6 Tips to Reduce Anxiety in a Time of Uncertainty


1. Instead of asking “what if” ask “then what” Uncertainty often leads to anxiety. It is easy to fall into a pattern of ruminating about what the future might hold. What if I get sick? What if someone in my family gets sick? What if I lose my job? “What if” thinking increases anxiety. If you find yourself getting into a loop of “what if,” replace that thinking with “then what?” Instead of ruminating about all of the “what ifs,” choose the ones that are bothering you the most, and create a concrete plan as to what you will do if the event occurs. 

However, we are all different. Not all of us want or need to strategize a contingency plan. Some of us prefer to face each day as it comes, knowing we have the resilience and self- efficacy to deal with things as they happen. And that is ok too.                    

Regardless of your approach, think about instances in the past when you have been resilient in the face of adversity. Remind yourself that you are stronger than you think. You have weathered difficulty in the past; you can do so again. Do what works best for you! 

2. Set a reasonable limit on how much news you watch. Yes, you need to stay updated, but not all of the time. Maybe do a check-in once or twice a day, and certainly not before bedtime.                    

3. Be present and engaged in the here and now. This can mean meditation for those of you who have a meditation practice. It can also mean being in the present moment. Instead of thinking about what you can’t do, or what you’ve lost, be grateful for what you have. Look at the upside to having time at home. Hunt for the good stuff. Happiness research indicates that it is not the intensity of our positive experiences, but the frequency of our positive experiences that leads to long-term happiness and contentment.                    

4. Remember the importance of nature. Staying home doesn’t have to mean staying inside. Being in nature, while observing the restrictions, is restorative. All of the research tells us that being in nature improves mood, and reduces anxiety and depression. So promise yourself you will get fresh air every day. 

5. Exercise. Exercise is a proven way to improve your mood, and decrease anxiety and depression. The mood benefits of just 20 minutes of exercise can last 12 hours. Exercise increases endorphins and other “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. It also reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol.                    

6. The importance of kindness. This includes kindness to yourself and others. It’s easy at a time like this to feel pressured to be busy and productive. Often this pressure is self-imposed. Cut yourself some slack. You are not trained to operate at 100% in a time of crisis. Be kind to yourself. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself, and try to avoid comparing yourself to others. 

We are driven to connect, especially in times of stress. Ask yourself, who can I help today? How can I spread kindness to others? If you have kids, maybe make this into a game. Create a chart that tracks their kind deeds, or connections. Maybe call it, “What are three things you’re going to do today to brighten someone else’s day?”