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7 Tips for How to Cope With Anxiety During Times of Uncertainty

July 1, 2024
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It’s natural to experience moments of anxiety when faced with uncertainty, whether it's related to personal challenges or global events. (e.g., conflicts, pandemics, or economic instability.) These circumstances can trigger feelings of anxiety or worsen existing anxiety disorders.

If you struggle to cope during unpredictable times, you’re not alone. Many people feel stressed or anxious when it comes to circumstances beyond their control. The World Health Organization reported that the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25% increase in anxiety across the globe. Below we’ll explore seven tips for how to cope with anxiety when life feels unstable.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is more than feeling worried. It’s a natural response to perceived threats or stressors. It can show up as physical symptoms like increased heart rate, sweating, and muscle tension, as well as emotional symptoms such as fear, apprehension, and difficulty concentrating.

Feeling anxious during times of instability is part of being human. However, if you already deal with ongoing anxiety, unpredictable situations can worsen symptoms and make it challenging to stay grounded in the present moment.

Man in Blue and Brown Plaid Dress Shirt Touching His Hair thinking about Therapy in Seattle

Types of Uncertainty

Uncertainty can take many forms in our lives. It encompasses events such as pandemics or political unrest that create widespread stress, affecting health, safety, and everyday routines. The unpredictability of these situations can exacerbate ongoing feelings of anxiety and fear.

This can also involve individual experiences, such as job changes, relationship issues, financial instability, health problems, or major life transitions. These life circumstances can contribute to heightened stress levels and exacerbate current anxiety.

7 Strategies for Coping with Anxiety

There are various ways to cope with anxiety. Try different strategies until you find what works best for you.

1. Limit Information Overload

Practice taking a more balanced approach to your news and social media consumption. Constant exposure to neverending news and social media updates amplify stress and a sense of chaos. By limiting the amount of information you consume, you can better process what you receive and maintain a clearer, more focused mind.

This doesn’t mean ignoring the news and being uninformed. Instead you're being more strategic with your information intake.

Set specific times to check the news. Establish boundaries with social media by taking regular breaks from these platforms. Avoid scrolling on social media first thing in the morning. Give yourself time to adjust to the day before checking notifications.

2. Practice Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques

Grounding and mindfulness help reduce anxiety. They bring your focus to the present moment and away from worries about the past or future. For example, you may use your senses to connect with your immediate environment, such as touching an object, listening to sounds, or focusing on your breath. These activities help anchor you in the here and now and interrupt anxious thoughts.

Possible brief exercises include:

3. Establish a Routine

Creating daily routines can significantly help you deal with anxiety by giving you a sense of stability and control. Routines provide structure, making your day more predictable and manageable. Knowing what to expect can lessen the stress of the unknown. It helps you focus on tasks rather than worrying about future uncertainties.

Regular activities, such as waking up at the same time every day, exercising, and specific times for relaxation and hobbies, can anchor your day and provide a comforting rhythm. This consistency promotes your mental and emotional well-being. It gives you a reliable framework to depend on when other aspects of your life feel unpredictable.

4. Reach Out for Support

Support systems often provide emotional comfort, practical advice, and a sense of belonging. Safe spaces to share your worries and challenges give you a place to feel heard and less alone. This type of support from others can also help you navigate periods of instability and reduce your fear.

Who you include in your support system is up to you, and options include:

5. Focus on What You Can Control

Uncertainty often involves factors beyond your control. Practice shifting your focus to what you can control or change, such as your actions, reactions, and attitudes. For instance, while you may not dictate the outcome of a job interview, you can control how well you prepare for it, how you present yourself, and how you follow up afterward. Concentrating on actionable steps can enhance your sense of agency and help you not feel as helpless.

Take traffic delays as another example. While you can't control traffic conditions, you can change how you respond. Instead of getting frustrated or stressed, use the time to listen to an audiobook or podcast, practice deep breathing, or call a loved one. Focusing on how you react and what you can do in the situation, can make a potentially stressful experience more manageable. This shift in perspective helps maintain a sense of control and reduces the negative impact of uncontrollable external factors.

6. Address Your Need for Certainty

Some individuals explore their need for certainty on their own, while others walk through this with a therapist. Facing your need for certainty involves recognizing the desire for predictability and control. Start by identifying specific areas where you crave certainty and reflect on why this is important to you. This awareness can help you understand the underlying fears or anxieties driving this need.

Develop coping strategies to manage these feelings. This might involve setting realistic goals, breaking tasks into manageable steps, and using problem-solving techniques to address potential issues. Establish routines and seek information that provides stability without becoming overly dependent on absolute certainty. Engaging in mindfulness and relaxation can also help you stay grounded in the present and reduce stress.

Person Hand Reaching Body of Water To Cope With Anxiety During Times of Uncertainty

7. Practice Accepting Uncertainty

Accepting unpredictability is an ongoing process. It requires a mindset shift and building up your resilience. Start by acknowledging that uncertainty is an inherent part of life and that it is impossible to control every outcome. Embrace a growth mindset by viewing challenges and uncertainties as opportunities for learning and personal growth. As you face unpredictable circumstances, allow yourself to experience and manage discomfort without seeking immediate resolution.

Remind yourself that it is okay to feel uncertain. Learning how to cope with anxiety often takes time, practice, tools, support, and treatment.

Searching for anxiety therapy in Seattle? | Meet Dr. David Zacharias

You don’t have to go through anxiety on your own. Dr. David Zacharias offers compassionate treatment for anxiety including therapy, medication management, and diagnostic assessment. He has provided patient-centered care for over 20 years including treatment for anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, ADHD, trauma, and PTSD. If you're interested in services, please contact Existential Psychiatry today to schedule your free consultation.

Written by Existential Psychiatry Staff