7 Keys to Managing Uncertainty

Do you have a hard time managing uncertainty? We'll teach you 7 tips that you can apply according to the experts. Keep reading!
7 Keys to Managing Uncertainty
Laura Ruiz Mitjana

Reviewed and approved by la psicóloga Laura Ruiz Mitjana.

Last update: 03 February, 2023

Living implies systematically undergoing episodes of uncertainty. Humans must deal with anxiety about their health, their financial well-being, their relationships, political events, and even the weather the next day (there’s always an 80% chance of rain, never 100%). If you’ve reached a point of physical and mental collapse because of it, we’ll teach you 7 keys to managing uncertainty.

Uncertainty can be defined as “the lack of confidence or certainty toward something, almost always in the context of a future event”. This is a typical feature of anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. We’ll go over some useful tips for managing uncertainty and offer some reflections on it.

7 tips to manage uncertainty

The reaction to an event that manifests uncertainty varies from person to person. Experts have coined the term uncertainty intolerance to refer to the tendency to react negatively emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally to uncertain situations and events. Therefore, those who have a lower tolerance develop more intense emotions and behaviors in the face of such events.

Uncertainty is a core symptom of anxiety disorders, although, of course, it can appear in isolation. It’s important to note that the brain has evolved to operate stably in situations where everything’s under control.

When this isn’t the case, it triggers a series of reactions to face and adapt to factors that can work against it. Stress is the best example of this.

In fact, specialists have identified stress as one of the main consequences of uncertainty. It is, if you will, its main manifestation.

Feelings of distress, fear, agitation, trouble concentrating, and negative thoughts are other forms in which it occurs. To deal with all this, we present 7 keys to managing uncertainty.

1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness consists of directing your attention and thoughts toward the present moment. We’ve already established that uncertainty is characterized by anxiety regarding future events that can’t be controlled, so focusing on the present is the first thing you should do.

It has been used with positive results to address depression, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, chronic pain, and much more.

Although they can be practiced separately, mindfulness techniques are almost always grouped together in meditation sessions. There’s no single way to carry it out, but the following principles will give you an idea of how to use it in your day to day:

  • Pay attention to your five senses when doing any type of activity (eating, taking a shower, exercising, and so on).
  • Find pleasure in the simplest activities, those that brighten your day-to-day.
  • Take a deep breath and close your eyes when a thought related to uncertainty arises.
  • Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.

2. Seek professional help

Managing uncertainty can involve seeing a psychologist.
When symptoms interfere with the quality of life, it’s important to see a mental health specialist.

Even if the anguish caused by uncertainty is mild, a psychology professional will be of great help. Some therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), have been shown to be effective in reducing emotional and physical problems related to uncertainty.

The specialist can suggest other models of therapies, and the benefits of most of them are perceived within a few weeks.

3. Exercise regularly

A study published in Depression and Anxiety in 2018 found that physical activity reduces startle potentiation during an unpredictable threat.

At the same time, evidence supports low to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise programs to promote psychological well-being (fewer episodes of stress, anxiety, depression, body dissatisfaction, and so on).

Therefore, regular exercise can be one of the best techniques for managing uncertainty. You can combine it with full attention, based on the principles that we’ve already discussed above. Start gradually according to your physical condition, and if possible, choose a type of activity that you enjoy doing. Whenever you can, try to do it outside.

4. Practice breathing techniques

There’s evidence that certain breathing techniques can be helpful in improving sustained attention, negative mood, and cortisol levels. They’ve also proven effective in alleviating anxiety symptoms. The sessions are very short, just a few minutes, and although they seem innocuous, they have a greater impact on your mental well-being than you might think.

5. Limit exposure to the news

Whether or not your uncertainty is directly related to exposure to the news, surely this only increases your anxiety. The news that you receive through the media, including social networks, does nothing but generate anxiety.

Therefore, it’s best to disconnect a bit from the avalanche of negativism that makes up most of the things you read or listen to.

6. Accept things that are far from your comfort zone

Two people working together at a desk.
Living different experiences in any field can help reduce concern about uncertainty.

Nobody wants to get out of their comfort zone. Despite this, locking yourself in an environment where you have 100% control of things and everything’s in your favor can increase your intolerance of uncertainty.

That is, you develop more and more anguish and anxiety in the face of events, actions, news, and things that you don’t fully know or that are out of your control.

You don’t need to embark on the adventure of a lifetime or turn your back completely on the place you’ve created where you feel most comfortable. On the contrary, it’s about progressively venturing to places further and further away from your comfort zone.

Playing a new sport, learning a new skill, looking to make new friends and more can make you realize that you can deal with things you don’t know better than you think.

7. Take on the discomfort of not knowing

As a complement to the previous tips for managing uncertainty, we can’t fail to warn you that, in the end, you must learn to accept the discomfort of not knowing. As we pointed out at the beginning, uncertainty is part of life, and you can’t do anything to eliminate it.

You won’t always have a correct answer, know the outcome of things, or be able to foresee the next move. And that’s fine, we’re all in the same situation.

We hope that the above recommendations have been of great help. Remember that there’s a fine line between anguish and mental disorders.

Turning to a psychology professional can help you discover if the episodes of uncertainty are just another symptom of an anxiety disorder. If this is the case, together you can discuss how to deal with it.

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