How to cope with uncertainty

How To Cope With Uncertainty

I am no stranger to change. It has come into my life several times lately. In fact, if I were to assign a theme to the last 2 years of my life, it would be “uncertainty”.

Also acceptable: “limbo”, “waiting” and “change”.

 

I’ve moved 6 times over the course of 2 years. (Yes, you read that correctly. Finding stable accommodation in London is like surviving in the Hunger Games.) I’ve switched jobs twice in the same time, and watched many other colleagues lose their jobs (thanks, Shitty UK Economy). And now, in a matter of days, I’ll be informed whether or not I’m allowed to remain in England with my partner and my newfound friends for the next 3 years… or whether I’ll have to move my life back across the Atlantic. And then again, with these new batshit crazy proposed UK immigration rules, a decision in my favour is probably only temporary.

So yeah, it’s been a stressful few years. I try to be all Zen Buddhist about it when I’m asked – but if I’m honest, the thought of moving my whole life again makes me want to curl up in bed, watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and forcefully ignore everything that’s outside my room. Except chocolate. And cake.

As you can imagine, I’ve had to come up with ways to cope, in order to look like a normal human being who isn’t dying from internal stress-related hemorrhaging. It’s just not an attractive look.

It wasn’t easy at first. And truthfully, I still struggle, mostly because I’m a creature of comfort. There’s nothing I want more in this world than a steady home, where I can spend a Saturday morning watching Netflix in my pants*, cup of coffee in hand. I trust that I’ll get there someday.

In the meantime, if you find yourself living under the shadow of a cloud of impending doom for some reason, try the some of these tactics. They’ve helped me through some tough times.

Make lists.

I am a big fan of lists. They come in really handy for those of us who are scatterbrained. Every Monday, I sit down at my desk with a hot cup of coffee and re-write my “To Do” list – it helps me start with a clean slate, re-prioritise, and break things down into manageable chunks.

Are you stressing out because you’re stuck in a weird limbo space? Try making a list of all your fears and worries surrounding your situation. Then, pretend a friend has just handed you a list of their own personal worries. How would you respond? Write your advice to your friend beside each worry. And suddenly, you’ll have some friendly and reassuring advice – from the person who knows you best. (That’s you.)

Talk it out.

Sometimes, when you’re at a crossroads and finding it difficult to make a decision, the best thing is to find a sounding board. Visualise the person in your friend group who is the best listener, or is the most sensible. Now, call them or invite them over for dinner.

You can either be upfront about the fact that you need to chat about your problems, or filter it into conversation if you’re not comfortable of it being the premise of your get-together. You’ll probably find that, even if your friend isn’t able to offer you some life-changing advice, just the act of explaining the situation to an outsider can clarify your own thoughts on the subject.

Be a planner.

If you’re waiting for someone else to make a decision that will affect the course your life takes – first off, let me send you my condolences. It’s not a pleasant place to be, but sometimes it’s inevitable.

On the positive side of things, you have a great source of strength: the power of a plan. And the great thing about plans is that you’re not limited to a single one. You can make as many as you like, which is what I’m advising you to do.

Take the situation and imagine all possible outcomes, and how that will affect you. Now, make a plan for what you’ll do in response to each outcome. It doesn’t need to be a 15-point plan with appendices and references – it just needs to be a few words explaining to yourself what you’ll do if X or Y happens. You’ll end up only following one path in the end; but while you’re waiting, you’ll feel a lot calmer knowing that you’ve planned for all possible situations. You can sleep soundly, knowing that you won’t be caught off guard by someone else’s whims.

And by all means, if making a 15-point plan will help reassure you, DO IT.

Be gentle with yourself.

While things are still up in the air, you’re going to be stressed. And you’re going to deal with it by making questionable decisions, like binge-eating pizza, hitting the snooze button a million times, or procrastinating on house chores. And those decisions, while they give you some instant gratification, will eventually make you feel bad about yourself.

My advice here: be gentle with yourself. You’re going through a period of high tension and emotion, and when that happens, you can’t expect to be able to maintain a Beyonce body AND prepare handmade, organic, vegan meals every evening AND become the leading expert on the British economic situation AND keep your friendships from being put on the backburner.

“Oh, but the people I follow on Instagram lead perfect, healthy, organic lives, and they’re so productive, and everyone loves them, and they deal with stress all the time!”

Girl, listen to me. Your Instagram crushes make it their JOBS to make life look glamorous and effortless. You don’t get to see behind the scenes of their lives. So don’t hold yourself to their filtered ideals, because you’re not seeing the whole picture. You’re human, and it’s OK to make questionable decisions. You have time to be perfectly healthy and fit and sociable and intelligent – it doesn’t all have to happen right this second.

Know that this, too, shall pass.

Finally, my best piece of advice is the shortest: you need to remind yourself that this period of limbo will eventually come to an end. A decision will be made, a path will be chosen – and you’ll move on with your life and be classy and amazing.

It seems endless now, but I promise that you’ll laugh when you look back at this time in your life. So don’t forget to keep your chin up, smile, and walk forward into the future – because it’s gonna be awesome.


*For my North American friends, this means underwear. Yeah, I’m classy.

Image courtesy of Xenja Santarelli: https://flic.kr/p/e2us7d

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2 thoughts on “How To Cope With Uncertainty

    1. Hi Chris, I’m so glad you found it helpful! Thanks for your lovely comment. 🙂

      And yes, lists are a lifesaver. They help you get your thoughts in order, and take a step back to see the bigger picture.

      Like

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