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The Friday Five

5 Ways to Handle Uncertainty

By Jamie Spannhake

It’s back-to-school time. In a “normal” year, it is sad that summer is ending, but it is great to welcome the cooler weather and predictable routines. This year, though, is anything but normal. Rather than predictable routines, we are dealing with uncertainty in all corners: Will schools remain open? Will there be more shutdowns? Are more mandatory quarantines coming? The uncertainty is palpable.

Dealing With Uncertainty

As we head into the great unknown of trying to return to business as (kinda) normal, here are five ways of handling the uncertainty.

  1. Realize you can handle it. As one of my life coaches once told me: “Anxiety comes from thinking we cannot handle things.” But when we look at our life experiences, we have handled the challenges we’ve faced — and we will handle them in the future. Even if you didn’t manage things perfectly in the past, you handled them: You are still here. When we realize that we will handle whatever life brings, we can relax a bit about what might happen in the future. We may not be able to plan the way we prefer, but we can plan to be flexible and adaptable and work with whatever happens next.
  2. Accept that you cannot control it. It’s always been true that we don’t control most things in life, but now it is abundantly clear. With protocols and plans changing rapidly, it can feel like life is out of control. Rather than tightening your grip when dealing with uncertainty, loosen it. Be open to possibilities. View life as a challenge. Work on feeling comfortable with the discomfort and feeling of uncertainty. And control the only two things you can: your actions and your attitude.
  3. Remain calm. With life feeling unpredictable, keeping calm is more important than ever. When we are calm, we think more clearly, act with more focus, and live and work more efficiently. One of the best ways to keep our calm is meditation. Meditation gives us space between an action and our reaction to allow us to act more thoughtfully and mindfully. It allows us to remain calm even in the face of extraordinary challenges. If you have a meditation practice, double down and keep it up. If you don’t have a meditation practice, endeavor to start one today. There are great apps, programs and even YouTube videos to guide you. I use HeadSpace, Calm, Let’s Meditate, and my own guided meditation program to keep my calm.
  4. Focus on your values. During times of transition and challenge, clarity of values is essential. As things around us change, as we are faced with opportunities and difficulties, it can be easy to lose our way. When we are clear in our values — what matters most to us, and why — decision-making and opportunity assessment are much easier. If you need to pivot, or if there is any reason you are reassessing your practice or career, take the time to clearly define your values. Start by asking yourself questions like: What do you want for your career? What’s your ideal day? Who do you want around you? With what kind of people do you want to work? What is success to you? What does financial stability mean to you? Use the answers to craft your personal values statement, similar to a company’s mission and vision statement. Having certainty in your values gives you more clarity when you are dealing with uncertainty in life.
  5. Have some fun. All work and no play make Joan and John dull. Don’t forget to have some fun. These are serious times, but that doesn’t mean we need to be serious all the time. On the contrary, laughter is more important now. It also boosts your immune system. Remember to laugh, do something for the sheer joy of it, and enjoy your days as much as you can.

We’ve got this!

More From Attorney at Work:

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Jamie Spannhake

Jamie Spannhake is a lawyer, mediator and certified health coach, and author of “The Lawyer, the Lion, & the Laundry.” She is a partner at Berlandi Nussbaum & Reitzas LLP, serving clients in New York and Connecticut, practicing in the areas of commercial litigation, estate planning, residential and commercial real estate, and business transactions. She writes and speaks on issues of interest to lawyers, including time and stress management, health and wellness, work-life balance, and effective legal writing. Follow her on Twitter @IdealYear.

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