NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, August 12, 2022

How to Increase Your Tolerance for Uncertainty to Reduce Your Anxiety

As I discussed in a prior article, Global Pandemic Causes Significant Increase in Anxiety and Depression, anxiety fueled by uncertainty is now the biggest mental health problem in the United States and around the world according to the findings of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Increasing Your Tolerance For Uncertainty to Reduce Anxiety

But even before the pandemic, other types of uncertainty contributed to anxiety for many people.  So, the focus of this article is on how to increase your tolerance for uncertainty so you can reduce your anxiety (see my article: Coping With Uncertainty).

Increasing Your Tolerance for Uncertainty to Reduce Anxiety

What's the Difference Between Fear and Anxiety?
In a prior article, What's the Difference Between Fear and Anxiety?, I made this distinction: 

Whereas fear is a response to a known threat, anxiety is a vague feeling of apprehension about an anticipated unknown threat (see my article: Self Help Tips For Coping With Anxiety).

What's the Difference Between Coping with Fear vs Coping with Anxiety?
When you're struggling with a specific fear, you can deal with your fear directly because it's known.  

For instance, if you have a fear of public speaking, you can deal with it directly by taking a class to help you become more comfortable with speaking in public. 

But the vagueness of anxiety makes it more challenging.

Tips to Increase Your Tolerance For Uncertainty and Reduce Anxiety
Although it's not easy, here are some tips to increase your tolerance for uncertainty that fuels anxiety:
  • Accept That You're Anxious: Rather than trying to deny your anxiety, start by acknowledging and accepting it.  Acceptance doesn't mean you like it or that you're being passive about it.  It's more about accepting that you have a problem as a starting point.  The more you try to deny and suppress it, the worse the problem will become.  It's better to admit it and have compassion for yourself.  Also, when you acknowledge and accept your anxiety, you're in a better position to do something about it (see my article: Awareness and Acceptance: Being Willing to See Things You've Been in Denial About).
  • Educate Yourself About Anxiety: Knowing that anxiety is currently the most common mental health problem can be comforting by letting you know you're not alone.  
  • Learn to Be Flexible With Change: When you're inflexible, you're more likely to feel stuck and unable to cope. But, in general, when you learn to approach change with a degree of flexibility, you're more likely to come up with ways to deal with change and feel better about yourself.  Over time, you'll be able to look back on times where you dealt with change and feel more confident about your current situation.  
  • Learn to Distinguish Between What's Possible vs What's Probable: Being able to step back to ask yourself whether your apprehension is possible vs probable is a useful way to get a better perspective.  To the extent you can make this distinction, you can reduce your anxiety about something that isn't probable.  You can also remember prior times when you were needlessly anxious about something that was improbable and compare that situation to the current one.
  • Get Information: If you're anxious, get information. For instance, if you're anxious about the possibility of losing your job (even though there are no known reasons for you to be anxious about it), you can seek information about other job opportunities in your field.  Just taking this step can get you out of an endless cycle of paralyzing anxiety by helping you to realize that there are other possibilities for you if the need should arise.  This can help you feel more empowered.

My Next Article
In my next article, I'll discuss how a history of unresolved psychological trauma can act as a trigger to increase your anxiety when you're dealing with uncertainty:

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many people to overcome problems with anxiety (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?)

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.