The year 2020 has been described as many things. Media everywhere have called it unprecedented, scary, and troubling, to name a few. As much as it has been said, there’s one description of this year that’s definitely worth repeating: uncertain.
Whether in the middle of 2020 or not, uncertainty is a part of life. And how well you cope with unpredictability can significantly affect your mental health. Emerging research suggests that a low tolerance for uncertainty may make a person more likely to develop mental health disorders like:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
The good news is that this tolerance can be built up over time. By focusing on being more resilient to uncertainty, you can safeguard your mental health for 2020 and whatever comes next. Below are five ways you can start to build your uncertainty tolerance today.
1) Work on What You Can Control
Uncertainty stems from the feeling of not having control over something. However, there is always something you can control in any situation. By putting your focus and energy into what you can control, you no longer have time to worry about the uncertain aspects of the situation.
Take the pandemic, for example. You cannot make the virus go away all on your own, so there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding how long this will last. However, you can take action on aspects of the pandemic that are within your control. You can wear a mask, socially distance your family from others, and wash your hands thoroughly. This shift in focus is more productive than spending your time worrying about the things you cannot control.
2) Address Your Emotions Head-On
While you shouldn’t spend all your time worrying about what you can’t control, you should still address your worries in some way. Ignoring them altogether will likely make the situation worse, and can even lead to increased stress, burnout, and anxiety disorders. Rather than putting on a brave face or feigning positivity, be honest about your feelings.
You can avoid bottling up your emotions by journaling, talking with a close friend, and answering honestly when someone asks how you are. If your worries are too much to handle alone, consider talking about them with a therapist. This counseling allows you to get your feelings off your chest without judgment.
3) Practice Mindfulness
If you don’t have a high tolerance for uncertainty, you likely spend a lot of time asking yourself “what if” questions about the future. You may stress about every possible outcome and try to plan for them all. But no matter how much you worry, the future always remains uncertain.
The present doesn’t have that issue. What’s happening right in front of you is happening for certain. Mindfulness allows you to think about the present rather than the future. When you practice mindfulness, you work toward living in the moment. This leaves less room to worry about the future and its unknowns. Not sure where to start with mindfulness? Check out our conversation with therapist Carl Nassar, NCC, LPC.
4) Establish and Maintain Healthy Habits
The mind-body connection is a powerful force. When you take care of one, it’s easier to care for the other. So, if you’re having trouble with uncertainty, make sure you are doing your best to take care of your body. As much as you’re able, try to:
- Get at least eight hours of sleep per night
- Exercise regularly
- Eat nutritious foods
- Practice self-care and relaxation
By taking care of your body’s basic needs, you are better equipped to deal with the future–whatever it may throw at you.
5) Get Help When You Need It
You don’t have to cope with uncomfortable or negative feelings by yourself. Everyone needs help from time to time, especially when it comes to difficult subjects. You can get help from friends and family that you trust. Remember that they love you and want to see you thrive.
You may need more help than your friends and family can provide. Mental health care providers can give you the perspective and guidance you need to create coping mechanisms that will help you for the rest of your life.