NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Living With Uncertainty

I've written prior articles about excessive worrying (see my articles: How to Stop Worrying: What is Chronic Worrying?Steps You Can Take to Stop WorryingOvercoming Anticipatory Anxiety, Learning to Stay Calm During Uncertain Times and Are You Catastrophizing?).  In this article, I'm focusing on living with uncertainty because so many people are talking about worrying, checking the news several times a day, getting alerts on their phone, and so on.

Living With Uncertainty

To a certain extent, we all live with a degree of uncertainty all the time--whether we're aware of it or not.

When we feel more vulnerable and fragile in our personal lives, we might be more aware of the possibility of uncertainty than at others times when we're feeling confident and positive.

Coping Strategies For Living With Uncertainty

Practice Living in the Moment:
When you feel particularly vulnerable about things that you have no control over (e.g., nuclear war, a sudden economic downturn, etc), a good strategy is to recognize that your thoughts might be running away with you and bring yourself back to the present (see my article: Being in the Present Moment).

Ask yourself, "Am I alright right now?"

If the answer is "Yes," then you know that you're racing ahead in your mind and worrying about things which may or may not happen, and worrying about it won't help.

One of the reasons why I like mindfulness is because when you practice mindfulness, you keep bringing your mind back to the present instead of dwelling on uncertain possibilities (see my article: The Mind-Body Connection: Mindfulness Meditation).

And while you can't always live in the present moment, if you spend some time each day--even if it's just five minutes--practicing mindfulness, you'll probably feel a lot calmer.

Be Aware of Your Thought Patterns
Do you have a tendency to project your worries and fears into the future?

Ask yourself how many times you've done this in the past and how often these worries materialized into problems.

If you're like most people that tend to worry, you'll realize that most of the time your worries came to nothing, and you might have worked yourself up into a frazzled state thinking about everything that could go wrong.

Write About Your Worries and Fears
There's something about writing, especially when you're worried, that helps to concretize and externalize your thoughts and feelings (see my article: Journal Writing Can Relieve Stress and Anxiety).

Rather than allowing yourself to ruminate about your worries, when you write and then read what you wrote, you tend to question the negative assumptions that you make.

After a while, you realize, once again, that you have a particular thought pattern that is getting in your way.  It might be that you've engaged in this pattern of thinking for many years--possibly since childhood.  Maybe one or both of your parents tended to catastrophize and you learned to do it too.

Be Selective About Watching News or Monitoring Social Media
Broadcast news tends to sensationalize the news in order to get the public's attention and high ratings.

Be selective about the kind of news that you watch so that you're not getting frightened and alarmed on a daily basis.

You might even want to take a break from broadcast news for a while--possibly read a quality newspaper instead which doesn't attempt to sensationalize the news.  You might discover that you're a lot calmer.

The same goes for social media.  There are some sites that are constantly pumping out sensationalized news to get your "clicks."

Ask yourself what it might be like not to monitor the news on social media all the time.

Think About What You Can Do to Feel Empowered
One of the things that I keep hearing is that people feel so disempowered about things that are going on in the world.

While it's true that you're probably not going to be the negotiator for world peace, maybe there are things that you can do that will help you to feel empowered, like volunteering for an organization or cause that is important to you.

Even if you don't have time to volunteer, maybe you can make a phone call to your city councilperson or senator about an issue that's important to you.

Taking action can be empowering.

Getting Help in Therapy
There are times when the world around you can trigger certain emotional vulnerabilities that you have (see my articles: You Can't Change Your Past, But You Can Change How the Past Affects YouPsychotherapy to Overcome Your Past Childhood TraumaOvercoming Trauma When the Past is in the PresentUnderstanding Why You're Affected by Trauma That Happened a Long Time Ago, and Coping With Trauma: Becoming Aware of Emotional Triggers).

The strategies that I mentioned above can be helpful, but if you keep getting triggered, this is usually a sign that there are underlying issues that need to be resolved.

One of the benefits of psychotherapy is that it can free you from your history so you can live your life unencumbered by problems from the past (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

A skilled psychotherapist can help you to work through these issues so that you don't keep getting triggered.

When you're free from a traumatic history, you're free to live your life in a calmer, more meaningful way.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.