Blake Snow

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8 ways to overcome uncertainty

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Over the last week, the world radically entered a health crisis mode. What was normal just a few days ago is no longer the case. In addition to school, office, sports, and recreation closures, many restaurants are even closing in some parts of the country. That can be a scary thing.

But it’s not all scary. We can still play music, congregate in tight groups, go outside, and carry on as best as possible. To help you do that, here are eight proven ways to overcome uncertainty, regardless of the source:

  1. Accept that you can’t control everything. This is anxiety management 101. Powerlessness is a part of life. Hoarding toilet paper and water won’t change your fate. So accept the fact that we can’t control this. Instead of thinking that maybe we can, we should accept that we can’t and then do the best that we can within those confines.
  2. Limit your exposure to news. Is the next closure, infection spike, screen refresh, or market crash really going to impact you that much? Probably not. If you want to avoid myopic worrying, step away from breaking news and take a breather—maybe an entire weekend. Doing so works wonders for peace and sanity.
  3. Hope for the best. It’s more likely that only parts of society will close or fail rather than wholesale failure. In other words, you can trust in the system. When Americans first started clearing out grocery shelves, my wife and I trusted that delivery trucks would keep coming. And tonight after many of the early crowds had passed, we got our grocery fill. Society is a beautifully complex system built especially for social creatures like us. It works far more often than it fails, because we work together better than any other species in the known universe. In short, humans are awesome, especially in troubling times. So count on them to help you power through.
  4. Identify what you don’t know. You are not clairvoyant. You can’t predict how this turns out. So don’t try or at least catch yourself when you start making sweeping generalizations like, “This is gonna turn into the apocalypse and will be the first of an increasing number of life-threatening viruses.” Not even the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control know that. So in addition to accepting that you’re not in control, accept what you don’t actually know before making scary forecasts to yourself and others.
  5. Say aloud the worst-possible scenario so you can hear how ridiculous it sounds. My wife is good at this. What’s the worst that could happen? Answer that question as truthfully as you can. Usually when you do, you’ll hear first-hand how stupid or unlikely your fears are. For example, let’s assume resupplies stopped next week. What’s the worst that could happen? We’d scrounge around our pantry for a few days or weeks, start sharing or helping each other as needed, then all of us would die if the military didn’t start airdropping supplies. That would suck but it’s also highly unlikely.
  6. Reflect on past instances of uncertainty and how you overcame them. In my lifetime, I survived depressing grunge music, 9/11 terrorists attacks, and the Great Recession. The latter two were especially hard but the vast majority of us made it out alive. The vast majority of us will also survive coronavirus. There will be some scars and casualties. But there will always be those two things in life. In addition to death and taxes, scars and casualties are a certainty.
  7. Keep moving forward with optimistic plans. You won’t be able to do everything you might want to do right now. But you can still do a lot. For example, getting outdoors wasn’t canceled. Music wasn’t cancelled. Family wasn’t cancelled. Reading wasn’t cancelled. Singing wasn’t cancelled. Dancing wasn’t canceled. Laughing wasn’t cancelled. Playing games wasn’t cancelled. Parks weren’t cancelled. Letting the sun hit your face wasn’t cancelled. Hope wasn’t cancelled. There’s so much we can each do.
  8. Ask for help. I get buy with a little help from my friends. When I need someone to talk to, I call, text, or invite them to lunch or dinner. I make plans with family and keep on living as best as I can. Just tonight we went swimming followed by pizza and ice cream. I feel great. But only because I reached out to people I love.

The coronavirus outbreak is gonna seriously hurt. But together we’ll get through this—I’m sure of it.