How to Cope with Stress and Anxiety in the Face of Uncertainty

Posted by Beverly Smith

Just a few weeks ago, the world began to change drastically and quickly. Each day brought new changes. Every action became a reaction. To say it was scary would be an understatement. Not only was the COVID-19 pandemic threatening the health of our country, but it was threatening our economic stability as well.

Personally my stress levels were through the roof that first week. There were so many decisions to make; decisions that would affect lots of other people. It felt as if all my options were bad and my only choice was to pick the one with the least negative consequences.

The best advice I received, was from my husband: “You can only control your own thoughts and actions. You can’t control the circumstances.” This has grounded me and kept me anchored. What can you control? The following practices will help you cope with stress and anxiety in the face of uncertainty.

Practice Daily Gratitude

Every morning write down 3 to 5 things for which you are grateful. They don’t have to be major. In fact the more simple and mundane the better. As a nation we are so blessed and take for granted little things that make our lives easier: hot running water, ice, a full tank of gas, clean sheets, an umbrella…you get the picture!

At Career Staffing we have a daily practice of a morning prayer and sharing 3 things for which we are grateful. The mornings that we have skipped it, we’ve noticed a difference in our energy and attitudes and have even stopped mid-morning to do it. We have found it helps our attitudes and equips us to deal with stressful situations better.

Practice Controlling Your Content Consumption

Do you feel relaxed and peaceful scrolling your social media feeds? What about all the emails you’re now receiving on the coronavirus? It’s important to stay informed, but consider the source of your information. Is it speculative or is it factual? Is it a bunch of pundits over analyzing a press conference? Personally, I have deleted most social medial apps from my phone. My time on social medial is intentional and mostly business related. Most days I watch some or all of Governor Hutchinson’s and President Trump’s daily press briefings then I shut it down.

Use this time to do a Bible study, listen to inspirational podcasts, watch YouTube videos, read books, or take an online course. The important thing is to pay attention to what you put in your mind. If you consume negativity you will feel powerless and anxious. If you fill your mind with positive thoughts and ideas you will see opportunities and possibilities even in a crisis situation.

Practice Authenticity While Choosing Optimism

As a leader your team is looking to you for guidance and assurance. While you want to be positive, you also should be realistic and level headed. Listen and acknowledge their concerns. People need to feel validated especially at a time where there is so much fear and uncertainty. It’s okay to admit that you don’t have all the answers and that you have concerns as well. What’s important is to stay calm and optimistic.

We don’t know when this situation will improve, but it will eventually get better. Reassure your team that they have the skills within to figure it out. Encourage your team to share ideas and have discussions about proactive steps your organization can take now in order to rebound or even pivot.

Practice Generosity

Giving may seem counterintuitive because stress, anxiety, and uncertainty have left you feeling exhausted and empty. However, generosity, whether it be with your time or resources, is actually one of the easiest ways to shift your focus and renew your energy. Can you mow your neighbor’s lawn, pick up groceries, cook a meal or write notes of encouragement?

The important thing is to give without expecting anything in return. When you give freely and unconditionally the world gives back to you. The more you serve others the more you open yourself up to new opportunities. Who knows, maybe your next client or next employee comes your way as a result of you helping someone else. Regardless, practicing generosity unconditionally will make you feel better and bring you joy.

Final Thoughts

You may have noticed at each one of the above suggestions begins with practice. There’s a reason for that. Some or all of them may not be easy or feel natural at first. That’s okay. Sports teams hold regular practices in order to learn and improve their skills. A team will improve throughout the season. You will too. Give yourself some grace when you fall short. Show up each day intentionally and you’ll find that your coping skills during these uncertain times will improve. Remember, controlling your thoughts and actions is a choice.

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