Dealing with Uncertainty
We are all dealing with uncertainty during this time of a pandemic. We are not in control!
The impetus for this post came from my good friend Thom Singer, who among other things is the podcast host of the Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do Podcast. Thom published an episode called Uncertainty, Overwhelm, and Stress for Business Leaders.
In this episode Thom interviewed Eliz Greene, who is the author of the new book “Stress-proof Your Heart”. The description of the book on her Amazon page is as follows:
Is stress hurting your heart?
Do you want to live longer, feel better, and protect your health?
A stress-proof heart is immune to the physical impact of unrelenting stress.
Diet and exercise play an important role in preventing heart disease, but the most insidious, under-addressed risk factor of all is the one that many of us find the hardest to manage—stress. Note: We can’t alleviate all stress, and we wouldn’t want to even if we could. Some stress is natural and necessary; it is what gives us the zing of energy to get things done.
Trouble comes when that zing becomes a constant thrum, continually triggering the stress hormone cortisol to pump into the body rather than allowing it to ebb and flow as we need it. This book provides tools to power a fulfilling life by efficiently processing cortisol out of the body and nurturing a heart resilient enough to withstand high stress, change, crisis—and to bounce back from illness.
Are you feeling stress right now? Is it being caused by dealing with uncertainty?
If you are like me, the answer to both of those questions is yes.
Our Brains are Wired for Certainty
I have written about this before in my post Dealing With Uncertainty In The 2nd Half Of Life.
Eliz shared an example in the podcast; if we are suddenly called into our boss’s office at 4:45 PM on a Friday afternoon, it will be stressful. If could be one of three things:
- You are a rock star at work and know your boss is going to say something great to you.
- You might be a slacker and know you will likely be fired.
- Yikes, you have no idea why your boss is calling you in.
The first two have a certain level of certainty, but the last will likely totally stress us out. It is the uncertainty that is going to drive us nuts.
Our brains are wired for certainty.
In this time of a pandemic, when things are changing by the hour and all predictability is gone, our brains experience high cortisol levels from the stress.
Dealing with Uncertainty Right Now
I have been talking many different people, most of whom have told me the following:
- Kids are home
- Spouse is home working
- Running errands for elderly parents who are scared to leave the house
- College-age children are coming home from school suddenly
- College-age children are stuck in Europe or somewhere else unable to get flights home
- Hours have been cut back at work and there is worry about paying the bills
- Been laid off but unable to register for unemployment benefits because staff cannot handle the volume.
Does any of this sound familiar?
What Can We Do in Dealing with Uncertainty?
There are things we can control and other things we cannot control.
Back in the late 1990s, I was working in IBM Marketing and was the evangelist for an up-and-coming software product. I was asked to go to Atlanta and speak to a Linux user group on a Wednesday evening. The Atlanta sales rep asked me if I could also speak to a group of executives from a major soft drink company based in Atlanta. Of course, I said – I could speak to them in the early afternoon and booked the very first flight out of Austin at 6 AM through Dallas to Atlanta.
On the day I was to speak I arrived in Dallas on time, but the weather had severely delayed the flight to Atlanta. I was not going to make the meeting with the executives, but I would make the evening meeting with the Linux users group. In the past, I would have worried about not making the meeting. I was suffering from MSU (Make Stuff Up) disorder as I assumed the sales team would be upset with me.
I called the sales lead and told him I was delayed in Dallas and I would not make it for the meeting with the executives. His response was… “Okay.”
I realized at that moment that I was not in control. The weather was going to change because it was interfering with my schedule. I could check the schedules and verify that I was not going to make it. Then I could tell the appropriate people that I was not going to make it.
Focus on what you can control and let go of those things that are out of your control.
What Can We Control?
We can control our own behavior. If we stay calm and keep our behavior very predictable it will be calming to your family, employees and customers or clients.
Think about how your behaviors can either be very calming to disruptive to your environment.
How the %&$)#@)( do we stay calm in this chaos of a pandemic? Focus on self-care. Get your 8 hours of sleep, meditate, exercise, do not drink to excess, and keep your normal routines.
If you are currently feeling anxious, uncertain, angry, depressed or just unsettled, that is normal for what is going on in the world. Take steps to find things that you can control and then disengage from those things that you have no control over.
When you let go of those things that you can’t control and take action around those things that you can, you will find this is a great help in dealing with uncertainty.
Are you dealing with uncertainty right now?