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How to Manage Your Discomfort in Uncertain Times

How to Manage Your Discomfort in Uncertain Times

During these uncertain times, leaders in any capacity are finding themselves inadvertently suppressing discomfort as a means of easing not just their own anxiety, but the anxiety of their constituents, employees, team members, and family.

Written by:Tara A. Collison, Ph.D.

Many of us –– if not all –– are feeling uncomfortable right now. We’re experiencing a global sense of unease and for some, it can become overwhelming. During these uncertain times, leaders in any capacity –– politics, business, charity organizations, even simply within the family –– are finding themselves inadvertently suppressing or downright avoiding this discomfort as a means of easing not just their own anxiety, but the anxiety of their constituents, employees, team members, and family.

Suppression and avoidance may work in the short term, but as we continue to deal with the effects of COVID-19, it’s clear that lasting ambiguity deserves a long-term solution. 

In order to manage discomfort in the face of the general unknown, there are a few things to consider, and each step calls for a head-on approach.

  1. Identify what you are feeling. It’s OK if you’re feeling more than one thing but do try to delineate –– fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, even, for some, a strange sense of peace. Anything you feel is valid.
  2. Remind yourself that some level of discomfort can be good because it teaches us a lesson and provides the cognitive dissonance we need to be able to shift and adapt. Ask yourself, “What does this discomfort tell me?” and “How is this helping me grow and learn?”
  3. Identify what can be “left behind.” Some of what you’re experiencing may not be serving you, like panic, and holding on to it can actually lead to a vicious cycle of stress that causes more stress and adds to your overall level of discomfort. Understand that using your worry to stay informed is good, but being controlled by worry can lead to loss of sleep, poor health, and, yes, even more worry. It’s great to identify the specific feelings or behaviors that need to go so you can commit your focus elsewhere.
  4. Create a path forward. All of the reflection and thought that goes into steps 1-3 is invaluable, but seeing a difference requires that you follow up with a tangible action plan. For example, in the face of ambiguity and discomfort, having a schedule can be beneficial. Write down and follow a schedule that includes things like positive distraction, meditation, short breaks, and reconnecting with co-workers, friends, and family, whether that be over the phone or via a video conference call.

It’s OK to be uncomfortable, right now more than ever! Even if you’re used to working from home, or you haven’t been largely affected by current events, it’s still a strange time. Take comfort in the fact that we are all dealing with some level of uncertainty. When in doubt, support yourself by referring to the steps above!

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