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9 tips for dealing with uncertainty and anxiety

Posted: May 08, 2020 5 minute read Desmond Saw 0 Likes

Like many others, I have been working from home since the start of Singapore’s circuit breaker. As an HR practitioner, I started looking at ways to help fellow colleagues stay positive in these challenging times. I discovered an article by the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL), sharing tips for dealing with uncertainty and anxiety.

This topic is highly relevant now.  As COVID-19 continues to dominate news headlines, many of us are faced with disruptive changes we’ve never experienced.  For some or many of us, feelings of distress have inadvertently emerged – anxiety, fear, anger, panic, uncertainty etc.

Since we are unable to make COVID-19 disappear overnight, we need to learn how to cope with these feelings. Here are 9 tips adapted from CCL’s article that you might find useful.

Tip 1: Be honest with yourself
Be honest with yourselfThe first step to managing distress is to notice and acknowledge these thoughts. I openly ‘confront’ them by asking myself: “Why am I upset at this moment?”, “What is it that I’m worried about?”

Tip 2: Challenge anxiety-driven, distressing thoughts
Challenge anxiety-driven, distressing thoughts
I believe many of us live our lives by making assumptions. For example, how many of us would assume that a person who suddenly coughs has COVID-19?  However, an assumption should not be a conclusion.  Instead, remind yourself to challenge that thought by considering alternate perspectives and weighing all available evidence.

Tip 3: Look on the bright side
Look on the bright side
I know it’s going to be tough for some people if you tell them to look on the bright side and be positive. They’ll tell you that they are unable to ‘imagine life on the bright side’.   For example, some friends will text me how miserable they are feeling being stuck at home, unable to go out.  In response, I tell them they will be safer at home and that this is probably the best time to do things that they normally don’t have time to get done.

I find this quote useful in dealing with such situations, “When a negative thought enters your mind, think of three positive ones. Train your brain to flip the script.” 

Tip 4: Focus on what you can control
Focus on what you can control
Stephen Covey in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, mentions that proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control.  So, instead of sulking and ‘blaming the weather’ for things beyond your control, why not re-direct your attention onto something that you CAN control?

For example, instead of worrying about how many and who will contract COVID-19 and anticipating what the government might do next, try focusing on actions you can control like staying safe at home, washing your hands, wearing a mask when you are out and observing social distancing.

 “You can’t calm the storm…so stop trying. What you can do is to calm yourself. The storm will pass.”

Tip 5: Practice mindfulness by being aware and intentional
Practice mindfulness by being aware and intentional
Next time you start to have distressing thoughts – focus on your breathing.  Often times, people will “over-breathe” when they feel anxious.  Now, consider intentionally focusing on extending the exhale: breathing in for a count of four and breathing out for a count of six.  Find ways to ground yourself to the present moment, and pay attention to what you are experiencing through your five senses.  Have calming, affirming thoughts, such as “Right now, I’m fine” and “I can handle this”.

Tip 6: Take action through value-driven behaviours
Take action through value-driven behavioursIf there is something you value greatly, find a creative way to behaviourally engage with that value. For example, I value family greatly, so I have WhatsApp video calls with my auntie to find out how she is doing and ask if she needs help. My mum tells me she makes an effort to call a distant relative of ours at least once a week to check on her. She is 95 years old and lives alone.

Tip 7: Start a gratitude journal
Start a gratitude journal
Studies have shown that gratitude is related to a variety of positive outcomes, like greater well-being. For me, it has become a routine that I write in my diary every day, and inside it, I pen down things for which I am grateful.  Our company also has an ongoing employee appreciation platform which also gives me the opportunity to write and send appreciation cards to fellow colleagues.

I particularly like this quote from the web, “It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness.”

So, why not start a gratitude journal today? 

Tip 8: Find new ways to connect with others
Find new ways to connect with othersI know many of us are longing for some face-to-face interaction with your colleagues.  This is the time to get creative to remain in contact with colleagues, loved ones and friends. When working I now use Skype for Business or WhatsApp calls. Outside of work, I use Zoom to connect.

Tip 9: Infuse your day with physical activity
Infuse your day with physical activitySince the start of the Singapore’s Corporate National Steps Challenge at the beginning of the year, I have been walking (or jogging) to clock at least 10,000 steps per day. With the strict circuit breaker measures in places, it is getting harder to find places to exercise. Nonetheless, there are still pathways for me to continue my daily dose of exercise.

For those at home, even a five to ten minute stretch break will do wonders to help increase productivity and creativity. These days, there are also many videos available online to help you exercise at home.

Fun tip: How about picking a favourite song of yours and devoting the length of that song to stretching?  My recommendation? “I like to move it” from the animation Madagascar.

The important thing here is to keep moving!

I hope you find some, if not all, of these tips useful. I’ll end with a final quote:

“Anxiety happens when you think you have to figure out everything all at once. Breathe. You’re strong. You got this. Take it day by day.”

Stay Safe and Take Care.


If you found these tips useful, download a pdf version for you/your team here.

About the writer:
Desmond is the Head of Talent Management in Human Resources at GAR. He has been with the company for almost nine years and takes care of Learning and Development, Talent Management, Performance Management, Employee Engagement and Organisational Development.  Desmond has been working as a HR professional for 18 years and is passionate about training and development.
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