How to take action in the midst of uncertainty
Tips for managing stress while navigating difficult situations
Let’s face it, there are plenty triggers all around these days that easily toss you into the fog, you can’t see where you are going, what’s around the corner or how things will turn out. Are you feeling uncertainty taking up residence between your two ears?
When you are uncertain you are not confident or don’t feel you can rely on something. What is that “something” for you today? Your health? Finances? Relationships? Your Career? Those in leadership positions that directly impact your sense of wellbeing?
We could go on and on as there are numerous triggers linked to the feeling that you cannot rely on something.
Let’s nail it down for you today and explore how to keep moving forward on the windy roads of uncertainty.
I will often reference the act of quarantining your thoughts that hijack your confidence when I work with clients as quickly as possible.
There are several tools to help you get the uncertainty out of your mind, below are just a few for you to explore:
- Take a piece of paper fold it in half length wise. Or draw a T chart (a large capital T that divides your piece of paper in half). On the top left side write: Stressor. On the top right side write: Action. As soon as you identify that “something” that is triggering uncertainty, the feeling that you can’t rely on it, write it down under the Stressor.
Next, brainstorm an action step you can take to move in a positive direction. For example, let’s say you are stressed about the thought of losing your job which is igniting feelings of uncertainty and releasing stress in your body. Get it out of your head ASAP and write it down on the paper.
Next explore your available resources that support you. An example of an action that you could take would be to connect or reconnect with other individuals who are in your industry and explore potential back up plans if you have observable data that supports your stressor of possibly losing your job.
- Resist the urge to make assumptions and conclusions. Commit to focusing on observable data. Avoid mind-reading and fortune telling: I just know they are going to force me out of my job. Do you know that for sure? Push back on those thoughts that exist outside of observable data. If someone who is in the power position to actually let you go and they said: “Hey, your job is on the line.” Then you can take action on that observable data. Don’t create the drama and cast yourself as the main character. Get off the stage and camp on the observable data. Review The Ladder of Inference
- Erase and Replace: Erase the negative catastrophizing thoughts that are linked to uncertainty and replace them with what you are certain about in your life. The definition of certain is: known for sure; established beyond doubt, having complete conviction about something, confident. What do you know for sure, in spite of the uncertainty? What is established beyond doubt in your life? What do you have complete conviction about? When was a time in your life you felt uncertain about something?
You re-established confidence as a result of focusing on what you know to be true about yourself, your life, your relationship with others, your talents and abilities.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’ll pull back the curtain of vulnerability a bit and share a time of uncertainty within my own life. Back in 2006 I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer one week prior to my final divorce court date, with 3 young children. I didn’t drink, smoke or eat unhealthy foods and yet my body was dying. The link between stress and disease is growing with each decade.
A landmark study out of the University of London concluded that stress is more of a contributing factor to cancer and heart disease than cigarette smoking or high cholesterol foods. In less than a two-year period of time I went through a divorce, double mastectomy, 16 chemotherapy treatments, an additional year of experimental chemotherapy, 6 weeks of daily radiation, 14 surgeries due to third degree burns from the radiation/chemo combination they had to graphed my back onto my front, so I really don’t know if I’m coming or going these days and a MRSA staph infection that kept me in the ICU for a week.
When I went through advanced cancer and divorce at the same time, uncertainty was a constant resident taking up way too much landscape between my two ears. Perhaps that’s you today.
Is there something in your life that is a constant source of uncertainty? It got to the point where I knew that if I didn’t take every thought captive for life and healing that the battle would rage within my body and perhaps overcome me. One phrase I used daily when the fear of uncertainty gripped me was: “I’ve done difficult things before and I can do it again.”
To keep my mind in the moment I would say: “Be here now, you lack nothing in the present moment. The solution lies in my ability to do the best I can with the task at hand.”
I invite you to explore coming up with a battle cry as you run towards enemy lines. The unknown thing which you feel is bigger than your strength to handle it successfully.
What is your battle cry that you will declare as you run into the storm, drive on the foggy road into the unknown? ____________________________________________________
I still declare these frequently when the familiar uncertainty serpent slithers in and robs me of my God given ability to remember: “I’ve walked through the eye of the storm before and I can do it again.”
I would also declare my desired state of being in the form of a gratitude prayer, feel free to make this your own with your own situation that fuels uncertainty: Thank You My Healing, down to the cellular level! The doctors were trying to get me 5 more years of life back in 2006. I beat the odds and you can too.
Remember, stress is the power you give to outside circumstances to define what you believe you are capable of handling successfully. Resist the urge to give more authority to your circumstance than to your inner ability to handle it successfully. Raise the bar today and declare your battle cry towards victory over uncertainty. You are not alone in your struggle; all things are possible for those who believe.
Lauren E. Miller has a Masters in Adult Education with a Certification in Human Resources Development. She has personally conquered two of life’s top stressors at the same time, advanced cancer and divorce. Now Google’s #1 Stress Relief Expert, Award Winning Author, HRD Trainer and Certified Sherpa Executive Coach, Lauren provides process driven programs and custom trainings with structure, guidance, support and accountability designed to create positive change in behavior resulting in positive impact on business (IOB) and life purpose. Explore more at http://LaurenEMiller.com.