How to Deal With Uncertainty

Three Parts:Taking Control Where You CanAccepting UncertaintyEasing Anxiety

Throughout our lives, we are bound to have several encounters with uncertainty. Nobody likes to feel uncertain about a decision they have to make, whether or not to believe in something or someone, or how an event will work out. Uncertainty can cause a lot of disruption in our daily lives, and may cause us to fixate on the uncertainty. Fortunately, we can take steps to help deal with this uncertainty so that we can get through the day.

Part 1
Taking Control Where You Can

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    Plan what you can plan. Part of what makes uncertainty so scary is that we feel that we don’t have any control over the situation. This will depend on the specific uncertainty that is bothering you, but if you can find something small that you can predict or plan, then do so.[1]
    • For example, if it is uncertain whether or not you will be moving to a new country, or whether you will be accepting a new job in your current country, make plans for how you will enjoy either outcome. If you end up staying, you might join a new gym, or find a new flat. If you move to a new country, look into the opportunities that expatriates have in that country to get together.
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    Decrease the number of choices you have. If your uncertainty is related to a decision you have to make, then try to find ways to reduce the number of choices you have.
    • Use things such as your values, beliefs, and ultimate life goals to help you reduce the choices, if that is relevant for your decision.
    • For example, if you are feeling uncertain about a few job offers you have received, think about how each job will help you accomplish your career goals, but also about how they will influence your quality of life. If you have a very involved family life, it may not be a good idea to choose a job that can call you away at any time of the day or night. This can help you eliminate one or two of your choices based on consideration of what is important to you.
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    Set realistic goals. Setting goals can be a great way to help prevent uncertainties in our life, and when uncertainty does arise, have goals can keep us from getting distracted by this uncertainty. If you have something you want to achieve, then set a goal to do so.
    • For example, if you have a dream of attending a good college and becoming a doctor, then make that your goal.
    • Whatever your goal is, write it down. This helps make it more concrete. Some goals may be more difficult to achieve, and may require more commitment, but with enough time and discipline, you can achieve almost anything.
    • On the other hand, make sure you are realistic about your goal. Setting a goal to run a marathon in one month even though you’ve never run in your life is not a realistic goal.
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    Take things one step at a time. If you have a very large goal you want to achieve, it is best if you can break that big goal into smaller, more manageable “sub-goals”. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, and you haven’t ever run before, make a few smaller goals that you are certain you can achieve. Your first goal could be to run one mile without stopping, then you could move up to running a 5k race. Once you’ve accomplished that, shoot for a 10k, and so on.
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    Allow for flexibility. No matter how much we might want to achieve a particular goal, there can be hindrances to achieving our goal. Therefore, it is important to remain flexible when it comes to achieving a goal.
    • For example, if you want to get into the best university in the country, but realize that you won’t be able to afford the costs of doing so, try looking into some other options. There are many, many good universities that are more affordable than some of the ivy leagues.
    • On the other hand, if you simply must go to that expensive ivy league, consider attending part-time. This will give you enough time to also have a part-time job. Obviously this won’t cover everything, but it will help put some money in your pocket, and has the added bonus that you will have a bit of experience to put on your resume.
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    Have a back up plan. In some cases, no matter how committed we are to reaching a goal, life or circumstances will get in the way. Therefore, it is always good to have a back up plan. This will also help to prevent uncertainty when thinking about your goal because you know how you will deal with an outcome that is not the one you are aiming for.
    • For example, if you have been training for your marathon, and you’re at the starting line on race day, but feel worried and uncertain that you won’t be able to finish, then let your backup plan be that when you get to the half marathon mark, you can stop if you feel that it is too much.
    • Although this may be a slightly disappointing outcome, you can then take stock of your training, and have a better idea about what to expect next time. Then, you’ll definitely be able to finish.

Part 2
Accepting Uncertainty

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    Understand that uncertainty is a part of life. Fortunately or unfortunately, no matter what you do, there will always be uncertainties in life. The best thing you can do is remember that life would be really boring if we always knew what was going to happen.
    • For example, if we knew when we were born who we would marry, how many kids we have, what kind of job we would do, we would lose our sense of adventure and curiosity.
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    Allow yourself some time to fixate. When a level of uncertainty appears in your life, we tend to let it take over our thoughts. This includes questions about different outcomes, and finding information about different outcomes could be helpful in allowing you to deal with the uncertainty. Therefore, it is not a bad idea to give yourself some time to dive into whatever information you can get your hands on.[2]
    • For example, if you or someone you love, has found out they may be suffering from a serious disease, search the internet for all the information you can find. Talk to other people who have the disease. This may result in some scary truths, but it may also help calm your anxiety that is related to the uncertainty of the diagnosis.
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    Accept that there are no “shoulds” in life. If you are convinced that things will always work out how you want them, or that things must be a certain way, then you are bound to be disappointed. Instead, remind yourself that no matter how things work out, you will learn how to be happy if you can be open to the possibilities that lie in front of you.[3]
    • For example, if you are worried because you feel uncertain about whether or not you will get to go on a date with the person you like, remember that there are many other people on the planet, and just because you like someone doesn’t mean they should like you back. If it turns out they don’t feel the same, you will eventually meet other people you find interesting, and they might feel the same.
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    Reassure yourself that you are strong. Remind yourself that you can deal with whatever comes your way both mentally and emotionally. If you aren’t feeling confident, remind yourself of a time when you overcame a really tough situation.[4]
    • You could also do something to reassure yourself of your emotional strength. You could, for example, do something that scares you, like going to a social gathering where you don’t know anyone and making a new friend.
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    Distract yourself. If nothing else works, try giving yourself to an engaging activity. If you have a job, put in a few extra hours, which will force you to focus on something else for awhile.
    • Another good way to use your time is through volunteering. You could try volunteering at an animal shelter, which will give you a good way to focus on something else, and will help a homeless animal as well.
    • You could also use a different activity to distract yourself for a few hours, adult coloring books have become very popular recently, and many claim that they are a good way to relax and get your mind off of the day’s stress and worries.
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    Reflect on past experiences. Think of a time where you previously experienced anxiety related to uncertainty. How did you cope with the issue then? Did it work out in your favor, or not? Reminding yourself that you’ve been here before, and made it through can be a comfort that uncertainty is not the worst thing in the world.
    • If your past experience did not work out how you wanted, then it is more proof that no matter what happens, you will find a way through it.
    • For example, maybe you had to make a tough decision about which university to attend. How did it work out for you? Were you sorry that you chose the university that you did? Most likely not! If you felt that you had chosen the wrong one, how did you deal with it?

Part 3
Easing Anxiety

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    Do yoga or meditate. Stress related to uncertainty activates structures in the brain that can make it difficult to calm yourself. If you are having trouble getting your mind settled, try practicing yoga or try meditation.[5]
    • You could attend a yoga class, or simply find a relaxing yoga video on the internet.
    • Meditating will not only help your brain focus on something different, it will also improve your ability to deal with stressful and uncertain events in the future.
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    Seek professional help. If you find that you are experiencing anxiety regarding uncertainties in your life, it may be useful to seek help from a mental health professional. This will give you an outlet to an outside person who can help you manage your anxieties and fears objectively.[6]
    • If you have a trusted friend, you can also talk to them about your worries, but if your anxiety over uncertainty is affecting you so greatly that you have trouble getting through daily life, it is probably best to seek professional help.
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    Work through the negative thoughts. If you are feeling anxious about some uncertainty about your life, then it is perhaps because one outcome is less desirable than another. If this is the case, try working through the worst case scenario. Plan how you will deal with the worst case scenario.[7]
    • For example, if you feel uncertain about your performance on a recent exam, try to work through the different scenarios. If you did very poorly on your exam, how will it affect your grade? Will you be able to make up for the poor grade through extra credit, or through the remaining assignments and tests you have left? Can you discuss the issue with your teach to see if there are other ways of improving?
    • This will help your brain to think more pro-actively and positively.
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    Write in a journal. When we are worried about an uncertainty, our mind tends to go in circles. If you aren’t comfortable talking about what is going on in your head, then try writing it down, either in a journal or just in a document on your computer.
    • This will help give your mind an outlet. You don’t have to do anything with this writing when you are done with it, just simply give yourself a way to get everything you are thinking out of your brain.
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    Pray. If you believe in a higher entity, pray to them for guidance and comfort. Remember that they will help guide you to the right path, and all you have to do is listen for this guidance.
    • If you are religious, praying can give you some comfort as it allows a way for your brain to “talk through” the issue with an entity that you trust in. While it may not fix the problem entirely, it can provide you with some comfort, which may help you see other ways of dealing with your uncertainty.


  • Be confident in whatever decision you make (if it is relevant for you). Whatever decision you made, it was the right one.
  • Tough decisions are sometimes needed to be made with only half of the information or based on uncertain information. Risk-taking might benefit from proactive evaluation.


  • If you do find that you need to seek help from a professional, do not feel ashamed! Nearly everyone could benefit from discussing their fears and emotional issues with a mental health professional. There is no reason to feel ashamed about doing something good for yourself and your well-being.

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Categories: Faith and Belief | Philosophy