How to deal with uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic

Uncertainty is hard. The uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic has many of us feeling worried, unsure, and confused. So much is happening at the same time that it’s hard to make sense of it all. And when we don’t know the endpoints it can feel even more overwhelming. 

We don’t know when schools are really going to reopen. When we will go to work as usual. When we can comfortably see our friends and family. We don’t know when the world will reopen for travel. It all feels like one big fat question mark right now. Living with all this uncertainty affects our ability to predict or make plans. And so many of us strive for certainty in our lives. This can affect our mental health in many ways. 

The overwhelm around uncertainty during coronavirus pandemic can lead to symptoms of anxiety more than typically experienced. Anxiety symptoms may include panic attacks, irritability, sweaty palms, restlessness, nervousness, and feeling tired. These anxiety symptoms can be overwhelming to deal with on top of it all. As a result it is important to know productive ways to cope with anxiety and uncertainty. 

mother sitting on the wooden bench with 2 children

Does your uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic look like this?

You wake up in the morning knowing that you have a day ahead of you with your kids, household responsibilities (5X more than before!) and a bit of work from home.You want groceries but you think to yourself that you’re not sure when they will be delivered. Your kids ask you when they will be able to see their friends again and you say “I’m not sure. I hope soon sweetie.” Another thought pops in about your work and you wonder how long you will be able to work under this new normal. Maybe you are concerned that your income won’t sustain. You then ask yourself, when will you get to go to your favorite restaurant again? And again, the answer is “I don’t know.” 

You recognize the strong feeling of uncertainty and you notice that you get a sense of tiredness or maybe frustration. You are ready for answers. A big part of you does enjoy some of the moments of this but you want your regular routine back. 

Eventually you wind up in a place of overwhelm and sadness. You are ready to carry on with life. Most likely you are recognizing all the small things that were once a part of regular life that you truly miss. This brings about some grieving but also gratefulness for your regular life. 

It’s true that uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic is overwhelming and rather tiresome but if we can learn to better deal with uncertainty it can make all the difference. When we start to take things in our own hands to make the circumstances better for ourselves and family then we can feel some control again. We can feel relief again. And breathe again. 

Let’s take a look at some “how to’s” in dealing with uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic. 

feet sticking out from under the covers of a bed. Two adults and one child in between them

Uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic: How To One: Use Self-care religiously 

This is a time more than ever that we need to take care of ourselves. The reality is for most of us, what we originally were doing to take care of ourselves is non-existent. We can’t go for that massage, hang out with friends, yoga, dinner with your partner, gym etc etc. 

We have to come up with new ones! What is your new normal for self-care?

You teach yourself a message when you take care of yourself: What message do you imagine that to be?   I’m worth it. I matter. Self-care will give you the resources to take care of those you love. 

Try out some of these ideas for self-care. We can’t keep on doing the same things and expect different results. 

Meditation: the key to help you learn to live a present life. 

You probably hear this one a lot. Many people find this to be something that is “for someone else” “hippie like” or “too hard.” The reality is that when you meditate what you are really doing is “learning how to be in the moment.” This is really representative of how you want to live your life. Right now, do worries take over? Are you caught up in you head more than you should be? When you meditate, you are saying to yourself “I am going to teach me how to be in the moment. This is my time where nothing else needs to matter.” This message to teach yourself is beyond all so powerful. And yes, it is hard at first. At first, you have all the thoughts entering. Just be kind to yourself in the process. Recognize the thoughts that come in and gently let them out. 

There are wonderful youtube guided meditations and apps for your phone. You can do this multiple times per day. Some of the ones on my favorite app (headspace) are 5 minutes long. Of course, we can live by telling ourselves that “meditation is not for us” but what if you chose to do things differently. If you allowed yourself to try new things. How would so much change for you? 

Journaling: Get out what’s on your mind. Don’t let it just swim there. 

What if you gave yourself the opportunity to write out all that is on your mind. Then all that that is tangled in your mind would get dissected out. This is something I do a lot. This helps me organize my thoughts and puts words to them. It doesn’t need to reside in your head alone. You can get them out and actually dissect these thoughts. 

Reading a book for personal growth

When you have the same thoughts over and over it can be incredibly helpful to have new powerful ways of thinking absorb you. Google inspirational books. I personally love The miracle morning, everything is figureoutable, amongst others. What if you challenged yourself to read something that moved you? That helped you think differently. And this is key, we need to start thinking differently to make change. And acting upon the different thinking into our lives. 

mother and son standing at a kitchen sink washing their hands

At Simi Psychological group our team of therapists and psychologists emphasize the importance of self-care. We know that if you don’t fuel in you won’t be able to grow and live the life you want. 

Uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic: How To Two: Take in the precious moments with your family. 

Focusing on your relationships and taking in precious moments with family will truly help you ease the uncertainty and anxiety around the coronavirus pandemic. Find those moments to smile with your kids. Kiss your partner. Facetime a loved one. Focusing on your relationships and having true gratitude for all that you do have puts things in a better perspective. This will also help you feel more connected and supported which we all need now. 

I know that many of us are with our families so much now and we may be needing some space. However try to find those moments. Those moments that make it all worth it. In online therapy I work with my clients on working past much of the frustration and connecting with their loved ones. 

Uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic: How To Three: Recognize and take action over the things you do have control over. 

What do I have control over? A simple question to ask yourself of “what do I have control over can take you a long way” Panic and anxiety happens when we over focus on all the things we don’t have control over. What if you focused on the things you do have control over? 

Some things may include: 

Ability to take care of myself today

Read a book I love

Connect with my partner


Be kind to myself- give myself a break when I need

Recognize thoughts that aren’t helpful 

Write down an action plan to deal with income drops

Use technology to stay connected 

When you focus on what you have control over it can give you new insights to deal with all the uncertainty and overwhelm we are all going through. In online therapy, I work with my clients on recognizing and using their biggest tool which is what they DO have control over in their lives. 

Uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic: How To Four: Learn to see the value in uncertainty and tolerate the unknowns

Collective fear about the unknown. News will do this to you. Thinking all day long and thoughts being pulled in all different directions.

What if you decided to take control of all this rapid fire worry and actually say to it, “I’ve got you. I’m going to schedule time to focus on my worry, but then I set you free for the rest of the day etc.” 

Worry and fear: If it’s inside of you, you can’t deny it. If you’re worried, don’t deny it. If you’re scared, don’t deny it. BUT DON’T LIVE THERE!! I can’t stress this enough, don’t live there! If you live there, there is no room to be creative, to be connected, to think outside the box, to be grateful. None of it. 

Here’s an idea: What if you scheduled an hour a day/ or 2 30 minute time slots focused on worrying about all the what-if’s of life? 

What if someone in my family gets COVID-19? Have a plan. Be prepared. What hospital would I go to? It’s good to be prepared. 

What if I get laid off? I could get laid off. That’s a real possibility. What am I going to do in that case? Calmly think about it. 

If you schedule time- then you are not living in a state of fear. It’s to prepare calmly. 

If my income drops, what will I do? Or my income is dropping, what can I do? Calmly think about it. In a time frame that you control. 

Having this scheduled time to prepare for worst case scenarios frees up mental and emotional space so you don’t need to be constantly thinking and worrying about everything that goes on. 

In online therapy sessions, I work with my clients on tolerating uncertainties because it is through the lack of comfort zone that we truly grow. This doesn’t mean that uncertainty isn’t hard. But we do have the ability to control the fear rather than allowing it to take over. It truly is a powerful tool. 

The uncertainty with the pandemic is difficult for most of us. Learning to take care of ourselves, find moments with family, taking action over the things we do have control over and finding ease with uncertainty are all valuable in helping us through. 

Written by, 

Donna Novak, Psy.D. 

I’m a licensed clinical psychologist in Simi Valley, Ca who empowers people to work through the roadblocks that are holding them back and find meaning and purpose in their lives.

I specialize in working with anxiety and in helping teens and their families, adults, and couples better their relationships and find direction. Rather than shy away from the tough stuff in life, I prefer to face it head-on, together. I believe that challenges are part of being human and that everyone has the potential to become their own life’s navigator. So they never have to feel out of control or at the mercy of their circumstances. Learn more

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At our Simi Valley therapy practice, we offer Child therapy and family counseling, Teen therapy, Anxiety Treatment, Depression Therapy, Marriage Counseling, and Neuropsychological Testing. We are now offering online therapy in Ventura County and online therapy in Los Angeles for most services.