A Psychiatrist's Top 4 Tips For Staying Calm In The Face Of Uncertainty
Humans are hardwired to crave control. There's safety in knowing what's coming up next so we can prepare for it. There's nothing like a global pandemic to rattle our sense of assuredness and provoke anxiety about a future largely unknown.
"Coming into the right relationship with uncertainty enables us to navigate the trials and tribulations of life with grace," holistic psychiatrist and author of Fulfilled Anna Yusim, M.D., tells mbg. Yusim, who is known for blending science and spirituality to help people live with less stress and more meaning, says that the best strategy for dealing with uncertainty comes down to four little words:
"Practice being mindfully present with what is. Thank the present moment for being exactly as it is," she says. "There is wisdom and maturity that comes from being able to accept life on life's terms." Meditating is one way to foster this sense of mindful presence. If you've been struggling to quiet your mind during this distracting time, try popping on a guided meditation to help you ease into stillness: Check out the ones Yusim has on her site, or scroll through mbg's library.
Whenever Yusim finds herself struggling with a lack of control, she likes to repeat the serenity prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
This mantra can be a reminder that even when the outside world feels totally unpredictable, we still have agency over our thoughts and personal actions. "So today, ask yourself," says Yusim, "What do I have control over in this situation? What constructive steps can I take today to improve my experience and create more certainty in my life?"
These days, hope is hard to come by when reading the news or scrolling through social media. To find that sense of faith, we need to look within. Lean into your spiritual or religious practices to remind yourself of the larger forces at play, always. "Hope entails optimism, knowing there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dark or long the tunnel may be," Yusim advises.
"When we have done everything we can to improve a situation, often the final choice is to surrender," Yusim says. "The force of surrender entails cultivating faith—in ourselves, in the situation, and in the Universe... In the act of surrender, we open ourselves to possibilities and outcomes that before may not have been possible."
Surrendering to things that are out of our control is equal parts scary and empowering. But employing presence, controlling what you can, and holding on to hope can make doing so a whole lot easier.