The stress of Not Knowing

Upside down and hanging onPeople are starting to really feel the effects of extended upheaval and stress … and not knowing.

It’s hard. All of it is hard. Not knowing what’s going to happen, not knowing who will get sick, not knowing who’s already sick and about to infect you.

Not knowing if you’ll have a job (if you currently have one), or find a job (if you don’t). Not knowing how long all of this is going to go on. Not knowing if you’ll ever feel comfortable going out to dinner, attending a party, or even just going to get your hair cut.

Really, really freaking hard.

We’ve all had to deal with not knowing in our lives. The challenge right now is that there’s so much more not knowing going on, and life as we did know it feels turned completely upside down.

Actually, it doesn’t just feel that way; for many of us, it is completely upside down, and for all of us, it’s somewhat upside down.

How do we deal with it? How do we help our teams, family members, and friends deal with it?

I wish I had some magical answers. I do have a few suggestions.

“Future You” does know

I’ve said this before, and it bears repeating.

There’s a Future You who knows what happened.

Take some time to just sit and breathe that in.

And ask yourself … what did Future You do to get through this time?


Our brains and bodies did not evolve to live with extended high-alert stress – but here we are, nonetheless.

It takes a toll. It’s exhausting.

One way to burn off some of that excess adrenaline and cortisol is to MOVE.

Run. Dance. Bicycle. Do jumping jacks. Do something.

Yoga is great, but for this, you need big, energy-burning movement.


Video calls are great. I can’t imagine how we’d be getting through all this if it weren’t for video calls.

But three-dimensional people are better.

We’ve been having “six-feet-apart, BYOEverything” parties on the weekends. Two other couples, they bring their chairs, beverage, and nibbles of choice, and we hang out in the driveway. My husband draws chalk marks, complete with smiley faces, on the concrete, six feet apart, and there we take our places.

At the end of the evening, everyone is surprised at how fast the time went – and how much fun it was.

You may not live where this is possible, but if you do, do it.

Accept lower productivity

The constant sense of danger that comes from so much disruption takes an energetic toll.

Add to that the pressure to keep up with everything, do all your work from home, manage your team remotely, figure out how to keep the kids occupied (and learning at least something relevant to their schoolwork), stay on top of everything the house, garden, and pets need, and oh, yes, get groceries …

There’s a lot going on.

So don’t fall for the social media prompts that say, “Oh, well, since you have so much time on your hands, why not learn something new, write the next great American novel, create that immaculate garden you’ve always wanted,” and so on and so forth.

You probably have less time on your hands than BP (Before Pandemic). And even if you do have more, you also have more stress that’s burning up available brainpower. So don’t push yourself to do All The Things.

Accept lower productivity. Accept that some of your employees are going to be a tad scatterbrained. It’s okay – and even if it’s not, it’s still reality, and compassion for yourself and everyone around you will make all of this at least a little easier.

There is another side. We don’t know – YET – what that looks like. And someday we will.