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Short and Sweet Summary: When you’re suddenly solo and learning how to handle everything on your own, you see potential dangers around every corner. It’s difficult to manage the fear, worry and uncertainty that comes with not knowing what’s going to happen next. Use these super simple strategies to conquer your anxiety of the unknown when uncertainty gets a hold of you and won’t let go.
If I had to guess, I bet you suffer from some form of anxiety since your spouse died.
More specifically, anxiety over the “unknown.” Those menacing thoughts that occupy your brain and poke you with all kinds of “what now?” questions.
I mean, you had it all figured out when your spouse was alive right? Everything was balanced and peaceful. And now? Now that you’re alone?
Anxiety freaking overload. Man, anxiety can be an obnoxious beast.
I get it. Because I suffered from severe anxiety in the first few years after my husband died. I had so much to take care of and so many things to learn and little kids to support. And, and, and….the list goes on.
When you’re suddenly solo and learning how to handle everything on your own, you see potential dangers everywhere. So, how do you overcome the fear of the unknown?
With some of the following tricks I’ve learned along my widowhood journey. I’m going to share with you a few simple ways to conquer your anxiety over the unknown because I’ve done it. And if I can do it, you can too.
Now you might be asking yourself, can I get rid of anxiety altogether? Well, probably not in the way you think. Your fear of the unknown may never go away completely (you’re human after all). But you can minimize the crummy after effects by giving your anxiety a job to do. As long as it’s there, mulling around in your brain, let’s give it a purpose.
How do you do that? By exploring the options listed below.
REMIND YOURSELF THAT THOUGHTS AREN’T FACTS
Here’s where things get a little mind-bendy, but bear with me.
You think thoughts in your brain and those thoughts produce feelings, right? If your thoughts are stressful, (everything is bad! nothing is easy! danger lurks everywhere!) you will have stressful feelings. When your go-to thoughts include worst-case scenario thinking, you’re doomed to distress.
Now, there are obvious places where worst-case scenario thinking helps you prevent accidents or an outright catastrophe. I’m not talking about those thoughts.
I’m talking about the daily thought patterns in your head that signal danger around every corner. The kind that keep you up at night because you’re convinced those thoughts are real and potentially damaging or life-threatening.
But they’re not. Those thoughts aren’t real. Here’s where the mind-bendy part comes in. You wanna know a super simple stress-reduction strategy?
DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK.
Ok, let’s break this down. Thoughts aren’t facts. They’re just thoughts, right? They’re just your interpretation of a scenario. A fact is something that one or more people can confirm. A fact is something that is known or proved to be true. Can you prove your thoughts are true or factual?
Nope. You can’t.
Sooooo…what you’re thinking in your brain isn’t a fact even thought you want to believe it is.
One way to conquer your anxiety of the unknown is to remind yourself that your thoughts aren’t true outside of your own brain. And you can change them at any time. The next time you start to spiral out of control because scary thoughts are dominating your mind, stop and consider how you’re interpreting your own thoughts. Because they’re just thoughts, and not true or factual, consider how you can reframe your thoughts to serve you better.
Here are some examples:
When you stop believing that everything you think is absolute truth, you realize that you’re not tied to those thoughts forever. Instead of dwelling on the negative or most horrible outcomes, try to infuse your brain with some more self-supporting thoughts instead.
ADD YET TO THE END OF YOUR SENTENCE
Another super useful trick I’ve learned to conquer my anxiety of the unknown is to use the word “yet.”
When I’m feeling out of control or overwhelmed with worry because I’m not sure how to handle something, I add the word “yet” to the end of my sentences. I may not know how to do something right now, but I know I’ll eventually figure it out.
You can do the same thing when you start feeling inferior or unable to make a decision. When you decide you’re a competent, capable person who will figure it out sooner or later, add the word “yet” to the end of your sentences too.
Adding the word “yet” takes the uncomfortable uncertainty out of the equation for us control freaks and reminds us we’re capable of figuring it out.
And we don’t need to set up any self-imposed unrealistic timeliness in which to do it.
IDENTIFY PAST WINS
When you’re caught on the struggle bus and you can’t seem to find a way to jump off, it’s important to remember when things were going well.
You haven’t always been despondent and afraid. I bet you can remember times when you made confident decisions and didn’t second-guess yourself.
Write those babies down.
Grab a pen and paper, or the notes app on your phone, and identify the wins in your life. Where did things go right? When were you the most confident? How did you accomplish seemingly insurmountable goals?
Your don’t have to compartmentalize your past wins to before you became a widow or after. Those wins can happen at any time in your life. The important thing is to remember when it happened, what you did and how you felt.
And then create those feelings for yourself again.
Widowhood doesn’t strip you of your abilities. Your still the same person. Your thoughts about widowhood can affect how you see your potential (see above), however. In identifying your past wins, you pull those feel good thoughts out of the recesses of your brain and bring them front and center.
The more you remember your wins, the more your brain will show you evidence of how to do it again. And again. Your thoughts begin to focus on what you did right and how to do it again instead of focusing on what’s going wrong.
You remind yourself you are capable, intelligent and talented. And that, my friend, is a great way to conquer your anxiety of the unknown.
ASK YOUR FUTURE SELF
Ready for another mind-bendy trick? This is a good one. I use this one all the time!
When you question your reality and wonder how you’re going to make it through the muck and mire and come out on the other side, ask your future self what to do.
Yes, you read that right. Ask the future you who’s already accomplished your goal how to do it.
You see, your future self is already where you want to be. She’s already handled the tasks, overcome the hurdles and learned the lessons. And she has plenty of information to share with you.
If you ask. And listen. And receive.
So, to give you an example of how I’ve used this in my life, let’s take a look at the guidebook I created called The Ultimate Survival Guide for Widows.
I struggled with this y’all. I was up to my eyeballs in to-do’s that I wanted to complete for this guidebook and the overwhelm started shaking my confidence. Big time. I didn’t think I could finish it. And I convinced myself it was a stupid idea. That no one would buy it and I wasted three years of my life putting it together. I was ready to chuck it out the window and be done.
I was this close to quitting.
But, I’m too stubborn to give up completely so I needed a new strategy. Enter my future self. A life coach friend of mine suggested it and let me tell you, this is gold! I was skeptical at first, because that’s just how I roll, but I was open to the idea.
When I asked my future self how she completed this book, it took the burden off of me. I no longer tied up my brain convincing myself I couldn’t complete this task. Instead, I listened to my future self very excitedly and clearly communicate what to do. And I took notes.
Sound hokey? Well, maybe. But, it’s a tactic that works because it’s like you’re talking to a friend. You now, someone who wants to help you if you’d just get out of your own way.
If you’re wrestling with reality and fear of the unknown is getting the better of you, take a deep breath. Sit down with you future self and ask her how to get where you want to be.
The answers might surprise you.
LEARN HOW TO DO NEW THINGS
We’ve decided you’re competent and capable, right? So learning new things is totally doable.
Some things you’re forced to learn how to do, like buy the right furnace filter or change a lightbulb. And some things you’re eager to learn how to do, like paint or write a book.
Either way, learning something new helps conquer your anxiety of the unknown because once start learning new things, the unknown becomes less scary. Part of the reason we fear the unknown is we don’t know what to expect. But, when we learn how to do new things for ourselves we set expectations for success no matter what.
A Widow 411 newsletter subscriber who totally gets this concept sent me an email message to share this insightful quote:
“The antidote to anxiety is action”
Bingo! I love this!
When you’re in action and learning how to do new things, anxiety loses its power. Because you’re confident in your ability, you know you’ll figure out whatever needs to be done.
WIDOW WRAP UP
When you’re suddenly solo and learning how to handle everything on your own after your spouse dies, you see potential dangers everywhere. Your brain goes into anxiety overdrive because it’s difficult to manage the fear that comes with not knowing what’s going to happen next.
But you have options. You can take charge.
When uncertainty gets a hold of you and won’t let go, use these super simple strategies to conquer your anxiety of the unknown and start to breath again.