A Roadmap to Navigating Uncertainty
Coronavirus is driving global anxiety and shared fear, as we all progress through this extreme state of uncertainty. Uncertainty is considered one of the top human stressors—and facing it can leave us feeling powerless.
But while we may not be able to control the outcome of COVID-19—or any of the other unknowns showering our lives—we can control our response to it. When we do that, we change the game for ourselves. And that is resilience. The skills of resilience give us the tools to get through challenging situations—and even feel okay while in the midst of them—which is the key skill we need at this moment.
My company meQuilibrium is at the forefront of resilience research and science, and my team has seen this trend of uncertainty coming for some time. It’s our mission to help prepare people for whatever gets thrown their way and help employers do the same.
Here’s your guide to navigating the ongoing uncertainty:
1. Keep Anxiety in Check: The developing panic is real: thanks, in part, to the constant coronavirus news cycle, coupled with stores running out of supplies and dire predictions. First, try to limit your news consumption. It will go a long way to keeping your emotions under control. Second, it’s okay to feel worried about coronavirus, but work to keep anxiety in check, as it will take center stage in these situations, particularly for those who are already prone to it. Work to catch those anxious thoughts before they spiral and reframe them into more realistic, probable outcomes with meQuilibrium’s Trap it, Map it, Zap it technique.
2. Stop the Spiral: Uncertainty tends to trigger “worst-case thinking,” where your thoughts race from point A to Z. But when you focus on the worst-case scenario, you allot the majority of your energy to worrying about something that hasn’t actually happened yet. At the same time, there may be other possible outcomes and choices at your disposal that you’re not seeing. Complete this sentence out loud: “I’m afraid that _______.” Is it a realistic outcome or is it a more extreme scenario that may be less likely to happen? If it’s a real fear, what’s one action you can take right now to feel more in control and less a victim of circumstance? Write it down, schedule it, and do it.
3. Control What You Can, Let Go of What You Can’t: We add to the stress of uncertainty with unrealistic expectations, called Iceberg Beliefs (because they exist deep below the surface). These may sound like, “I must know what to expect.” or “I should know all the answers.” The truth is that we can’t control everything that happens. We can, however, channel our focus into the things we can control. And let go of what we can’t. Iceberg Beliefs are deep-rooted, which makes them persistent. They won’t go away overnight, but you can create a reminder phrase, also called a mantra, to “melt” these thoughts when they arise—and help you make peace with what you can’t control. Here are some examples of “melting” mantras that will help with uncertainty:
● “I will only focus on what I can control.”
● “I’m doing my best with the information I have.”
● “I’ll take it one step at a time.”
● “I don’t need to have the answers yet.”
4. Practice Self-Care: The stress of dealing with uncertainty can wear you down. In fact, stress is proven to weaken the immune system, which can leave you more prone to getting sick. Therefore, it is imperative that you recharge by practicing simple self-care techniques. Include mindfulness practices such as breathing or meditation, as they will help keep you in the present, reducing the worry about what the uncertain future holds.
5. Stay Connected: We are all scared, which is normal. But fear drives isolation. In addition, many of us are working remotely, which can also drive feelings of loneliness. It's important right now to be kind and compassionate with each other. Practice empathy by making a point to ask your coworkers how they’re doing and check in with each other frequently. Work to continue to connect with friends and loved ones, even if not in person. Call, text, email, facetime. These practices will help us all feel less alone. Here are more proven techniques to ease loneliness and build your empathy.
Keep these practices front and center, and you will build a strong foundation for dealing with uncertainty. Share them with your team, organization, friends, and family, so others can do the same. Let’s stay resilient and be ready, today and every day.
Learn how to handle the pile on of pressures for you and your employees by joining my colleague, Dr. Andrew Shatte in his upcoming webinar, HR Under Pressure: Model and Mentor Resilience.