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Coping with uncertainty

Dr. Paulo Pires, psychologist in the Child Youth Mental Health Program at McMaster Children’s Hospital

We’re experiencing a stressful time in history, a time of uncertainty. The coronavirus is a real threat to our well-being.

Brain is activated by danger

Our brain is activated by the signs of danger and it wants to keep us safe.

So, we think: What if this happens? What if that happens? Uncertainty gets fuelled.

As we think about the future we can’t be sure how things are going to turn out. There seems to be more questions than answers.

It’s normal to feel unsettled

To cope with uncertainty, we have to tolerate it and invest in what we can control.

Accepting and tolerating uncertainty is hard to do.

Tolerating uncertainty is a challenge for everyone, and in particular for people who struggle with anxiety.

Accepting and tolerating means, “I don’t like this, but I can stand it.”

Accepting and tolerating means not judging ourselves for feeling unsettled, but telling ourselves, “It’s okay. It’s normal to feel unsettled in a time like this.”

Invest in what you can control

Separating what we can’t control from what we can control is also important. We can’t control how long this whole thing is going to last, but we can limit information we’re exposed to that can fuel our worries.

We can invest time in things that will recharge our batteries.

Like: We can do our part and follow the recommendations of Public Health, we can get groceries for people who need to stay at home, we can be kind to others and connect with the people we love.

Investing and what we can control will help us cope better with this time of uncertainty.