Uncertainty, what to do when you just can’t see a way forward

We all experience uncertainty and as I write this blog during lockdown I can only imagine what’s happening in your life at the moment. The only thing I know for sure is we’re all experiencing so much change and on such big scale too. For many of us, it’s difficult to plan ahead, and that often leads to frustration, stress and, of course uncertainty.

What’s more, there’s even more change to come, so I thought I’d offer you a few insights and tools to help you manage change, build resilience and navigate your way through uncertainty. A sort of a mental health first-aid kit if you like.

1) Express The Emotion

We’re all experiencing a roller coaster of emotions from shock, to denial, to anger, to despair, to overwhelm, to acceptance and everything in-between. That’s perfectly natural.

Whatever emotion you feel don’t bottle it up, express it. If you feel like laughing, laugh. If you feel like crying, cry. If you feel like shouting at the top of your voice in anger, then do it. You might want to find somewhere private to express your emotions and ensure nobody feels the emotion is directed at them (especially in the case of shouting) but do it. As my mum used to say, ‘better out than in’.

When we express our emotions, especially if we have a good cry (and I’ve done so myself a time or two) it releases tension and afterwards we usually feel better. We may not know the direction we need to move in but we often find it easier to think, we’re usually calmer and clearer in thought which puts us in a good frame of mind to face whatever is ahead.

2) You Are Not Alone

Whenever I speak at an event, I usually talk about surrounding yourself with a ‘go to’ group of supportive people. I call it a mastermind, it’s sometimes called a peer support group.

This is a group of three to six people who meet on a regular basis (face to face or online) to discuss each other’s issues, challenges and opportunities. Each person plays their part in morally supporting the others as well as being used as sounding boards.

If you haven’t created such a group for yourself, now is a good time to start.

My group usually meet face to face for a whole day once every two months. During lockdown we’ve been meeting via Zoom, once a week for an hour or two. We review the frequency of meetings every few weeks. We will eventually change the frequency and format again to suit our needs.

We discuss our challenges, we empathise, we morally support and we also tease, banter and laugh together.

If you think forming a group might be difficult, then buddy up with just one other person and do the same thing.

No matter how hard the road ahead, we do not have to be on our own. The journey will always be easier (not necessarily easy but easier) with companions to cheer us on and watch our backs.

3) Be Grateful

It’s so easy, during times as we are experiencing at the moment, to focus on what we don’t have and what we can’t do. Which is why it’s all the more important to focus on what we DO have and what we CAN do AND be grateful for it.

I’m not suggesting we bury our head in the sand and ignore the problems, issues and challenges, I’m saying we need to focus on the good things we have and can do.

And when I say be grateful, I don’t mean just thinking or saying a list of things, but actually FEELING in our hearts the things we’re grateful for.

When we express gratitude with the whole of our hearts and FEEL thankful our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, two crucial chemicals that make us feel ‘good’. They immediately enhance our mood and make us feel happy.

As often as you can, at least twice a day, when you wake up and just before you go to sleep, for two minutes list the things you’re grateful for in your mind and FEEL thankful.

This will not only help raise your spirits but also help with clarity and focus your mind.

4) Step Up, Step Forward, Step Now!

Finally, if you’re feeling down and you think you can’t go on then… step up, step forward and take that step now!

We’ve all been through crises before, we’ve not been through this one, but we have been through them before. Many of us survived the financial crash in 2008 for instance. Whether they’ve been financial, health, relationship or whatever, we’ve had many crises in our lives.

Yes, it was scary and we didn’t like the experience, we may even have not ended up where we wanted to end up BUT we got through them. If we’ve done it before we can do it again.

During those times we’ve all had those days (as I have) where we didn’t want to get out of bed of a morning because we knew the world was going to beat us up. Guess what? Somehow we found the strength to get out of bed, we stepped up, we stepped forward and we kept on taking one, albeit slow and small, step now and then another, and then another, and then another…

For some of us we had a vision or goal we wanted to achieve for others, all we knew was we didn’t want to be where we were and just wanted to move away from the discomfort, the pain.

Sometimes we can’t see the path in front of us as it’s unclear, the fog is too thick. If we do nothing we’ll just dwell in the dark, so all we need to do is be brave, step up and take one step, just one step forward.

But what if you don’t like any of the options in front of you, then choose the option you dislike the least. If you don’t know which step to take just do something. Maybe reach out to friend for help. You could reach out to someone in need of help and help them. Do a post on social media, do something. Then take another step forward and then another and then another…

Why? Because as we step up and step forward one step at a time, ideas and opportunities will present themselves to us. The fog will clear, the path will become easier, we’ll make a positive difference to our lives and we’ll ultimately create the future we deserve.

But we can only do it, one step at a time. And for each step, we need to step up, step forward and take that step now!