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Embracing Uncertainty

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

What is Uncertainty?

Uncertainty is an unavoidable part of life. No one can predict the future, so we must all learn to accept that there is some degree of uncertainty in everyday life—and that in certain situations, there is a great deal of uncertainty.

Most people accept uncertainty as a natural part of life, but people with anxiety disorders find it hard to accept uncertainty, particularly in certain situations. For people who worry too much, the uncertainty of certain conditions can act as a magnifier for their worries, feelings of anxiety, and even physical problems associated with stress.

People who worry a lot try to avoid situations that will increase their awareness of the uncertainty in life. They may avoid traveling, changing jobs, or even meeting new people. Some people will avoid going to the doctor for a checkup because making an appointment can trigger their worry that something might be wrong with their health.

Avoiding situations that trigger your uncertainty will only diminish your life and narrow your choices. However, with practice, you can learn to accept life aspects that are ambiguous or uncertain and cause you to worry unnecessarily.

How to Deal with Uncertainty?

The only way to learn to tolerate more uncertainty in your life is to put yourself into situations that would typically bother you and then see that being uncertain is not so bad. You can tolerate the thoughts and feelings that go with uncertainty, and you can learn to live in the moment.

Try APPLES - a simple process that can help you deal with uncertainty. The acronym APPLES will help you remember the mindfulness skills you need when you are uncomfortable with uncertainty.

Acknowledge | Notice and observe uncertainty as it enters into your awareness.

Pause | Choose to respond, rather than react, to your experience. Let go of the impulse to respond altogether. Put your mind on “pause,” and breathe calmly.

Pull back | Remind yourself that at this moment, it is fear, anxiety, or worry doing the talking. Thoughts and emotions are not facts. Notice that the need for certainty is not significant and is an impossible quest.

Let go | Permit yourself to release yourself from the illusory need for certainty. No matter how intensely or loudly your thoughts and emotions may insist that you need certainty, remember that the intensity of these thoughts and feelings are temporary and will pass.

Explore | Take a moment to explore your internal experience. Pay attention to your breathing and all your senses. Observe the sensations around you: the sights, the sounds, the smells, the taste, and what you are touching. The emotional intensity associated with your distress will likely lessen as you do this. Now, choose to actively redirect your attention toward something different from what you are worrying about. Be present in your life.

Stand Alone | When you face an uncertain situation that triggers your anxiety, do not ask anyone to go with you, or try to keep in touch with people through calls or texting.

APPLES Technique

You can use the APPLES technique to develop an attitude of acceptance, letting go, and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings rather than trying to avoid them.

Following the template below, describe situations that commonly trigger your uncertainty. Rate how uncomfortable you feel, where 1 = just a little uncomfortable, to 10 = extremely uncomfortable. Then choose at least one situation to practice the APPLES technique. See how many minutes you can spend each week tolerating uncertain situations and see if you can spend more time tolerating uncertain situations.


Date Practiced:

Rate Your Discomfort:

Minutes Practiced:

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