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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

The Challenge of Dealing with Uncertainty

Here in Texas we have a collective freak out whenever the temperature dips below freezing. Ever since the winter storm of 2021 when millions of Texans lost power for days in subfreezing temperatures, we worry over the power grid’s stability when we turn up our heaters. It failed us once, after all. It could happen again.

Perhaps you had a similar response when there was a nationwide cellular outage last month or when you couldn’t find toilet paper during the pandemic. Things that we took for granted and were once a certainty are now dotted with question marks.


It seems that every time we hear the news we learn about a circumstance or event that calls into question what was a foregone conclusion just the day before. Many of our once solid truths now feel more like jello.


Today we’ll look at what so much uncertainty does to us personally and how you can manage it. In the weeks ahead, we’ll talk about what you can do to manage the unknown and how company leaders can steer their organizations through unpredictable times.


Uncertainty can feel like a threat because it challenges our sense of control and predictability. As humans, we naturally seek stability, security, and a sense of understanding about the world around us. When faced with uncertainty, we encounter a gap in our knowledge or understanding which provokes feelings of discomfort, fear, and vulnerability.


In fact, fear of the unknown is hard wired into our biology. When facing a potential threat, our heart beats faster, our muscles tense up, and our breathing quickens. This response prepares us to fight the danger or run to safety. Once the threat is gone, our bodies reset and return to a non-fight or flight state. The excess chemicals not needed for running or fighting are discharged and our system returns to a non-activated state. Have you ever seen someone shake after a traumatic experience? That is their body’s way of discharging the cortisol and adrenaline that was surging through their nervous system just moments before.


This intricate response is literally a life-saver when we are in imminent danger. It’s not so useful, however, for threats from which there is no tangible thing to fight or run from. How do you physically fight a bank collapse? How do you run away from an economic recession?


When under a continual onslaught of stresses and in the absence of an outlet for the physical responses it provokes, we accumulate what neuroscientists call incomplete stress cycles. When these incomplete stress cycles pile up it causes anxiety, irritability, exhaustion and life- threatening illnesses.


So, what’s a body to do? Actually, a lot. Next week, we’ll give you some concrete, scientifically proven strategies to help you manage the onslaught of stress and uncertainty you encounter. 

Until then, take some time to notice what is happening in your body as you go about your day. 

Notice any tension that you carry, what provoked it and what you did to get some relief.

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