Lions, Tigers, Bears, and the Coronavirus, Oh My! How to Live with Fear and Uncertainty
March 9, 2020
It’s probably an understatement to say there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty in our communities nowadays. There’s a virus going around that we haven’t figured out how to contain or treat. The stock markets are reacting in a big way. Our retirements accounts have dropped 10% or more in the past few weeks. If you struggle with anxiety and fear, it has likely been a tough time.
Fear and Uncertainty
I think fear is closely linked to uncertainty. We like to know what is going to happen in the future. We set up our lives so they are predictable. We like routines, and we get upset when our routines are disrupted. The problem is that life is full of uncertainty. Sometimes this uncertainty smacks us in the face, like when we hear constant updates about the Coronavirus. But uncertainty is always there. We ultimately don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
3 Ways to Stay Calm in Uncertainty
So, what can we do when we are facing a time of unprecedented uncertainty? Here are 3 things that have helped me to stay calm when uncertainty hits:
- Get the necessary information. When struggling with uncertainty and fear, it can be helpful to get the latest information on the problem you are facing. For example, when thinking about the Coronavirus, it can be helpful to understand the latest information regarding risk of infection, and the seriousness of the illness if you do get it. Getting more information can lead you to change your behavior. For example, you might not want to travel to high-risk areas. If you are older or your immune system is compromised, you might want to take extra precautions. However, getting correct information can also protect against over-reactions and unnecessary fears.
- Listen to the experts. In situations like these, I tend to defer to the experts. Sure, we can make decisions based on what we are thinking or feeling at the present time, but in general, it’s better to listen to the experts. If the financial experts recommend, for example, to ride out the volatility and stay the course with your 401k, you should probably listen to them, irrespective of how much you feel like stuffing your money under your mattress. In a similar vein, if you aren’t a medical doctor, it’s probably best to listen to the CDC and other experts about the Coronavirus, rather than just making decisions based on your thoughts and feelings in the moment. We are often unreliable decision makers. Listen to the experts instead.
- Trust God. If you are a religious or spiritual person, it can be helpful to place your trust in a power that is greater than yourself. For me, I try to do all I can to get the best information, and then I move forward, trusting God to take care of the rest. One of my favorite verses is in Philippians 4, where Paul encourages the church: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Interestingly, Paul wrote this letter from prison. His future was uncertain, but he had such a deep trust in God that he was able to move forward in confidence.
Living in an Uncertain World
The reality is that we live in an uncertain world, whether we like it or not. There’s nothing we can do to change that fact. Once we have gotten all the necessary information and listened to the best experts, we still have to live our lives. You can live as a ball of anxiety, or you can walk forward in peace, trusting that God has you in his hands.
What has been helpful for you as you navigate these uncertain times? How can we move forward confidently in the midst of fear and uncertainty?
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