We’ve all been dealing with so much uncertainty this year, from not knowing much about the coronavirus, to how long the lockdown was going to be, to our seasons, jobs, and ability to see loved ones taken away, to now the presidential election. Having the gyms where I workout close indefinitely, the beaches off limits (all the volleyball net poles were taken off the beaches), and event after event getting canceled (my version of getting furloughed) and then the Olympic postponement was more than a little unnerving. Add to that the fact that we had to find a new coach shortly after the lockdown began because our coach at the time decided to continue her plan of moving to Maine with her family in August, and that’s quite a bit of uncertainty created in a few short months.
I’ve learned there are two ways to look at uncertainty. The most natural and biologically ingrained way is to dread it and allow it to stress us out (my initial reaction). Uncertainty, prehistorically, means we are in danger of some predator jumping out of a bush and mauling us, or that we don’t know where our next water source will be, etc. and that SHOULD cause a lot of stress, but these threats are virtually non-existent today. However, the way we respond to any kind of uncertainty is still influenced by how our responses were developed in the past. The GOOD news is once we recognize where this response comes from we can see the lack of logic in it and choose a different way. A mind untended runs amok and will definitely default to stress and despair in the face of uncertainty. We need to be aware of our thoughts, know why we think those thoughts (especially if they’re unhealthy), and start to reprogram our responses and get better at processing our emotions and anxiety in the face of all things.
Like right now, I’m sitting in my car outside the passport agency in Los Angeles because I somehow lost my passport for the first time in my life and we are supposed to leave for Brazil TOMORROW. The passport office is essentially closed to the public because of Covid, but I have a contact inside and she’s my only hope. However, I’ve been texting her for the last hour and she isn’t responding and there’s far from any guarantee I can get in today. I have no idea what’s going to happen or how I’m going to get down to Brazil… I AM stressing, but I’m also trying to recognize that stressing isn’t going to help and it’s just an illogical response my brain/body is having.
The alternative and more productive way to deal with uncertainty is to recalibrate our perspective over and over and over again, and fight as hard as it takes to maintain a healthy perspective about said situation. It’s admittedly really tough to see things through a healthy lens all the time, so don’t give up because you think it should be easy and it’s not (talking to myself here as well). Sometimes I forget that certain things by nature are just HARD and are never going to be easy and take constant work, and perspective is definitely one of those things. Once we recognize our perspective has become a little bleak we need to course correct and the work is unfortunately never done.
Yes, there are some life or death situations which really do call for a drastic response, and of course Covid-19 can be life or death (so it’s important to follow all guidelines and take action immediately if you experience any symptoms), but many things that are uncertain right now are not. This situation I’m in right now is not life or death. Most things are not, and if we can shift our perspective from dread to curiosity and amusement we decrease the stress we experience exponentially.
In tandem with constantly recalibrating our perspective, we must further combat uncertainty by training our optimism muscle. Being optimistic has been shown to have immeasurable health benefits both mentally and physically. If you watch your thoughts you can see when they begin to slip from a positive outlook to a negative outlook. Once you see that happening you must re-select an optimistic thought. As time continues to slip by as I write this and I still don’t have an appointment to get my passport, I can allow myself to feel defeated or I can chose to hang on to hope and believe that everything will work out.
I listened to a podcast the other day called House of Greatness (it’s amazing, highly recommend it). The guest was Rob Bell and he told the listeners about a mantra he now uses daily that I have found very soothing and helpful in the face of all this uncertainty around us. The mantra is this:
“Everything you need today, you will have.”
It asks us to believe in ourselves and know that we can and will handle anything thrown our way and are more than equipped to deal with it. We don’t need to worry about the future or constantly contemplate different outcomes or what could happen, but KNOW and trust that we will have what we need to deal with anything we face. It also asks us to trust that even if we don’t feel like we have what we will need, the Universe will provide it in time and to know that whatever happens is meant to be, whether to support us or teach us a lesson, or any other positive reframe.
And lastly, but far from least, is the practice of staying firmly rooted in the present moment. The only thing that is certain and constant is the now. If we can handle the present moment we can handle the future. If we don’t maximize and find joy in the present, it is unlikely we will be able to do so in the future. Essentially the future is a figment of our imagination, all the future is is the present moment later on. If we do what we can from present moment to present moment anything we feel uncertain about will work out in the best way it possibly can. No stress or fretting or dread about how it *might* or *might not* work out will benefit us in the face of uncertainty.
Holding on to perspective, maintaining an optimistic lens, and dedication to the now are the best ways to combat, deal with, and transform uncertainty into opportunity, and it can even lead us to see uncertainty as an exciting adventure in some cases. Even if it comes with challenges, we know it will provide us with the chance to further forge ourselves in the fire, grow, transform, and become better because of it. Keep the faith, believe in yourself, and find joy in the now.
Life is a ride.
P.S. I DID end up getting an appointment and a new passport and am currently on my way to Brazil! Beyond grateful for everyone who helped me pull this off, and I am feeling very blessed to be able to take this trip as planned!