We’re always faced with uncertainty in life, but we’re never truly consciously aware of it.
A few weeks ago, before the global health pandemic was announced, our futures were as unknown as they are today:
You didn’t know if you’ll be at the same job in a year’s time, you didn’t know if your newly launched business would survive the next six months, and, as upsetting as it may sound, you had no indication of whether or not you would be alive to ring in the New Year.
But when the ocean is smooth and the sun shining in the blue sky, we do not pay any attention to such uncertainty. Instead, we somehow find comfort in it.
Everything changes when we’re slapped with a giant wave of change — especially when it shows up in the form of a vicious storm — in this case, a global pandemic. And what do we do when it hits?
And we do so because our brains are wired to throw worries at us in such extreme unknowns.
But what matters isn’t in how we react in the moment of the news, but what we do after.
Stay Calm and Be Prepared
Here are two truths about life:
- There is always uncertainty in life.
- There are so many things we cannot control.
What we do have control over are our emotional reactions and how we respond (the actions we take).
Consider the axis below.
Now, let’s take the current COVID-19 situation as an example of dealing with uncertainty. Here are four ways in which you can react and respond.
- Quadrant #1: You stay calm but you don’t prepare — you’re being irresponsible. You’re sitting on your couch thinking, “this will be all over soon” and you’re not taking any action toward adjusting for the inevitable lifestyle change. You’re being lazy and delusional.
- Quadrant #2: You panic, but you don’t prepare — you’re freaking out. You’re letting your emotions get the best of you. Fear, worry and anxiety are ripping you from your power of taking positive action and so you’re paralyzed. This isn’t a good place to be.
- Quadrant #3: You panic and you over-prepare — you’re being irrational. If you hoarded all the toilet paper from the supermarkets, you’re being irrational (and selfish)! If you purchased food supplies that could feed an entire family for the next year, you’re being irrational. Here, you’re taking action but you’re not thinking straight.
- Quadrant #4: You stay calm and you prepare — you’re in the sweet spot. You’re in the right mental state. You are calm, and you’ve done what’s within your power to properly prepare for this situation: buying a few extra cleaning supplies, adjusting your daily routines, stocking food for the next few weeks. Now go and fix yourself a margarita to reward yourself for a job well done as you maneuver through this uncertain time.
How to Stay Calm in Uncertain Times
In order to get into the zone of “the sweet spot”, you need to:
- Maintain control over your emotional state (stay calm)
- Take action to adjust your routines and equip for the unknown (Be Prepared)
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them” — Maya Angelou
You cannot control the fluctuations of your stock market investments, but you can control how you react to them. You cannot control the fact that you are quarantined, but you can choose not to be reduced by it; instead, you can embrace it and do more with your free time at home.
In order to main that “sweet spot”, you simply do the best you can in a given situation and accept the fact that everything else is beyond your control.
You do your research, you build a plan and take action. Then, you monitor the situation as it progresses, re-adjust your plans accordingly, and take action through it.
So if you’re already in that “sweet spot”, that’s great — stay there.
If you aren’t, here are three questions you must ask yourself to help you move there.
- What is it that I’m worried about?
- What is within my control?
- What can I do to better prepare for this?
List out all the things that are worrying you:
“I’m worried about losing my job. I’m worried about attracting this virus. I’m worried about not having enough food at home. I’m worried about how long this situation is going to last.”
Now, address what you can control and build a plan around it.
Your job security is out of your hands, but you can consider switching into savings mode. You cannot control whether or not you attract the virus, but you can reduce your exposure to it — stay at home, keep washing your hands, wear gloves and a scarf when you go grocery shopping.
Overthinking, ruminating and worrying about the length of time this situation will go on is wasted energy. Instead, adjust to the new way of life and invest in activities that will make you more productive.
8 Steps to Help You Stop Overthinking Everything
Overthinking is exhausting — fortunately, there are a few ways to handle it.
No matter what happens we always have a choice of how we react and respond to unexpected situations.
I know this is a difficult time and it’s very easy to slip into panic, worry, and anxiety. That’s okay. It’s normal. Be conscious of it, and always go back to the questions above.
Originally published at https://www.omaritani.com on March 19, 2020.