, living in a state of constant change can cause anxiety. In these instances, routine helps to counterbalance feelings of uncertainty and change.

Helpful Strategies:

  • Journal. The simple practice of journaling for five minutes at the end of each day can bring a sense of control and perspective.
  • Stretch. Yoga sun salutations when you first wake up
  • Move. Going for a walk at a certain time each day
  • Connect. Sharing an appreciation or gratitude with a partner or loved one each day


Share How You Feel

When life is feeling uncertain, turning to a loved one or friend can be helpful. Sharing your fears and concerns with someone who can listen and validate how you feel, can help you feel understood and less alone. It may also open up a new insight or point of view. Often times we can find reassurance as well as new perspectives from talking to others. A friend might offer a different, more helpful way of viewing the situation or share an effective way of coping.

Remaining connected in times of uncertainty can also help keep things in perspective. Recognizing that we are all in this together can make facing fear and anxiety feel more manageable.


All Feelings Are Okay, It Is What You Do With Them That Matters

Sometimes we can beat ourselves up for feeling a certain way. Our inner voice starts telling us we “should” feel (calm) or we “shouldn’t” be so (scared). While letting our fears dominate and inhibit our ability to function is not helpful, it is important to still acknowledge that what you are feeling is important and okay.  It is how you manage the feelings that really matters.

For example, feeling anxiety around the spread of the coronavirus is normal. Wondering how this will impact your community and loved ones is normal. Feeling sadness for how many lives it has already impacted is also completely expected. Feelings of frustration about not knowing, of wondering what the future might bring are all normal too. Having feelings is a human response that make us the incredible, sensing beings we are. However, learning skills to manage these feelings, allowing them to exist without becoming overwhelming, is an ongoing and essential practice for wellbeing.


Struggling with uncertainty in your life? Sage House Therapy is here to help. Our clinicians offer free, phone consultations. Contact us today.