This article is part of our ‘Covid-19 & the Job Market’ resource pack. View more here.

When you’re uncertain of what the (near) future will hold it can stop you from functioning effectively and being productive. The “when will this end?” is the question at the top of everyone’s mind. Not knowing what lies ahead often causes anxiety and tends to turn even the best of us into unproductive zombies. Moreover, it’s difficult to find an upside to a pandemic and/or global crisis, even if you’re being inundated with “stay positive” messages on social media.

Fortunately, there are ways to navigate this turbulent time and not just survive – but come out a winner.

Looking at the bigger picture helps

When we face problems, or worse, a global crisis, we tend to focus on the immediate situation and forget that what we know is not all that exists or will exist. This tends to cause us to make rash decisions or ignore opportunities that are in front of us. Remind yourself that this is only temporary, but strong relationships (with customers or employees) are forged in tougher times like this. What opportunities come out of this? How can you diversify your business and respond to the current climate in a way which will prove fruitful in the future? Never a better time to look at the glass half full.

It’s not all good, but it’s not all bad either

Humans are prone to view potential outcomes in extremes –  as either terrible or great. The reality is that oftentimes it’s neither. You may suffer losses, but not terrible losses either. On one extreme you may lose your job, but the probability is more likely that you will work reduced hours, or have forced leave, or even completely work from home. If we look at a multitude of probabilities, the extremes are less likely. Even if you do lose your job, remember that you are not the problem – chances are many are in the same boat with you. The collective feeling is that “we’re all in this together”. Make the most of your downtime and perhaps consider options you’ve never had the opportunity to consider. Now’s your chance, and remember – you are not alone.

Challenge your need for certainty

When we’re faced with uncertainty or change, some of us may adopt behaviours to cope with the discomforts these changes and unpredictability may bring. We can end up trying to micromanage people but not delegating or changing their behaviour to make it more predictable to us. We may also end up procrastinating (such as delaying decisions) because we think this will prevent bad things from happening. You may also endlessly research or ask friends and colleagues if your decision is right in an attempt to remove uncertainty from your life.

The truth is none of these behaviours will change the reality of tomorrow. Life will always find a way to surprise you. The plus side is that opportunity often arises from the unexpected and not what we already know. This often gives us a chance to challenge ourselves. Letting go of negative behaviours frees up time and energy which can go towards more positive outcomes.

Focus on the now

Most of our anxiety stems from thinking too much about tomorrow and its unpredictability. The “what ifs” and “maybes” take over and we forget to live in the now. The fact is that the present moment is never to return and it is futile to spend it thinking on what may or may not happen in the near future. Focusing on what is within your control now and making the present count is what we have. It is apt to quote Victor Frankl (The Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning) in this moment – “The last of the human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision…”

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