Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ebola, ISIS and Dealing with Uncertainty

I have noticed the amount of additional social media postings related to world events that often deal with uncertain events that none of us could have guessed.  This is especially true for me because I live in Texas where the first United States case of Ebola has originated.  And before this event, there was/is talks about what to do with the ongoing threat of ISIS.  And before that, you can name a number of things that fought for your attention on the news, social media and gossip from your neighbors.
This made me wonder how best to keep my mind positive and engaged with what I could control and let go of the worries and fears that are sure to come when you don't know how to react to uncertain events.  It's not that we should place our head in the sand and ignore that ebola, etc isn't a real threat.  They are.  But I also know that you can't halt your life for every tragedy, news of disease, terrorist threat, etc.

Below are some tips that I personally use to stay positively motivated no matter what is going on:

Accept That Our Times Are Always Going to Be Uncertain
The brilliance that I learned in Nassim Taleb's book "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable" was that Black Swans (defined as those positive or negative things that lie outside the realm of regular expectations, carry a potentially extreme impact and that is hard to predict) should be our new normal. We live in a complex, crowded and fast paced information age.  Instead of us reacting to uncertainty as if it's an outlier, we should react to uncertainty knowing that these are the times we live in.

And that's okay!

Develop a Way to Stop Worrying
In the classic life changing book "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" by Dale Carnegie, he provides some practical and useful tips to stop worrying:

  • Fundamental Tips
    • If you want to avoid worry, live in "day-tight compartments".  Don't stew about the future.  Just live each day (fully) until bedtime.
    • The next time Trouble backs you up in a corner, try the formula: 1. Ask yourself, "What is the worst that can possibly happen if I can't solve my problems?"; 2. Prepare yourself mentally to accept the worst--if necessary.; 3. Then calmly try to improve upon the worst--which you have already mentally agreed to accept.
    • Remind yourself of the exorbitant price you can pay for worry in terms of your health.  
  • Basic Techniques in Analyzing Worry
    • Get the facts: "...half the worry in the world is caused by people trying to make decisions before they have sufficient knowledge on which to base a decision." (Like news outlets!)
    • After carefully weighing all the facts, come to a decision.
    • Once a decision is carefully reached, ACT! Get busy carrying out your decision--and dismiss all anxiety about the outcome.
    • When you are tempted to worry about a problem, write out and answer the following questions: What is the problem?  What is the cause of the problem?  What are all possible solutions?  What is the best solution?
Be Mindful of Your Triggers
It depends on what you fear but be mindful that we all have triggers that can catapult us into a state of panic that bleeds over into other parts of our lives.  For example, I fear calls out the blue telling me unexpected bad news since that is the way I found out my mother had passed in 2007. So, today, I rely on my voicemail more and I've stopped watching local news (full of bad news) and horror movies since those two things create thoughts of bad things.  It's my way of controlling one of my "triggers".

Focus on What Makes You Happy/Grateful
Making gratitude a daily life practice is one of the best ways to overcome fear and uncertainty.  Practicing gratitude forces you to focus on the good things, people and events that create a sense of peace, courage, hope, joy and happiness in your life.  No matter what local or world event that is going on, always make a practice of gratitude by calling a friend you haven't spoken with in ages and talking about that fun party, celebrating the small things with your children/family, constantly updating your vision board with things that you know make you  hopeful and forward looking.

One of the things I do that makes me happy is watch slap-stick comedy that doesn't require me to have to think!  My favorite is "Dumb and Dumber" (don't judge this choice, lol!)! I will also watch a Beyonce' concert!  Going to church or walking at the lake are also other things I do.

Keep a Positive Attitude
Whether there is uncertainty in the world or not, your perception of the world will always be impacted by your attitude.  I have seen people in the most blessed environments perceive it to be filled with problems or headaches because they approach it with a bad attitude.  Your attitude directly impacts your ability to have the faith and hope it takes to overcome any situation, filter information from any event and focus your energies on the best potential outcomes of any challenge.

I hope you find these tips helpful and they are ones that I practice repeatedly on a personal level so that I can be a blessing without internalizing all the bad things that are sure to come no matter what...I stay updated on what's going on in the world but I also choose to live the most positive life I can while recognizing how valuable it is to live in peace, love and with joy.

I pray for all the people who are directly impacted by any of the current crisis.


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