What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Expect
It’s been a wild year, hasn’t it? People are focused on the upcoming election. The Coronavirus (COVD-19) has transformed our way of life, and in many ways, we don’t know how our lives will be different going forward. And along with all this, our individual lives have their own challenges and unknowns.
- Maybe you don’t know what direction to take your education, or even if you should continue going to school
- Maybe you aren’t sure whether someone you’ve been getting to know just wants to stay friends, or if they’re willing to explore something more
- Maybe you thought you knew how your life, your job, your friendships, or your relationships would turn out, but things seem to have gone off the rails, and now you don’t know how to move forward
I have felt many of those feelings, and they’re rarely pleasant. But learning how to come to terms with uncertainty has helped me realize I don’t have to be overwhelmed by it, or stay in a place of frustration with it. I may not know exactly what will happen in my life, but there are things I can control, and steps I can take to get in a more hopeful frame of mind.
We can never eliminate uncertainty completely, but we can face it with the knowledge that it doesn’t have to dominate our lives and our thinking. Here are a few things you can try to help you find peace of mind when you’re uncertain about the future.
Accept That You Can’t Know Everything
It’s irritating, but it’s true. Uncertainty will always be there, because none of us is all-knowing and life changes all the time. So, while uncertainty can come about as a result of something difficult or painful, it’s helpful to remember that uncertainty itself isn’t wrong or bad. You aren’t doing it wrong if there are unknowns in your life. Everyone you know, including everyone you love and look up to, faces uncertainty, too. Hopefully it helps to know that when it comes to facing the unknown, in a way, we’re all in this together.
Remember: You’ve Made it Through Uncertainty Before
In the moment, whatever we’re going through always seems like the biggest, or the hardest thing we’ve ever been through. It can often feel like we’ve never been through anything like this before. Maybe there are uncertain situations in your life that are new to you, which makes them feel especially tough.
But you’ve been through plenty of challenges up to this point, and it’s pretty likely you didn’t know how you were going to face them at the time. Yet, you made it! Whatever you’re facing now, there will come a time when you’ve done more, learned more, and know more than it feels like you do today.
Don’t Force Your Feelings
Knowing your feelings, and how uncertainty affects your mind and body, is important to putting things into perspective, but you don’t have to force your feelings into a new type and shape before you’re ready. It’s normal and natural to feel uncertain when things are in upheaval. Don’t stuff or bury those feelings, and try not to give into shame or guilt about being anxious or nervous.
- Acknowledge how you feel.
- Think about how your body feels when your uncertainty is dominating so you can more easily identify it when it comes up.
- Remind yourself of the activities and conversations that make your uncertainty feel overwhelming.
- Think of what makes you feel calm. Maybe it’s knowing that you’re not alone or thinking of kind things people have told you during other tough times. Whatever it is, hold on to that when things around you feel unsettling.
When you see it as more of a pattern, uncertainty is less likely to throw you off and
take you by surprise. Knowing this can make the feelings easier to manage so you can focus your time and energy on meeting your responsibilities, doing what you enjoy, and getting to a more peaceful place internally.
Center Your Mind and Body
Sometimes the anxious feelings that come with thinking about uncertainty can start showing up in our bodies. Maybe it means your heart rate speeds up, maybe you feel short of breath, or maybe you just feel like your mind is racing.
One of the simplest things you can do in those moments is breathe. Deep breathing is calming, centering, and gives control back to the reasoning parts of your brain. There are lots of mindful breathing techniques online if you’re wondering where to start. Try it now and see if it helps you feel calmer. Take 3 to 5 deep breaths with your eyes closed, and release each breath slowly before breathing in again. If that helps you feel calmer, it’s a small thing you can do next time you feel uncertainty start to take over that can make a big difference.
Free Yourself from Impossible Goals
One of the things that trips me up sometimes when I feel uncertain is when I feel the need to “figure it out” or “fix it”, especially all at once. While there might be small things I can learn, or things I can try to calm my mind and body, it would be impossible for me to resolve everything or figure it out.
Freeing yourself from those impossible goals and expectations can actually lower your anxiety and give you a greater feeling of peace and calm. It can be reassuring to know that you don’t have to put that pressure on yourself. You can do this in small but powerful ways:
- Remind yourself you can’t know everything.
- Reaffirm what you do know to be true about yourself, your relationships, and your strengths.
- Be grateful for getting this far in life and learning as much as you have.
- Remind yourself that you are loved and how valuable you are to the friends and family who care about you.
Think Deeper About Your Beliefs
The greatest source of comfort when I face an uncertain future is my faith in God. Believing that God is good, and that He cares for me and will never abandon me no matter what the future holds is a great source of stability in my life.
Faith gives me something to anchor my life to when everything else is spinning out of control. Even if you’re not sure what you believe about God right now, opening yourself up to the possibility that God is there for you could lead to a greater sense of peace as your faith grows and deepens.
Share With and Give to Others
One thing that is certain as we deal with an uncertain future: there are always others feeling the same way who need support and connection. Giving your time to others, even something as simple as a phone call, video call, text, or card, can help you be sure of the people in your life, and that counts for a lot.
If you’re not sure where to start, or don’t feel like you have anywhere to turn, you’re not alone. TheHopeLine offers mentoring and support for people who feel in the grips of uncertainty. Talk to a HopeCoach today for help with finding peace and moving forward. Our HopeCoaches, and everyone on our team, are here for you during times of uncertainty.
Pauline was struggling with fear and anxiety and found help through a HopeCoach at TheHopeLine. Read how Pauline learned to release her fears and anxiety.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon