5 Ways To Deal With Uncertainty Gracefully

'Madness is the result not of uncertainty but of certainty'

- Friedrich Nietzsche

Uncertainty is an unavoidable human experience.  It lurks in the shadows, and at times it can leap out,  clawing at our sense of security. Uncertainty can disorientate you, take away your sense of control. Once it has you in its grip, fear follows and sometimes dread. Feeling uncertain can be a lonely and desolate experience. It can take us to the bare bones of our existence -- but in fact uncertainty doesn't have to be overwhelming. Dealt with in the right way it's  not a weakness but a strength: 

1. First, give yourself permission to be uncertain, and don’t add to the pain by telling yourself you shouldn’t be feeling it.  Every single decision and choice, whether made by yourselves or someone else, automatically and necessarily involves uncertainty.  Unless you have clairvoyant powers, you do not know what will happen in the future.  To be uncertain is to be sane.

2. Surf it.  Remember, the intensity of all feelings passes. Uncertainty is no exception.  Intense periods of uncertainty pass, often as things become clearer, as they inevitably do.  Think of it like a wave coming towards you, rather than bracing yourself for the impact, let yourself float on top of it, letting it carry you until you're washed safely onto the sandy shore.  

3. See uncertainty as an unpredictable friend.  Sometimes rewarding, sometimes disappointing.  If you get stuck into thinking uncertainty will inevitably bring disappointment (or worse) your anxiety will spike.  Remember that good things happen too! Uncertainty becomes tolerable, exciting even, when we expect positive outcomes as much as we do negative ones 

4. Try not to let uncertainty into your bed.  Your mind will want to dwell on the ‘what if’s’ and a peak time for this is at night, when it’s quiet and you are alone in your sleepless head.  Tiredness doesn’t help, so postpone your worry until the morning.  You can find some sleep tips here.

5. Distract yourself.  You may not be able to get rid of it, but you can give yourself a break from uncertainty. Whether that’s a good work out, great movie, mindfulness meditation, or making dinner: do it. We all need respite.

Uncertainty is an inescapable part of human life.  Most people see it as a sign of weakness, but this couldn't be further from the truth. We fall under the powerful illusion that strong confident people are never in doubt and always know what’s what. They don’t, they just act like they do.  So remember this one thing: uncertainty is alongside you, don’t try and rid yourself of it. Instead see it like a hot, crowded train journey, where you don’t have a seat, and forgot to bring any water.  Its unpleasant, but vital and by enduring it gracefully you’ll get where you need to go.




Image credit: Jaume Escofet