As humans we don’t like unknowns! In fact, some of us hate them and really struggle if things are unknown. Yet life has so many unknown components. When we get new information, our brains want to figure things out. If we have very black and white thinking, it’s even worse — with a tendency to go to the worst case scenario. Thankfully there are ways to help deal with the unknowns.
- Identify that you are dealing with an unknown. This may sound redundant but often we get caught up in a bunch of anxious thoughts without assessing if it’s an unknown. Validate the fact that it is an unknown and that you hate unknowns!
- Is there anything else I can know? If we continue to think about it and rut and spin, will it bring about new information? If not, it clarifies that we’re at a point of needing new information in order to know more. This can help us release the need to keep thinking about it.
- “But what if…” Watch for this line of thinking that takes us outside of what is present and real. If the thoughts you are entertaining are terrorizing your amygdala [the part of our brain that controls the fear response] your nervous system will activate into fight or flight. We can’t keep the thoughts from coming into our mind initially but we can reel our thinking in so that we don’t trigger a panic response in our body.
- “IF it becomes real, then I will deal with it.” This is the point where we need to anchor in the midst of the unknowns. Park on what you know. By focusing on the unknowns and jumping ahead (outside of reality) we undermine our ability to cope with what we are experiencing.
- Make a list of all the things you do know right now — support system, faith aspects, facts, rational thought, historical proof from your own life, and your own abilities and capacities. Shift your focus to all that you know instead of focusing on the unknowns. Get your mind out of that rut!
It’s not easy but we can navigate the unknowns effectively. If you are the type of person who goes to the worst case scenario at least make yourself go to the best case scenario as well. Guard your thoughts and take control of them. We do have the ability to change what we are thinking and to direct our thoughts — even replacing them with thoughts that are more helpful and effective.