Coping with uncertainty during COVID-19

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Australia and the rest of the world have been living the new norm of social distancing, social isolation and in some instances, enforced quarantine. 

This has dramatically transformed our work and social lives, while the Australian economy has been flipped on its head. As a nation, we’re doing well at flattening the curve. It’s overwhelming to think of how the world will look in the future.  

Dealing with uncertainty is difficult because the problem itself is uncertainty. It’s hard to solve a problem with so many unknown parts.  Because we can’t solve uncertainty, our best option is to deal with our personal response to the situation. Here are some helpful tips: 

1) What exactly is the problem? Getting to the core of what’s bothering us will give us a sound starting point. Try these steps – these can help you to cut through an emotional upset, to keep order in a crisis, to think clearly and to come to grips with your problem: 

a) Be Definite.  What exactly am I troubled about?  

b) Be Rational. Is it certain, probable or only possible?  

c) Be Wise. How important is it? 

d) Be Practical. What shall I do about it? 

Going through this process will help focus your mind and remind you that there are things that are certain, and there are things you can control. You may find that you have more certainty than you thought! Working through this process should help you cut through the incessant mental chatter and help focus your thoughts which will reduce the unknown.  

2) Feelings are not fact: Our feelings can be stirred as much by imagined as by real causes. It’s important to remind yourself that feelings are not fact. Feelings are an emotional reaction to a thought, belief, or perception of a situation. The more distorted our thinking is, the less our feelings will relate to objective reality. The way out of catastrophic thinking is to keep our thinking true and our behaviour sound, and to go by what we know, not by how we feel.  

If you feel your thoughts and feelings are getting away from you, it can be helpful to list the facts of the situation and your feelings about the situation. You may notice a discrepancy between the two. You’ll likely identify that your feelings are not very rational. You’ll also probably find you’re missing a few facts. Clarifying some facts may help reduce your feelings of emotional upset.  

3) Self-activation is always an option: In times of uncertainty we can begin to feel as though we have no control. Many things may be outside of our control. But we always have the option to self-activate in any situation. This means we can always make personal contributions to our own growth through the systematic development and use of our own personal resources. This means we can use the skills we have learned to work through things in a consistently helpful way. We have the tools to regulate our feelings, we have the ability to make plans, and we have the option to look beyond ourselves and help others  however uncertain things may be. We can always make healthy choices and activate ourselves to lead a productive and satisfying life.  

 4) Follow Guidance: We are capable of achieving many things: we have diverse skills and expertise in many areas.  However, it’s unlikely that we’ll know more about pandemic management than Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, or more about economic impact than the CommonwealthAn inquisitive mind is a positive thing but taking in too much information from too many sources may just increase our uncertainty and confuse our thoughts even more. We’re bombarded with so much information, it can be helpful to follow the information from trustworthy sources.  We‘d save a lot of energy and brain power by following expert guidance on things that we don’t know much about.  

5) Evaluate soundly: The current crisis has affected everyone in some way, from social distancing from family, friends and work colleagues, to a loss of employment and income through to the sad loss of life due to COVID-19. It’s important we keep some perspective. Keep a clear and steady view of what’s important and what’s unimportant in the events of life and personal relationships. Are the inconveniences of social isolation worth getting completely fixated on? Is being uncertain about when they will end the worst thing that could be happening to you right now? The whole world has paused. People are having time and space unlike any time in recent history to contemplate their lives. 


Use this time to consider what is important to you.  The rapid changes in the way we are living our lives has created many new and unique challengesWe understand that we must exist in an uncertain environment for the foreseeable future. Uncertainty is challenging for all people Make use of this time by joining our Growing Resilience program. The Growing Resilience program meets twice a week through a Zoom meeting. The program will offer you the tools to strengthen your resilience during this pandemic and you’ll also hear and learn from your peers because we’re all in this together.  

For more information visit www.grow.org.au/growing-resilience