Fear of the unknown can stop you from doing so many things that’ll help you lead a happy and healthy life, like being vulnerable with your partner, moving somewhere new, or making a leap to change your career path. In any unsettling instance, understanding how to harness the powerful emotion of your uncertainty can be key to pushing forward. Lauren Appio, a licensed psychologist, gave us five surefire strategies you can use each time the unknown leaves you feeling stuck.
1. Let yourself be a beginner. Taking some pressure off yourself first is a good way to ease any anxiety you might have. “Give yourself permission to not know everything about how to approach something so you don’t feel like you need to be an expert or have everything figured out,” Appio suggests. “When you allow yourself to be a beginner, you’ll restore your sense of play, curiosity, and adventure, which usually help you keep moving forward.” How true!
2. Play the story out. “When we’re uncertain about something, we usually get stuck at the worst part of the story about some feared outcome, and replay that over and over for ourselves,” Appio explains. “It’s usually the part of the story where we are disappointed or humiliated by something we couldn’t anticipate.” To push past this common pitfall, Appio encourages her clients to play out the worst-case scenarios and imagine themselves coping well. “This usually reminds people of their capacity for handling difficult situations, and that the most stressful part of the feared scenario is usually temporary.”
3. Focus on what you know to be true. Whether you’re feeling fearful of a job interview, moving to a new place, or something else, Appio says that it’s key to focus on the things you know to be true. “When things are uncertain, remembering what you are certain about can be grounding,” she notes. “When things feel completely beyond my control, my personal mantra is, ‘Whatever I face, I will face it.’” Again, her mantra and known truths remind her of times she’s powered through difficult situations in the past. “It’s powerful because I know I can rely on those same skills and abilities in the future,” she says.
4. Practice gratitude. Noting what you’re thankful for, such as having the courage or opportunity to grow in important areas in your life, can be key when it comes to squelching scary feelings about the unknown. “In a recent TED Talk, psychologist Susan Davis noted that ‘Discomfort is the price of admission for a meaningful life’,” Appio points out. “If your uncertainty is linked to doing something you care about, like building relationships, trying new things, or advancing your career, channel her wisdom to tap into your gratitude.”
5. Engage in Opposite Action. According to Appio, doing something you’re afraid of can help reduce the intensity of your fear — and replace it with a positive outcome. “Opposite Action is a DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) emotion regulation skill that can be used to create new feelings when your current emotion doesn’t feel particularly helpful,” Appio explains. “Fear is one of the primary emotions underlying uncertainty, and our inclination is to avoid what we are afraid of (for good reason). But, if you determine that avoidance is not a helpful tactic, you can decide to do the thing that scares you instead.” For example, if you’re afraid to open up to your boss about what’s making you feel uncertain and your instinct is to turn away from the problem, you should aim to do the opposite and get a meeting on their calendar to talk about it instead. Use this strategy each time you’re uncomfortable and you’ll successfully push yourself out of your comfort zone.
How to do you deal with feelings of uncertainty? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo.
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