Living with Uncertainty

Living with Uncertainty

Twenty years ago my dad died. I was working with him in the North of Thailand. I got up in the morning as usual and got ready to leave the house to go to work. As I was pushing the door open to leave I had a moment of hesitation; an urge to go back and see him. But I didn’t.

Later that morning he was heading to work on his motorbike, and some young teens coming in from out of town, and not knowing the roads, run a red light, and hit my dad. The doctors operated and ventilated him, but he died less than 48 hours later.

I had no idea anything like that would happen to me. I was living my life, assuming that one day followed the next, and a week, was very much like the week before. And then, in the tiniest of moments, my whole life was turned upside down. My Thai remains limited, but I still recall the words for car accident: ‘rot dit’.

Over the years, I have known more of those utterly unexpected moments that come out of nowhere, without warning, and leave you gasping for breath.

The vast majority of us want to know what is going to happen next. We expect our lives to fairly predictable. We feel good when we know what is going to happen and bad when we don’t. Research shows that, as a nation, we have become less and less tolerant of not knowing, and of uncertainty. When we don’t know, when we don’t feel certain about our future, we feel anxious. The more we don’t know, the more anxious we feel.

And then, along comes COVID 19, and the many, many, unknowns that come with COVID 19. When will be able to go back to work, will there be a second peak, will this be over by the fall?

People, who have a hard time living with the uncertainty, will experience more anxiety.

In order to reduce this anxiety, we need to build up our tolerance of uncertainty. Anyone, who has talked to me about anxiety, knows the simple rule: “anxiety makes you want to check (or avoid), and checking (or avoiding) makes your anxiety increase.” In this case, if you want to decrease your anxiety, you need to resist the urge to check. If you want the answer to a question, don’t google it right away. If someone texts you, don’t rush to see who it is. If you’re going out for the day, don’t check the weather. Use and strengthen your ‘muscle’ for living with uncertainty. You will feel much better, experience less anxiety, and be more resilient the curve balls hit.

We are online. We are here if you want to talk. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

If funds are an issue, let us know. We have reduced rates with new grads and greatly reduced rates with a graduate student, called Adrian, who is starting in May.

I will be supervising the new grads, and grad students. If you are interested in seeing Adrian, then please call Allison and let her know, or call me directly: 647 302 2207 (Trish).

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