Who knew when I decided to create a spring series focusing on stress management that there would be a pandemic and all of our stress levels would shoot through the roof? Not me.
2020 is giving us a run for our money, and now it’s more important than ever to learn how to manage our stress so it doesn’t permanently move into our lives.
What I’ve been hearing about most from people over the past two weeks is the stress of managing uncertainty.
There is an understanding that most things in our lives are uncertain, but moving through our general fast-paced days pre-pandemic, we could forget that fact. But now uncertainty is screaming at us. And with this much uncertainty, stress is never very far behind.
When will this be over?
When can I go back to work?
What if I get sick or someone I know gets sick?
Will this happen again?
When can I see my friends?
These are all good questions, and not having the answers right now gives stress a good chance of taking over our lives. So how do you manage stress when feeling bogged down by uncertainty?
Here’s one tried and true strategy I live by (I’ve been using it for the past two weeks) and want to share with you:
Break tasks into slivers, not chunks.

Breaking any task that causes stress into smaller pieces causes a big picture idea—which can feel overwhelming—to get slivered out into several small and more manageable bits, creating steps toward the bigger goal. This strategy allows us to see a way through to the end. That’s why it’s one of my favorites. Seeing slivers gives a starting point. Chunks can create panic.
For example, looking at our current situation as a chunk can get overwhelming very quickly. Then the questions I listed above have room to grow in our minds. We don’t know the answers, and that alone can cause stress. So I suggest slivering this situation out to make the unknown less daunting.
An example of a sliver would be “I got through yesterday and today is going OK so far.” That is honestly as far as any of us can go with being certain about anything, and saying a statement like that to ourselves can help us get into the present, to focus on what we are doing in the moment instead of looking into the uncertain future.
Another way to sliver what we’re all going through would be to create something you look forward to each day or adding something concrete and certain to your schedule. This could be a work-related task, a call with friends, or household chores that you haven’t had time for until recently.

Creating some structure or focusing on something that will make you feel good or you know you have to do (you might dislike laundry, but clean sheets can feel nice!) helps break down the unknown into some certainty: “I know what’s coming today; I’m going to do laundry.”
Staying mindful and focused on slivers reduces stress and helps us take it one step at a time, one day at a time. That’s why I always say: Slivers, not chunks.
I encourage you to practice breaking your day into slivers. See if that helps improve your focus and decrease any stress you are feeling through this uncertainty.
If you are interested in learning more about managing your stress, I also encourage you to check out my online store, where I offer tons of skills to manage all types of stress.


  • Angela Ficken

    Boston-based psychotherapist and entrepreneur

    I am a therapist who will challenge you to work on becoming the happier, healthier self you envision. I am an active listener in sessions and believe that providing feedback is the best way to challenge behavior patterns and to ultimately help you connect with your own strengths, wisdom, and inner resources. I ask questions and will engage you in a thoughtful way while providing you with a non-judgmental, supportive environment. I use several therapy strategies to guide patients toward accomplishing goals: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Supportive Psychotherapy Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) – Exposure therapy is specifically used for people diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Each individual comes with different experiences and needs, therefore we might use one or all of these strategies based on what you want to work on. I believe in progress, not perfection and that with every problem there is an opportunity for growth.