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Episode 77: How's that uncertainty working out for you?

Updated: Oct 14, 2020


We are all living with a level of uncertainty that reaches far and wide. How is it going for you? Since the start of 2020, the Covid Pandemic has been on everyone’s minds. In March, things got real for many more of us. As I write this it is now September and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon, and winter is on the way in the Northern Hemisphere and so are rumours and fears of a second wave. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that I have to get better with living with uncertainty. Not just on the level of “What’s for dinner?” but more: “When will I see my family in New Zealand again?”. “How long will it take for the Japanese government to let me back into the country I have a right to live in?” (At the time of writing this they have started to let foreign residents back in if you jump through all the official hoops). People are afraid for their livelihoods, for their health and for their families. It’s been a tough one, 2020.

So what can we take from this, that can help us to get through or get used to this in style? I’m always looking for ways we can do things in style. Not perfection mind you. But the facts do not change, only how you choose to approach a situation changes. And with that, how you get to point B could be “completely trashed” or “in style” or something in between. Surprisingly, the choice is actually yours! There is still a part of me that doesn’t want to hear that, even though I know it to be true.

So how do we live with this level of uncertainty? Something I often forget to do is actually “Feel the Feelings”. As soon as I feel fear or sadness or something uncomfortable like that creep up, my go to has been to run to the fridge or pantry, open a bag of chips or wine. I won’t lie that I have done those things even recently. But if you can catch yourself on sooner rather than later, you can still pull it back from the inevitable pity party afterwards. Avoid that self disgust you know is coming and feels as bad as what you were avoiding in the first place. Maybe you might decide to set a timer and give yourself 1 hour or however long you decide you’d like to give yourself time to process some of what you are actually feeling. Another thing we can do is look back and see when we might have successfully done something like this before? Can you think of one situation, perhaps it wasn’t on a global scale such as now, but it doesn’t have to be, to show you where you have come out the other side of a period of uncertainty?

When I think back to 2011, and if you were in Japan in 2011, you will remember this I’m absolutely certain. 20,000 people lost their lives in the tsunami and earthquake, followed by many more in relation to the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. This all happened less than 50 km from my home in Iwaki City Japan. I lived with extreme levels of fear and uncertainty for a long time after the rest of the world’s attention moved on from Fukushima. Fukushima Dai Ichi is still news in Fukushima on a nightly basis. Mostly the news is that there is nothing new to report, unless there has been an accident or snaffu on site or someone is protesting something that is happening. So the fear and uncertainty levels were a 10 out of 10 on the scale in March and April 2011, 4 years later they were probably a 5. Today a 2. If anything I learnt that you can go from feeling like you could die at any moment (there was a real fear at the time that the end of the world was near) to “a new normal”. The disaster at FD2 is not “fixed” or “over”, we just learned to live with it the best and hopefully safest way we can. I feel like this is kind of similar with Covid. As we find out more about this virus and create ways to live with it, we start to get used to this too. For now, just to trust even a tiny bit that we will come out the other side in some way - it won’t be the same, just at the radiation monitoring posts in Fukushima will be there for some time yet, but we will get on with our lives again.

Now here are my top tips for practical doing type things that will help you with this uncertainty.

  1. Watch your media intake: How much time are you spending reading or watching news that is specifically designed to increase anxiety and dependency on watching even more news. Have you considered that what is being told is only a fraction of the story, potentially with many errors. I experienced this first hand when newspaper reporters took me completely out of context during the Fukushima meltdown drama turning my comments into a hysteria inducing headline. Now I trust no media, and limit myself to only reading it when absolutely essential which is almost never. I also have someone I trust who tells me if there are things I need to read up on that actually matter to me.

  2. Caffeine: Now I know nobody wants to hear this, but when you are already in a state of fear or anxiety due to uncertainty, loading caffeine on top can make things even worse. I really notice that my usual cup of coffee makes me extra jittery when I’m already a bit stressed about something. So noticing if you feel a little more calm when you haven’t had as much caffeine as usual is a great idea. You will possibly also notice that you don’t need as much alcohol in the evening to wind yourself from being so jacked up on caffeine.

  3. Walk it off: We can process some of those emotions by walking or running. The repetitive pounding motion is incredibly relaxing as well as getting those good hormones going. Think of it as a mood boost rather than focusing on losing weight or getting healthy. The short term “mood boost” checks that box instantly which is also super satisfying for us, releasing more good hormones.

  4. Know that we can get better at this and that things will get better too: Just like other things we practice, you can get better at living with uncertainty and managing anxiety. If you are someone who suffers from severe anxiety, please get professional help. If you are someone who has noticed that your anxiety is higher but you are still functioning well enough, then this is for you.

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