The Problem with Uncertainty

Dealing with the uncertainties of coping with Coronavirus is the perfect recipe for increased stress and anxiety for everyone, and even more for those in leadership roles. Many of us experience uncertainty as terrifying. It seems to be a blank canvas upon which our deepest fears and most dreaded scenarios are painted.

This is why the ability to cope with uncertainty is an essential life skill. Without the capacity to deal with uncertainty, we are extremely vulnerable to intense anxiety that can cripple us.

Letting Go is Hard to do, and Necessary

If we want to confront our anxiety, we need to recognize that our belief that we are in control is nothing more than an illusion. The unrealistic expectation that we can control what will happen to us is at the core of much of the anxiety that plagues us when the unexpected occurs, such as our current predicament regarding coping with Coronavirus.

The only way to free ourselves of this dangerous illusion is to consider the notion of permanent uncertainty. Tell yourself that uncertainty is not a problem, but it is really alright. Saying this out loud again and again will help. Learn to interpret the uncertain future not as empty and dark but as pregnant with possibilities.

Acknowledge that while uncertainty is certainly not ideal, it is nonetheless acceptable and tolerable. An essential result of this acknowledgment is that all of us are limited in what we can do in any given moment, which is not necessarily a testimony to our powerlessness, but rather to our humanity.

Coping with Coronavirus Uncertainty

Getting a Handle on Your Amygdala

Uncertainty will be experienced in your body as stress, even when you’re not conscious that it is there. That stress will impact your body in various ways, such as a palpitating heartbeat, increased blood pressure, tense muscles, and heavier breathing.

The origin of these unpleasant sensations is the amygdala revving up and signaling to the brain that a fight-flight response is required. The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure that is comprised of clusters of neurons located in the temporal lobes that sends a distress signal to the prefrontal cortex to either act upon the danger or quell the amygdala if there is no danger present.

However, sometimes the prefrontal cortex is unable to control the amygdala on its own. At these times, it would be helpful to incorporate stress-reduction techniques into your day, such as yoga or meditation, for even a few minutes. You will be surprised at how much this can help.

Frequently, mental health workers such as face-to-face clinicians or online school psychologists can help children reduce their stress and anxiety in some of these same ways.

Replace The Doomsday Scenario with the Possible

When things aren’t working out, and we are uncertain how things will eventually end, many of us tend to think the worst and descend into doomsday scenarios. The presumption that we are heading towards catastrophe is known as negativity bias. Although our brains are wired to go there automatically, we can rewire this impulse.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy research has shown that many people overestimate the negative consequences which may occur, which triggers anxiety. For the same money, you can imagine a more hopeful outcome. This will not only boost your confidence regarding the future but will help calm you in the here and now as well.

Embracing Uncertainty

What if you were able to do more than cope with uncertainty, and embrace it? And what if that embrace was the catalyst for you to become more courageous, open-minded, and creative?

Expending the effort to move out of our safe and predictable comfort zones builds courage, which is the first tangible benefit of embracing uncertainty. When we let go of our mistaken notion that we know how the world works and what is going to happen, we can more quickly accept things when they don’t work out according to plan and be more courageous in that acceptance.

Another benefit of embracing uncertainty is becoming more open-minded. Having an open mind together with courage allows us to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and empowers us to find new solutions to problems as they leverage us into creativity, the third benefit of coming to terms with uncertainty.

When musicians improvise their music, inhibitions and self-censorship are suppressed, while those areas associated with emotions and language processing become “lit up.” Essentially, to create, our brains let go of any sense of control, are liberated and thus enabled to go to places heretofore unimagined!

We shouldn’t think that artists and musicians have a monopoly on creativity. Everyone has creativity and, thus, can solve problems in new and unimagined ways. And as you embrace uncertainty with your creative juices, watch your seemingly unbridled fear become mitigated by your bold response.

When it comes to coping with Coronavirus, the rapid spread of COVID-19 has left many of us stunned and has undermined our sense of control. The sooner we embrace the reality that the control we thought we had is nothing but a myth, the sooner we will be able to craft our responses and develop the resilience that we need to stay the course. And we must stay the course for ourselves, and for those who are relying upon us for both guidance and calm.

Help Your Students Cope With the Crisis

The response to the COVID-19 Pandemic is unprecedented. Because of our unique role in children’s K-12 education, we feel a responsibility to do what we can to assist schools, therapists and students with this transition to online learning and seclusion. To ensure that our students remain engaged and supported, our therapists are providing complimentary “Support Sessions” to the country’s youth. We are also assisting schools by training their therapists for remote therapy. Click here to learn more.