“People would pull the rug out from under me, so I learnt how to dance on a moving carpet”
Wayne W Dyer
Do you find yourself worrying about what tomorrow brings?
Do you find the simplest of tasks are now paralysing you, and you cannot escape from the clutches of overthinking?
Listen, you are not alone – thousands of people struggle with this, and it feels worse when our world is turned upside down by disaster, pandemic, and situations that challenge our core thinking. It is not unusual to feel a spike of anxiety when we hear unsettling news stories or read them on the web. However, anxiety is also contagious, and we should look at methods to prevent them rather than cure them.
Some of this thinking is natures way to encourage us into looking after ourselves, and some of this is within our control to change. We can develop a self-care strategy that does allow us to ‘dance on a moving carpet’ whilst being in touch with the emotion that we experience. Uncertainty perhaps suggests that we need to approach our lives differently, digging into an internal or an external resource that we normally ignore, listening to our own mental health triggers and helping our adult mind take control of the difficult situation.
By the end of this post, you will have seven methods to incorporate into your day to help you regain that control or ‘mojo’. So read on and start taking the benefit. Making a small change can make a big difference, but no one method fits all – so perhaps give each of the methods a go to overcome the uncertainty chasm.
Lets first start with developing a curious mindset.
Curious people always ask questions and search for answers in their minds. Their minds are always active. Since the mind is like a muscle which becomes stronger through continual exercise, the mental exercise caused by curiosity makes your mind stronger and stronger. Source: lifehack.org
As a child, I was often asked why do I ask so many questions? I am sure you can picture this child – the one that is wanting to know why we drink clear water, and it comes out a different colour, or why a supermarket puts all its fruit and vegetables by the entrance (so that you can put all the tins on top and crush the produce).
Curiosity is a good thing as it enables us to think beyond today’s innovation-heavy world. It allows us to look forward forcefully by asking the ‘what-if’ question. This opens up the possibility, but it also opens up the acceptance that change is likely to happen and if that is to be the case, then invites us to accept that the position we are in is where we are.
Although it is unlikely we can change what is going on in the wider system around us, we can likely change how we relate to this change. Perhaps being comfortable with embracing some change elements could be a good first step.
What is it that you now need to accept having had this brought into focus?
Thinking positively plays its part (remember the question – is the glass half empty or is the glass half full?). If we focus on things that make us feel good, we are likely to be better. While it is also important to stay informed and know the facts, spending too much time watching the news on TV or reading your news feed on your phone may only be adding to the existing stress. (vitalityworks.health)
I recently read an item on LinkedIn which positioned the past twelve months through both a negative and positive lens. Sure, there has been uncertainty which has led to struggles, but there are also some significant benefits that some have experienced.
- not having to commute for 4 hours a day means that I can take part in the evening rituals with the children (this is a positive :-))
- working from home has allowed me to be flexible as to when I work. This means that I can go for a walk and enjoy the sounds and smells of nature at midday rather than in the dark evenings. I can enjoy the sound of the morning chorus, or
- I can read that series of books that before now has eluded me as I had no time to read them before.
We can be grateful for what we have experienced.
An exercise I often work with my clients on is centred around gratitude.
For a month, note down every day, 3 things that you are grateful for. If these involve people, tell them – even the smallest thing.
I was walking through a shopping centre, and a security guard was having some strong words with some people who were blatantly ignoring some of the centre rules. He was having a hard time. When he finished, and the group of people had disappeared – I went back and thanked him. It took me 30 seconds extra, but the impact was significant for that security guard. He wasn’t the only person that felt good. I felt good too. At a neurochemical level, my brain had released a drug called oxytocin which made me feel good. This conversation probably also had a reinforcing effect for the security guard – it reinforced his purpose, and cemented him in that purpose.
Reconnecting with your purpose.
Reconnecting with your purpose is therefore equally important and rewarding. When was the last time you gave yourself a damn good listening too and reconnected with what your inner voice was telling you?
When you listened to that inner voice – did you really listen to it or was it thinking about purpose from a distance? Often our inner voice, our inner perspectives provide the answer for some of the larger challenges that we have.
Apart from blocking time in the diary to complete this listening exercise, perhaps writing a journal could benefit.
Creating new habits to overcome uncertainty
I have mentioned a few exercises so far (gratitude journal, personal journal). Using these techniques requires you to develop a habit of recording something new. Our brains are working hard enough to make sense of the uncertainty that we live in, but we need to do better than that, we need to thrive in uncertainty. By developing 2 further habits, we can become even better at thriving.
We should focus on the elements that we can control. We can control our behavioural response to situations around us. We can choose whether we see the half full or half empty glass. I also sometimes do get an emotional response to something that I see or experience. Sometimes when I see a heart-wrenching film or programme, there can be a tear in my eye from sadness or happiness. That is fine, that is called being human.
Build a routine that you can follow. I am a keen advocate of the Full Focus Planner from Michael Hyatt and the system that goes with it. It helps me to build routines to start my day and close down my day. It gives me permission to take back control and put the control into a routine. Emails and social media are managed at these times, and I can then focus on the matter in hand in the day. Interestingly, this system is paper-based – there is something about being tactile that I have yet to replicate electronically.
The importance of sleep
Do also remember the importance of having a sensible sleep routine on the way you perform. Margaret Thatcher famously stated that “Sleep is only for wimps“. She survived on 4 hours sleep a night. However, all the recent neuroscience advocates the need for us to have a good night sleep – not only for bodily restorative benefit but also for the mind. Being in control of uncertainty requires good sleep.
So there we have it, seven methods that you can decide to incorporate into your daily plan.
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