10 Ways to Cope with Uncertainty

Hi everyone, Coach Taren here.  I’m here today to talk about how all of the uncertainty and change that’s been going on in our world right now.  Everything that’s been going on has had me thinking about positive ways to cope with uncertainty.  Even though there is a lot of uncertainty right now, it’s likely that any of you as athletes or just as human beings are going to continue to experience uncertainty at different points in the future, in your sport, and in your life, so I wanted to pop on here and talk about 10 different ways to cope with uncertainty in a positive way.

1. Be Kind to Yourself

I talk a lot about this in my live trainings and in the PerformHappy community.  Being kind to yourself means practicing what I call self-compassion or self-kindness.  This is really the idea of talking to yourself like you would a friend.  If you’re struggling with not knowing when you’re going to get back in the gym or on the ice and not knowing what the future holds for you and that’s making you feel frustrated, think about what you would say to a friend in that situation.  My guess is it’s probably different than what your brain is saying to yourself right now.

So think about being kind to yourself and giving yourself some grace during this time because it is really hard for everybody, especially because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future or when this is going return to normal (and even what normal is going to look like).  We need to be kind to ourselves during this difficult time.

2. Reflect on Past Successes

Looking back on past successes, especially ones where you were dealing with uncertainty, challenges, or difficult times because my guess is, if you look back on any difficult time you’ve had in your life, you have gotten through that.  There’s a quote out there that says, “So far, you have survived 100% of your worst days,” so even when things are really tough, when you’re having a bad day, when you feel like you’re struggling with anxiety or stress about the uncertainty and the unknown, know that there are times in your life where you’ve been in the same position and you survived.  You made it through.  Use that as confidence to know that you are resilient, you are strong, and you can get through things even if they feel really difficult at the moment.

3. Develop New Skills

You’re already developing a skill of coping with uncertainty.  That’s something that’s going to be huge and really important when you do go back to competing and being in your sport.   Use this time to focus on honing new skills that are related to your sport.  This can be focusing on things that you don’t give as much time when you are training in the gym or on the ice.  You can even think about developing some skills outside of your sport.  Whether that’s picking up a new hobby, learning a new language, trying different arts and crafts projects, find something that interests you and try it!

If you have a sibling who does a different sport, have them teach you some skills from that sport.  Ask them to teach you some of the rules or teach you how to hit a baseball, swing a bat, play catch – learn something different, or try something new that could give you a new perspective or maybe even find something that you didn’t anticipate that you would enjoy.

4. Limit Your Exposure

I really encourage limiting exposure to news, whether that’s on TV, radio, or social media.  The more we start to read or hear about everything that’s going on, that can create more anxiety about what could happen in the future.  This can also result in comparison to other people and how other people are dealing with this or what other people are experiencing during this time, so try to limit the amount of exposure around all of the things that are going on right now.  Obviously we want to stay knowledgeable and safe, but I think trying to limit that to the best of your ability is really important.

5. Don’t Dwell on What’s Out of Your Control

What happens with the reopening of states and gyms and what happens with future competitive seasons is really out of a lot of our control.  You can’t control that.  You can’t change what’s going to happen, and the more you focus on it, you end up wasting energy on something you can’t do anything about.  Instead, channel that energy into things that are positive and things that are going to be in your control and make a difference for you in terms of your wellbeing, your positive mental state, and you feeling happy.

If there are things that you notice that you’re dwelling on, things that you’re circling around in your mind that are out of your control, see if you can set those aside.  Put them on a shelf in your mind, put them in a box, set them to the side, throw them in a trash can, and instead, focus on the things that are in your control – the things that you can do that are going to make you feel good during this time.

6. Take Your Own Advice

Again, this goes back to what you would say to a friend, what you would say to somebody else who’s struggling.  Think about what you would say in support of another person who’s dealing with a really uncertain, difficult time and take that advice for yourself.  If you would tell that other person to focus on what’s in their control or you would tell that other person that it’s going to be okay, tht they have to just take it one day at a time, listen to that for yourself because that’s probably really good advice.  We all are very good at giving advice to other people and we need to try to turn that towards ourselves.

7. Self-Care

Self-care can look very different for different people, but it can be as simple as getting enough sleep, fueling your body with good nutrition, making sure you’re moving and exercising throughout the day.  It can also be things you do to bring yourself happiness – giving yourself an at-home spa day, painting your nails with a sibling or a parent or friends.  It could also be enjoying a new TV show, book, or movie.  Self-care can also look like putting on music and having a dance party in your kitchen.  Anything that makes you feel good inside, that makes you happy and elevates positive emotions, those are going be great things to do during this time, especially since you have more time to do that.

You can also learn new ways of engaging in self-care that you might not have used in the past because you didn’t have time.

8. Seek Support

This is a big one.  Whether that’s a parent, coach, teammate, friend, or mental coach, seek out support from someone you trust.  Find someone you can talk to about challenging feelings and emotions when you get angry or frustrated or feel sad about things being different and missing the way that things used to be.  Talk to those people.  Often times, talking about what we’re struggling with can help release some weight and tension.

9. Write It Down

If you don’t have access to someone to talk to you at a particular moment, another great way to seek support is through journaling and writing about what you’re experiencing.  That can be another really great release rather than just holding in all of the negative emotion, frustration, anger, or sadness that you might be experiencing.

10. Control What You Can

This goes back to what I spoke about earlier – avoiding dwelling on the things that are out of your control, but control what you can write.  If you can, control what you eat and how much sleep you get.  Focus on making those things good for what your body and your mind are needing right now.  If you can control putting in some hours of conditioning or practice at home, focus on making the most of that, and doing you know your best during those times that you can train at home.  Focus on using your time wisely right now to get yourself in the best mental shape so that when you return to the gym or the ice or into your sport, you feel prepared and you feel more confident than you were before.

I think there are a lot of positive things we can take out of these uncertain times that are going to make everybody stronger.  They will help with sports, schooling, and daily life once you do return to more normalcy.  I know that there’s a lot of uncertainty of when that’s going to be, but I think we all have to keep hope alive that that’s going to happen.  We just have to be patient.

In the meantime, think about my tips above.  They really can help you get through the uncertainty.  If you want to talk more about this or any of these strategies in more detail, feel free to reach out to me at taryn@completeperformancecoaching.com.  Again, I’m coach Tarren and I hope to see some of you in the live training room.  I hope you all are having a great day and keep focusing on what’s in your control.

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.