Haley Rottenberg, Psy.D. | Staff Psychologist:
Uncertainty is one of the biggest causes of anxiety. When we are not sure about what is to come, we start to feel nervous. We often worry about the possibilities, settling on the worst-case scenario as the most likely scenario. The year 2020 has been full of uncertainty. The future is unclear. We do not know when the pandemic will end and when we will be able to safely engage in indoor social activities without worrying about our health. We have adjusted our expectations related to school, work, holidays, weddings, and parties, and we do not know when things will “go back to normal.” We do not even know what “normal” will look like in the future.
Here are some ways to better tolerate the uncertainty in our lives:
1. One of the best ways to reduce our distress about uncertainty in the future is to stay focused on the present moment. While we cannot accurately anticipate what is to come, we can increase our awareness to what is happening right now. We can mindfully live our lives—notice what is around us and within us without judgment or interpretation.
2. We can enjoy the taste of our meals or the smell of our morning coffee. We can check in with friends and family electronically, or schedule distanced events. We can also throw ourselves in to hobbies and long-term projects.
3. Stop thinking about how things “should” be or “would” be like under different circumstances. As hard as it is, it can be helpful to respond to things as they are, instead of as you wish they could be. This will help us to be more effective in helping us to move in the direction of our goals, and be less angry and upset about our current reality.
4. Developing a daily gratitude practice can help us to acknowledge the aspects of our life that are going well and for which we are thankful. If we spend a few minutes each day making a list of things we appreciate in our lives, or mindfully thinking about gratitude, our mood can improve and we can become more attentive to these experiences in our lives.
As hard as it may be, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is come to terms with the “new normal.” Let’s stop waiting for life to be like it was, and instead create a new version of our lives that we can live now.