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How to cope with uncertainty at work

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·4-min read
Shot of a young businesswoman looking stressed while using a laptop in her home office
You might not know what the future holds work-wise, but staying on top of your health and wellbeing can help keep you calm. Photo: Getty

The coronavirus pandemic has battered the UK economy since it arrived this year — and no sector has remained unscathed.

Hardly a month goes by without news of another wave of shops shutting or of stores losing money. Last week, retailer Marks and Spencer announced it would be cutting 7,000 jobs over the next three months.

Although lockdown restrictions are lifting and many of us are heading back to work, we still don’t know what the future holds for us or our jobs. So how do we manage this uncertainty, and how do we maintain a level head during such a strange and stressful time?

“Firstly, this heightened feeling of uncertainty is completely valid, justified and to be expected during this time. After all, we’re living through a pandemic and things are likely to feel out of our control,” says Kelly Feehan, services director at the wellbeing charity CABA.

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“Initially, try to work on accepting the worry, stress and fear that may be taking hold. It’s completely natural to feel like this, so acknowledge it and allow yourself to feel these difficult emotions. Try writing down how you’re feeling; it’s a good technique to help you process and make sense of what’s going on inside.”

Control what you can, accept what you can’t

When grappling with uncertainty, it can be helpful to take control of what you can. You might not know what the future holds work-wise, but staying on top of your health and wellbeing can help keep you calm — and make it easier to deal with the ups and downs. Look after yourself and set aside some time each day to do things you enjoy, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

“Establishing routines, spending more time on activities than you usually would or even developing new exercise regimes will give us the feeling of control that we’re craving and missing out on,” Feehan says. “Structure is key, so sticking to plans and routines will keep your mind on what’s in front of you, instead of what’s out of reach.”

Although it’s easier said than done, it’s also important to acknowledge that there are things we simply can’t control too.

“Our in-built desire to know everything and be as up-to-date as possible will only add further stress,” Feehan says. “Try and limit your exposure to the news, and instead allow yourself a set amount of time each day to catch up. This will stop you from endlessly scrolling through news feeds and worrying about eventualities that are out of your control.”

Try not to focus on the ‘what ifs’

In stressful situations, we tend to experience 'what if' thoughts, which can lead to worry over future scenarios that may or may not happen. This can lead to catastrophising — fearing the worst will come true.

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“We have no idea what direction things are likely to go in, and there are so many different possibilities that could occur,” says Feehan. “Spending time worrying about the endless eventualities and trying to work out resolutions will only fuel our fears, so use this energy to calm yourself down. Asking ‘what if’ will only take us to a place we don’t need to go.”

Focus on gratitude

Another technique for dealing with uncertainty is to focus on what you already have. “Looking for the silver lining in situations will help to reframe your perspective. Acknowledge the unexpected moments of joy or happiness and be thankful for what you have,” Feehan adds.

“Throughout lockdown there have been plenty of opportunities for new experiences and the increase in family time has certainly been one of those,”she says. “Revaluate what truly makes you happy and focus on the positives around you. It’s important to remind yourself that this will end, and we’ll carve out a new normal for ourselves.”

If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s important to seek help and support. Your GP will be able to advise on the best course of action and the charity Mind also offers advice.