Drama and Pain in Uncertainty
With only two months left to 2020, a contested election, a ranging pandemic, and looming holidays, life can feel pretty stressful right about now. Our plates are full as usual and then some.
We are still trying to recoup the year, weather this pandemic, and get stronger footing in our life. The positive coping necessary to actually thrive during this time becomes elusive under these uncertain times and sustained stress. The drama and pain in uncertainty can be pretty debilitating.
Uncertainty in terms of not knowing what to expect for certain things in our everyday life is a good thing, as it keeps us on our toes and keeps things fresh. Remember during the lockdown, the monotony was driving some people batty? The way their day would go was too certain.
Therefore, all uncertainty is not necessarily bad. What’s troubling is the uncertainty that is associated with big-ticket items and life events. And sometimes even with not big things, but things that are important to us.
Uncertainty in some contexts can be terrible, as we’ve been experiencing:
- Not knowing when the lockdown would be over.
- Not knowing what the economy will do.
- Not knowing the results of the election.
- Not knowing when we’ll have a vaccine.
- And so on in our current public world.
Then you have things like:
- Not knowing the results of a biopsy.
- Not knowing the prognosis of an illness.
- Not knowing when a hiring freeze will lift.
- Not knowing if bonuses will be given out.
- Not knowing how to plan for the holidays.
- Not knowing how to entertain our children.
- And so on in our private life.
Because we don’t know what to expect, our brain keeps looking for information to ascertain the situation, assess for threats, and get instructions on next moves. It gets stuck in a repeating searching loop, which can take on different flavors for each of us. It can take on the form of circular ruminating thinking, of compulsive evidence, fact, or data searching, of questioning, interviewing, demanding answers, and the like... This is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting!
When we don’t know what to expect, when we live in uncertainty, our existential instincts get triggered. At some level, we are afraid for our very own survival. Well then, not for nothing people have been struggling. Not only are they having difficulties managing their mood and energy, how their days go, getting along with others, paying their bills, and such, but they also have this unnamed, unidentified, underlying fear for their very own survival. This certainly takes a toll.
And, to top it off, if we have unprocessed past trauma, we are more susceptible and more likely to be easily triggered. This is when we are likely to experience more stress, frustration, irritability, anger, overwhelm, anxiety, sadness, grief, and depression.
Our job in making sure we don’t suffer unnecessarily is to take charge of ourselves regardless of the situation we find ourselves in or the external circumstances going on. For example:
Election: We have no control over the results of the election and how elected leaders will eventually carry out their duties. We do have control of how we choose to consume news, participate in social media, support our political party, show up in our community and with our fellow humans, embrace our purpose for income or revenue, and safeguard our physical and mental health. Embracing a compassion and unity mindset will take us a long way.
Holidays: We have no control over the course of the pandemic or how family members show up. We do have control over how we choose to celebrate, what traditions we’ll uphold, how much money we’ll spend, how we’ll gather or not, how we’ll show up to interactions, the risks we are willing to take, how we’ll stick to our wellness plan, and how we’ll approach year-end. Embracing an open-minded and flexible approach to celebrating the holidays, wrapping up the year, and strategizing for 2021 will take us a long way.
[Related: Mindful Shopping: Get What You Really Want]
It is up to us what we make of life experiences and how we choose to look at things. It is up to us to make choices that honor our essence and who we truly are. It is up to us to make choices for the good of all. It is up to us to be preventative, preemptive, proactive, and progressive in all we do to ensure our amazing human experience. It is up to us to create the relationship and life we want.
Assignment: Identify an area that is troubling you the most, such as the state of the world, your wellness, or your relationship. Take stock of your thinking around this area – make a list of all your thoughts on what’s bothering you.
Note the nature of the thoughts. Note how they are mostly out of your control, and how they are negative. This focus is disempowering and generates negative feelings. This is what is impacting your energy, your mood, your wellbeing, and the state of your life.
Go back to your list and now capture the other side of things. Capture what is positive and working about the area you chose. And focus on what you do have control over, how you can look at it differently, and how you can approach it differently.
Now, note how you are feeling. Note how the feelings began to go in a positive direction.
Make this process a daily habit to work on reprogramming your negativity bias. And for establishing a mental hygiene and wellness practice. You’ll be feeling much better in no time!
It is your job to take charge of your mind, your feelings, your mood, and your wellness. Stop blaming the government, the pandemic, the economy, your partner, and such for how you feel. You can choose how you feel and create those feelings! Have at it!
Emma K. Viglucci, LMFT is the Founder and Director of Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy, PLLC, a private practice that specializes in working with couples, she is the creator of the MetroRelationship™ philosophy and the Successful Couple Strategy™ that assist couples succeed at their relationship and their life. To stay connected with Emma and receive weekly connection notes in your inbox with Personal Development and Relationship Enrichment insights and strategies, visit: www.metrorelationship.com.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Founder, Clinical Director & Supervisor
Metropolitan Marriage & Family Therapy, PLLC
I've been in the mental health field in varying capacities for the past 20+ years. I'm the Founder and Director of MetroRelationship.com a psychotherapy and coaching practice specializing in working with busy professional and entrepreneurial couples who are struggling getting on the same page and feeling connected. Our Team at MetroRelationship.com helps couples create a radiant and authentic relationship and meaningful life by becoming a strong partnership and increasing their connection, intimacy, and fun. I... Continue Reading
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