Supporting you to manage uncertainty

As shielding for the clinically extremely vulnerable is coming to an end, this may mean moving from the safety of shielding to a 'normal lifestyle'. This may be both a welcome return to normality and yet also the cause of concern and anxiety.

Here Joanna and Anne discuss some ideas and approaches that you might find helpful if you are feeling concerned or anxious.

Other pages you may find helpful 

Reducing your risk when coronavirus restrictions are relaxed

Returning to the workplace after shielding

It’s natural to be feeling anxious or apprehensive, and perhaps to have thoughts of worry around the changes to the Government guidelines. Activities that you may normally have felt positive about may feel different to you now. And these thoughts can sometimes go round and round in our heads, and it can be hard to find a way of dealing with these thoughts and feelings.

There are a number of approaches that you might find helpful. Below are just some suggestions that you might like to try. The key is to find an approach that works for you. You might want to try a few things to see what helps you to manage the challenges of facing uncertainties.

Personal values, and having a risk-ruler

When you have concerns or are worried about something, it is helpful to try and understand what it is that is causing you worry, specifically.

Thinking about your own personal values and writing them down – the  top two things that are most important to you - will help you understand the cause of the worry. For example, if your most important value is your health, then feeling anxious about an invitation to a social gathering may be because you are worried about being around lots of other people from a health perspective, even though seeing friends is also important to you.

Reflecting on your top two values, and evaluating the impact on these, can also be a way of thinking through what you would like to do to feel more comfortable. For example, it may be that meeting a smaller group of people somewhere outside would feel safer for you and impacts less on your top value of health. 

Another way of looking at this is doing a 'risk assessment' or having a measure for the level of risk - a risk-ruler. Looking at what the situation is and what you think is causing a risk. You can then think about the level of that risk, the likelihood of it happening and what you want to put in place to reduce that risk.

Journaling can help to reduce stress

Journaling can be a helpful tool for managing worry, thoughts, feelings, and expressing them in a constructive way. There are different types of journaling. Once example is 'bullet journaling', where you write down a bullet list of what you want to think about, how you are feeling, or what you want to reflect on. It can be a bit like talking through with a friend what is on your mind. Over time, you can use your journaling to reflect back on how you were previously feeling compared to how you feel now.

Questions you might like to think about:

  • How am I feeling now?
  • How do I want to feel?
  • How have I dealt with similar situations in the past? What worked and what didn't?
  • What is most important to me right now?

Breaking down your goals through action planning

Action planning can be a useful way of approaching 'goals' that may seem too big or overwhelming. By creating an action plan (sometimes called a goal map) you take the thing that feels overwhelming and start to break it down into smaller, achievable goals. For example, you may need to go into town for an important appointment, but you are worried about leaving the house. You could break it down into smaller goals such as feeling comfortable with going for a short walk around where you live. Once this feels comfortable you could take a short drive or bus ride. Once you have achieved one action you can move on to the next. Only you will know what are the achievable actions for you.

Creating an agreement and acceptance list

Agreement and acceptance lists are a way of writing down what you feel is within your control, and what you do not have control over. For example, you can choose and have control when to go outside, and it is a requirement to have the protection of facemasks (no control). Write down a list of what is a choice, in your control and what is outside of your control; what you may therefore need to accept. For example, you cannot control the Governments travel restrictions or how other people are behaving.

Celebrate your successes

The approaches above can help to show you have far you have come in achieving your goals. For example, you can look back on the journaling and see if your worries have eased or if you've developed your own strategies, or look back on all the actions you have achieved, however small.

Whether you use any of the ideas above, or you have other ways of your own, it can be really helpful to make sure you celebrate successes. 

You may have achieved part of your action plan, or you may have started a difficult conversation; recognising this as a success is a positive way to acknowledge this, and to encourage you to keep going!

The thing about worry is that it impacts on our joy. But by getting it down on paper, or talking to a friend, you can see the progress you are making to help yourself and manage those worries.
Jo, talking about unpacking your worries

Useful resource

You may find the following helpful. Feel free to download, print and make it your own.

Download my values, agreement and acceptance form