Uncertainty is a fact of life, but most of us have felt much more of it this year than usual. A year and a half of pandemic living has taken its toll and left many of us feeling emotionally exhausted as we head into fall.
Some of you may feel hounded by seemingly unanswerable questions, such as what restrictions might be coming our way because of rising Covid numbers? What will happen in Afghanistan? Will it be a bad hurricane season? Will schools stay open with in-person instruction, or will we need to pivot...again? In a way, it feels familiar. I mean, weren't we in this same place last fall?? And yet, this time it feels different. So what can you do?
When you get anxious or overwhelmed, one of the best things you can do is focus on what you can control. Although the list of things within your control may seem short or insignificant right now, you might be surprised by the joy and stability you feel when you take the time to truly focus on them - and let go of the rest of your worries.
Take some time to write a "worry list". Include all the things that are causing you stress, whether big or small.
Now go back and mark each item on your list as either something you're in control of, or something you're concerned about. For instance, you might be concerned about restaurants offering indoor seating at full capacity, but you are in control of whether you accept a dinner invitation from a friend.
For everything you're concerned about, take a moment to register that you care about it, and decide how you will act. Does it warrant an action from you? Do you even need to react to it? Or can you simply acknowledge it and let it go?
For everything within your control, ask yourself what you can and should do in response. How much action is actually needed in each situation? Is the item truly something you control (or need to control), or is it really just something you're concerned about? Once you decide on a response that feels appropriate for each item on your list, make your plan of action and stick to it - even if the action is to move the item to your list of concerns.
Take the time to do this reflection each week, each month, or just whenever you feel particularly overwhelmed. Congratulate yourself for taking the time you need to calm your mind.
If you're looking for other ways of dealing with uncertainty, you may want to try these resources:
Read more about living with uncertainty in this Stanford article.
Fit some movement into your day. Take a walk, go for a run or bike ride, or try this short Pilates Stretch & Strengthen video workout.
Take time out during the day to practice mindfulness.
The "circle of control/circle of concern" originally comes from the influential book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. by Stephen Covey.