Are you a worrier? What do you worry about? Money? Family? Health? Relationships? The environment? Let’s face it, there are countless things that we could legitimately spend our time worrying over. We live in a very messy world and there are so many different situations that impact us daily. But should that then follow that our lives need to be so affected negatively? If we take the worries of the world upon our fragile shoulders or even allow situations closer to home to lay there, we are going to be squashed into the ground before we take one step! It is so vital, therefore, to be able to master uncertainty and live in the present moment, keeping our lives in perspective and finding the balance we all need. Coping with uncertainty doesn’t need to be difficult when we learn how.
There is a wonderful Chinese Proverb, Sāi Wēng Shī Mǎ, which translated reads, Sāi Wēng lost his horse.
Let me tell you the story:
Sāi Wēng raised horses for a living. One day, he lost one of his prized horses. After hearing of the misfortune, his neighbour expressed sorrow for his loss and came to comfort him. But Sāi Wēng simply asked, “How could we know it is not a good thing for me?”
A time passed by and the lost horse returned and with another beautiful horse. Once again the neighbour came over and congratulated Sāi Wēng on his good fortune. But Sāi Wēng simply replied, “How could we know it is not a bad thing for me?”
One day, his son rode out on the new horse and was violently thrown to the ground and he broke his leg. The neighbours once again expressed their condolences to Sāi Wēng, but he simply said in reply, “How could we know it is not a good thing for me?”
A year later, the Emperor’s army arrived at the village to recruit all able-bodied men to fight in the war. Because of his injured leg, Sāi Wēng’s son could not go off to fight in the war and was spared from certain death.
Let me explain:
It’s a simple little story but illustrates a point that I want to make. Sāi Wēng had a series of fortunate and unfortunate events that happened in succession, one as a result of another. He lost a valuable horse. He could have wailed and worried over the loss and its implications, but he didn’t. Sāi Wēng realised that everything happens for a reason and there’s no saying that something good wouldn’t come of it. The lesson of the little proverb is simple: difficulty can be a blessing in disguise and vice versa. It’s up to us how we choose to respond and view the situations we are faced with. In the end, his son was spared from war; something good, out of bad.
No-one knows what the future holds. Adversity can bring positive results, whilst prosperity can lead to disastrous ones. Each day offers new opportunities, joys, suffering, and struggles and we must learn how to take them in our stride, ever hopeful for the future and prepared to learn the lessons presented to us along the way. Coping with uncertainty each day can be mastered so that we can live more presently and enjoy life no matter what season of life we may be in.
How to be more present each day
There are many ways coping with uncertainty can be mastered and thus become more present with ourselves each day. Uncertainty eats away at our peace of mind and leaves us feeling overwhelmed, isolated, frightened. However, we can combat those feelings and be at peace with the unknown, coping with uncertainty, by dwelling on, and implementing where appropriate, these tips.
Look after yourself
Seems kind of obvious, I know, but so often it is forgotten when we are in the midst of struggle. Self-care is vital in your ability to cope with and be prepared for difficulties. Establishing regular routines that can be relied upon like bedtimes, eating well, taking exercise, regular rest patterns, will all be beneficial. These routines establish stability in your life. They can be relied upon when things get rough and can be reveled in when times are better.
When we establish healthy ways to look after ourselves, we are less likely to be comforted in unhealthy ways when we feel uncertain or shaken. We seek solace and comfort when we feel vulnerable, and often in the wrong places; alcohol, chocolate, late nights, movie binging, fast foods. These things are all great in the right proportions. However, when we use them to block out our fears, we come to rely upon them in the wrong ways.
It can therefore be good to remind yourself instead of times when you overcame difficulties. So often we try to block out our trials because they are too painful, but what we fail to see are the lessons that are a result of them. No matter how horrendous a situation might be, there will always be growth, good, and hope that emerge somewhere, somehow. So don’t be afraid of trials. They bring good too.
Control what you can
When we are in a state of uncertainty, coping with that uncertainty is more in your control than you may think. There are three things that you can do to ensure that you don’t let your feelings run away with you. I’ll go through them one at a time.
Be careful what you let in
By this, I mean things like the News, or programs that feed the insecurities you are already feeling; books or social media that heighten, instead of diminish, the uncertainty. If we are drawn to a situation that is the source of our worry, such as the Covid-19 Pandemic we’ve been muddling through, we are only feeding what we are already feeling. It can be tempting to keep checking updates or to assess the damage. However, it is only destructive to our already frayed nerves. Limit your information intake to what is absolutely essential, and block the rest.
Instead, try and practice being present. Focus more on what is happening within and immediately around you at any given moment. Ask yourself how you are feeling and seek to overcome feelings of pain, insecurity, and loneliness, by acts of self-care. When everything else feels out of control, we can still control what we pay attention to. By doing so we can keep the negativity at bay, cultivate inner calm, open-mindedness, and you will react less to the chaos.
Don’t believe every thought that enters your head
So often when coping with uncertainty we automatically jump to the worst case scenarios. We react to events that haven’t even taken place, and very probably won’t. And yet in our panicked state our minds are all over the place and the world is falling apart around us. It can be helpful to plan for possible situations as a preventative to disaster, but when we allow these thoughts to become active and respond emotionally as though they are happening now, we feel afraid and threatened.
This can become a destructive behavioural habit. When we allow our minds to wax lyrical on these phantom events, we end up creating self-fulfilling prophecies. We often will the imagined things into being by our own behaviour or miss out on wonderful new experiences and relationships because of what we imagined may happen. Much like Sāi Wēng, we must endeavour to practice seeing the silver-lining in life’s challenges. I’m not suggesting this will always be immediate or easy. Life can throw us some pretty painful curveballs that take time to adjust to, but through the pain we are experiencing, it’s important to seek the good too.
Stability can be found in the simplest of ways. By controlling simple things like planning your meals for the week, laying out your clothes for the next day, making up the kid’s lunch boxes the night before, keeping your house in relative order, you can keep the chaos around you at bay. Often it’s the little things that end up tipping us over the edge when we don’t take the opportunity to control what we can. They may not seem like much, but when you are coping with uncertainty, these simple routines keep a semblance of order that helps to calm us. When these small things are a part of our routine, we are more able to cope when life gets tricky.
Passivity creates victims of us all. When we behave as though we are powerless in life’s challenges and act as though we cannot do anything to help ourselves we allow life to do as it will. We end up feeling angry, frustrated, trapped, and helpless and develop a complex of needing to be rescued by others. Although our friends may be well-intentioned, often their help only feels good but does nothing to get us out of our situation. It may throw a bandage over the problem, put off dealing with it until later, or worse-case-scenario it may make the problem worse. Rescuers tend to give permission to avoid dealing with the root of our own problems and taking responsibility for our own lives.
However, if we have friends around us who are emotionally supportive, they don’t try to fix the situation themselves. They help us seek a solution to it ourselves. By asking the right questions about what we do want and focusing our strategies towards that instead of what we don’t want, we are likely of overcoming the challenge and growing personally through it. By altering our focus through difficulties from woe is me to how can I make the best of this situation, we turn from a victim mindset to one of empowerment and growth.
It is also important though to seek our own advice, and not solely that of others that we trust. If you were to be asked your opinion on the situation you face what would you advise your friends to do? Look inwards first and be truthful with yourself. Often we know the answer to our uncertainties but we just don’t want to admit the truth of the answers we face. Sometimes it seems too difficult, or we think ourselves incapable. Believe in your own judgement first. Seek confirmation from others of course, but develop it within yourself first.
Embrace what is and then act
When we wish for another reality or cannot accept what is, we prolong the pain. No matter what hideous reality we must face, it is so important that we acknowledge it. It may not happen right away, but if we blindly refuse to do so, we only create a longer period of trial and uncertainty. Acceptance is about meeting life where it is and moving forward from there. Subsequently, it allows us to observe the reality of our situation in that present moment, allowing us to begin to move forward rather than staying frozen. We are more able to break away from feelings of pain, anger, frustration, and uncertainty through our acceptance.
Acceptance, however, mustn’t be confused with resignation. Resignation is the belief that things will never get better and you do nothing to change it. Acceptance is the belief that we see how things are, but we seek ways to overcome and grow through and past the difficulty.
This leads me neatly onto my last point. Take the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and try new things when life is calm. When we do so we build our own confidence and skill set which will come in handy when life does get crazy. If we keep it safe, we limit our growth prospects and we don’t realise our own potential. We are more able than we realise. This can also manifest itself by doing things for others. When we volunteer our time we distract our attention from ourselves onto another. This can help keep our own life in perspective, but also give us a sense of purpose. Hope and meaning in life are so important and can help keep us grounded through life’s uncertainties.
Look for that silver lining
Learning to live in the present takes practice. Our minds are consumed with what we need to do or troubled by events with and out-with our control. But when learn to live more presently, we can see the little things that make each day beautiful, those little silver lining moments. You’ll notice when good comes of something bad, and you’ll be ready for when things don’t quite go your way. Life is all about balance, seeing both sides of the coin, and coping with all the certainties and uncertainties that life presents to us.
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