Advice From Claire: How to Cope with Uncertainty

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Are you struggling right now with all the uncertainty in the world? Claire gives you some tips on dealing with the stress that uncertainty can cause. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who wants to break out of the pessimistic mindset she’s been in since the death of her mother.

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Claire Bidwell-Smith

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:00

We are living in uncertain times. How many times have you heard this phrase in the last couple of years? Well, it’s true. But you know what? It’s always been true.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:16

I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on New Day, uncertain times. I mean, they certainly feel particularly uncertain right now. The pandemic global warming, mass shootings, wars, divisive politics, the list goes on and on. It really is pretty rough out there. But look, there has never been a time in the history of the world that was certain. I mean, seriously, there are always unforeseen events on the horizon, catastrophes looming, and a future that is impossible to predict. It’s just that there have been some times when things maybe felt less uncertain. The pandemic was really a giant lesson that we never know what’s right around the bend for us. And then we also had to sit in that very obvious place of uncertainty for a long time. I mean, it’s still ongoing. But nonetheless, whether uncertainty is obvious or not, it’s always a good idea to have some tools on hand for how to cope with it. Practice self-compassion. Remember that some people are better at dealing with uncertainty than others. So don’t beat yourself up. If your tolerance for unpredictability is lower than someone else’s. Be patient with yourself. Remind yourself of your capability to be resilient. Reflect on times in your life when you’ve had to overcome other stressful events and survived. Try to think about what you did during that time that was helpful and what you can do now that would also help limit exposure to news or to the things that are causing you anxiety. When we’re stressed about something it can be hard to look away, but compulsively checking the news only keeps you in an anxious state. Ask someone to keep you informed if you’re worried about not knowing what’s going on. But definitely put some limits around your news intake. Avoid catastrophic thinking. When uncertainty strikes, many people immediately imagine worst case scenarios. Try to get out of the habit of ruminating on negative events though, recognize when you’re doing it, pause and pivot. Go outside for a walk. Make yourself picture the opposite scenario and imagine a positive outcome. And be kind to yourself as you make these changes. Practice self-care. Don’t let stress derail your day. Remember that eating well. Exercising and getting enough sleep can all help regulate your emotions in reducing anxiety. practice mindfulness, the art of bringing your awareness to the present moment. When we’re anxious, we spend a lot of time dwelling in the past and the future, reviewing past mistakes and ruminating on potentially scary futures. Taking time to get really centered in the present moment can be really calming. Surround yourself with people you trust. We can tend to isolate when we’re stressed or worried. But social support is important. So reach out to family and friends. Focus on things that are within your control. Even if it’s as simple as weekly meal planning are getting organized the night before a stressful day. establish routines to give your days some comforting structure. And don’t forget to ask for help. If you’re having trouble managing stress and coping with uncertainty on your own. Please just ask for help. Find a therapist coach someone who can help you and it all feels too overwhelming. Good luck out there. We are all in this together.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  03:26

Today’s listener question is from someone who recently lost their mom. Grief and Loss is the focus of my work. So if you’ve experienced loss and are having a hard time, please write to me. You can email me at Or fill out my online form at Day ask the link is in the show notes. Charlotte and Brooklyn wrote in and said, Hi, Claire. First I want to share how healing your show has been for me. My mother died in May of this year. And the show has helped me understand my feelings while also helping me see this as a part of the experience of being human. My question for you stems from a suspicion that my natural tendency toward realism. Maybe pessimism has and will continue to get in my way in my career and possibly the rest of my life. I’m getting implicit feedback at work that in order to get ahead, I should be more solutions oriented and positive. More than for success at this job though, I would like to become more resilient, lighthearted, humorous, positive, but I’m at a loss on how to cultivate this. Even my mom used to say that I take everything too seriously and that I need to lighten up. I would welcome any thoughts you have about this. Thank you. Hi, Charlotte. This is a super interesting question. I love it. Thank you for writing. First, I’m so sorry about your mom. That’s a hard loss. And I’m sure it really hasn’t been easy. But I’m heartened to hear that the show has been helpful to you in processing the experience. In regards to your question, I have a few thoughts for sure. Honestly, I think cultivating the resilient the humorous the light hearted side Have you is actually the easy part. The hard part is letting go of your tendencies towards realism and pessimism. So let, I want you to start this work in little bits and pieces. I want to say off the bat that making some changes like this is not an overnight process. I mean, it would be awesome if we could just flip a switch on our outlook. But truthfully, it really does require some work and some diligence. It’s a little like changing any ingrained habit or like quitting sugar or something. So you want to go easy on yourself and set simple goals to start. I think that tendencies towards realism and pessimism actually stem from anxiety, and from a desire to predict and control outcomes. Like if we can prepare for worst case scenarios, or even more realistic and baseline experiences, then we feel like we’re preventing ourselves from disappointment and failure. But we’re also robbing ourselves of the opportunity to feel hope and to dream and to open ourselves up to unexpected possibilities. So I think to start, it would be great if you could really give some thought as to why you’ve always leaned this way. How has it benefited you? Where does it stem from? In what ways has it been a useful coping mechanism? In what ways has it hindered, you start keeping like a thought log of your realistic and pessimistic thoughts, they’ll range from little things like assuming the store will be out of what you need to big things like not being able to accomplish a career goal. But write them all down. So you can really start to see how often you’re having these thoughts. Have some compassion for yourself about why you’re having these thoughts that maybe they make you feel safe, or they’re keeping you from experiencing rejection and disappointment. But just really start to notice them and become aware of them. Next, and this is actually the fun part, start to play with these thoughts and these tendencies and little bits and pieces. And start with things that don’t have a lot of consequences. So it’s not too scary to let yourself experiment. So like next time you find yourself assuming that there’s not going to be any parking at an event or something. Stop yourself, make yourself imagine the opposite, that there’s going to be plenty of parking or even like a dream parking space. And then really dig into the feeling that would come with not stressing about parking, or assuming the worst, and bask in that feeling. Even if it’s just for a minute, then start playing with bigger stuff. Each time you find yourself having your old, more negative thoughts. Make yourself imagine and dream of positive outcomes too. It can be scary to do this sometimes, like you’re not preparing yourself for the reality of a situation. But really, we’re never fully prepared and we can’t predict the future. So why not be positive and optimistic. To bolster all of this, check out some books that will help. I like the year of Positive Thinking by Cindy Spiegel. There’s also a positive thinking workbook by Alexa brand. Also, the book learned optimism by Martin Seligman. The book resilient by Rick Hansen is pretty great too. And you might want to start keeping a gratitude journal I’ve had a lot of clients have success with those. No matter what you do, Charlotte, be compassionate with yourself. Recognize that your realism and your pessimism probably come from a place of fear and anxiety. And maybe that way of thinking was once a helpful tool, but you’re recognizing that it no longer serves you now and that’s awesome. We can keep growing and learning and changing all our lives. Good luck, Charlotte.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  08:25

I really hope Charlotte listens to this Friday’s episode with Kara Belvin Kara’s the founder of the nonprofit organization empower her which aims to support girls who have lost their mothers. I had a really emotional and powerful conversation with Kara and I really think Charlotte and everyone else too will get a lot out of it. So if you haven’t already, I’d love it if you would subscribe to new day so that you never miss an episode.


NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show is produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. Our VP of weekly content is Steve Nelson. And our executive producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer, and me, Claire Bidwell Smith. NEW DAY is produced in partnership with the Well Being Trust, The Jed Foundation and Education Development Center. Help others find our show by leaving us a rating and writing a review. Follow us at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms, or find me at Join our Facebook group to connect with me and fellow NEW DAY listeners at You can also get bonus content and behind the scenes material by subscribing to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts.  Thanks for listening. See you next week.

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