When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. —Victor Frankl. During 2020, managing change and uncertainty has been a constant challenge for us all. Today we wait for the new lockdown restrictions to be announced in Ireland, and it’s hard to keep positive and focussed. As human beings, we crave security – having a sense of control over ourselves, the people around us and the world we live in. But the current COVID-19 pandemic has heightened uncertainty over the economy, employment, finances, our relationships, and of course, our physical and mental health.
We’re all different in how much uncertainty we can tolerate in life. Some people seem to enjoy “living on the edge” – taking risks and living unpredictable lives, while others need to organise and feel in control of all areas of their lives. All of us have a limit and during 2020, for most of us, this has been constantly challenged. How can we, as Viktor Frankl says in the opening quotation, change ourselves?
This blog and the following two, look at strategies can help you to:
- Focus on controlling those things that are under your control and letting go of those you can’t
- Reduce your anxiety and stress levels.
Learning to cope with uncertainty
While we may not wish to acknowledge it, uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. We live on a tiny planet, spinning in a vast universe and very little about our lives is constant or totally certain. People we love get ill or die, relationships and friendships end, jobs and financial security can be suddenly threatened. And as the coronavirus outbreak has shown, life can change very quickly and very unpredictably.
Worrying as a tool
To cope with all this uncertainty, humans tend to use worrying as a tool for trying to predict the future and avoid nasty surprises. Worrying can make it seem like you have some control over uncertain circumstances. “If I think this all through thoroughly enough, I can find a solution or at least be prepared for the worst case scenario.” Google has become our close aid – “I’ll read every opinion online and keep up with what’s happening hour by hour”. But chronic worrying and constantly looking for information can’t give you more control over uncontrollable events; it just robs you of enjoyment in the present, saps your energy, and keeps you awake at night.
Change your mindset
But there are healthier ways of managing change and uncertainty—and that begins with changing your mindset. The most important thing is to decide what you can control and what you can’t. Try to refocus your mind on taking action over the aspects that are within your control. By focusing on the aspects of a problem that you can control in this way, you’ll switch from ineffective worrying and ruminating into active problem-solving. It can sometimes help to spend just a few minutes writing a list of “things I can control” and “things I can’t” and noting down the actions we can take for the “things I can control” list.
Viktor Frankl (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997)was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist and author, and a Holocaust survivor. He is most noted for his best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning based on his experiences in various Nazi concentration camps.
Book a counselling session today!
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
See also: All You Need to Know about Stress, Stress Symptoms, Coping with Stress