In a previous post I looked at ways to avoid seeking reassurance for anxiety In this follow up, I want to list a few of the ways you can consciously lessen anxiety avoidance and learn to tolerate uncertainty. Learning to live with uncertainty is key because uncertainty leads to rumination and worry and this prevents us relaxing.
It can be helpful to acknowledge the number and variety of things you do in order to avoid anxiety. In and amongst this list there are likely to be things you’d quite like to do but you avoid because of uncertainties.
Uncertainties often lead to prevarication and information seeking. You might, for example, like the idea of visiting a new shop but you’re anxious about stairs. You find yourself doing all sorts of online research to find images of the shop. Do they have an elevator? Do the stairs look solid or do they have glass sides? Are there just a few steps or lots? Try to experiment with a different approach. Go to the shop and look for yourself.
Uncertainties lead to indecision. People who live with anxiety often find it hard to live with a decision. They flit about from one idea to the next. This level of indecision can be seen in everyday life, in relationships or in work settings. Committing to a decision isn’t something that comes naturally but one way to start is to identify things that don’t really matter and to experiment with choosing one option before moving on.
Whether at work, home or leisure, pay attention to your likely tendency to do things yourself rather than allow others. You may even have been described as a control freak but actually you do what you do because you feel more certain of a positive outcome. Uncertainty is a strange thing. It may mean never going to new places, trying new restaurants or even experimenting with new recipes because of uncertainty. But are you really so sure of your capabilities in everything? Isn’t it just possible someone might be better or as good as you in a number of things? As an experiment try letting go a little. If your levels of uncertainty are high you could always tell the person you’re asking to ensure certain things are done. Then, when you see things are working out, you can afford to relax your requirements and trust that others can function quite well.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.