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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

Strategies for Managing Uncertainty

Though we are inundated with information, ambiguity and uncertainty abounds in our modern lives. This is especially true right now, given that it is an election year, leaving us with many unknowns for the near future.

Last week we talked about the detrimental effect that dealing with uncertainty has on us as individuals. 

Today we share some tips for managing the variability that has become a mainstay of modern life. By regularly practicing the following strategies, you can minimize the impact that this stress has on your physical, mental, and emotional health. 


Check your narrative: A nervous system in fight or flight mode signals to our mind that there is real and present danger - even when that may not be the case. Recognizing that your body’s response is an age-old adaptation to stress helps us distinguish between a true threat and extreme discomfort. An important presentation to your board of directors may be extremely uncomfortable but it is not life-threatening. Just because your internal smoke alarm is going off, that doesn’t mean there is a fire.

Fine tune your focus: After examining the narrative in your head, you are then better able to focus on what is actually happening. Identify any aspects of the situation where you do have control and take appropriate action. Even if all you can control is your response to the situation, this feels a lot better than sitting idle and feeling helpless.

Complete the stress cycle: In addition to dealing with the actual stress, you also have to deal with the impact the stress has on you. Deliberate activities that discharge the chemicals produced by the disturbance help reset our nervous systems. There are many scientifically proven ways to do this. Physical activity is the most efficient. Other methods include slow deep slow breathing, laughing, and being with pets. 

Connect with others: Positive social interaction signals to our brain that the world is a safe place and can help re-regulate an activated nervous system. This ranges from simply telling your barista to have a good day to an extended hug with a trusted friend or loved one. Be deliberate about making human connections. Simply putting the phone down and looking at the person you are talking to, is a great place to start.

Zoom Out: When under threat our brain automatically focuses on the core aspects that are most relevant to our safety. If we’re being attacked by a wild animal, for example, our brains will zero in on the teeth and claws of the beast and focus less on peripheral details such as the kind of bush nearby. Taking a big picture perspective gives context to the stressor and allows us to see the various factors that may be at play. It also encourages adaptation by keeping us open to different possible responses. Concrete ways to do this involve connecting with something bigger than yourself such as gazing at the stars, remembering the resilience of your ancestors, listening to a beautiful piece of music, doing something creative, serving others or engaging with your faith beliefs.


One thing we do know for sure is that the world will continue to change. Learning ways to help our bodies and psyches adapt to these changes will help us stay agile and resilient.


Our next blog will provide tips for leaders who are steering their organizations through uncertain times. 

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