Uncertainty: 6 tips to keep standing on unstable ground
We share tips to continue coping with the uncertainty we are all living with right now.
Over the past few years, many of us have lived with feelings of overwhelming uncertainty. Conditions through the pandemic have been constantly shifting. One moment, it seems like things are getting a little better, but the next the rug is pulled out from under you again. It’s normal to find it difficult to live that way, but it’s important to manage that feeling so that you can continue to look after yourself and your loved ones.
Recognise the achievement of your perseverance
It may feel like you’re unprepared to face anything like this, but the truth is that you’ve been facing it for almost two years now. With the exception of a few centenarians, none of us have lived all the way through a pandemic before, but you will definitely have past experiences that you can draw on to help you.
We think we can control and fix almost anything and when that illusion is challenged by uncertainty we feel the ground shifting beneath our feet. However: you are able to deal with uncertainty. You have done it in the past. You will do it in the future. And you can learn from your successes, and your mistakes.
Identify whether your coping mechanisms are working for you
What underpins the behaviours and rituals we use to cope is important. Are you using them to escape a thought or feeling that you would be better off working through? Is the strategy you are using helping you, or is it actually adding more stress?
Just for a minute, stop and think about a time in the past when you have survived a turbulent or uncertain time in your life. Think about the things that helped you get through those experiences. Think about the things that made it harder.
You might have used substances to help you get through periods of stress in the past. Maybe that helped — for a while — but eventually became counterproductive and made your life a whole lot harder. Use that memory to help yourself to resist the urge to fall back on habits that no longer serve you.
Perhaps it’s time to try a different strategy — having a range of options that you use is really helpful rather than just relying on one. Think of it as your toolbox of strategies to help look after yourself.
We like to think that in normal times, we are certain about life conforming to a pattern or expectation. In truth, we are always both certain and uncertain about what will happen. You might think you know what’s on the cards for the week ahead, but there’s always the possibility that something new could pop up and turn your whole world upside down. What helps us find balance are the rituals or behaviours we select that provide us with a foundation or steady ground.
Different approaches work for different people:
- Focusing on mindset will help some people. Choosing gratefulness, kindness, mindfulness helps some people navigate the world.
- Some people thrive on exercise— yoga, jogging, dancing, bike riding or tai chi — some people find peace when they get their body moving, especially if they do it out in nature.
- Some people turn to creativity and ‘making’— they may bake, crochet, knit or commence a crafting skill they have always wanted to master.
- Intellectual pursuits may be your thing— learning a language, reading a book, learning to play a musical instrument or joining a virtual choir.
- Cosiness and comfort in familiarity could help— watching your favourite TV show again, cuddling up on the couch with a loved one or pet, or chatting to a loved one by video.
Different activities help different people make sense of the uncertain world we live in. Some people find comfort in a combination. Which of these do you turn to? Are there any you’d like to try?
Find a routine that works for you
Many of us have experienced upheaval in our routines through the pandemic: we switched back and forth between the office or working from home, lost jobs or had them put on indefinite hold through lockdowns, or found social plans cancelled, rescheduled and then cancelled again as cases popped up in our communities. That made it hard to stick to our usual routines, and many of us found ourselves floundering without structure.
Having a routine will help you through uncertainty as there will be some markers to your day that keep you on track. There are a few important aspects to build into your routine.
Sleep is always crucial and is a good place to start when building a routine. Where possible, set a regular bedtime and wake time, give yourself some screen-free time before sleeping. If you struggle to get to sleep at a regular time, it can help to build sleep cues into your day. For example, you may start to wind down with meditation or reading, play ocean or thunderstorm music, or introduce aromatherapy at a certain time every day.
Eating nutritious food on a regular schedule will support your body and mind to make the most of the day and leave you in the best position to withstand stress. Nutritious food doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful — check out these simple healthy dinner ideas. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to cooking, even adding a few pieces of fruit and a salad to your routine is helpful, and most supermarkets have a range of easy salad packs available.
Nurturing your connections to others gives a vital boost to your general wellbeing. Organise catch-ups with friends or family, call someone just to say hello. You could even join an class or group where you meet new people. Check out our guide to social connections for more ideas.
A weekly or monthly check in with a psychologist, counsellor, case worker, or support group is a great way to build some structure into your routine and help to keep you accountable to looking after yourself. Get in touch with us to find out what support options are available in your area. You can also check out our peer support forums if you’d prefer to stay online.
Help yourself out
If the uncertainty has you reaching for substances more than you’d like, self-help resources are available to help you make a change. These resources are a great option if you’re not ready to seek professional help or think you’d prefer to handle it on your own.
Our self-help program will help you identify how motivated you feel, help you set goals, identify what’s important to you, and help you develop a plan to address aspects of your life that have been affected by your drinking or drug use.