How to thrive (not just survive!) when faced with stress, uncertainty and the unknown

Stress is a daily occurrence and a normal part of our lives. However, more than ever, people are struggling to cope with anxiety, stress and uncertainty as we continue to pull together and battle the ‘invisible enemy’. 

Perhaps the current situation has impacted your career, your mindset, relationships, financial security, self-care or wellbeing? In no uncertain terms, stress and anxiety seems to lead the way when people describe how they are feeling at the moment. 

As human beings we like to know what’s happening, how we will respond to situations, how we will cope, survive and thrive, and what our options are. However, when faced with the unknown, we face new and possibly surprising situations and a blank canvas with very few answers. Sometimes these are exciting opportunities and at other times these can scare the living daylights out of us. 

So how do we not just cope with stress but how do we learn to thrive in stressful and uncertain situations? 

1.Accept that uncertainty is a normal part of life. 

Know that you cannot control everything and as a result uncertainty may be triggered. Life is not a straight line but a series of tranquil seas, crests and waves and ever so often we encounter the crashing of waves. Just as we can’t control the waves on the sea, we can’t always control our situations or circumstances but we can control how we positively or negatively respond to them. 

Tip: Ask yourself how can you let go of control in times of uncertainty or when you feel stressed? Would relaxation or meditation help? Ask yourself when have you succeeded before in challenging times? Then ask what or who would could help you to do this now? Finally, what needs to change in other for this to happen? 

2.Change your tactic and learn to ride the crests of the wave.

Learning to change our responses to uncertainty and stressful situations is one of the keys to finding more sustainable happiness, confidence and success in life. I always use the analogy of surfing the waves: by changing your tactic when surfing the waves of life you can learn to successfully handle challenges, tricky situations and uncertainty in a more empowering way. 

Tip: Ask yourself and write down what is or is not currently working with regards to your response to stressful situations. From there ask yourself what needs to change from your response in order for you to experience the change you seek and need? 

3.Respond to uncertainty as an opportunity 

So many people hate change and uncertainty. Being closed off to new situations and challenges can throw us into flight, fight or freeze mode as we attempt to merely survive, hide behind the sofa or to sit it out. But how can you see uncertainty an an opportunity not just to survive but to thrive? 

Tip: Consider how you can use this time not as a negative situation or stop gap, but as an opportunity to reflect on what you or others need and how you can start to achieve that result with small daily steps leading to accomplishing a larger goal, outcome or destination. 

4.Pause, breathe, reflect and take one step forwards 

Try to relax. Stress can impact our bodies and minds to the point where we feel unwell, tired, drained of energy and it can even lead to more serious illnesses. When we feel this way, we close ourselves off to possibilities, to others and the world around us. 

It’s important to pause, breathe, reflect and to take one step forwards each day. Remember ‘small steps lead to big destinations’. 

Tip: what one positive thing can you do today to help you to take one step closer to feeling more empowered? 

5.Think Positively.

It’s very easy and normal to fall into negative thinking and as human beings we almost seem to be on autopilot when this happens. However, negative thinking can imprison us into a false sense of safety and closes the doors of possibilities, relationships and opportunities. 

Tip: Every time you start to think of what could go wrong, replace it with a positive thought or suggestion for what might go right! 

6.Fear everything and Run or Face everything and Rise!

When we feel fearful, scared or anxious our minds and bodies can either go into overdrive or autopilot. Safety helps us to survive and is imperative when we are faced with danger.  However, safety is not always a positive thing- if we stay too safe we can become complacent. However, if we run out into the unknown without a plan we can feel too unsafe and exposed. We may also experience putting things off, the need to be perfect, deflection or avoidance and all of these examples are responses to fear and barriers to moving forwards. 

So how can you find the right balance for yourself? 

Tip: Out of 10 (one feeling safe, and 10 feeling unsafe and too exposed to danger) ask yourself how you are currently feeling? Now ask how you would ideally like to feel and at which point or number on the scale would that occur? Then finally ask yourself what is stopping you from reaching this point and what needs to change in order for you to reach this point and to feel this way? This continuum is fluid and will change with different situations and as you change your outlook and response to situations.