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I’ve always been a major planner. Spontaneity is not my jam. Want to hang out? I need like at least a few days notice. A trip? I usually need at least a month to prep. Now that’s not to say I’m that way with everything. But generally speaking, I like to know what the future holds. I like to have control. In reality, though, do any of us really have control over the future? To some extent, maybe a little. But in all reality, no. We have to live with some degree of unknown. And I’m not going to lie, I struggle with that.
I wanted to write this post because I know I’m not the only person who struggles with the unknown. Not being able to plan for certain things, not knowing what the future holds; it’s all really scary. This is something I know about myself. I know I don’t handle unknowns very well. So it’s also something I’m working on. My therapist and I discuss it regularly, as much of my anxiety stems from things not going as planned or something incredibly unexpected happening or just having no idea what I’m doing with my life. So writing this post is not only designed to help you work through dealing with the unknown, but helping me work through it, too! So bear with me a bit!
So let’s start with what’s going on in my life right now. Honestly, not a whole heck of a lot. I finished my Master’s a few weeks ago (check out my post on 5 Things I Learned in Grad School here), which is wonderful. But now I’m kind of feeling stagnant. I don’t have a job yet, but not for lack of trying. I’m picking up dog-sitting jobs and doing some blog work to pick up some extra cash (definitely not complaining). But I just don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m living very short term right now and it’s weird for me.
Like I mentioned above, I’ve always been a planner. Like an I-knew-which-college-I-wanted-to-go-to-when-I-was-11 kind of planner (although then I thought I was going to be a veterinarian, which obviously did not happen). I don’t really know how to live without some idea of a plan. And as nice as it is to stay home, apply for all the jobs, travel a little, and blog, it’s very strange to not know what’s happening next week, let alone next month.
What I’m Doing to Combat the Anxiety of the Unknown
If you have anxiety around the unknown, then you know how hard it can be to just live with it. Obviously, in life there are all kinds of unknowns and we just kind of have to accept that. But when it comes to times of transition or similar situations, I think there are some things that we can do in order to combat that sense of uneasiness that comes with not knowing. Here’s what I’m doing right now, and what you can do too, to help myself when it comes to dealing with the anxiety of the unknown:
- Wake up each day with a plan. It doesn’t have to be a set schedule, super strict, or anything too wild, but waking up knowing at least one thing that you’re going to do that day can be super helpful when struggling with not knowing what you’ll be doing later on down the road.
- Do at least one thing to help reach your goals. It doesn’t have to relate to the unknown at all. If you have goals, work towards them. For me lately, it’s been applying to at least a few jobs a day, working on the blog, and trying to move a bit (when I’m feeling okay) every day. Whatever your goals, personal or professional, doing something that moves you towards them can be incredibly therapeutic, not to mention productive!
- Self care. Whatever self care means to you, it’s still crazy important. Even if you aren’t struggling with the unknown or anxiety or anything, self care is vital to your overall health and wellbeing (learn more about my thoughts on self care here). If you only have a few minutes of free time, do something for yourself during that time. Read a book, take a walk, sit and do nothing. Do what you need and what serves you in order to be at your best when the unknown manifests itself!
- Go outside. There’s something about being outside, getting fresh air, and listening to the birds that just puts everything in perspective. This worlds is a big place full of unknowns. And so many of them turn out beautifully. Going outside always makes me feel a little more peaceful and gives me a little more faith in what will be.
- Get help. I’m a big proponent of therapy or counseling for everyone, but especially if there’s something you’re going through. I started seeing a therapist during grad school, when I was at my lowest mental health-wise. And I’m incredibly grateful that I did, because therapy has given me the tools to work through times of anxiety and depression. But more than that, I have someone outside of my regular life with whom I can discuss these struggles and who can help me understand why I’m feeling a certain way. If therapy isn’t your thing, talk to a friend or family member to help you talk through what you’re feeling. Sometimes just airing it out can make it easier to deal with, and they might even provide some insight into your situation!
What I really want us all to get out of this post is that we are not alone. I believe that everyone, at some point in their life, has struggled with not knowing what the future may hold. Whether it’s unemployment, waiting to hear about something exciting, or not knowing how a relationship may end up, the unknown can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be debilitating. We can help ourselves out a bit by taking some kind of action to keep ourselves moving and functioning. And we can get help if we need it.
When I’m really struggling with not knowing what my future holds, I think about the wise words of my therapist, “Does anyone ever really know what is going to happen?” The answer, no! We can plan all day long, but that doesn’t mean things will work out the way we thought they would. But you know what else I’ve learned? Things almost ALWAYS turn out the way they are supposed to. And that’s something I think we can all hold on to when dealing with the unknown.