Through some very strange and sometimes horrific circumstances, I have become an expert on coping with uncertainty. Having been in situations where I saw someone lose their life, being diagnosed with breast cancer, being attacked by a psychopath who wanted to kill my children during a home invasion, and sadly more, I have learned to develop a mental strategy while enduring uncertain times.
Right now, the whole world is living through a very uncertain time.
Uncertainty is an insidious emotion, creating anxiety and stress and at worst, can paralyze you from taking positive steps to counterbalance its damaging effects. If you were an entrepreneur and I was working with you as your personal reinvention coach, I would help you apply mental strategies to understand in many situations, there has to be an element of uncertainty to achieve greater success. But in this situation, the coronavirus is a far reaching situation which is not of your choosing, and outside your control.
And the only manageable aspect of an uncertain situation is yourself.
The good news (and I use this phrase very loosely) is that successfully coping with uncertainty requires the same habits and behaviors, no matter what the situation entails. What I’m sharing are the same strategies which I would share with an exhausted and stuck entrepreneur I was coaching, or with a dear friend diagnosed with a serious illness.
It is a universal truth you cannot unlearn or unsee anything.
Ask yourself: before you dive deep into a stream of internet searches, am I curious, am I killing time, or do I need the amount of information I am absorbing about the coronavirus?
Ask yourself will I use this information, or will it make me more stressed and anxious?
In the decades following the events of 9/11 where the World Trade Center collapsed in New York City, studies analyzed people who reported levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder which was directly related to the amount of media coverage they absorbed. I am not advocating ignorance, that’s never a good idea but for your mental health, it’s prudent to decide in advance how much information you can handle.
I’ll share a very personal example. A family member has been travelling for the last month and visited Venice and Milan a week before the cities became locked down. It has taken every scrap of discipline to follow this advice myself. I have rung the doctor, become clear on the symptoms and what to do if they appear, and as a family we have discussed restricting contact with a (soon to be born) new family member until the incubation period has passed. I have forced myself to carefully select the source of the small amount of information I choose to absorb.
It’s a process I begin anew each day, because I know that is the only way to stay sane.
Live your purpose. More than ever
Of course, you know a lot more about me than I know about you. Even so, I know there is something you do or how you behave this is intrinsically you. It might not be the incredible business you’re building, or how great you are at your job, it could be the role you play in your community or your family.
Maybe it’s the way you can make your friends laugh after a tedious long shift at the job you’re only doing to get through school. Maybe it’s a hobby that you look forward to starting as soon as you get home. Maybe it’s all the work you are doing on yourself to find out your true purpose that will shape the rest of your life.
Through everything I have survived, I know that worrying is praying for what you don’t want.
Now is the time to focus even more on being you. How our lives are shaped defeating this global health crisis is unclear at the moment, but it will pass. Time and time again, humans have proved their creativity and resourcefulness when faced with crisis. The coronavirus will not be an exception.
More than ever it’s time to live your life and care for those around you.
Fear is often our immediate response to uncertainty. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing fear. The key is not to get stuck in it.