THE BLOG
11/30/2016 10:05 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2017

5 Ways to Handle Uncertainty

by Elior Moskowitz

Will I have a job in six months? Will we have enough money? What if my new boss and I don't get along? Dealing with the uncertainties of life causes stress and anxiety--and there's a lot of uncertainty in the air right now. With the recent election, regardless of which candidate you voted for, our stress is at an all time high. A recent study conducted by the APA found that 52 percent of Americans reported mild to significant stress as a result of the 2016 election.

When it comes to change, we may not always be able to control the outcome, but we can control our response to it. And that's resilience. It gives you the tools to bounce back from tough situations and thrive in the face of challenges. Here are five keys to dealing with uncertainty:

1. Let Go

The first step to dealing with uncertainty is to accept that we can't control everything. This is where Iceberg beliefs--those big, bone deep assumptions we have about the way the world works--come into play. If you have an Iceberg Belief such as, "I should never be uncertain" or "Everything must always stay the same," then uncertainty can be especially challenging. Tom Corboy, licensed therapist and author of The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, suggests replacing these beliefs with one that is more open-minded and realistic, such as "uncertainty is less than ideal, but it is acceptable and tolerable."

Recognize that there is only so much you can do right now--and that makes you human, not powerless. Things will unfold soon enough. In the meantime, the way you treat yourself is in your control, so be kind!

2. Envision the Best

We often try to spare ourselves disappointment by thinking through how things could go wrong. However, research in cognitive behavioral therapy shows that people tend to overestimate the risks and negative consequences that may result from a situation. That leads to a lot of anxiety, or worse--sets us up for failure. Beginning something by worrying about the outcome can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead, try imagining the best possible scenario. Picture your surroundings and how it will feel. Not only will you feel more confident about where you're headed, you'll feel calmer and clearer about where you're at now, which well help with decision-making and boost your odds of success.

3. Reflect

Remember that you've faced uncertainty before. The psychological concept of "hindsight bias" says that we tend to create the illusion that everything in our past was certain, when in reality, it was once uncertain. The fact that you stand here now is proof that you are strong enough to make it through. Take time to think and reflect on what helped you before. Write it down--and then read it when your worrisome thoughts start to take hold.

4. Avoid Avoidance (And Keep Moving!)

A little uncertainty can be healthy. It activates the sympathetic nervous system--our "fight or flight" response--which gives us a jolt of energy and mobilizes us to take action.

When this response makes us too anxious, however, it can have the opposite effect and be paralyzing. If you know that you tend to avoid dealing with the future, remind yourself that although dealing with uncertainty is hard, there are consequences for not facing it head on.

5. See the Possibility

A blank slate ahead means that there's nothing written on it yet. And while that may appear daunting, think of it this way: You are standing on the threshold of possibility. Remember why you made this shift in the first place and be proud of yourself for making a move--no matter how it turns out.

Elior Moskowitz is an intern at meQuilibrium in the Content department. She's a recent college grad with a dual major in Psychology and English.