Uncertainty can be defined as a state of not knowing or not being able to be definite. I like to think of uncertainty as not being able to predict what will happen next. Students in the 12-Week Anxiety Skills Course offered by The Anxiety Treatment Center of West Michigan learn that uncertainty is the primary trigger of anxiety. Anytime a person experiences uncertainty, some level of anxiety will be experienced depending on how much uncertainty is present. Simply put, anxiety is a biological response to the presence of uncertainty and nothing more.
People who have a hard time tolerating uncertainty often have this problem because they cannot or are unwilling to experience the accompanying anxiety. Avoiding the possibility of feeling anxious makes sense as we are hardwired to avoid discomfort. However, chronic avoidance of anxiety lowers our ability to tolerate uncertainty. A person with a low tolerance to uncertainty will be prone to having more anxiety issues as uncertainty is the primary trigger of anxiety.
Getting frequent low-risk uncertain experiences is the best preventative medicine to ward off the development of an anxiety issue. Regular exposure to various levels of uncertainty helps train your brain that anxiety does not mean something terrible is happening but rather that you are simply in an unfamiliar situation. Viewing anxiety this way allows you to build a better tolerance for anxiety and uncertainty.
Using a scale of anxiety from 1-10, where 1 = low anxiety and 10 = a panic attack, try to identify uncertain situations or triggers that give you anxiety between a range of 1-3. These should be uncertain situations or triggers that you are capable of coping with but prefer not to deal with because of the low levels of anxiety you experience during these situations.
For this uncertainty challenge, throughout the month of March, try to engage with these low-level uncertainty triggers 1-2 times per week for the purposes of building your tolerance to uncertainty and anxiety. Please share your experiences in the comment section if you feel like it.
Note: It is crucial that you are not exposing yourself to situations that are likely to cause harm. Ask yourself the following questions before doing your uncertainty challenge. #1: What is the likelihood of financial harm? #2: What is the likelihood of physical harm? #3: What is the likelihood of emotional harm. All answers should come back as not likely, and if not, then you should pick another uncertainty trigger with lower levels of risk.