Dealing With the Unknown in Life – How to Cope With Difficult Times

Dealing with uncertain timesDealing with the unknown in life is often uncomfortable and can be “offsetting” in your mood. How can you cope with difficult times, especially when you don’t know the outcome? Or if you will be okay if you don’t know what the situation will really involve?  And how can you deal with the “unknown” if you don’t know what the end result will look like? 

All good questions to ponder. But there are actions you can take to increase the chances of maintaining emotional balance in your current life, even with the unknown.

At the end of this article, I have provided various links for dealing with the unknown, anxiety, and other life challenges that are currently affecting most people these days.

But first, let’s take a look at how and why we let fear control our thinking and how we feel.


How and Why We Let Fear Control Us

As children, we fear the loss of our parents, even if it is just that we wandered away at a store and realized we didn’t know where they were. Or going to the doctor and having to get a shot. 

As adults, we worry about being alone, or not being financially solid, or getting fired, and many other reasons. What is different than a child’s experience is that as an adult, you have had many situations dealing with the unknown. For example, being out of work. Waiting for an acceptance letter from a college. Waiting to see how much taxes you will owe. Not knowing the results from your latest physical exam. And many more examples.

If you think back to those times, you were coping with difficult times. You were able to move past the difficult situation. Either you resolved it, lived through it, or distanced yourself from it. Regardless of the situation, you survived and moved on.

Sometimes we may carry it with us if we never fully resolved the situation. For example, if we experienced deep hurt from a relationship breakup, some people may choose to no longer date. This is uncommon but does exist for a smaller group of individuals.

The fortunate people are the ones who learn from past experiences and make healthy adjustments for the future. But not everyone does this. Some people fear the unknown, so they keep doing the same things over and over again, even when those things don’t work out for them.


Methods for Dealing With the Unknown

There are various methods for dealing with the unknown. You can research something that is unknown to you. You can ask around to see if your family or friends have previously dealt with a similar situation and seek their advice. Or you can seek guidance with someone who is trained or licensed in that area of expertise. 

I always frame the worst-case scenario with my clients. Here is how it works:

First, ask yourself what is the very worst-case scenario. Then, think of what that scenario looks and feels like? Lastly, ask yourself what you would do to deal with it if it actually occurred.

Statistically, our worst-case scenario rarely happens. Logically speaking, if you find you would still survive the worst-case scenario, then you will survive lesser situations than that one. This helps to frame your fears of the unknown.


Recognize and Focus on Those Things You Can Still Control 

Focusing on things within our power to manage is comforting. This is what gives us a sense of control in our life. Focusing on the total issue can sometimes feel overwhelming. Instead, focus on a portion of an issue and tackle that piece one step at a time. Then you can move on to another piece of that same issue. Look for what you can control in a situation.

If some part of the issue is unfamiliar to you, see if someone can help you with it. We don’t have to know everything, nor is it possible to do that. But we can seek guidance from those who may know the subject better than we do. No shame in asking for help. It actually is a sign of inner strength!


Do Healthy Things That Calm You or Give You Pleasure

The emphasis is on healthy. Managing your fears with alcohol doesn’t help, but even worse alcohol creates more anxiety later. So avoid it especially under times of duress. At the very least, minimize the amount you drink. The same goes for marijuana or other similar substances.

What are the things you enjoy doing? Who are the people who are nourishing for you? How much alone time do you need, versus being around others? Don’t let other people dictate how you use your time. Set healthy boundaries.

 For example, if you would prefer not to do an activity, tell your friend. Healthy relationships involve mutual valuing of one another. No one takes advantage of the other person. They come through for you, and vice versa. Their words match their actions because they follow through with what they say. This dynamic demonstrates being reliable. 

Listening to your favorite music, going down to the water, or reading are examples of calming activities to do either alone, or with a friend.


Final Thoughts

The situation of the Coronavirus is a perfect example of managing one’s fears of the unknown. Of course, those kinds of times can be very unsettling. However, it is a great example of how to manage one’s fears of the unknown. Stay abreast of the current and accurate factors involved in the situation. Practice safe and healthy care. And above all, don’t panic. Be smart, not foolish.


Online Sites That Relax and Soothe You

Here are some examples of online apps that can relax you emotionally, or sometimes physically. Look for those apps that feel good to you. Not every app fits all people. Here are some examples to check out:

Breethe Meditation and Sleep

The Tapping Solution App

Louise Hay: 101 Power Thoughts (one of my favorites)

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Dating, Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on and on

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