The COVID-19 pandemic made the word “uncertain” common across Canada, didn’t it? As you grow and experience new things in your world, navigating unknowns may start to feel more and more familiar, too. On this page, you can watch a video about strategies you can try to cope with challenging thoughts and feelings about the things we can’t control or know the outcome of right now.
At first, I was terrified if reaching out to talk to someone about how I was feeling, especially someone I had never met before. But after I had talked to someone about what was going on and calmed down, reaching out seemed a lot less scary. I also felt like I wasn’t completely alone anymore.— person contacting Kids Help Phone
Where can I find tips about navigating unknowns?
In this video from AboutKidsHealth and Kids Help Phone, you can learn about:
- ways to work with thoughts / feelings of not knowing
- strategies to help you focus on the here and now
- grounding exercises to help you feel calmer
- self-care activities to try
How to be with uncertainty.
One thing’s for certain, we all live with uncertainty. But uncertainty is uncomfortable. There are too many unknowns. If we could predict our future, even only minutes ahead, we would probably try. Many of us are either waiting news, waiting for test results or we can’t settle because there is no plan yet. We just want to know what’s coming.
What will happen next? What will happen when I get home, or tomorrow? Next week? What will the future bring? Will I get through this? What if something bad happens?
We often worry that we won’t be able to prepare for, or handle, whatever is ahead. And we tend to not make decisions because we’re afraid of making the wrong ones. Just a tiny glimpse into the future can solve all that – can’t it? But this delay in answers is common to all of us. You are not alone in not knowing. Many of us try to distract ourselves while we wait for answers by doing something fun and that can work much of the time. Sometimes the wait can be overwhelming.
Let’s just say you wrote a test and you’re anxious about the results. Here are some ways to begin working with the unknown. If you’d like, you can take a moment to think about what you know and don’t know. Perhaps you don’t know that things will turn out the way you want, but you also don’t know that they won’t. Maybe you don’t know what the future will hold, but you probably do know that worrying won’t change the future. Identifying what you know and don’t know may help you regain your perspective.
Know that you can still do what matters to you and bring worry and uncertainty along with you. Take a moment now to list some things you do know and can control.
In this example, you know you studied and tried your best. You showed up and wrote the test and the test is done now. You’ll find out the results on Friday. You also know you make your friends laugh. Drawing makes you happy and math’s not your best subject, but you’re great at art.
You can control how you look after yourself, how you prepare for the next test, and what you choose to do next. Remember, you still deserve a break, whether you failed the test or not.
You might also want to try noticing the story you’re telling yourself. We often tell ourselves stories predicting the future and think of the worst-case scenario. If you notice that you’re telling yourself stories about how awful something’s going to be, try reminding yourself that it is a story and telling yourself stories doesn’t change the outcome.
Know that you are the hero of your own story. You’re strong and you’ll find a way to get through this. So even though you don’t know what the future brings, you can choose to focus on right here and right now. This is the moment you can control.
Waiting and not knowing is tough, but you can do tough. What do you want to do in this moment to care for yourself?
Self-care looks different to different people – that’s okay. Here are some ideas. You can listen to music, connect with a friend, go outside, read a book or just take a breath.
While being with uncertainty is difficult, there are things you can do to support yourself. Think about what you can and can’t control. Notice the story you’re telling yourself, and take care of yourself in the here and now.
If you don’t know which way to go or what decision to make, remember you don’t have to have all the answers all the time. Living with the unknown is just part of being human – that’s for certain.
Ready to continue your wellness journey? Kids Help Phone offers free, private, 24/7 support across Canada. For anything on your mind, big or small. Visit KidsHelpPhone.ca or call 1-800-668-6868. Text 686868. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger/needs help with a safety plan, you can contact 911, the emergency services in your area or mobile crisis support (if it’s available near you) right away.
Kids Help Phone would like to thank AboutKidsHealth for collaborating with us, sharing this video about navigating unknowns and supporting youth mental health and well-being across Canada.