Life can be full of unexpected events, and when things don’t go according to plan, it can be rather stressful.
Let’s say, for example, a global pandemic hits. Or you lose your job. Or a partner dies. Or you learn you’ve got a scary illness. Or…you get the picture.
It can be hard to cope when you get hit with something that is beyond your control. Further, a loss of control can create a particularly powerful type of stress that may impair the ability to assess risk.
Think of it this way: most people worry more about a shark attack while swimming in the ocean than they do about driving home after a couple of drinks. Driving home after drinking is far riskier, but people think they have less control over a potential shark attack.
No one is ever going to be able to control everything all of the time. But when a load of uncertainty is bearing down on you, there are some things you can do to help yourself get through:
Focus On What You Can Control: You might not be able to stop a global pandemic, but you can choose how you respond. Doing things like wearing a mask and getting a vaccine, for example, or staying out of crowded places, can drastically reduce the risk of illness.
Putting your focus on what you can control, not what you can’t, can help ease the stress of the unknown.
Simplify: Sometimes chopping an overwhelming situation into little bits can help restore a sense of control. Look at ways you can defer, reduce, or eliminate. Find ways to streamline or simplify so you can limit the decisions you have to make.
Set Limits: When you’re dealing with unfamiliar territory or something you can’t control, acquiring information makes sense. After all, knowledge is power. Too much information, on the other hand, can be crippling.
Constant ruminating, searching for information, or exposing yourself to a nonstop news feed can send anxiety spiralling in a hurry.
Set limits on how much time you’ll spend on these tasks, and stick to it. If you have to, remove yourself physically from your device to assess how it is making you feel.
Accept Uncertainty: Accepting that there are outcomes you can’t plan for, and situations you didn’t anticipate can also help with coping. When you accept the fact that answers don’t always exist, it can make uncertainty less stressful.