Practical Ways to Cope with Uncertainty

The disruption of the COVID-19 virus is creating uncertainty, fear and chaos. Dominoes are falling all around us. What affects one affects all. The world seems to be coming to a screeching halt and life as we knew it is no more.  Everyone is affected and no one is immune. No one has THE answer to make it all better, but there are ways to become more resilient and suffer less. Here are a few practical ideas to help you cope in times of uncertainty.

Don’t Believe Every Thought
Much of our anxiety is due to our unmanaged thoughts about the situation. Lately I’ve observed several conversations that exemplify thoughts gone wild, including conspiracy theories, political agendas, God’s will, and other explanations for why we are going through this pandemic. Most of these thoughts are simply ideas, opinions, religious beliefs, or philosophical points of view. We need to remind ourselves that sometimes what we think or hear is neither true nor false:  It’s just a thought.

Stop Ruminating
Rumination is the habit of re-thinking negative or anxiety-producing thoughts over and over again. Rumination is related to depression and inability to solve problems.  These habitual thoughts over time create deep grooves in the neuro-circuits of the brain that produces increased anxiety. To stop ruminating, notice the repetitive nature, and then shift gears intentionally. Create a more soothing thought to replace the rumination. For example, if you are thinking “I’m not going to make it financially, “think instead, “I have always been creative before. I am going to be innovative to figure out a plan.”

Eliminate Blame
Blame will never help you fix your situation. Blaming is focused on the past, which takes you completely out of the only power you have: the present moment. Blame has a negative vibe that creates victimhood and reduces productivity. Do not participate in blame-laden conversations. Shift the conversation to “what choices we have now” and notice your inner landscape. You’ll feel instantly better because when you find your choice you find your power.

Don’t Stay Plugged In 24/7
We all need to be aware but watching news or engaging in social media non-stop is toxic to your health, takes up time and wastes precious energy that could be used doing something that could benefit you later. Now is the time to place some constraints on your log in time. Make a decision about when you will watch the news, and how much time you will engage on social media. Use the extra hours to do something really productive like writing a book proposal, cleaning out your computer, or spending an hour a day on Duolingo to learn a new language.

Create Structure
Structure determines behavior. If you were used to being at work, sending the kids to school, eating out, and traveling, chances are you feel lost without the structures you were used to. Now is the time to be a creator and build your own structures. Make a schedule. Set some priorities, determine your routines. Experiment with how you use time and space. You’ll feel more disciplined, more in more control rather than free falling into nothingness.

Rekindle Relationships
If you’ve burned bridges, now is the time to try to make amends and resolve old relationship conflicts.  Reach out. Ask if you can help. Apologize. People tend to forgive easier when the petty issues become less important than the current catastrophe.

Learn Something
If you are stuck at home for more hours than you prefer, you can intentionally decide to learn a new skill. There are tons of ways to learn something for free or even a small fee online. For example, Linked In Learning offers leadership courses, technical courses and more. Or you could teach some life skills to your kids, while they teach you something in return.

Use Lists to Your Benefit
List making can come in handy for many situations. Are you overwhelmed? Make a list, then sort out the tasks, prioritize then put on a calendar so that you can execute a plan. Worried? Make a list of the worries, then circle the ones where you can take action on to make a difference. Cluttered house? Make a list of all the things you’d like to clean if you had the time. Now choose one or two. Lists can clear your head and help you take positive action.

Organize Your Space
There’s not one person who doesn’t have a couple of drawers, a closet, a basement or a guest room that couldn’t stand some purging and organizing. Pick a room and create a project to clean, organize and purge. Then when things speed back up, you’ll have more clarity and peace of mind because your environment supports you.

There are moments in time where we feel we have no choices, but that’s just a thought. Take charge of what you can control and decide to find ways to manage your stress and set yourself up for success when things speed back up.

Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of “Stop Workplace Drama” (Wiley 2011), “No-Drama Leadership” (Bibliomotion 2015) and “7 Ways to Stop Drama in Your Healthcare Practice” (Greenbranch 2018) and an advanced practitioner of Narrative Coaching. Connect with Chism via LinkedInFacebook and Twitter and at