The unknown is something that can be very scary and unsettling for a lot of people. Human beings are programmed to like structure, routine, to plan and have a sense of predictability in life. When that is not possible, they can often feel overwhelmed.
Very young children can often embrace the unknown with excitement and enjoyment. They can find the magic in uncertain moments and be open to new adventures all the time. It is as they get older that this begins to change – usually as insecurities develop, as outside judgements creep in and often as confidence tends to get knocked.
Watching very young children in the moment is so magical. That sense of ease, of being, that joy and the way they embrace life is something we would all love to hold on to and to treasure. The unknown to them is not scary or anxiety provoking – that comes with age. And it makes things far more challenging.
As we grow up we become far more aware of what might happen. We develop a sense of fear. What if things go wrong? What if we can’t do it? We also become acutely aware of what others are thinking – we worry about judgement, we develop insecurities and we start to feel unsure about taking new steps.
We begin to question our abilities and we wonder if we are good enough or if we are capable. Suddenly what once seemed exciting when we were young, feels unsettling as we get older. A sense of predictability makes us feel safe, a sense of knowing what is coming next makes us feel calm. Our security comes from knowing what the next stages are. When that is taking away from us, we can feel lost.
Many people for example love the fun and excitement of a holiday, but they often crave coming back to routine and structure. Many people love weekends and days off work / education, but they crave the routine of the week. Human beings are creatures of habit, and while we can challenge and push ourselves to try new things, we generally like to know where we are at on a day-to-day basis.
Now this is all stripped away from us – the last year has massively changed our lives. All our routines have altered, and so much structure has been lost. Whether its home schooling, working from home, changes in the workplace – there has been so much that has altered. Families and friends cannot meet, all of our social outlets have closed, the leisure industry has shut down. Everything that was once so familiar now feels like so far away. Things are always changing, and we are all having to adapt as we go. As a result, we sit her today facing so much uncertainty and dealing with so much unknown.
We all hold on the positives that are out there – the hope that comes with vaccinations, and with new announcements coming our way. We all hope that life will lift and come back to some version of what feels familiar. But the truth is we do not know for sure. We do not have the answers and we are all sitting here faced with such a huge sense of the ’unknown’.
So – without our usual routines and structure, without our usual planning, without the things that we normally look forward too – how do we all remain calm?? How do we all keep a sense of clarity when faced with so much unknown.
Perhaps it is about how we view the unknown. Perhaps it is also about how we embrace it. Maybe it is about how we cope with it. And maybe it is also about how we let go of what was. If you are struggling with not knowing how things are going to be in your future, then below is a list of suggestions that might help –
- Hold on to the fact that life is not repetitive – things are always changing – even if we do not always see it.
- Think about times in your life when the unknown has been powerful – and because of that positive changes have taken place.
- Remember that it is through our greatest challenges that we often have our greatest growth.
- Although we may face difficulties, try to hold on to the fact that while we cannot always see it – change is always beautiful in the end.
- Remember that while navigating your way through scary moments – it is important to try and find some joy along the way. Even if those windows are small.
- Try not to focus on what others think – when you break it down it does not really matter.
- Focus on the here and now as much as possible – being mindful and in the moment will instantly bring you a sense of calmness and clarity.
- Create positive mantras for yourself – that help you to get through the day as calmly and clearly as possible.
- Imagine how you might like the future to look – but do not put too much emphasis on your visualisations. Know that while you may have an idea of how you would like things to be – its ok for our vision to change.
- Set yourself a daily goal – no matter how small. Giving each day a sense of purpose will make you feel better and enable things to be more manageable.
- Do not put yourself under too much pressure – now is not the time for adding pressure to your life. You have not got to do everything right now. Remember its ok to simply ‘be’.
- As simplistic as it may sound – remind yourself that ‘this will pass’. It can be impossible to hold on to that at times. Especially with the length of time that things have gone on for. But if you can keep telling yourself – it will make things easier to manage.
- When you find yourself feeling stressed or on edge, try to take a step back and ask yourself does it really matter? Is the thing you are worrying about or focusing on important right now?
- If you find yourself feeling anxious then it can be useful to work on breathing techniques, to implement things like exercise, walking, reading and yoga into your life. It can help to take time out with things like a bath, meditation etc. And it can also help to write down your worries and imagine how different they might look in a year’s time. Sometimes this is very grounding and settling.
- Make your self-care total priority and do not feel guilty or bad for doing so. It is so important right now. Whatever you need to do for yourself now – make it a priority and make it happen.
- Reach out to your support network if you need too. Its ok to ask for help. If you need time and support from your friends and loved ones, then do not be afraid to ask for it. And if you find that you need more support then reach out to the helplines available and embark on the path of therapy if you feel you can. While it may feel scary to do so – it can really make a difference.
- Finally – learn to expect the unexpected. The more emphasis we put on a plan or focus on how we think our day ‘should’ look – the more unsettled we become when things change. If we are open to change, if we are aware that the unexpected can happen at any given time – then we are far more equipped to cope.
These are all suggestions and ways to help us all to cope and manage in this uncertain time. It really is not easy for anyone right now – but if work hard to put these things in place then we can find our way back to a place of clarity and calm with more certainty. We can feel more equipped and able to cope with the challenges that life is currently throwing at us. If we are in a calmer head space, if we are taking better care of ourselves, if we are focused on the philosophy of ‘just for today’, then we are far more prepared and able to feel calm as we face the ‘unknown’.