By Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC
Feeling overwhelmed is a common response to when the demands of life feel like they are beyond your capacity to face them. It’s a form of shock that’s fed by uncertainty. Will I? Could I? What if? And so forth…
The silver lining of life is that each time you face uncertainty, each time that you work through and with your feelings of being overwhelmed, your tool box and self-confidence grow. Life is full of these moments, and if you’d like to shine brightly, then meeting the moment is what you need to do.
The following recommendations are three ways to manage uncertainty. The more you practice them, the more effective they become.
- Grounding your emotional response to uncertainty. This starts with slowing down your emotional reaction. Your feelings are important messengers that help you discern whether or not you need to take action. It’s easy to feel overpowered by uncertainty, especially when it relates to critical life moments. Yet if you are overcome by strong emotions, they inhibit your capacity to respond.
To ground, it’s imperative to return to the present moment. An effective way to do this is by using your senses, tuning into the sights, sounds, smells, etc. of where you are. This enables you to evaluate your circumstances and how you are doing.
Art therapy is an excellent way to practice grounding your fears because it’s tangible. Feeling the art tool, like a pencil or brush, in your fingers connects you to something solid. Seeing the color appear on the page is soothing and absorbing. Before you know it, you feel more relaxed and energized to face what lies ahead.
- Neutralizing the intense thoughts and feelings activated by uncertainty. This is an important key for managing them. When your reactions are in charge, it is incredibly difficult to function. Neutralizing them enables you to embrace the power that comes with acceptance. This gives you more energy for navigating the challenges you are confronting.
To neutralize thoughts and feelings, start by naming them, because your silence fuels them. Naming them means that they know their message has been delivered. Once you’ve done so, notice if the power of their impact begins to soften. Taking deep calming breaths into your belly will help them continue to soften. This makes it possible for you to respond to the situation with greater ease.
Art therapy enables you to take the neutralization process further. It lets you transform something you sense, but cannot see, and makes it visible. This externalization starts the self-validation process, and you feel more peaceful. Art therapy provides a kind of relief that’s rarely found from talking alone.
- Processing your experience of uncertainty. After you’ve grounded yourself and neutralized the intensity of your thoughts and feelings, you’re ready to unpack what’s behind the intensity of your reactions. This provides greater insight into what’s bothering you and with this awareness you can begin to formulate how to respond, rather than react.
To process your experience, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Your reactions can come from many different aspects of who you are and what you’ve been through. When you start from a place of self-compassion, you improve the likelihood you can truly listen and learn about who you are and what you need.
Art therapy is a gentle way to process your experience because it slows everything down. Art therapy encourages you to be the curious observer that is trying to understand. This evokes self-compassion, hope, and helps you to feel comforted as you listen and work through uncertainty.
Grounding, neutralizing and processing are three effective ways to cope with uncertainty. When practiced together, you experience the liberation of responding rather than reacting to stress. This allows your radiant glow to grow.
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