How to deal with uncertainty.
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It's time to get used to uncertainty

It’s been well over a month since the Brexit decision, and for many of us these last few weeks have gone by in a bit of a blur, preoccupied by the post-referendum political and emotional fall-out.

And before I go on, I apologise in advance to those of you who either were pretty happy with the referendum result or who don’t live in the UK and couldn’t care less about the emotional state of us people in Britain. But while this issue has been written against the backdrop of the political changes in this country, its message is transferrable to any situation of change and uncertainty. And there are plenty of those around.  So please do read on.

Back to Brexit. Like many, I’ve had numerous Brexit conversations since the vote. I’ve talked to Remainers, Brexiteers and the occasional Bregretter. And no matter how hard I tried to stay clear of the Brexit topic, it seemed impossible to avoid, as many people are still struggling to come to terms with the decision.

I couldn’t help but mentally pull out the Kubler-Ross change curve, realising that everyone is working their way through the stages of change at a different speed. While most seem to have left ‘denial’ behind (“Surely this hasn’t really happened?”), many seem to be firmly stuck in ‘anger’ (“How could they?”) and ‘bargaining’ (“Let’s have another referendum!”). As a German immigrant who has called Britain home for over 13 years, I can relate to all of these thoughts and feelings.

And it’s been hugely distracting - both from a personal but also from a professional perspective.  

So while the sense of unease, stress and fear of the future is real for so many, we cannot let it rule our lives - particularly because we are likely to be in this state for far, far longer.

What can we do?

Accept the situation. The sooner we can move on to a more constructive point of view the better. It’s time to look ahead, or in other words, accept.

Find the silver lining. What opportunities might come with the change? In the case of Brexit, if you work in the professional services industry, you might be in high demand over the coming years. If you are running an exporting business, at least sterling is cheap. If you have never been particularly interested in politics, maybe now is the time to get involved in some shape or form. The opportunities might not be easy to see, but keep looking.

Plan for different scenarios. Dealing with uncertainty is difficult because we sense a lack of control. Focus on what you can control. Identify what might realistically happen and plan for those scenarios.

Catastrophise! Ask yourself: what’s the absolute worst that can happen? You’ll lose your job? You’ll have to leave the country and move somewhere else? While such scenarios are frightening for most of us, the real question is whether we would be able to cope. And while it would not be easy, the answer for the vast majority of us is “yes”, we could cope. And who knows what opportunities could arise from a forced life reset like this? Spend a bit of time catastrophising – but then remind yourself that these extreme scenarios are pretty unlikely.  

Be prepared for the long haul. The sense of uncertainty will not go away any time soon. And while we may slowly be getting used to the thought of Brexit, I’m convinced there will be future events and news which will set us off and catapult us right back to the beginning. Don’t be surprised when it happens.

Last but not least: The fact that so many people are feeling the need to talk about Brexit shows how much talking helps. So don’t stop talking about how you are feeling. You’ll find that you are in pretty good company.
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