Manage uncertainty with these tips
Learn to manage uncertainty! Don’t let your worries stop you and improve your tolerance to this feeling with the tips below.
What is uncertainty according to psychology?
Uncertainty is the result of having limited knowledge of a fact or event, which makes control, planning or the prediction of a future result difficult and can often be distressing. We cannot predict the future, so in life, we find ourselves facing insecurities, fears and uncertainty.
Most of us function with habits or customs that give us a plan or routine, generating a psychological environment of security. When things don’t go to plan, it can seem like we are losing control, which contributes to increased insecurity, discomfort and uncertainty.
How uncertainty manifests itself
Uncertainty affects us all differently, by provoking different physiological and behavioural responses in each of us: it depends on individual, cultural, social and family-related factors of each person. Some people are able to resolve crisis situations easily, quickly adapting to changes. However, other people seem to fight against the unknown and are likely to experience changes in their mood, sleep patterns, appetite and ways of coping. Intolerance to uncertainty can cause us stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks or disorders and compulsions.
5 steps to tackle uncertainty
We are often hard on ourselves for fighting when things don't go as planned. Adopting a role where you are more flexible with yourself, where there is room for patience, acceptance, warmth and kindness, will facilitate a more appropriate and adaptative response. Let’s look at how we can tackle it in the best way possible, with these simple steps.
- Make a list of your behaviours to recognise them and control them. You can ask others, make checks, postpone activities until you are sure, identify the ones you avoid, etc.
- Classify these behaviours according to the level of anxiety, discomfort or uncertainty they generate for you. Score them from 0 to 100 and process them according to the level of anxiety they generate for you, starting with the simplest.
- Be tolerant to uncertainty. Start by choosing and practising 3 lower scoring elements, so you can practise tolerance to uncertainty with low levels of anxiety. Aim to do at least 3 things per week, every day. This will help you to reduce discomfort with daily and constant repetition.
- Write it down! Keep a record of all of the times you did something that generated uncertainty. Note down what you did, what happened and how you felt. If you write things down, you will be able to see all of the effort you make to expose yourself to uncertainty. As you keep practising, situations will become easier for you.
- When you feel comfortable with the small steps you have made to tolerate uncertainty, gradually try more difficult things. Look for opportunities to tolerate uncertainty in day-to-day life.
Sometimes things won't turn out exactly as you planned if you allow a certain amount of uncertainty into your life. But that is not a sign of failure. Most people who tolerate uncertainty learn that, even when bad things happen, they can overcome them. By becoming more tolerant to uncertainty, we can leave aside all of the problems associated with intolerance and realise that we can deal with things, even when they don’t turn out perfectly.