4 Ways to overcome stress and uncertainty

“The only certain thing about the future is uncertainty”

Ever since I lost my parents, I’ve embraced my lack of control over much of the world. When we’re young, we feel an almost limitless sense of certainty, but the truth is the world is random and uncertain. Because of this, I put a great deal of stock in the ability to keep my cool (when all around me are losing theirs). It might sound trite, but that line from ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling has always resonated with me. For those of you that haven’t read the poem, I’d recommend doing so. It’ll only take a few minutes, but if you can absorb and apply its wisdom, you’ll be well on your way to embodying a fair portion of the stoic virtues.

Like much else in life, business, politics and uncertainty go hand-in-hand. Whether you’re struggling to make payroll, paying the latest set of bills, trying to overcome idiot colleagues (or idiot leaders), there are a thousand things that can keep us awake at night if we’re uncomfortable with uncertainty.

Just this weekend, I was sat on my balcony, overlooking Canary Wharf, and was thinking back to this time last year, when I was facing considerable professional stress that had been affecting my sleep and mood for several weeks. With the help of a few good friends and family, and my partner, I got out of the funk, but I wouldn’t have been in any position to accept their help unless I’d had a common-sense approach to addressing the stress and uncertainty I was facing. Below are a few of the things I learned;

  1. It’s important to get enough sleep.

Everyone knows that sleep is essential, but do we really pay attention to the effects of having too little? I never make an important decision without getting a good night’s sleep, and always find that it does wonders for clearing my head of inconsequential noise, emotion and impulse. Despite this, many people I know suffer from sleep deprivation, running around exhausted and trying to convince themselves that their ability to think logically and keep impulse and emotion under control is unaffected. When facing stress and uncertainty, make sure you get enough rest!

2. You need to eat healthily

Just like sleep, the body needs the right nutrients and vitamins to function correctly. Unfortunately, when we’re stressed, we usually ignore that obvious fact and dive for burgers and chocolate to try and sate our anxiety. This actually makes the situation far worse, as the body becomes malnourished and unhealthy, with sugar spikes affecting mood, and a lack of nutrients changing the way our brain functions. It’s essential to eat healthily – lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. It might seem like a small thing, but it’ll make all the difference to your ability to handle stress.

3. It’s OK to get some advice

It’s important to have a friend, partner or colleague that you can trust and rely on. When I face stress or uncertainty, my natural reaction is to go into lockdown, firing out decisions quickly to overcome the challenge and move on. They’re not always the worst decisions, but getting some advice usually helps me to frame my thinking and get an opinion not affected by my own emotional state.

For many men, this seems like an act of weakness. Many of us are taught that we have to be the strong one, the one that leads and can ‘cope’, but no man is an island. Admitting that we’re unsure might be perceived by some as a sign of weakness, but I take it as a sign of self-awareness and strength.

4. Accept that ‘the only certain thing about the future is uncertainty’.

Feeling stressed and uncertain about the right decision is a perfectly normal part of life. There’s absolutely nothing unique about it. I often remind myself that if what I was trying to achieve was easy, then everyone else would be doing it. Accepting that you’re not always going to know the right thing to do is part of growing up, just like accepting that sometimes you just have to make the best decision you can with the facts you have.


We’re all going to face stress and uncertainty at points in our lives. I worry about making mistakes as much as the next person, and I feel like my insides are eating themselves when I make them. I worry about making the wrong decision when I don’t know all the facts and can agonise over the consequences of my actions for hours if I let myself. But despite this, I refuse to let it impact my performance. No matter how uncertain the future, I always force myself to calm down, rest up, get advice and then make a decision. If there was one skill I wish I had innately, it would be the ability to face stress and uncertainty with staunch determination and a clear head. I’ve had to work hard to tackle the overwhelming urge to panic or curl up and avoid the situation, but now I have it, I consider it one of my greatest assets.

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