Don’t Try to Fix Anything Right Now

In times of crisis, the best thing you can do for yourself is learn to live with uncertainty

Kathleen Smith
Published in
4 min readMar 23, 2020


Mother using her phone looking anxious with her children present.
Photo: Momo Productions/DigitalVision/Getty Images

IIt’s been a little fascinating and a little concerning to see just how many of us have turned into anxiety-fueled experts as pandemic anxiety has taken hold over the past week. My social media feed is now full of new epidemiologists, homeschool specialists, and armchair psychologists, all offering solutions for how to survive social isolation or educate a bored child.

Right now, we’re all getting creative with our plans for how to make it through the day. But as much as we may pretend to have things under control, none of our fretful grasping for solutions can answer the big questions: What’s going to happen? When will life go back to normal? Will it ever?

I often tell my therapy clients that as a general rule, humans are terrible at dealing with uncertainty. Even those of us who don’t identify as Type-A, always-in-control planners still draw comfort from knowing what’s ahead — and, often, spiral when we realize we don’t.

But the ability to sit with uncertainty isn’t just a valuable asset. In these unpredictable times, it’s a necessity. It’s what keeps us from trying (and failing) to control everyone else’s behavior. Or trying (and failing) to motivate the people around you, or calm them down, or get them to take your unsolicited advice.

Here are two steps you can take to cultivate a skill that’s never been more vital.

Recognize your anxious fixing

In times of distress, your anxiety wants you to solve problems as quickly as possible. When the world is burning, it’s normal to run to the closest fire and stomp the hell out of it.

But then there’s another fire to put out, and another one next to it, and another. Anxious fixing is attempting to take on the impossible task of extinguishing them all. The trouble with this approach is it doesn’t get you to where you want to be: someplace stable.

Of course I’m not saying you shouldn’t fight toward small victories. Right now, cooped up at home, those can feel like the only way to get through the day. Sign the kids up for a virtual art class if it…



Kathleen Smith
Writer for

Kathleen Smith is a therapist and author of the book Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down.