The thing about life is you just never know what corners to turn and bridges to cross before they are right in front of you. Or that’s what 2020 has taught me at least. The feeling of uncertainty can leave us feeling stressed and anxious as we try to somehow make sense of what the future could look like. I’ve found the following five rather simple habits and mindset shifts helpful in moments when I feel the anxiety and stress of uncertainty creeping in.
- Control what you can. We tend to be creatures of habit, so during uncertain times, it’s worth giving it your best effort to keep up with your existing routines, or create some new ones if you don’t have any. Routines bring some sort of structure and order to the otherwise chaotic feeling uncertainty may give us. A huge part of my routine has been to hold onto a regular sleeping schedule so that I don’t feel tempted to sleep too much or too little because I know either one has a negative impact on my mental well-being. Especially during the lockdown and whilst being in between two full-time jobs, having a daily structure has kept me from falling into a rut.
- Develop your skills. During uncertain times it can be helpful to keep your mind busy and focused on something more productive. Letting yourself fall into the rabbit hole of overthinking and anticipating the what-ifs of the future hardly ever results in anything revelatory. One way is to make it a habit to learn something new or develop your existing skills further. By doing so you are investing in your future and the knowledge you gather now could prove useful in your next project or job. I love completing online courses and learning about topics that interest me but are outside of my academic or professional spheres. I recently took up the online course Principles of Wealth Management at Hanken School of Economics, because managing personal finances and investing is something I wish I would’ve learned more about years ago. Hopefully, it’s never too late to become more aware of how to manage your finances in a smarter way.
- Avoid over-exposure to the news. At the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, I found myself glued to the news. It felt like some part of my brain or mind enjoyed the drama and almost apocalyptic feel of the world (okay, I’m pretty sure it was my writer brain kicking in). However, already after a couple of days, the feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and anxiety took over. It was difficult to concentrate on anything else as every time I opened the TV, or social media I would be bombarded with pandemic-related news stories. I made the conscious decision to avoid compulsively checking the news and instead just take a quick glance at the most important updates and then continue about my day.
- Reflect. As cringy as it sounds, 2020 has been a big year of reflection for not only me but also for the world in general or so it seems. I’m pretty confident that we needed this period of slowing down, pausing to take a breath, and reflecting on the state of the world and who we want to be going forward. I’ve journaled during this year more than in any other period of my life. Even when I didn’t necessarily have anything to write down, I used journaling to check in on myself. You can use journaling to reflect on what’s working for you and what isn’t in your current lifestyle, how you have been feeling lately, and, if anything, what could you change/do differently or better. I find writing all my thoughts down to be so cathartic and helps me gain a better perspective of the things that are currently taking up space in my mind.
- Practice self-care and -compassion. Sometimes stress and anxiety can derail our self-care routines. It may feel too overwhelming to try and keep up with everything when our mind is running on overdrive. For moments like these, it’s useful to know what self-care habits are the most soothing or relaxing for you, whether it be taking a day off to just pamper yourself, calling a close friend, or even just letting yourself take a moment to feel all the overwhelm before it consumes you entirely. Hold onto these few habits, and try to be kind and patient with yourself. Each one of us deals with uncertainty in our own ways.
In uncertain or otherwise overwhelming times I like to repeat the mantra “this too shall pass” in my mind. It puts everything into perspective and reminds me that life is an ebb and flow of moments – good and bad. Some last a little longer, whilst others pass by swiftly. Yet each moment will run its course eventually.
How do you deal with all the stress and overwhelm caused by uncertainty?