How to focus on the present during times of uncertainty


How can we focus on the present? (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

The unknown can be anxiety-inducing.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious when looking at the daily news cycle – especially after spending two years in a pandemic, which threw our lives off track and onto a path of uncertainty.

And now with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the rising cost of living, life feels even more overwhelming.

Fear of the unknown and future can be terrifying and it can stop us from focusing on the here and now.

But, as cliche as it sounds, the present is the only time we can control. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. 

To help us feel a little more reassured, an expert has shared a few things that might help ground us a bit more right now.

Learning to cope with uncertainty

‘It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious at these times; however it is important for our mental health to be able to manage this,’ says Suzanne Guest, a registered occupational psychologist. 

While avoiding all information and news isn’t a good idea – and could potentially be more anxiety provoking – Suzanne explains that over-consuming information is detrimental to mental health as well. 

‘In my opinion it is about getting a balance,’ she says. 

Suzanne recommends limiting the number of sites you consume your news from.

She adds: ‘Pick the news sites or newspapers you want to consume and stick with those, and make sure to turn off the alerts on any news apps on your phone so that you are consuming information on your terms – rather than being bombarded all the time.’

Control what is controllable

Knowing the difference between what we can control and what we can’t will help us to let go of the unknown.

‘For example, we can’t control the price of fuel but we can look at being with the best provider and make sure to source energy-saving tips to reduce our fuel consumption,’ Suzanne says.

‘Similarly with Covid, we can’t manage the entire pandemic ourselves but we can seek good sources of information and make informed decisions about our own behaviour.’

If you are concerned about your mental health, Suzanne says it is vital to seek support from your GP or another medical professional.

She also suggests talking therapies and medication which can be effective in managing mental health problems.

If possible, Suzanne also stresses the importance of looking after our physical health.

‘This will be so important for our mental health,’ she says.

‘Try to find a form of exercise that you enjoy and incorporate some healthier foods into your diet. Daylight is important for helping us sleep and also getting vitamin D.’

How to focus on the present

The advice is similar if you are anxious about the future, according to Suzanne. 

‘Paradoxically, the more we try not to think about something the more we think about it,’ she explains.

‘So avoiding all thoughts on the future will be challenging.’

Instead, Suzanne has the following suggestions on how to stay present:

  • ‘Try to have some time away from technology, if you don’t want to completely turn your phone off, have a look at the settings and block certain alerts.
  • ‘Mindfulness does not really help in these situations. So allow yourself an allocated set amount of time to think about the issues that are worrying you. That way you know you can give those thoughts their own attention and the rest of the time you can be focusing on the present.
  • Find activities that you enjoy. You don’t have to meditate if it’s not for you. You could be spending time with family or walking the dog and enjoying the scenery.
  • Remember, you don’t have to do things perfectly, don’t worry if you become distracted by thoughts or alerts or other people.  It takes time to learn new skills and being in the moment is a skill.’ 

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