A certain future

Published July 12, 2020, 11:10 PM

by Dr. Jun Ynares


Dr. Jun Ynares

“How do we cope with the many uncertainties we face today?”

That was the text message I got from a friend from my college days. I had earlier texted him to ask how he and his family are doing. He was honest enough to say that he and his wife were “experiencing major anxiety attacks” due to the current situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are not sure how long our savings would last,” he said, echoing the concern of many who have been forced to dip into their nest-egg funds to cover their budgetary shortfall. Like many, my friend said he hopes that economic activities “would soon return to normal” so he could restart his business and generate a decent income for his family’s upkeep.

“The uncertainty is killing us,” he said.

I can only empathize and sympathize with my friend. Most of us are unused to living under uncertain times. A prolonged state of anxiety is the ordeal we share today.

There are many things we are not certain about today.

We are not certain when a vaccine against COVID-19 would come. We are not even certain if there is ever going to be one.

We are not certain when the economy would return to where it left off before the world went into a lockdown.

We are not certain if we can live our carefree lives again the way we did before we were rudely interrupted by the virus.

So, back to the big question: How do we deal with what looks like a prolonged period of uncertainty?

Neuroscientists have some words of wisdom for us.

These medical researchers say that a part of our brain “overreacts” to situations it deems uncertain. This is called the “limbic system.” This is the “irrational” part of that precious organ. These neuroscientists say that, if we are to overcome the anxiety that comes with uncertainty, we must learn to control the limbic system and to engage the “rational brain.”

One such neuroscientist, Dr. Travis Bradberry, Ph.D., has some advice for us.

Among them:

Stay positive. Positive thoughts, he says, quiet fears. “Give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something to think about,” he adds.

Know what you know – and what you don’t. “It’s easy to feel like everything is uncertain, but that is hardly the case,” he asserts. “Take stock of what you know” about the situation, he advises. Gathering information is a productive exercise during these times. It demolishes the thought in our minds that everything is unsure.

Embrace that which you can’t control. “Don’t be afraid to step up and say, ‘Here’s what we don’t know, but we’re going forward based on what we do know. We may make mistakes, but that’s a lot better than standing still’,” Dr. Bradberry points out.

Focus only on what matters. This is one advice I have found to be really valuable. During times of uncertainty, our mind tends to be preoccupied with needless worry over imagined fears. I have learned to label these thoughts as “useless.” Among our useless thoughts are the many “what ifs” that hound us today.

Following these advice, I have come to a conclusion that the future is certain.

It is certain that it will come – sooner than we think.

The future will certainly be different from the “past” that we left behind when we locked down the country in March.

The future will certainly belong to those who will accept the reality of change and who will be willing to adapt.

It is certain that the future will be full of opportunities. These opportunities await those who are always on the lookout for them.

It is certain that the future will be bright – even better than the present and the past. That is, of course, if we are willing to, and if we believe that, we can create that kind of future.

There are two questions people ask during times of uncertainty.

The first is “What if?” The second is “Why don’t we?”

The first sounds like this: What if a vaccine is never developed; what if a cure is never found?

What if businesses do not reopen soon?

Neuroscientists like Dr. Bradberry tell us to be careful with our “what ifs.”

“‘What if?’ statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry, and there’s no place for them in your thinking once you have good contingency plans in place,” Dr. Bradberry says.

“Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control,” he adds.

The better question is, “Why don’t we?”

For example: Why don’t we create more alternative systems for educating our children? Why don’t we create more efficient methods for purchasing our household requirements? Why don’t we create a faster and cost-effective system of delivering goods to consumers and end-users?

Why don’t we start creating a future much better than the inefficient, environment-destructive past we just left behind?

“What if” aggravates our feeling of uncertainty.

“Why don’t we” sets us off into a journey towards a future that is certain.

Come to think of it, the matter of certainty is largely in our hands.

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