Dealing with Uncertainty

As the weather begins to turn warmer, our minds shift to a glorious time of nature blooming and crisp, clear water awaiting us to jump in.  The first nice day of the year has us all wearing no coat and walking around as if summer is already here.  Unfortunately for us, it’s only spring, which can be chaotic for us Midwesterners.  I found myself having spring fever yesterday as I went outside to soak up some sunshine.  I got up today to rain, doom, and gloom.

As with spring, life as an educator brings a high level of uncertainty that can be unsettling at times. Other times, it can be downright unbearable. The end of the school year usually brings about many people shifting positions with people leaving and new people starting in the fall.  So how exactly do we deal with this uncertainty so that it does not affect our mental well-being?

In the article “11 Ways Emotionally Intelligent People Overcome Uncertainty” by Dr. Travis Bradbury, he identifies 11 tips to weather the storm of uncertainty.  The research on the brain regarding uncertainty is fascinating.  In studies done by Talentsmart, it was found that the less information a person has, the more irrational their decisions become.  Our brains actually overreact to the situation we are in, in some cases making it worse. People who are able to overcome uncertainty possess many of the following abilities. 

  1. They are able to quiet their limbic system.
  2. They stay positive.
  3. They have knowledge and awareness.
  4. They embrace what they can’t control.
  5. They focus on what matters.
  6. They don’t seek perfection.
  7. They don’t dwell on problems.
  8. They trust their gut.
  9. They have a plan B.
  10. They don’t regret decisions.
  11. They breathe.

I never realized how important the limbic system was to our general wellness.  This is the more primal part of our brain that is responsible for the fight, flight, or freeze response to a situation. So your brain reacts with fear when given uncertainty.  From what I have researched, there are many ways to quiet the limbic system. The easiest is awareness, as we can notice what emotions are coming up and decide if this is really a threat or is my limbic system in overdrive.  Some others are long, slow breathing, music, meditation, stretching, splashing your face and hands with cold water, plus many more.I am going to become more intentional in some areas of my life like quieting my limbic system, accepting what I cannot control, not seeking perfection, and not dwelling on problems.  Being aware of the things that can be done has been shown to help tremendously when people are faced with ambiguity.

If you are interested in exploring uncertainty further, check out this Ted Talk by Cyrus Aram.  An idea that I was able to utilize in my life regarding uncertainty was the three reactions of define it, tolerate it, and action it to move through uncertainty.  


When I am facing a situation where I am not sure of the outcome, I will use this model to help me move through my feelings of fear to a place of comfort and acceptance.  What are some strategies that you will use when facing uncertainty? Please share your ideas and tag us @KaneCountyROE.

Raven Szalkowski – Professional Learning Coordinator
(t):630-762-2056
(e):rszalkowski@kaneroe.org

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