Published on: December 16, 2020
by Lucy Davis, Young Peoples Practitioner, Compass REACH
2020 has been a whirlwind of uncertainty. COVID-19 has changed our lives and stopped normal routines. It has made people worry about money, the economy, employment, schooling, relationships and mental and physical health. We don’t know how long lockdowns will last, when life will return to normal or if it will return to normal at all. Uncertainty can be a cause of anxiety and can create a snowball effect. Being worried in this uncertain time is ok. It is ok to be scared, nervous and worried about the future. However, if that worry starts to interfere with your life, it is time to share it and get support.
But is uncertainty really a bad thing? I don’t think so. Personally, uncertainty for me pushes me out of my box and allows me to challenge myself. Uncertainty allows me to develop and prove to myself that I can, and I will. Afterall we live with uncertainty every day! We never know what tomorrow may bring yet we still get up each day and carry on as if we do. COVID-19 may cause uncertainty, but it is time to take back control and embrace it.
If there wasn’t any uncertainty in our lives they would never change. We embrace uncertainty when we take exams, go to a new school and apply for a new job. That uncertainty helps us change and grow, becoming better versions of ourselves no matter what the outcome. Afterall there is no such thing as failure – we win, or we learn!
If you are struggling to cope with uncertainty there are things you can do to make yourself feel better.
Coping skills – Managing anxiety can help you deal with uncertainty a lot better. Make sure you are getting the appropriate hours of sleep. If we don’t sleep well, we can find the day after to be a challenge as we may feel tired, irritable and may feel things are harder to deal with.
Set worry time – To stop your thoughts from running around your head all day and stopping you from focusing set yourself some worry time. This is a set time each day where you book an appointment with yourself to allow your worries to come out. When you have worries in the day you can remind yourself you have a scheduled worry time and you will think about it then. Then at the set time, allow yourself to worry for a maximum of 10-15 minutes. Some people find it useful to set an alarm to stop them from going over their worry time.
Practice Gratitude – Instead of focusing on our worries we can instead focus our attention on to the things in life we are grateful for. Some people find using a gratitude journal helpful. Others wake up each day and say three things they are grateful for, for example, “I am grateful for a loving family”, “I am grateful I am learning in school” and “I am grateful to have supportive friends”.
Acceptance – We may not like it or want uncertainty in our lives, but it is here to stay and will be with us, pushing us to do better and be better. It is an unavoidable aspect of life. Let yourself experience the discomfort of uncertainty. Instead of fighting it try and accept it. Take back the control. If you allow yourself to feel fear and uncertainty, these emotions will eventually pass. So, when things are tough – ask yourself what can I do to fix some of it so that life will feel little better. By doing this, it reduces time spent on ineffective worrying and allows you to engage in problem solving and restoring control.
Challenging your negative thoughts – From time to time we may experience negative thoughts or unhelpful thinking styles. But we don’t have to accept them, after all thoughts aren’t facts. Challenge these thoughts. Be a judge – hear the evidence for and against that thought and then make your verdict. Ask yourself, is the thought going to matter in a week, a month, a year? The Get Self Help website has fantastic resources that can help you challenge negative thoughts: https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/
Get moving and be active – 30 minutes day can help boost your mood. Exercise is a natural stress reliever so do any activity that gets your heart pumping. While doing those activities be aware of how your body is feeling, listen to the rhythm of your breathing and how the wind or sun feels against your skin.
Relaxation and self-care – Are really important in keeping us mentally well. Take time out to do activities that make you feel good and relaxed. It could be an at home pamper session, a hot bubble bath, or a long walk. Take the time to recharge your batteries and you will be able to deal much better with uncertainty.
Eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids – It is easy to eat junk food, but food has a big impact on how we feel. If we eat well, we feel better and it boosts are mood. Try and eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and try adding more vitamins into your diet.
Colour breathing – You could also try colour breathing. Imagine your worries are a colour you don’t like (I don’t like green) and tranquillity is a colour you do like (I like pink). Inhale the colour pink for 4 seconds – imagining you’re breathing in calm and peace, hold for 4 seconds and then exhale the colour green for 4 seconds – imagining the worries are leaving your body and hold for 4 seconds. Try this for 5-10 minutes.
If anxiety becomes too much – To keep you grounded try the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method. Before starting this exercise, it is important to pay attention to your breathing. Slow, deep, long breaths can help you feel calm. Once you are calm and have control of your breathing, go through the following steps to help ground yourself:
5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a notice board, anything in your surroundings.
4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your clothes, your hair, a table, or anything.
3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.
2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell pencil, or maybe you are in your bedroom and smell a pillow. If you need to take a brief walk to find a scent you could smell soap in your bathroom, or nature outside.
1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?
Uncertainty can be daunting, but you’ve got this!!
5, 4 3, 2 1 was taken and slightly adapted from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/april-2018/5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique-for-anxiety.aspx