How to Cope with Uncertainty - 5 Steps

Uncertainty – Life’s Big Destabiliser...

Uncertainty makes people want to hit the panic button. The feeling of losing control or being flung into the unknown, fuels fear-driven anxiety and distress. When we become hyper-stressed and really anxious, we are putting our health in harm’s way, physically and mentally. Knowing how to cope with uncertainty, is therefore essential for taking care of our wellbeing.

“Suddenly”, marks the way upheaval and uncertainty strikes. In a flash, our lives can be upturned and swamped with fear and worry.  Recall how swiftly America’s iconic Twin Towers tumbled down on the morning of September 11, 2001.  Life, as thousands of citizens of the United States knew it, changed forever that day.

On Boxing Day 2004, the world watched with despair as a surging Tsunami struck down 230,000 lives as it swept across 14 countries.  Move forward to the early months of 2020, and the planet is transfixed by an aggressive germ called Covid 19 that spreads super-fast to 180 nations.  The global community is gobsmacked as country after country goes into lockdown, with everything bar essential services shut-off, and multiple hundreds of people die daily because of the killer virus.

In all kinds of ways, uncertainty unexpectedly disrupts the regular rhythm of our lives.  At any time, we may face one of life’s sliding-door moments. It might be a serious car accident instantaneously causing permanent disablement, job loss, homelessness, divorce, the untimely death of a loved one, or a business failure. 

A vaccine doesn’t exist for uncertainty.  There’s no immunity against curveballs.  But… we can develop an optimistic, healthy mindset, and life-affirming resilience skills, to be well-equipped for managing and coping with times of uncertainty.

Virtually every day, I’m at the frontline helping people whose lives have suddenly turned topsy-turvy.  One moment their life is normal, then in the next moment, and unexpected event creates such uncertainty that they are paralysed by fear and panic.  I love to see people flourishing, not floundering. 

Over time, I’ve discovered 5 effective key steps that’s helped my clients improve the way they navigate uncertainty in their lives.  Let me share with you those 5 powerful foundational steps for moving your life forward in times of change, crisis and uncertainty…

#1.  ACCEPT:  It is natural to fear the unknown and what we cannot control.  Accept that you are in unchartered waters.  Embrace the experience with curiosity and adventure.

#2.  ANCHOR:  Stay fastened to your values.  Hold tight to your loved ones.  Knowing you’re loved, and assuring others that you love and support them, is powerful and positive for stabilising mental wellbeing in uncertain times.

#3.  ADAPT:  Redefine your normal.  Be mindful to live in the present, and to learn and grow.  Uncertainty creates opportunity for solving problems and overcoming obstacles.  Use setbacks and struggles to strengthen your resilience and increase life-coping abilities.

#4.  ASSESS:  Change is a chance to re-assess your life direction and purpose. Encountering uncertainty can mess up one’s ‘life-map’.  That means you may have to make other plans and take new paths.  So, explore alternatives, and make choices around what will help you best combine your passion and talents, to make this planet a better place.

#5.  ANTICIPATE:  Uncertainty is a season.  You have hope that it is not forever.  So, there is good reason for optimism.  You might be in for a wild ride, but hold on. Stop worrying.  Breathe.  Sure, things may be different on the other side of the storm.  But… You will get through it.  And, you’ll be better equipped to face new challenges.  On the journey of life, uncertainty will always be a certainty.  Therefore, value times of uncertainty as a gift, and a gateway, for enriching personal growth.


Uncertainty Response Flowchart

Always remember, you do not need to struggle alone should you find yourself overwhelmed by a whirlwind of uncertainty.  Reach out to your GP, or a psychologist or professional counsellor for support, strategies, and solutions.

ROHAN WATSON is a member of the Australian Counselling Association and a general member of the International Association of Applied Neuroscience.  He holds graduate and post-graduate qualifications in Psychology, Counselling and Education from Monash University and USQ, including a Master of Counselling (Advanced Practice) degree awarded with Distinction.

As a Psychotherapist, Counsellor and Mental Health Researcher, Rohan is dedicated to helping unlock the potential in people to live life happily and more purposefully.  His Toowoomba Counselling & Coaching service helps people from all walks and seasons of life.

Rohan has facilitated and delivered mental health programs across rural and remote Australia.  He provides professional psychotherapy services to employees at all levels nationally through EAP based services, is a highly sought-after Marriage Counsellor and Relationship Counselling specialist, and has a special interest in the online delivery of mental wellness programs.  Rohan’s current research is focusing on early intervention mental wellbeing in the workplaces of Australian SMEs.  Learn more.

GO-TO Counsellor Rohan Watson