Anxiety is often fueled by the intolerance of uncertainty. Not knowing the outcome of a situation is often terrifying, particularly for those who worry excessively. Is this you? Do you over-prepare for things, repeatedly go over the “what if’s” of a situation, constantly seek reassurance from others, prefer not to delegate tasks, constantly check things or even avoid them all together? According to an article by Robert L. Leahy, PH.D., some worriers say that they would rather know for sure that the outcome will be bad than be left in suspense not knowing for sure. The truth is unless you have a crystal ball showing the future or a really good psychic 😉, you'll never really know the outcome until you go through it. So for all the non-psychics out there, here are some tips on how to overcome the intolerance of uncertainty.
- Comfort your mind: Many times, the mind assumes the worst case scenario when it senses uncertainty. It might explore every possible thought to prevent a negative outcome. Although no one truly has full control over outcomes, those suffering from these thoughts should come up with ideas to make their own experience more comfortable.
- Focus on what’s in your control: Which parts of the situation can you actually control? Be realistic about those selections and the amount of effort required to manage them.
- Focus on the positive: Although the anxious mind can automatically think negative, it’s important to remind yourself of all that can go right. Self-awareness is a big part of this step because after all, self-awareness is power for change! So, when you start thinking of all the things that can go wrong with the uncertainty of a situation, remind yourself of all that can go right. Practice, practice, practice this step!
- Control: Yeah, that word! It’s always good to remind yourself that you can’t control every situation in your life. Remind yourself of this over and over and over again until you internalize it. “It’s out of my control”.
- Self-Talk: Be your own motivator, “I’ve got this.” “I can do this.”
- Embrace uncertainty and build tolerance: Start trying to accept some uncertainty with realistic expectations. Expect that things will go wrong and you may fail at times (or not-step 3😉), but remember this is a great time to learn (see blog on Fear of Failure). After you build comfort with smaller situations of uncertainty then you can slowly try becoming more comfortable with bigger situations.
- Fake it till you make it: It may be uncomfortable to work on your intolerance of uncertainly but it’s just like that old saying “fake it till you make it”!
At A Little Counseling, we help individuals of all ages with their intolerance of uncertainty. I can tell you with absolute certainty that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to live a totally predictable life because that’s NOT life. “The only certainty is that nothing is certain.” So, if your exhausted trying to live your life with psychic powers that don’t exist, then it may be a good time to start going with the flow of life instead of against it. It’s not about knowing the outcome of every situation, it’s about knowing you can HANDLE the outcome of every situation. That’s right, YOU GOT THIS!