Ten Ways to Deal With Uncertain Future Anxiety
By: Ariana MullinsOne of the greatest commonalities between expats is reality that there will be times of uncertainty. Over the past eight years, I have gone through so many transitions, and many periods of time when I had no idea what was next, and this became much more intense when we took the dive into an expat lifestyle. Although we are presently happily settled, I know that more times of transition and uncertainty are virtually guaranteed. I’d like to share my plan for handling Uncertain Future Anxiety (UFA.)
- Recall past experiences of UFA, not knowing how things would turn out, and review the ways in which everything really did turn out OK.
- Hash out your worst fears. Delve into the details of your Worst Case Scenario, and examine the feelings and logistics that might accompany the situation. Usually, it's not really as awful as it seems, and nothing is worse than nebulous fear. Name your fears, and get comfy with them. This will also help you evaluate your options more clearly, when they come up.
- Take this as an opportunity to dream about your Most Ideal Scenario. It's really helpful to articulate what your dreams are, whether they seem achievable or not. This way, you can evaluate opportunities in a positive and hopeful way, working toward something good, rather than just trying to avoid something bad. Hash out ideas about what makes life rewarding for you, and how that can be a part of your future somehow. We often go through big chunks of life without making really deliberate choices about how we want to live. Take this time of uncertainty as an opportunity to be intentional. My husband and I have frequently talked about what we'd like to do "in our new life" when we are facing crossroad opportunities.
- If you feel sad about what you may lose in your future transition, name your current advantages and make a point of enjoying them. Right now. Have people over, go visit a favorite place, knock a few items off of your "Want to Do" list. After all, you are still in your current location/ situation. Make the most of it! Don't get stuck in a trap of not even being able to enjoy something you currently have just because it's temporary!
- In preparation for your Uncertain Future, take good care of your internal resources. If you need to be around people to feel fulfilled and energized, and you have a time of potential loneliness coming up, then by all means, go have fun as often as possible, with as many people as you can wrangle! I don't fall into this category, but I do know that I must take as many opportunities as possible to enjoy the quiet times available to me. I will take up any offers on babysitting, and not exhaust my introverted self unnecessarily. This is not a time to be a super hero-- that will come during your transition!
- Think of ways in which other people can help you. Write them down, so you don't forget when someone asks what they can do. What will you really need? Be honest with yourself, your spouse and people who would like to support you. Like fear, a nebulous sense of need is overwhelming. Identify your perceived needs, verbalize them if possible, and move on.
- Humor. Don't lose your sense of it, and take advantage of every opportunity for a good laugh. This may also include painting hilarious mental pictures of your worst case scenario, or dreaming up a ridiculously lavish version of your ideal life. Watching a comedy when you're feeling stressed is very therapeutic, and worth the effort of polling your friends for suggestions. Not taking yourself and your problems too seriously is crucial - it's a slippery slope to a pity party.
- As a family, make a point of taking care of one another. Give your spouse a good laugh, your kids extra hugs. This is a time when stress can make everyone cranky-- purposefully move in the opposite direction. This doesn't mean being in denial about how you feel (please, do tell someone!) but not letting it take over and ruin everyone's day. You and all family members really deserve some extra grace.
- Think of something you can do that is a good distraction when you are feeling anxious, but that you can also carry on with no matter where you go. A hobby, for example. For me, it's blogging. :)
- Do your best to stay soft and flexible, and to expect the best. It is almost always harder to give up what you already know for something unfamiliar. It rarely feels like a fair trade, but that's only because it's unknown. Expect something great, and don't get wrapped up in the details-- it will all get done, and worrying doesn't count as doing.
Do you find yourself in a time of uncertainty? What is your best method of coping with these challenges?
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Contest Comments » There are 6 comments
Hi Ilene, Thank you! Yes, there is a lot of excitement in expat life, but so much stress, too, isn't there? It is for the brave of heart!
Adriana--Great tips on facing the uncertain future as an expat. I think I've finally found my anxiety soulmate. let's start a new group together called WE (Worried Expats). Good luck--Ilene
Wise words & recommendations for any major life transition from one comfy place to a new unknown state of being, from getting married, changing career course, getting cancer, moving across the globe.
Really helpful words - I will definitely be delving into worst case scenarios later - I have UFA right now and this might help me to confront it and feel more secure knowing I have a contingency plan! Thank you xxx
You are truly able to flip things around and find the things to celebrate. There is always some nugget of good in every situation and I believe you are the best at ferreting those out.
Hi there, My husband are in the final throes of life here in Rwanda and I have actually been having anxiety attacks for the past 4 days due to nebulous fears and general malaise. My therapist, bless her, is away till the end of the month, so I'm flying a bit blind. This blog IS SO AMAZINGLY HELPFUL, you don't even know. My heart slowed down, my tingling, tight chest just subsided and I can breathe like a regular me. I had cancelled going to my newish book club because I was like, "Whatever, I'm moving sometime soon" (to where, we have NO idea), but after reading this, I just wrote to this month's host and shall be attending the book club. All expat women, mind you. A BRILLIANT resource. I can really just disappear into anxiety sometimes. What a great resource this is. THANK YOU.