Living with Uncertainty

In this week's episode, Serena and Tina have a long overdue conversation about Living with Uncertainty. No matter what your life situation, we have all experienced uncertainty during the last two years of a global pandemic. Join them this week for this thoughtful conversation.

Notes and Mentions

Seven Ways to Cope with Uncertainty from Greater Good Science Center Advice for Dealing with Uncertainty from People Who?ve Been There Life Kit from NPR

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Serena: Hey Everyone, I?m Serena.

Tina: And I?m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.


Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you?re here.

Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.

Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.

Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You?ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website,

Serena: I am wondering if we can start today?s episode with a check in?

Tina: Of course! We often do this right Serena?

Serena: We do. So how are you feeling today Tina?

Tina: I am tired from staying up too late and I am grateful to be back with you here today! What about you Serena? How are you feeling today?

Serena: I?m going to be totally honest and say that I?m feeling a lot of uncertainty lately. I?m sort of feeling untethered, unsure and I guess just kind of ungrounded in general. I am wondering if we can talk about that today?

Tina: Yes, absolutely. Hard place to be for sure. I certainly know what you mean by this. We?re just hitting two years of pandemic, right? And so many things that we took for granted two years ago now are not always something we can count on. Right?

Serena: Right. I feel like I?m standing on unstable ground and just when I feel as if I?ve found a solid spot to stand, everything shifts again. Rules change on what feels like a daily/hourly basis, I don?t even know how to make decisions about safety any more and then I feel guilty for saying that because there are so many people out there facing real threat above and beyond the pandemic. I guess what I am saying is that I?m just feeling a bit stuck.

Tina: Like being in the waiting place.

Serena: Mmhm. Totally like the waiting place. For anyone who is not familiar with this, it comes from a passage in the Dr. Suess book, Oh, the Places You?ll Go! I think of this part a lot when I?m feeling stuck. So I think we should read it.

Tina: Let?s do it! You know that I love to read! ?The Waiting Place?for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go Or a bus to come, or a plane to go Or the mail to come, or the rain to go Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow Or waiting around for a Yes or a No Or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.?

Serena: ?Waiting for the fish to bite Or waiting for wind to fly a kite Or waiting around for Friday night Or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake Or a pot to boil, or a Better Break Or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants Or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.?

Tina: ?NO! That?s not for you! Somehow you?ll escape All that waiting and staying.?

Serena: Ok so let?s talk about how we can escape the waiting and staying. I totally want to get unstuck!

Tina: Totally. And I can imagine there are people listening who are feeling similarly just right now.

Serena: hmmmm So there?s a lot of evidence out there that we humans do not like to be hanging out in these uncertain places. It doesn?t feel good. There was research done around job insecurity and it turns out that the fear of being unemployed can actually be worse than actually losing your job. According to Vander Elst, a postdoctoral researcher in organizational and personnel psychology at the University of Leuven in Belgium, she says, ?When people know they will lose their job, they deal with it and their well-being increases. The really difficult situation is when people are in an insecure position, because they feel powerless.?

Tina: That makes a lot of sense because if you lose your job then you can mourn that job, move forward and decide what to do next rather than just being in that waiting place.

Serena: Yeah. And feelings of job insecurity have kind of been the norm during COVID.

Tina: Yes, good point. In another study, research participants who were told that they had a 50% chance of receiving a painful electrical shock felt far more anxious and agitated than participants who believed they were definitely going to receive the shock.

Serena: That?s fascinating and it also makes sense. It?s kind of like when you take your kids to get a shot. It seems like that anticipation is way worse than the actual thing.

Tina: Definitely. So how do we get unstuck? What do we do?

Serena: As I was doing some research for this episode and frankly for my own personal sanity, I have to say that there is no one answer to this question. That is probably not a surprise. But what was kind of surprising was that I found some conflicting advice between different sources so what we would like to do today is share some of the ideas that resonate with us, that we find personally useful. An overriding theme to all of the advice out there is to first acknowledge the situation and how you?re feeling about it.

Tina: Right. So like checking in with yourself! So we can think about how we?re feeling as well as acknowledge that it just doesn?t feel good to be stuck. It makes me think of Kristin Neff?s suggestion for self-compassion to say to yourself, ?this is a moment of suffering?.

Serena: Right. So maybe say, ?This is a moment of uncertainty? which is likely also a moment of suffering (or perhaps more than a moment). I think it?s when we try to deny that we?re feeling stuck or unsure that we sink deeper into the quicksand.

Tina: Not quicksand! I don?t like quicksand!

Serena: Me either really! So many articles out there talk about how to ?manage? uncertainty. I think manage is probably the wrong verb to use. I really don?t think there?s any way to actually manage it since we have no control over it right?

Tina: Right. The more we fight quicksand, the deeper we sink.

Serena: Right! Or maybe you could think of it like the Devil?s Snare in Harry Potter that just got tighter and tighter the more they fought back and only by relaxing were they able to get free.

Tina: So we have to relax into uncertainty rather than fighting it. Right?

Serena: Easier said than done, right? And of course relaxing into or simply acknowledging the uncertainty doesn?t mean we like it.

Tina: Right. So let?s look at some of the suggestions from Greater Good Science Center in an article called, ?Seven Ways to Cope with Uncertainty?

Serena: One of the suggestions I like from this list is to ?Invest in Yourself.? It talks about the idea that no matter what?s going on for us and what?s going on in the world around us, that we are still personally our best resource. If we underinvest in our bodies, minds and spirits, we lose access to our best tools for living our lives.

Tina: That sounds a whole lot like self-care! right?

Serena: It totally sounds like self-care. So something that I?ve been thinking about lately that kind of goes along with this is the idea of intentional fun.

Tina: Yeah, say more. Say more about that.

Serena: Sure. When we?re deep down in it, stuck in the quicksand or tangled in the Devil?s Snare, (I will stop with the quicksand) we forget how to have fun. We get so preoccupied with the lack of certainty, we forget to do things that we like to do. So I would say, this takes some intentionality and often it means I am literally saying to my family, let?s do something fun today.

Tina: I like that. Here?s another one from Greater Good: Don?t believe everything you think.

Serena: That sounds like a good one for you Tina!

Tina: Especially about yourself and about others right? So if we go back to our episode with Valerie Gordon, about the internal narrator, I always go to that place Serena, right? Like worst possible case scenario! Ditchy! Sit down, take a seat. I don?t want to hear it.

Serena: Yeah, so an interesting suggestion that I want to mention which is also from Greater Good is to find meaning in the chaos. I struggle with this a little bit and I bring it up because I also listened to an episode from Life Kit on NPR called Advice for Living with Uncertainty From People Who?ve Been There. Their suggestion was to not try to make too much meaning out of things and to not try to make sense of things too soon in the process. So what do you think Tina?

Tina: So honestly, it makes me think of the place we were before my dad was diagnosed with cancer. We were in, and my mom still talks about this, the part from the testing to the finding out was really a lot harder than the finding out. Right, because once you know then you can move on, just like those jobs right. You can move on and do the next thing. And you feel like you have a little bit of power. The waiting is such a powerless place to be. And I think just leaning into that moment, it is not easy to do that. I will go back to what my therapist said this summer: Hold the vision, trust process, and wait. Because the truth is that we don?t have control in those situations. So being in that moment, healthy practice. And we are going to keep practicing right?

Serena: Yeah. Here?s another one from NPR that I like. Sometimes you just have to do less or shut it down completely.

Tina: Permission to do less and rest! Another good one I?m not very good at, right?

Serena: Well, I think it?s all a work in progress. Uncertainty is exhausting and sometimes you just need to do nothing.

Tina: One more I?d like to add from NPR is to reach out to your support network and be honest with people about how you?re doing. Not everybody. You don?t have to tell everybody your whole story. Tell people who have earned the right to hear the feels. Right? People who you trust to help you hold that stuff.

Serena: Yeah. That one is so important. I think so many of us are feeling similarly right now, but the problem is if we?re not honest with one another, we can feel like everyone else is totally fine except for us. That?s not a good feeling. That is totally isolating.

Tina: Definitely not. Not a good feeling. OK, so let?s recap the suggestions we?ve talked about today.

Serena: OK, so acknowledging when things feel uncertain and how hard that feels.

Tina: And relaxing into uncertainty, not trying to ?manage? it or at the very least not fighting it.

Serena: Invest in yourself, do things that feel good to you and try to have some fun!

Tina: Don?t believe everything you think!

Serena: Don?t look too hard for meaning in uncertainty?it may come in the future or it might not.

Tina: You have permission to rest and be kind to yourself and make sure you reach out to those people, those trusted people and tell them how you really feel.

Serena: Or feel free to reach out to us! And tell us how you?re feeling. It can be freeing for all of us.

Tina: Absolutely! So podcast friends, we are, as always, grateful for all of you listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leaving us a review, subscribing and please share with others. You will find lots more content on our website You will also find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and you can connect with us there as well.

Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.

Tina: Thanks for listening!

Serena: Bye!