Dealing With Uncertainty

How to stay positive and manage stress.

The appearance of the new COVID variant has already introduced more uncertainty.  Our patience has been worn thin by nearly two years of pandemic disruptions. Will vaccines fail against Omicron? Will schools be closed again? Will we have to keep the kids away from their grandparents again? It’s exhausting. 

Uncertainty makes us uncomfortable and makes planning impossible. But there are skills we can use to tolerate uncertainty and stay positive when we seem to be going in circles.

Stay in the present: The best antidote to worrying about the future is to focus on what’s right in front of us right now. Instead of spinning out worst-case scenarios (“I can’t handle my kid being home from school again!”) or getting frustrated that you can’t plan effectively (Will we be able to have a big birthday party?), try to connect with what you can see and hear around you.

Focus on thoughts and behaviors that help you cope. “Coping thoughts” are thoughts that make you more comfortable with uncertainty or inspire your most flexible self. For example: “I’ve gotten through things like this before, and I’m strong enough to do so again.” Coping behaviors are things you can do to soothe yourself in a stressful situation or boost your mood. Those could be self-care practices like a fresh-air break, music, exercise, calling a friend or a show that makes you laugh.

Focus on what worked before, what’s better this time: While it’s distressing to be reminded of the worst of what we’ve been through, it’s helpful to think about the things that worked to get us through the toughest moments last time. Was it making scones? Taking walks? A hot bath? Watching funny YouTube videos? And remind yourself of the breakthroughs that have made us better equipped to handle the virus: vaccines, medications, at-home tests, and more understanding of how the virus works, so we can fight it better.

For more tips on how to tolerate uncertainty without letting it get you down, visit: Child Mind Institute

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