Last month on the CVN Blog we presented how lessons in resiliency from the military may be able to help the public cope with the uncertainly we are facing these days.
As a follow up, Ava Weiss, CVN’s Training Manager provides some insight on this topic from the clinical perspective. Weiss is also a military spouse.
To start Ava notes that current world events such as the Russian war in Ukraine may bring stress and uncertainty for everyone, but perhaps especially for those who are connected to the military.
“People may be in a constant state of uncertainty these days, thinking things like ‘Am I going to get deployed? Will my partner get deployed?’”, Weiss said. “For people with past combat experience, they may be closely attuned to things like this (Ukraine). They may be wondering: will we get into another global conflict?”
Ava notes that uncertainty is part of the human condition, part of a reality we all contend with. And experiencing some worry and stress related to uncertainty is totally normal.
“It can be natural to ask ‘what if?’ questions and start thinking about worst case scenarios. It’s important to note that this is not inherently a bad thing. In small doses, it can be useful to make sure we’re prepared for the things that will come our way.”
“However, ongoing uncertainty can also get any of us onto a pattern of unhelpful worrying or ruminating,” Weiss says, “That’s when things can get really tough. Because not only are we feeling bad about what’s happening in the outside world, but we’re also unintentionally fanning the flames of our own discomfort.”
Weiss identifies that while “tolerating uncertainty can be really hard,” it’s something we all must practice.
Weiss offers a few suggested steps to take when facing uncertainty:
- Notice and acknowledge anxious thoughts and feelings and allow them to exist.
- Recognize that our thoughts are just thoughts
- “Just because a thought comes to mind, doesn’t mean it’s accurate or helpful,” Weiss says. “We’re not omniscient and don’t know for sure what will happen, so when we’re thinking ‘worst case scenario’ thoughts, we can recognize that those are just thoughts, not truths.”
- Identify what helps you feel calm and actively engage in those things.
- This might include listening to music that you love, connecting with a loved one, going for a run, or doing something that is consistent with your values.
- If there are actions that you can take to help reduce or manage the uncertainty, then take them.
- For example, gather information to help assess the spectrum of possible outcomes and the likelihood of the different possibilities.
- If what you are worried about is a realistic possibility, then identify what you would need in order to cope.
- Tap into existing resources and/or identify where you will need additional support.
- If what you are worried about is unlikely and/or outside of your influence, then acknowledge that and practice getting comfortable with not knowing.
“The most important thing,” Weiss says, “is to give yourself grace and compassion as you make space for ambiguity and discomfort. Treat yourself as if you were a friend and take good care of yourself, because managing uncertainty is hard work, and it’s also a fact of life. This is how you remain resilient.”
CVN offers a great online tool designed to help manage your Stress and Worry.
By Anthony Guido
CVN Vice President, Communications & Public Relations