Due to the pandemic, our lives have never been more different or full of unknowns – whether this is about the safety of friends and family, how our jobs are going to be affected or whether we’ll ever be able to feel completely relaxed and comfortable again.
As we emerge into life as we knew it before, we wanted to chat to someone who’s dealt with high levels of uncertainty and get their insights on how to deal with uncertainty ourselves.
After successfully navigating his way through a life-threatening chronic illness, integrative health coach Faiz Khaki was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to pause, reflect and better understand the impact heightened levels of uncertainty had on his overall health and wellbeing.
Having worked for almost twenty years as a qualified lawyer at a number of global investment banks in the City of London, Faiz left this line of work to found WellmyBeing. He now helps people to empower themselves, make lasting behaviour changes and then go on to successfully manage their overall health and wellbeing.
Here’s what he had to share with us:
It may seem counterintuitive, but separating from our beloved certainty can actually have helpful outcomes for us.
With uncertainty and as further elaborated below, I learnt that:
- What’s important to us becomes clearer
- Our comfort zone is tested for the better
- Listening to our gut can help us feel unstuck
- Our strengths can support our “not knowing” experience
- Having a vision of where we want to get to allows us to clearly see what is possible
For me, uncertainty showed up as a gradual and progressive feeling of being slightly on edge. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the edgy feeling and hadn’t even acknowledged it.
I know that it was rooted deep within me at a subconscious level. My nervous system was in a constant state of “fight-or-flight”. Essentially, I was on auto-pilot and my nervous system was out of whack. I experienced raised distress levels which I can only now label as feeling anxious, stressed and imbalanced.
Feelings of not knowing can manifest in so many ways and affect us all differently: symptoms can vary: irritability, impaired concentration, digestive issues, sleep disturbances, feeling overwhelmed and mood swings, to name a few.
I found that the first step towards achieving “uncertainty happiness” is to recognise, acknowledge and embrace it. How will you identify any symptoms that you may be experiencing?
Speaking to a person-centred therapist helped me to check in, acknowledge and understand my mental, emotional and physical state at the time. I was then able to implement a number of strategies, applied consistently over time, to help calm my nervous system.
These strategies included: yin yoga (a gentle and restorative form of yoga), breathing exercises, body scans, meditation, massage, reiki, acupuncture and connecting with nature.
The great thing about adopting these various strategies is that not only did they help to calm my nervous system but also had other ancillary benefits.
For instance, with the breathing exercises, I started to become more present in the moment (i.e., fully showing up rather than thinking about the past or future) and my digestion started to, albeit slowly, improve.
I learnt that with uncertainty:
- What’s important to us becomes clearer. Prioritising what mattered helped me to see which behaviours no longer served me and motivated me to change those behaviours.
I noticed the connection between what I was eating and the unpleasant feelings I experienced afterwards. Subtle changes to my diet not only further improved my digestion but also had a positive impact in other areas of my health such as exercise and rest.
I invite you to make a short list of what really matters to you or, put another way, what brings you joy and happiness?
- We are challenged to move out of our comfort zone. Moving out of my comfort zone made room for personal growth and I gradually started to see how beautiful trying something unfamiliar could be.
I knew that regaining my health was important and so despite feeling way out of my comfort zone, I gave yoga a try. I have realised so many benefits from a consistent yoga practice: more focused, more connected, physically stronger and the list goes on. Yoga also gave me the confidence to try more unfamiliar things with acceptance, an open curiosity and without judgement.
Is there one thing that consistently shows up for you deep inside that you “would never try in a million years?” If so, what would need to happen for you to make a start?
- Listening to our gut can help us feel unstuck. Listening to my gut helped me to move forward and make decisions that instinctively felt right.
There was quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the type of approaches (conventional or complementary therapies) that would help my recovery. I received so much advice/information from various sources, all of which left me feeling lost, confused and indecisive. It was not until I started to listen to my gut that I was able to move forward with a firm sense of conviction: self-chosen complementary therapies.
What would listening more to your gut open up for you?
- Our strengths can support our “not knowing” experience. Creating an inventory of my strengths helped me to see which ones I could use to better cope with uncertainty.
I was able to use my lawyering skills to successfully negotiate payment of my medical bills, consolidate household finances to a manageable level and transition careers. The successful outcomes in these areas meant that my financial worries were kept at bay and I was prompted to consider other strengths in the inventory list to support me with uncertainty. My focus progressively shifted to addressing things that were in my control.
What strengths do you have that can support you with uncertainty?
- Having a vision of where we want to get to allows us to clearly see what is possible – despite not knowing what the future holds. Developing a picture in my mind of where I wanted to be in the future allowed me to consider what that vision would make possible.
My vision went a little something like this: I feel energised, strong and continue to have a sense of peace and happiness – living by example and spiritual beliefs. My clients feel supported and I give back to the community whilst not compromising on the important things in life.
Once my health coaching practice is firmly established, volunteer my time globally where people cannot afford health coaching. I also maintain self-care in the following areas: mind/body connection, exercise, rest, nutrition, personal/ professional development, physical environment, communication and spirituality.
This picture of a bright future gave me hope, insight as to what was possible and inspired me to develop a road map to successfully achieve my vision.
What is your vision of where you want to be in the future (say, 10 years from now) and what will it make possible for you?
I trust that you now feel a bit more comfortable with letting go of certainty. The overarching positive thing that came out of not knowing is that I gradually learnt to be comfortable with the unknown. We love certainty but it doesn’t always serve us in our times of need.
Faiz practices as an integrative health coach and founded WellmyBeing. He is also the author of “My Best Friend NICO” which delves into his journey overcoming his life-changing chronic illness.
Nothing contained in this blog is, or is intended to be, construed as advice or act as a substitute for obtaining advice from a qualified medical practitioner.