Adjusting to Uncertainty

Published by Kathleen von Kampen 2 years ago on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 2:56 PM


The countdown for the Fall 2020 semester has officially started.  In fact, it is already nearly in the single digits.  The start date is certain, yet so much of the semester feels TBD; to be determined on statistics, “what-ifs” and many more unknowns.  How do we approach a semester that has so many questions and uncertainties? 

While becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable takes time and practice, there are some ways to manage your mental health and expectations in the meantime. 

  • Normalize worry:  we are hard-wired to worry; being able to anticipate and avoid unpleasant outcomes is how the brain operates.  Don’t judge yourself too harshly if you find yourself worried about what the semester may bring – you’re only human!
  • Set a worry threshold:  while worry is normal, it can reach a certain point where it becomes unproductive and no longer helpful.  Check in with your worry and determine what point you have reached, with freedom to move on if it is not useful. 
  • If worry becomes unbearable, come back to the present:  it’s okay to limit your thoughts about the future – it’s not here yet!  While long-term avoidance of fears or uncertainties may not be most adaptive, step back by doing a deep-breathing exercise (click here for an example) or observing your 5 senses, and remind yourself of the present. 
  • Use your toolkit:  you have coping skills and you are more prepared than you think!  Gently remind yourself of those things that you have done in the past to manage worries, fear, and mood.  Utilize your self-care routine, journal, talk to a trusted friend, laugh, focus on what you can control, practice gratitude, or try some mindfulness.
  • Practice tolerating uncertainty:  Some goals in the future have easy backup plans, either being rescheduled or finding an alternative way to accomplish the goal.  For others, that is not possible.  If you find yourself seeking information that isn’t yet available, or if a backup plan does not apply, practice saying, “I don’t know yet, and I can accept that.”  Sit with that thought at first for 10 seconds before moving on, then for 30, and the next time for one minute.  Practicing tolerating distress is like a muscle, and the more it is exercised, the more resilient toward stressors and uncertainty we become. 
  • Accept that there may be loss:  Denial is common in the grief process, however when you are ready, it may benefit you to explore what it would mean to you if the opportunity you are hoping for does not happen due to the pandemic.  Rather than abandoning hope, it may be more helpful to plan how you will/would take care of yourself if the loss occurs.  (Shared by UIC Counseling Center, 7/7/2020)

While there is no way to predict or know for certain what the semester holds, it is true that God knows the details, and that your Concordia campus is eager to have you back and joyfully looks forward to the start of the new academic year.  We are excitedly joining with you in the countdown!