Since the start of the pandemic nearly 4 years ago, the news and social media have been dominated by conflicts global crises, protests, political division, economic issues, illness, and mass casualties are seemingly all we hear about these days.
More recently, within the past month, we’ve been watching in horror and despair as war erupts overseas, our troops are being sent abroad in increasing numbers, and innocent lives have been lost and are at stake daily. It’s no wonder that many people find themselves grappling with heightened uncertainty and anxiety as talk of “World War III” and other global issues has taken center stage these days. The insecurity and doubts we all have surrounding these issues can feel overwhelming.
It’s important to remember that while we cannot control the external world, we can control how we respond to it. Below, I’ll discuss some strategies you can apply to your daily life for coping with uncertainty in the face of the many challenges we face in our world today.
Acknowledge your feelings.
Uncertainty can trigger a wide range of emotions, from fear and anxiety about the future to frustration and sadness. It’s difficult these days to go online or scroll through your social media and avoid seeing videos of human suffering due to war and other crises. It’s critical to recognize and accept your feelings as normal responses to what’s going on in the world and the many sources of unpredictability that we face. Many people feel that if they are not directly affected by tragedy, they shouldn’t complain or they don’t have a right to feel saddened or afraid. However, the reality is that the problems arising overseas creates fear and uncertainty in all of us. Suppressing or denying your emotions can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Instead, try to identify and express your feelings, whether through talking to a trusted friend or writing in a journal.
It’s important to stay informed, but it’s equally as critical to limit your exposure to news and social media.
Remember that an overload of negative news can worsen feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. Limit your exposure to news and social media, especially during these times of heightened global tension. Consider setting boundaries, such as designating specific times to catch up on current events (30 minutes daily should be enough), and consider taking time to do some healthy activities that don’t involve your phone or staying glued to your TV. Remember that once you open up your favorite social media app or turn on the TV, it can be hard to avoid headlines, photos, and videos documenting the problems going on in the world. Plus, how many of us tend to keep reading, clicking, and scrolling once we see something that catches our attention. For these reasons, it’s best to put your devices aside and use your spare time to increase your exposure to activities that bring relaxation and serenity.
Focus on reputable news sources that provide balanced coverage.
This is critical because sadly, we’ve all fallen prey to click bait and other media tactics that mislead us about what’s going on abroad. Keep in mind that, sadly, even major news channels can provide sensationalized or biased information for the sake of getting views, so be mindful of the sources you rely on for information.
Focus on what you can control right now.
One way to regain some balance in an uncertain world is to concentrate on the aspects of your life that you can control. This includes your daily routine, your self-care practices, and your relationships with the supportive people in your life. Keeping a structured daily routine can provide you with a sense of predictability and stability. Plus, a daily routine makes it more likely that you’ll leave some room for self-care activities every day (or most days). Since you’ll be trying to stay off your phone and away from the TV, make it a point to get exercise, maintain a balanced diet, spend time outdoors every day, and get adequate sleep.
During times of uncertainty, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in how you feel. We’re all sharing in that fear of what the future may have in store, or how our lives can change if we face threats locally because of global tensions. Check in with friends, family, and neighbors. A great way to break the ice is to ask them how they’re doing given everything that’s happening in the world. You’ll likely be surprised at how many people feel uncertainty and heightened stress right now. Share how you’re feeling, too, and focus on acknowledging your feelings and that of others. It’s important to avoid being overly positive or minimizing issues (e.g., “Everything will be fine…this will all be over before we know it”). Instead, relay a positive message of support when speaking with your loved ones about the current global climate (e.g., “Things are scary and uncertain, but I’m here for you”). Sharing your experiences with others can also foster a sense of community and belonging, which is crucial for mental and emotional well-being.
Don’t forget that you are strong and resilient.
Throughout history, individuals and communities have demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of uncertainty and tough times. Think about all the times in your life when you have overcome difficulties and draw strength from those memories. Remember that you have the inner resources to navigate uncertainty and emerge stronger.
Uncertainty will always be a part of the human experience. While you may not be able to eliminate it entirely, you can learn to cope with it effectively. By acknowledging your feelings, focusing on what you can control, seeking support, and practicing resilience, you can build the emotional strength needed to maintain your emotional health and quality of life in an ever-changing world.
Arnold Gillo, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Therapist, a Behavioral Health Consultant, and the Clinical Program Planner for State of Nevada ICF Program