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7 Ways to Manage Uncertainty in Life

manage uncertainty
In these uncertain times, thinking about or planning for the future is scarier than ever. Who knows what tomorrow will look like and how we will handle it? Even at the best of times, we humans have an inherent aversion to uncertainty.

The good news is that we have the ability to better manage uncertainty.

Here are 7 ways to manage uncertainty in life:

1. Accept that uncertainty is part of life. According to psychotherapist Joyce Marter LCPC, "Life challenges and periods of uncertainty are normal aspects of the human experience…They promote the evolution of our consciousness."

As the statement suggests, a little uncertainty can be a healthy thing. Research has found that even a small amount of uncertainty activates a strong, alert response in the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight response) which mobilizes us into action.

2. Plan and be prepared. Just because life is largely uncertain and unpredictable, it shouldn't put you off from planning for the future. In fact, it is a good idea to plan for unforeseeable circumstances as well. Make your plans and then have some contingency scenarios if things don't work out. As the adapted quote from Robert Burns' famous poem To A Mouse goes: "The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry." Plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.

3. Focus on what you can control. A lot of the anxiety and stress that accompany uncertainty result from feeling not in control. While there is much in life out of our control it is helpful to focus on those things we can control. For example, establishing routines is great for giving structure and predictability to everyday living. Maintaining good habits, such as exercising regularly, eating healthily, and getting enough sleep are also helpful in putting you in the driver's seat.

Clinical psychologist Amelia Aldao, Ph.D., and the founder of Together CBT in New York City suggests; "Habits become automatic and give us a sense of predictability and control….. Also because we tend to feel accomplished when we complete a task, they’re boosters that can help fight off low moods."

4. Stay positive. Quite often, uncertainty entails negative expectations. We worry and stress about how things will work out, especially if we think we don't have control over the situation. Will I lose my job? Will I find that special somebody? Am I able to stay healthy? 

Rather than let the anxiety of uncertainty take over, imagine things working out well. Picture yourself in pleasant, positive, circumstances. You will feel calmer, more confident, and in control. Visualization is a great tool for helping you stay positive when the future is not imminently clear.

5. Live in and enjoy the moment. Indeed, we lose the beauty and lessons of the moment when we get caught up in uncertainty. If we ruminate too much about the future and what may or may not happen, we lose what the present offers us.

You can also practice mindfulness by savoring the sensations of eating, observing, listening to music, or whatever activity you’re engaged in. Mindfulness and appreciating the moment help you stay grounded and present in times of doubt and uncertainty.

6. Learn to let go. Many of us become attached to specific outcomes to situations. We have definitive ideas of what the future should bring and we hang on tightly to them. When this happens, it's almost certain we'll be disappointed. If, however, we learn to let go and allow the situation to unfold; we open ourselves up to more possibilities and the potential for an even better outcome.

7. Believe in yourself. One of the best ways to embrace uncertainty is to believe in yourself and your abilities to handle whatever comes your way. Managing uncertainty comes with practice and practice makes mastery.The more you're able to manage unforeseen events, the more confidence and belief you will build on your abilities to manage them.

Along with believing in yourself, learning to accept, even embrace, that which you cannot control, will give you a whole new perspective on how to deal with the uncertainties of life.

Ultimately, as much as we know that life is uncertain, the sooner we find strategies and techniques to help us manage its uncertainty, the better off we are. 

We all recognize that nothing stays the same and we know it is unrealistic to think we can always control how life unfolds. Indeed, life  would be quite boring if we could. We can, however, accept and learn how to manage the unpredictable and then move forward with the confidence of preparedness.

Related:
How to Take Control of Your Life
Stress Management Strategies
The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
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