Bouncing Back from Uncertainty
Written by Tom Lenz, PharmD.
Over the past several weeks I have read, heard, and spoken the word “uncertainty” more times than I can count. It has become one of the new buzz words of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are saying that our future is uncertain and writing about the uncertainty that the new virus has caused us to experience. Even the title of my most recent webinar was called, Maintaining Resiliency During Uncertain Times. And, it seems like the more we read, hear and say the word uncertainty, the more worried and less certain we become.
Resiliency, on the other hand, seems to conjure up feelings that are opposite to uncertainty. To be resilient is to have the ability to bounce back during times of difficulty. To somehow be okay with instability, the unknown, and the parts of life that we can’t control. So, the question becomes, how and when do we start “bouncing back” as we remain uncertain about our future?
The more I look at this topic, the more I am convinced that nearly all of life contains moments of uncertainty. There seems to be a universal truth to our desire to be in control, but yet most of the time feeling the inability to control. I think if we take several moments to reflect on the aspects of life outside of a pandemic that we have complete control of, we may be surprised to learn that our list is pretty short. Most people can control what is within themselves, but that is about the extent of it. Unfortunately, many try to control aspects of life that are outside of this realm which usually leads to frustration, anxiety, and stress. We find that there are some aspect of life that we can control, and other aspect that we can influence. But, unfortunately many people tend to spend much of their time thinking about what they cannot control.
Scientists believe that most people’s thoughts consist of replaying past experiences or worrying about what is yet to come. Fewer moments of the day are spent in the present moment. One of the helpful strategies that can lead to enhanced resiliency is to spend some time thinking about what you think about. What do you spend most of the day thinking about? Is it dwelling on past events, worrying about future event, or being present in the current moment? Being present in the current moment make us more attentive and accepting of the world around us. Worrying about the past or future only leads to anxiety and stress. Being present to the current moment can many times lead us to an understanding and acceptance that there is not a great deal in life that we can control. And, this paradoxically causes us to be less anxious about the future.
Yes, today’s world is uncertain – but, so was yesterday’s and so will be tomorrows. Being present to the now is an initial step towards to being more resilient. It allows us to be grateful for gifts of today and to have less concern for the things we cannot control. The time is now.
This blog post was contributed by Tom Lenz, PharmD. Dr. Lenz is Director and Professor of the Master of Science in Integrative Health and Wellness program at Creighton University. Classes he teaches include Determinants of Health, Lifestyle Medicine, Advanced Lifestyle Medicine and Capstone in Healthy Lifestyle Management. He is passionate about education and takes great pride in showing care to his students. He believes “we are all connected in a great social network. Fostering personal well-being in students will, in turn, foster well-being in others”. Teaching students to care for themselves so they may then care for others is an important part of his teaching philosophy.