Mental wellbeing for young people

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Managing Uncertainty

Kate Middleton photo Kate Middleton · 15 Sept, 2020

One of the toughest things in this season is that we don't know what to expect. It feels like almost any moment things could totally change. So how do you manage when there is so much uncertainty around?

Hey. So this is kind of a weird season, huh? It's difficult. We've gone back, it's autumn. We're back in school, stuff like that. And we had all these high hopes that everything might get back to some kind of normal, remember 'normal by Christmas'. Man, that sounds like a bit of a hollow joke now, doesn't it? Because already we're seeing cases. You might've been in a bubble that's been sent home. There's uncertainty, question marks. If you're exam year, you don't know necessarily what's gonna happen with mocks and stuff. It's tough!

So the number one question people are asking me right now is how do I manage uncertainty? So here are my five top tips for how to manage uncertainty in this kind of weird time. So here it goes, are you ready?

Number one then is don't try to fight it. Your brain doesn't like uncertainty. And what it often does is it tries to pretend that everything is certain and sure, and fixed and simple. And in this season, it just isn't. And if you try and do that you're gonna get caught in this kind of endless cycle back and forth of trying to control things you can't control. Suddenly you're feeling a sense of panic in those moments that you can't. It's just gonna go around and around and around, you're gonna drive yourself crazy. So what we've got to do in this season is not about somehow managing to restore certainty when we can't. It's about learning how to hold and tolerate uncertainty.

And it's not just the uncertainty we've got to tolerate, it's the anxiety that provokes, because your brain's gonna trigger anxiety just to warn you that stuff is uncertain, which is really helpful, 'cause you kinda knew that anyway. But anxiety is your brain's way of saying, 'make sure you focus on this, don't miss it. Something difficult could happen and you need to make sure you've got this covered'. So the challenge of managing uncertainty is holding it well and also learning how to hold anxiety. And in the moment when it peaks, 'cause you just heard some news or someone's told you a rumour or you read something on Instagram or whatever, so when you get an anxiety spike, it's learning to drop that level.

So check out the other videos on this site about doing good breathing, how you manage anxiety, all that kind of stuff. And we will put some links underneath this video that you might wanna look at that's about that. So that's number one, don't fight it.

Number two, focus on something steady. I don't know if you're a dancer, I don't know if you do that spinning around stuff. I was always rubbish at that, I literally get seasick on the canal. But if you do that you'll know that one of the tricks of holding your balance when everything is spinning is to focus on something that's unmoving and keep your mind and your concentration on that. And that's a good tip in times of uncertainty, because there is loads right now that is up in the air, but there are some things that are certain, there are some things you can depend on. I don't know what that is; maybe it's when you get home at the end of the day and you get a cup of tea and you go and curl up in that cosy corner in your room. Maybe it's that best mate who will always have the most ridiculous joke to tell you. Maybe it's that shared memory that you and some of your mates have got, something that always makes you laugh, even in a low moment. I don't know what those certainties are, those things that you can absolutely depend on, but focus on those things. Maybe there's something you love to do that you can build into your routine and fall back on. I'm a biker, I love to cycle and on the days when everything is crazy, I can always get on my bike and just go for a quick ride; and that's my certainty. It's something I can hold onto, it keeps me sane on the rough days. So focus on something steady.

Number three, eat ice cream. Well, or cake or cookies, or whatever your thing is. what I mean is find something that's really good and celebrate it. 'Cause you know what? Life can be really crap sometimes, and there's an awful lot of crap around at the moment, but the good stuff is still good. So I don't know what that is; again, maybe it's your favourite chocolate sauce, your best ice cream, that really good cake, the donuts that your favourite cookie shop does at the weekend. Enjoy that stuff, and really enjoy it. Make a point of it. Sit down, indulge in the moment, focus on it. Don't eat on the run. Don't feel guilty about it. In times when things are difficult, we need the good stuff, so let yourself have it.

Number four, restore order. When your brain is freaking out because the world seems in chaos and full of disorder, you can help by inducing this sort of false sense of calm by restoring order somewhere else. So you know that drawer in your room that's an utter tip? Maybe this is a good time to tidy it. Personally I always clean the fridge, but that's quite a sad, old lady thing to do. Wherever you can restore some order, sort out your socks and pair them all off together, I don't know, tidy out your school bag; who knows what's been lurking at the bottom of that rucksack? Anything you can do that is about restoring order will help. Some people love puzzles, embroidery, stuff like that that induces that sense of things being all in control and tidy. So think about that as something you can do.

And then number five, last but not least, is phone a friend. Did you know we were never designed to do anything in life on our own, and particularly at the tough times? We're designed to do them together. And there's an ancient piece of wisdom that's actually from the Bible that says when everything else is shaken, three things remain, and it's faith, it's love and it's charity. And actually, those are about our interactions and our relationships with one another. The trust that we have in one another, the faith we can have in people who we do life with, the love that we share. And the charity, our own giving, our own supporting other people.

One of the interesting things about studies about happiness are that they show that one thing we can do that lifts our own happiness level is to do something kind for someone else, random acts of kindness, or reaching out to help someone else who's struggling actually helps you too 'cause it helps you feel better. So phone a friend, get in touch with someone else, do something that reminds you you're not in this on your own.

And if you feel like you are alone, because that's not unusual in the teenage years when so much is going on in your mind, reach out and talk to someone else. Chances are there's lots of other people thinking similar things, facing similar things, struggling with similar things. In some ways that's the unusual and good thing about this time of craziness, is that it's affecting all of us. And the more we can pull together and do this as a team, the better it will be for everyone.

So there's my five top tips for managing uncertainty. I hope you're having a decent day. Take care.


Create Calm

Create Calm