This post is by Céline De Leo.
Céline is an experienced life coach who helps people find their purpose and achieve their goals.
She is also the co-author of the Reflect & Recharge workbook which helps you kindly review all areas of your life and set new goals for the year to come.
She’s sharing tools and tips to better manage your motivation, your stress and live a more peaceful and mindful life.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably already been worried about how well your plans are going, about the future and about life in general. This is normal, since we are subject to constant uncertainty in our daily lives.
But then, how can we stay motivated in our projects and stay on course when we’re not sure of anything?
For me, uncertainty often takes the form of a multitude of questions that I ask myself about the future, what people might think and the worst-case scenarios that could happen to me:
👉🏻 In my personal life: What will I do in 5 years? Where will I live? Will I have a family? Where will my children go to school? What kind of activities will they enjoy? Will I still be able to go on holiday with all these responsibilities on my shoulders? What if my life partner leaves me? What would I do? Where would I go?
👉🏻 I’m having a party at home: will my friends have fun? what would they like to eat? will they cancel? will they be on time? Will the weather be nice? Will we be able to eat outside?
👉🏻 And again… What if all my friends abandon me? What if I lose all my money in a bad investment? What if a fire destroys my apartment? Am I doing a good job? Am I not getting fired? What do my co-workers think of me? Why wasn’t I invited to the last meeting?
You’ve noticed: uncertainty leaves a lot of room for imagination! That wonderful ability to doubt and to create scenarios like:
- It’s gonna be sunny tomorrow and we’re gonna have a drink in the garden…
- I got the job, the team is great and the project is challenging, my career is assured.
- Next week we’re going to this party, we’re gonna have so much fun…
- A year from now I’m going to move to the other side of the world, I’ll be so happy…
All day long, my imagination starts to run wild and invents a whole bunch of scenarios that will make me anxious. Why?
- Because I’m making a disaster movie, I’m going to start stressing out for eventualities that only exist in my head. I start anticipating failure, loss, a bad experience…
Because I’m have the perfect scenario in mind, and, in this case, I’m going to be very attached to things going exactly as planned! Whether it’s a lunch, a party, a project or even: my life.
Why does uncertainty triggers my stress ?
When I have a project in mind, I hope that everything will go a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y according to plan. Or even better: that everything will be perfect! That’s when I begin to want to control everything and let a certain kind of rigidity set in in my way of being and living.
I become a bit of a ” control freak “.
This syndrome translates into strong mental and physical tension, which can quickly become exhausting because I get stressed out as soon as the situation doesn’t turn out the way I had hoped.
When I begin to want to control everything so that reality fits exactly the ideal scenario that I imagined, most of the time, something like this happens:
I get restless and stressed out when I want to take care of everything, at the slightest unexpected event, I even become irritable and cranky (that’s an understatement) and I make life impossible for everyone.
The funny thing is that I can’t control everything (and yes, that would be too easy and then we’d talk about what?), like for example :
- The weather outside
- The policy of my company, of the country I live in…
- Traffic on the road (or transport strikes)
- What other people think, want, do, feel, say…
- The price of vegetables and apartments
- My neighbors throwing a surprise party on a Tuesday night…
- Add your examples here: ………………………………………..
All these concerns are not up to me. They may be information that I don’t know, things that are out of my control. If you think about it, this list can become endless! Despite my best efforts, there is nothing I can do to exercise control over the items on this list. However, what I can do (it’s a real challenge) is to adjust my reaction and my way of thinking.
How do to deal with stress?
You have understood that you become vulnerable to uncertainty when :
- We have high expectations and you make ideal scenarios for yourself.
- We try to fight, to master, to control, the elements that are outside our field of action.
Here are a few tips to calm your mind and help you deal with uncertainty in your daily life and in your projects:
1. Be aware of your stress
Are you wearing yourself out mentally or physically? The first step is to become aware of the symptoms of this stress: fatigue, irritability, frustration, morale in the 7th basement, mental overload, physical agitation… This step allows you to highlight your current concerns.
- I have trouble falling asleep because I’m thinking about what I have to do tomorrow
- I compulsively check my phone
- I’m not thinking clearly, I make mistakes in my plans…
- My back hurts, I’m very hungry or not hungry at all…
2. Make a list of your concerns
Are you imagining the worst? Worrying about how things are going to turn out tomorrow? Two months from now? Five years from now? What other people think of you? Imagining the worst possible scenario?
👉🏻 Make a list of all your concerns so that you can regain control over your stress and thoughts.
- I didn’t complete all the tasks on my to-do list.
- Claire hasn’t answered my message since yesterday
- My birthday’s on Tuesday and it’s supposed to rain.
Making a list of your concern is a good way to start acknowledging them.
3. Identify the fear behing and why you’re stressing
If you are stressed by any of the above, it is because there is a deeper concern you are experiencing. Fear of the unknown, of displeasing, of disappointing. Putting your finger on the exact element that causes you concern will allow you to put in place a strategy to regain control of the situation at your level.
- It’s important for me to keep my word to others and to myself, and if I don’t meet the deadline, people will start to think that I’m unable
- I said something that upset her, or did something happened to her? What Am I going to do without her?
- No one’s going to come, my friends won’t have fun, I had the perfect venue, but it’s outside so it won’t be as nice as I expected.
4. Identify what you can do
This step analyzes all the elements I can act on in the current situation, what I can really control.
- I can decide how many tasks I decide to perform per day
- I can manage my thoughts and emotions
- I can find another place or propose an activity that is compatible with rainy weather.
5. Take action
Finally, what can I do concretely to deal with uncertainty without sinking into a compulsive desire to control everything?
- I decide to lighten my schedule for the week
- I decide to stop being so dramatic, maybe she just left her cell phone at home.
- I change the theme of my event to “umbrella party” and ask all guests to come with umbrellas.
6. Let go and stay positive
Perhaps you are completely powerless in the face of the situation, in which case all you have to do is let go and accept reality as it is. Because an image is better than a long speech and letting go is a concept that remains vague for you, watch this video.
What can help you let go? Staying positive.
Well, it’s not always easy, but it’s free, so you might as well give it a try: taking a step back and looking at the situation from a different perspective can help you take the pressure off and relax. It’s not always easy, but it’s becoming a habit.
You can use the table below to go through the 6 steps process to better manage your stress:
Remember this: you’re very creative! You’ve managed to come up with a lot of worst-case scenarios, so what’s stopping you from coming up with a whole bunch of great alternatives? In the face of uncertainty, you can consider the worst as well as the best. Reality is surely somewhere in between!
Sometimes letting go is a more powerful act than fighting back or holding on.