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Tolerating Uncertainty

Tolerating Uncertainty

Teen: Dear Dr. Expert,

I am a worrier! I have always worried a lot - my mom used to call me "little miss what-if"! Now I'm 16 years old and I feel like this constant worrying is taking over my life. I worry about everything! Am I going to get into university? Do my friends like me? I hear about earthquakes on the news and I can't stop thinking about when the big one is going to hit here and if we're prepared! I worry about my parents dying. I even worry about the little things - like did I say something stupid in class! I always feel so on edge because my mind is constantly racing about all these thoughts and it's hard to sleep. Why do I worry so much and is there something I can do about it?

Worried in Whalley
Dr. Expert: Dear Worried in Whalley,

Intolerance of uncertainty is the most likely explanation for your constant worrying. That's just a fancy way of saying you that you don't like it when you don't know how things are going to turn out. The truth is that we can never know for certain how things are going to turn out. So we need to learn to be okay with some uncertainty in our lives.

I recommend that you practice tolerating uncertainty by trying new things even when you don't know how they are going to turn out. For example, try ordering something different in a restaurant, try a new food, sit in a different place at the movies, download some new music that you know nothing about, try a new sport or activity, or even wear a new lipstick shade! You might love that new food - or you might gag - you just don't know! The goal is not necessarily to like it or have things work out perfectly. Rather, the goal is to learn to tolerate the unknown by facing it. Doing anything that is a little outside your comfort zone shakes things up a bit and will help build your tolerance for not knowing how things will turn out.

If you find that worry is really interfering with your life, you may have generalized anxiety disorder. Learn more about generalized anxiety.

For more help and ideas, check out the MindShift app.