Student Support Services: Dealing With Uncertainty

By Fred Standil
Student Services Advisor at Herzing College

 We all find ourselves attracted to uncertainty when partaking in certain activities. A suspenseful movie, a mystery novel, and games of chance are three examples that come to mind.

We are, however, very vulnerable when the unknown seems to dominate our lives.

COVID-19 is a prime example of this “uncertainty” vulnerability. The stress-inducing nature of a global pandemic has a way of threatening our sense of security and the safety of those closest to us.

Our “normal” means of processing and responding to new situations is strongly tied to our past experiences. A notable psychologist, Jean Piaget, studied the cognitive inventory that we acquire as we go through the different stages of life.

Our fear of the unknown often triggers a physiological state of stress within us. The negative beliefs that we hold about uncertainty often lead to unhealthy emotional or behavioural reactions.

This directly degrades our state of mental health, which can lead to very difficult consequences.

So how do we fight this type of reaction? Here are three ways:

  1. Build tolerance toward uncertainty. We need to acknowledge that life does throw many curveballs at us. While we do not want to consistently anticipate worst-case scenarios, we do want to remind ourselves that we cannot take things for granted. Finding this balance can be the difference between coping and succumbing to the unpredictability within our lives.
  2. Practise mindfulness. This can help to ground us in the present moment as we navigate our way through the world.
  3. Maintain a schedule. The physiological consequences of unchecked stress can alter our eating and sleeping patterns adversely. By keeping track of these habits (as we would do with medication protocols), we are able to regulate these critical components of strong mental health.

We need to live by the philosophy of controlling those aspects of our lives which can truly control. So much of what we do is arbitrary in nature, but our daily routines are somewhat within our control.

By acknowledging that we cannot control the negative variables that we all face, we are streamlining our focus and concentrating on some of the most significant areas of life. These include things like work/school, relationships, family, and our physical wellness.

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