One recent study showed that Americans are becoming much less tolerant of uncertainty. This is due to multiple reasons including the President, a pandemic, climate change, and other issues. People seem to continuously report being anxious, stressed, angry, worried, and depressed. In fact, in 2017, one survey found that over 60% of Americans were stressed out about the future of the nation and about as many about the political climate. This is because humans dislike uncertainty in the majority of situations. However, some have learned to deal with it in better ways than others. There is a known link between a high intolerance of uncertainty to anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive compulsive disorders, eating disorders, and even post traumatic stress disorders. While it is impossible to reduce the uncertainty of some situations, you can learn to decrease intolerance by using the proven strategies shared below.
- Commit to Facing Uncertainty – Humans encounter uncertain situations daily, but we still try to avoid this feeling of discomfort that comes with it. When you are unsure how to proceed with a project , you tend to take one of three actions, seeking help right away, over researching for a solution, or procrastinating. As you prepare for any given day, uncertainty about traffic or something like the weather can be short-circuited by checking the forecast or road conditions. In the same manner, inquiring about the whereabouts of a friend or family member can be instantly relieved with a text or call. This allows us to avoid uncertainty for the short term, but lessens our ability to tolerate it long term when a quick fix is not available.
Tolerance for uncertainty is like a muscle that gets weaker when not used. Next time you face uncertainty, build up a tolerance slowly so the unexpected is not quite as horrible. Start gradually by resisting the urge to check the GPS the second you are lost or trying out an event without reading feedback from others first. Sit with the uncomfortable feelings for a few minutes to learn to let the discomfort fade.
- Larger Purpose – Finding or rediscovering your life purpose can help you deal with uncertainty better, as well as the anxiety and stress that is often related. Focus on what is able to transcend the finite human existence, whether religion or dedication to some cause or whatever so that uncertainty is decreased and worry and depression lessened.
- Don’t Underestimate Yourself – You may hate uncertainty because you are unsure how you will fare if things suddenly go wrong. You may not trust your ability to cope with negative events. However, most people overestimate how badly they will feel when bad things come into their lives. They also tend to underestimate their ability to cope. Humans are generally resilient, even in traumatic and stressful situations. If some fear comes true, chances are you will handle it better than you imagined.
- Increase Self-Care – Though you have likely heard it a million times, the better you sleep, more you exercise, and how well you prioritize social connections can have an effect on creating a happy life. The quality and quantity of sleep is related to the ability to deal with uncertainty. Exercise, focused on cardio, can increase your coping capacity, lower stress, depression, and anxiety. This means the best tool for coping with uncertainty is making sure you have an active, meaningful social life and a strong support system. Self-care in this manner can help you handle whatever happens in life.
- Know Absolute Certainty Does Not Exist – Nothing in life is 100% certain. The sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be to face uncertainty. Trying to predict and control everything can easily backfire, leading to psychological issues that are problematic. Accept uncertainty and continue to live life the best you can.
Despite civilizations progress, absolute control is nothing more than a fantasy. Embrace uncertainty and enjoy the ride, even if it gets bumpy.