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Creating a tolerance of uncertainty

Creating a tolerance of uncertainty

By Aimeé McNamara, Human Resources Manager

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – how my mother’s voice resonates now, more than ever in these times of uncertainty. Yet the aphorism takes on a whole new meaning to what Mom meant in her attempts to up my daily vitamin intake.

As we approach the second month of lockdown, many of us will be experiencing shifts in the way we are coping.

The ongoing isolation, maddening uncertainty, and fears that life may never be normal again are entirely natural responses to the current situation, whether we inherently suffer from anxiety or not.  For people who are generally prone to worry, intolerance to uncertainty is heightened, further exacerbating the worry.

Rationally we all know that nothing good comes from worrying, but amid the current pandemic and economic fall-out that we face, its hard to reason with such unknowns. As opposed to reproving our worrying tendencies, we should aim to rather improve coping mechanisms to reduce the affect that worry will have on us, both physically and mentally – particularly in a climate where we have little control.

One technique that I find particularly useful (as someone prone to worry) is the APPLE technique.  There is no magic in the technique, it simply encourages a more mindful approach to tackling those worrying thoughts.

The first thing that needs to be done is to Acknowledge the thought or feeling.  By creating awareness, we are able to identify exactly what the thought or feeling is rather than letting it niggle at the back of our minds.  (Trying to ignore the worry is about as effective as trying to ignore an unwanted visitor).

Once we’ve acknowledged the thought or feeling, we don’t respond – rather, we simply pause and sit with the feeling, observing it.  While doing this, we need to be mindful that thoughts are not fact, our feelings are not truths and we don’t need to believe what either of these tell us – it is only the worry talking.

Remind ourselves that life is uncertain, and that by accepting our inability to influence a situation that is beyond our control is simply consuming our peace – let it go.

Having consciously released the worry, we focus our mind on something in the present. We need to take note of our breathing, how our lungs fill with air, how our chest lifts and on the exhale, notice how the shoulders relax.  Take a stroll, change of scenery, and pay attention to that which we see around us – be in the present moment.

In my experience, becoming more tolerant of uncertainty takes time and practice. It’s important to not beat yourself up if you find worry getting the better of you from time-to-time.  As long as we observe being mindful of troublesome thoughts and feelings we are all able, in time, to build better resilience against debilitating worrying.

We are all in this together, so grab an APPLE and reach out if you are in need of assistance!

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree – Martin Luth

Creating a tolerance of uncertainty