When faced with uncertainty you may experience symptoms that affect everyday life. Read on for more information about how to cope with these feelings of uncertainty.

When faced with uncertainty—for example, the threat and uncertainty of war or terrorism—you may experience some of the following symptoms…

  • Recurring thoughts about what is going on; lack of focus; distractibility
  • Increased tension, irritability; conflict with others
  • Feeling overwhelmed; changes in your mood, often without warning
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Withdrawing, desire to be alone and away from family and friends
  • Difficulties with studying, working, concentration
  • Physical symptoms such as nausea, headache (stress-related), increased heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Intense or unpredictable feelings (for example, anger, sadness, fear, concern)
  • A sense of shock and disbelief
  • Strong need to seek information (watching television, talking with others, checking Internet news sources, listening to the radio)
  • A desire to check in with loved ones (family, friends)

If you find yourself affected by this uncertainty, here are some things you can do to cope…

  • Get accurate information about what is going on. Do not rely on rumors or speculation (rumors tend to raise our anxiety levels and are often blown out of proportion)
  • Maintain your social contact and connections. Talk about the events, but monitor how things are being said (i.e., are people sharing feelings, opinions, accurate information, or speculation, etc.). If you are not a talker, consider writing about your feelings and reactions.
  • Identify the feelings you are having (for example, anger, sadness, fear), and share them with others; chances are, other people you know are having similar feelings.
  • Try to maintain a regular, healthy routine with respect to diet, exercise, and sleep. While the events around you may be anything but routine, you will be better prepared to cope if you are healthy, rested, and alert.
  • Limit your use of alcohol and other substances—they impair your judgment and can exacerbate your feelings of sadness, anger, and hurt.
  • Go easy on yourself. People have very different reactions to this kind of situation depending on their life experiences, previous coping, support networks, general levels of stress, and many other factors. Allow yourself to feel what you feel without judging yourself.
  • Ask for support from people who care about you—chances are that it will make you and them feel better.

If you feel that your coping is overwhelmed, how do you know when it is time to seek professional help?

Many people will find ways to make sense out of the uncertainty and will cope effectively without professional help. It is not unusual, however, to find that the uncertainty persists, and that the symptoms affect day-to-day functioning or interfere with daily living. For example, some people may experience overwhelming nervousness that keeps them from going to class or concentration difficulties that make it difficult to pay attention in class. If you experience reactions or symptoms that affect your day-to-day functioning, you might want to consider consulting with a mental health professional.

While there are a number of resources available at IUP to help you cope (for example, resident assistants, residence directors, faculty and/or advisors, religious or faith-based organizations), the primary resource for helping students cope with stress and/or trauma is the Counseling Center, located in Suites on Maple East, G31.

If you would like to make an appointment to consult with a mental health professional, call (724) 357-2621. Crisis services may also be available on a walk-in basis.