Strategy 1: Dealing with Uncertainty


None of us know what the future holds for us as individuals or for our business. Research has shown that uncertainty makes us less capable of coping with problems when they happen. It also stops us from taking the steps needed to avoid unnecessary problems. Uncertainty also makes it harder for us to make decisions, to make the necessary preparations to handle the impact of the virus on our business or to consider that these problems may not actually happen! This uncertainty is creating a great deal of stress and anxiety as it faces us with a dilemma as to what steps we need to take to protect ourselves and our business – the steps we take could be inadequate if the situation becomes worse, on the other-hand we may find that the steps we take were not needed. Or we don’t feel in control because the exact nature and level of the threat is unknown, which makes adequate preparation impossible!

When it comes to the virus, we may not be able to control the outcome, but we can control our response to it. We can be resilient, bouncing back and even thrive in the face of this challenge by:

  • Letting go – accepting that you cannot control everything, that there will be uncertainty and that things will change. Developing a more open-minded and realistic view of uncertainty.
  • Recognising that there is only so much you can do right now, things will unfold, but in the meantime how you treat yourself and others is in your control, so be kind.
  • Not focusing on what could go wrong, again research shows that you will probably over-estimate the negative consequences anyway. Focus on the best possible scenario for the future, but one that is realistic.
  • Taking steps to feel calmer and clearer as this will help with decision making and boost your chances of future success
  • Taking time to think and reflect on what has helped you deal with uncertainty in the past.
  • Allowing the inevitable stress-response you experience to give you the energy needed to act
  • And If you find yourself avoiding dealing with the future, reminding yourself that although dealing with uncertainty is difficult, there are inevitable consequences of avoiding things

It may be that many of you will be faced with losing your businesses and this is likely to be very painful. It is important to take time to grieve, to acknowledge the pain and loss you feel. You are likely to experience a range of emotions, initially shock and denial, replaced by pain and guilt leading to anger, the moving on to depression and loneliness. And then, all being well, things will get better, you will be able to work through what has happened and this will lead to acceptance and finally to positive feelings about the future.

The future can be viewed as a blank slate with nothing written on it. Whilst at first this may feel daunting, we will all be standing on the threshold of possibility and we should be proud of ourselves that we are able to look forward no matter what the future holds. The future may be uncertain, but it is up to each one of us to decide how we will respond. 

I do hope you have found this helpful. I would love to hear your thoughts and if there is a topic that you would me to write about please email

Article by Maureen O’Callaghan


NOTE: Maureen O’Callaghan is a PhD student in the School of Psychology at Lincoln University studying entrepreneurship. She has set up and run several businesses, including a social enterprise. She is the author of Success Without the Stress which looks at how to handle the pressures and challenges of working for yourself.

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