How To Ease Anxiety In Times Of Uncertainty

anxious_woman_tips_to_ease_anxiety

Every life has its measure of sorrows. We long for predictability and control in our lives and yet the only real certainty is change. How annoying is that?!

“It’s the not knowing that I find so difficult.”

I have said this so many times in my life. I have felt that I should know and things should be more certain. I’ve resisted the not knowing. I’ve felt anxious and almost made myself ill with the worry and fear about potential happenings in the future.

Learning how to ease anxiety in times of uncertainty is critical for maintaining our emotional and mental well-being.

With so much natural uncertainty in our lives and the world at large, it is understandable that we would sometimes feel a rollercoaster of emotions and feel untethered and anxious.

If you’re struggling and are looking for some tools to help you ease your anxiety, check out my key tips below. I’m sharing three of the ten powerful practices I teach in my coaching program. These practices are; Acceptance, Conscious Choice, and Presence In The Moment.

ACCEPTANCE

Find Your Power In Every Situation

One of my favorite quotes is; 

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”

We all experience pain in our lives. We lose a job, a relationship falls apart, our pet dies, a best friend moves away, we’re robbed, our house is damaged in a storm… Life can be a lot! 

We experience the pain of a life unexpectedly changed, a schedule up-ended, navigating uncertain times, and feeling untethered, anxious, and afraid. Acceptance is a discipline that we practice to distinguish what is within our control and what is beyond our control.

Acceptance is about releasing what is beyond our control and thereby, somewhat paradoxically, gaining a sense of control.

Acceptance of what is beyond our control allows us to engage all of our energy in whatever we are doing right now, free from the distraction of the endless “what ifs?”. 

Being upset is normal and natural. We do need to spend some time in reaction to the change in our circumstances. It’s healthy to care for ourselves in these times and be with the emotions that come up naturally. However, if we get lost in judging what is happening, and how it is costing us in so many ways, we deplete ourselves of the energy we need to face up to our changed reality and possibly even thrive now.

This is suffering. When we resist what is and fight it or give in to feelings of being the victim of our reality, we feel miserable and suffer. 

Practicing Acceptance

Practice acceptance by beginning to notice when your mind is being hijacked by worry and fears of possible scenarios beyond your control.

You begin by simply noticing this. When you notice, give some space for that thought and feeling, rather than resisting or trying to suppress it. “What we resist persists”, is a saying very relevant to this practice. 

Some people find it useful to pick up a pen and just freely write in these moments and download the thoughts spinning in their minds. Looking at the fear and giving it some space tends to take some of the heat out of it. A simple mantra or phrase that is meaningful and useful to you, for example,

“I accept and release the things I cannot control or change”,

may provide some comfort and release. This mantra is something that you personalize for yourself.

The purpose of this practice is to release some anxiety and retain more energy for you to dedicate to the things that you can control, which will enhance your well-being giving you a sense of peace and ease. Experiment with this simple practice and see if it works for you.

For some further resources on this practice from psychologist and author Tara Brach click here. I’m a huge fan of hers and in particular, highly recommend her book Radical Acceptance.

Adopt The Belief – You Cannot Make a Mistake

This is another part of the practice of Acceptance. You are a unique once-in-a-lifetime human creation and are capable of amazing things. You are also allowed to not pursue or achieve “amazing” things and that is perfectly ok too.

When we accept that in any situation, with what we have, we always do the best we can, we release ourselves from judging ourselves and the label of “mistake”.  

In challenging times sometimes the best we can do is to crawl back into bed and rest up. Sometimes the best we can do is to get through the day and not cry. Be kind to yourself if you are going through big challenges and remember to reach out for help from a licensed therapist, a good friend or a mentor when you need support.

When we adopt the belief, “I cannot make a mistake”, we give ourselves the space we need to be perfectly imperfect in every moment. We stop berating ourselves for not having done more or done something differently. We accept ourselves as we are in this moment. In my home country of Ireland, we’d say, “Just cut yourself some slack!” 

Conscious Choice

Audit Your Decision-Making Technique

When life delivers a sudden change and we struggle to adapt and accept the uncertainty of the moment and the unknown future, decisions still need to be made. During times of great stress and potential for overwhelm, it’s particularly important to be aware and clear on the rationale for our decisions. 

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Carl Jung

Many times we are making choices based on experiences from our past, and we do so unconsciously for the most part. In times of great challenge we are particularly at risk of choosing out of fear rather than from a positive perspective of purpose.

Sitting paralyzed on the fence and not making any decision when one needs to be made is also very draining.

One highly practical decision-making tool I teach clients about the Practice of Conscious Choice is based on holographic thinking.

Most people have a decision-making tendency or preference. For example, they might generally undertake a lot of research, consider the pros and cons, and use their minds in a very linear and scientific way. This is the logical tendency.

Some people may go with their gut instinct – an intuitive tendency.

Finally, some people may be very emotion-driven in making decisions. They look at a situation by examining how they feel about it.

Very few people combine all three. These are the holographic decision-makers. 

Holographic thinking involves the ability to see multiple perspectives at once. Emotion, logic, and intuition become one, and once holographic thinking is mastered you can use it to ensure the greatest chance of success in every aspect of your life. To begin experiencing the benefits of holographic thinking in decision-making, follow the process below.

Think of any decision that you currently need to make and answer the following questions about that decision:

  • If you had to make this decision based purely on logic, what course of action would you take?
  • If you had to make this decision based purely on emotion, what course of action would you take?
  • If you had to make this decision based on intuition (your gut instinct), what course of action would you take?
  • Looking at all of the possible courses of action, what would you choose to do?

This approach allows you to slow down, reduces the likelihood of a knee-jerk or fear-based decision, and harnesses your full potential to make the best possible decision in all the circumstances.

Presence In The Moment

One of the biggest fears we all face is change and the unknown. Our worries (thinking about our fears) keep many of us awake at night, and they keep us from seeing and pursuing opportunities every day.

We all want to feel a sense of control over our lives. When we focus on the factors over which we have no control, we naturally fall into stress and anxiety. The best way to cultivate a sense of peace in the midst of so much that is beyond our control is to anchor into the present moment.

Now is the only time and place where we can take action. It is the only time that exists. The past is mere memory and the future is imagined.

There is no fear or worry in the present moment. Focusing on the now is both liberating and empowering.

If you’re enjoying this topic you may also enjoy this post on how to unplug from an unhelpful inner narrative.

Audit Your Distractors

Your ability to be present in each moment is subject to the degree to which your distractors are at play. These distractors can be grouped into six broad categories: environmental, social, physical, emotional, mental, and physical. 

Whenever you struggle to pay attention to the present moment, one or more of the distractors are at play. Below are just some of the potential areas to consider about each distractor. When you become aware of how each of these areas impacts your ability to be present and free from distraction, you will be in the powerful position to consciously create the conditions within which you can perform at your best in each moment.

Environmental

  • Climate/weather/temperature
  • Time of day
  • Physical setting
  • Adequacy of light
  • The presence of distracting noise
  • Comfort of clothing
  • Adequacy of equipment
  • Other personal preferences

Social

  • Ability to influence others
  • Presence of desired culture
  • Ability to communicate and interact with others 
  • Access to nurturing relationships
  • Presence of desired support network
  • Existence of accountability

Physical

  • Adequate exercise
  • Adequate sleep
  • Adequate nutrition and healthy eating habits
  • Overall excellent health – pain management

Emotional

  • Ability to manage stress response
  • Emotional awareness
  • Desired degree of emotional stimulation
  • Being in a “success enhancing” mood
  • Emotional control
  • Emotional understanding

Mental

  • Ability to concentrate
  • Alertness
  • Decision-making ability
  • Ability to access intuition
  • Degree of mental stimulation
  • Ability to focus
  • Clarity (short/long-term action plan)
  • Ability to access creativity

Spiritual

  • Connection to purpose
  • Alignment with vision
  • Alignment with values
  • Confidence
  • Having something to look forward to (short/long term)
  • Resiliency
  • Determination
  • Faith/trust

Practice “Detached Involvement”

This is a complex skill and takes time to master, but I think it’s useful just to be aware of its potential. When you practice detached involvement you are simultaneously both an observer and a participant in your life. You see all experiences in your life as part of life’s journey, without attaching any labels or judgment. You simply experience life and consciously choose your responses. 

With this practice, you still have a preference and care about how things might turn out, but you release yourself from the potential for emotional depletion if things should turn out differently.

You are released from the chains of non-acceptance and welcome a state of being in which you are aware of everything around you, yet also isolated and insulated from it. It is a place of simultaneous connection and separation. Confused? Don’t worry! I just wanted to introduce the concept to you and let you begin to consider its potential.

Here are some ways to begin on your path to practice detached involvement:

  • Take nothing personally
  • Make no assumptions
  • Make as few judgments as possible
  • Let go of the need to be right (ugh! this one is so tough for me!)
  • Let go of the need to control
  • Be passionate about all of life’s experiences, even the painful ones
  • Give all you have, your true gifts, to whatever you are doing
  • Detach from future potential results

And as a final thought, be kind to yourself during your challenges. Self-compassion is a far more powerful ally than self-criticism. Wherever you are right now, you’re doing the best you can with what you’re facing. It’s okay. You are enough.

If no one has told you of this yet today, let me have the honor of reminding you that you are MAGNIFICENT, and the world is a far more beautiful place because you, yes you, are here with us all.

Stay Awesome!

Eimear x

P.S. If you’re interested in exploring working one-to-one with me you can book a free call with me here.

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