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mw editorial

getting comfortable with the unknown

March 2, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic introduced a lot of uncertainty into our world. Many people felt worried and anxious about the strange ways our world changed last year. People continue to feel nervous about the unpredictable ways the pandemic might play out this year. Uncertainty is an inescapable part of life. No matter how much we try to plan, predict, or control our way out of it, the unknown always has the uncomfortable power to wreck our plans and keep us up at night. This past year is undoubtedly an indication of that. How can we become more comfortable with uncertainty instead of letting our fear of it dominate our lives? Here are a few strategies:

Recognize that you can’t control everything.

Fear of the unknown is often underscored by a fear of not being in control. It’s normal to crave certainty. Certainty helps us feel safe and secure. However, everything in life carries degrees of risk and randomness.

An uncomfortable truth of life is that many, many things are beyond anyone’s control. This fact proves true whether we choose to accept it or not. Instead of allowing this truth to paralyze us with fear, we should use it to release us of the burden of wanting to control everything. Once we accept this truth, we create space to shift our mindset, actions, and beliefs, all of which are within our control.

Reflect on experiences when you conquered your fear of the unknown.

Think of all the times you’ve faced a situation with an unknown outcome. Maybe it was a first day of school, a first date, a scary doctor’s appointment, or a new business venture. All of these experiences carried a fear of uncertainty, and yet you persevered through them. Focusing on our past triumphs helps us remember how resilient we are. Even when faced with uncertainty, this act reminds us that we are strong enough to overcome our fears.

Avoid catastrophizing and anxious rumination.

When faced with uncertainty, people naturally tend to think of the worst possible outcome. In primitive times, this saved our ancestors from death, injury, and misfortune. It’s healthy to think of all possibilities, but too much rumination causes a lot of unnecessary anxiety.

Do bad things happen to people? Yes. Does that mean that bad things will happen to you? No! Reframe your mindset and think of all the positive outcomes you might experience.

Embrace your vulnerability and your humanity.

A fear of the unknown is a primal fear that has lingered for millennia. From early humans’ fear of a dark cave to modern fears of a mysterious new disease, anxiety over the unknown has permeated humanity. When you start to feel the quivers of uncertainty, take a deep breath. Remember that this is part of being human, and your fear descends from the millions of people throughout history who have experienced the same feeling. Though they’ve felt the terror of uncertainty, many have made peace with it and have been able to move forward with life, and others have overcome the fear entirely.

Many people manage to live joyful, prosperous, adventurous lives despite their fear of the unknown. Don’t let fear keep you in a rut. Becoming comfortable with uncertainty saves us time, energy, and a whole lot of sleepless nights.


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