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Jase Te Patu: How To Cope With Uncertainty

Sophie Waldron
24 Aug 2021
The following article was written by Jase Te Patu.
Jase is a popular TED talk speaker and an award winning wellbeing advocate with over 30 years’ experience in the health and wellness sector.

The ever-changing circumstances of COVID-19 are certainly testing us at the moment. So it's completely normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, unsettled, or even fearful. What would it be like, though, to drop into a place of acceptance? Acceptance that this is how things might be for a while and that maybe our world as we know it is about to get worse before it gets better? Negative thinking, I know, but also a possibility. The truth is, we have zero control over what happens outside of us but complete control over how we respond to it all!

So for transparency's sake, let's name some of our worries. Who is curious about job security, business stability, or the economy, for that matter? Who's worried about the health and wellbeing of our whānau, whom we can't be with, face-to-face, outside of our bubble? What about not knowing how long we may be in lockdown? Or how long will this pandemic hold the world hostage? The struggle is genuine for some of us. There may, however, be some simple things that you and I can do to stave off uncertainty. Hope is here, right now.

I'm Jase Te Patu, co-owner of Awhi Yoga and Founder of M3 Mindfulness. Anxiety (bought on by uncertainty) and I have been frenemies throughout my life. Through the practice of Mindfulness, however, I've learned how to be with uncertainty like it's an old friend. The thing too about old friends is that they leave after they come to visit.

Eckhart Tolle, author of 'Power of Now,' says, "If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity. When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life."

Our suffering comes from not knowing. When we have certainty, we feel grounded, clear, decisive, and holistically well in body, mind, and spirit. So why does this all shift when our outside circumstances suddenly change? Panic buying is a huge mass reaction to uncertainty. We better stock up on toilet paper and pasta because we don't know how long this lockdown will last. The truth is though, is that there is always enough.

So what's the solution to this mass hysteria?

Let's flip the narrative first and focus on what is certain. Right NOW is all we have available to us, yet so many of us spend our energy focusing on the future. The future is the very thing causing our overwhelm, anxiety, unsettledness, and fear. The first step towards dealing with uncertainty is to 'be present' with it all - the good, the bad, and the neutral. Learning to accept our current situation, as Eckhart mentioned, brings in hope, aliveness, alertness, and possibility. Uncertainty breeds the opposite.

A simple way to practice being present is to take one moment at a time. If NOW is all that matters, then why not eat up every moment of this delicious life rather than missing out by projecting too far into the uncertain future.

TEN PRACTICES TO OVERCOME UNCERTAINTY

  1. Focus more on the things we can control - When we focus on what is certain right now. i.e., I have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and loved ones I can reach out to; it allows us to acknowledge what is essential right NOW.
  2. Be present - This is something I practice when my mind is feeling busy. Name five things I can see, four things I can touch, three things I can hear, two things I can smell, and one thing I can taste. Then ask - am I ok right now?
  3. Gratitude - Acknowledging what we have in our lives rather than what is missing is a simple way to bring us into the present moment.
  4. Change our perspective - When we compare our present situation to the rest of the world. i.e., the situation in Afghanistan, the fires in Turkey, the uprise in Africa, or the case numbers in NSW allows us to see just how lucky we are.
  5. Minimise screen time - It's easy to get stuck scrolling. Our news feeds are full of so much negative and even fake news. Putting a time limit on how much we are staring at our screens gives the mind a rest.
  6. Do some light exercise - We all know that exercise improves heart health, lowers blood pressure, and increases our immune system. Doing it in nature means we get the bonus of breathing in the fresh air.
  7. Climb a mountain - There is a Māori whakataukī that says “Hoki ki tō maunga kia purea e koe ngā hau o Tāwhirimātea.” Return to your mountain to be purified by the winds of Tāwhirimātea. A good blast of the wind in our faces and on our skin can wash uncertainty away!
  8. Get a good night's sleep – Sleep is a significant contributor to decreasing stress. A good night's sleep can lower our cortisol levels or the stress hormone in our body, which causes our escalation in panic or anxiety to anger.
  9. Take time to be still - Use this time to rest, connect with whānau, sit in nature (with masks on), read books, play board games, or cook.
  10. Five deeps breaths - Deep breaths help to calm the nervous system and bring us into the moment. It shifts us from fight or flight mode to rest and digest. When we are calm, we can be with our emotions without needing to escape them. Learning to be with our feelings builds emotional intelligence, and over time increases resilience.

There's no doubt that we all experience uncertainty in many different ways. The easiest way to find healing in uncertain times is to focus on the present moment.

I want to share a 90-second Mindfulness breathing exercise. It's simple, and you can do it anywhere. Please join me.

Mindfulness practice for uncertainty - Find a seated posture that allows your back to be straight but your belly soft. It's not compulsory to close your eyes, so maybe you look down, eyes half-open. Acknowledge what you are sitting with right now - e.g., anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, all of the emotions that uncertainty brings in. Rather than push it away, acknowledge the emotions like they are a friend, paying a visit. Invite them in for a cup of tea, but instead, your breath is what you will be sipping on. A focused mind becomes a calm mind with practice. Start to focus on your breath. No need to change the rhythm; just let it come and go, like the waves of the ocean. Now refine the focus. Become aware of the sensations of the breath; the belly rising and falling, the chest inflating and deflating, or the air coming in and out of the nose or mouth. Choose one - the belly, the chest, or the air. Once you have a steady rhythm, follow 5 more breaths (in and out is one), uninterrupted, non-distracted. When you have finished, sit quietly for one moment longer, acknowledging if there has been a shift.

This simple Mindfulness practice is a beautiful way to bring us all into the present moment. Something I'm still not fantastic at, but something that allows me to be here, entirely in the NOW. And here and now is the only thing of which we can be completely certain! Here's to finding more and more moments of certainty!

Here and NOW is the only way to really be with uncertainty. Kia haumaru te noho ki tō kāinga,ā, ka ora tonu. – Be safe and well at home!

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