Written by: Joelle Anderson, MA, RP, CCC
Hopefully this doesn’t come as a surprise… but school is likely to look (at least a little) different come this fall. While Ontario students, families and teachers wait to hear what measures will be put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through schools, for the moment they are left with a lot of uncertainty - and uncertainty is stressful.
In fact, environments of high uncertainty and low control serve as breading grounds for anxiety and worry for many people1.
Research shows that people with anxiety, and especially those who worry a lot, often feel intolerant of uncertainty1,2. So, when uncertainty – an inevitable part of life – arises, these people may find themselves experiencing at least some of the following:
And any or all of these symptoms can exacerbate anxiety. They each involve us fighting reality to try and control an outcome that might not be controllable. And that causes pain.
So, first – know that this is normal. When things change, when things are out of our control, when we have to accept a reality that we wish were different – we must grieve. We all fight reality to avoid this grief, at least sometimes. But it’s OK to be sad about what feels different or lost now, and it’s natural to not yet be able to see what benefits these changes may bring. So, grieve, write out what you’re upset about, honour it – but don’t let it dictate your life, accept it, act according to your values and goals, and see if you can find any silver linings (if possible).
Regarding the anxiety, what can you do? The good news is that we can learn to become more tolerant of uncertainty. And, there are a lot of ways to do that.
Some examples include:
Ultimately, know this – it will be OK. Consider all the times you have faced uncertainty in the past, and been OK, it works out, people adapt and are resilient. We prevail.
This uncertainty too shall pass… really, it will. Nothing stays uncertain forever. Care for yourself as you go through it for now and soon enough you’ll have the information you need to act.
1. Anxiety Canada. (n.d). Intolerance of Uncertainty. Anxiety Canada website: https://www.anxietycanada.com/articles/intolerance-of-uncertainty/
2. Qi, S., Footer,O., Camerer, C.F., & Mobbs, D. (2018). A Collaborator’s reputation can bias decisions and anxiety under uncertainty. The Journal of Neuroscience, 38(9), 2262-2269. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2337-17.2018