Balance #2: How to cope when uncertainty feels like the only certainty

After our 1st Balance talk last month looked at why we need to balance our minds if we want to balance our books, our 2nd talk explored uncertainty…How to make better friends with it, how getting to know ourselves a little bit better can help with that, and how we can move forward from chaos, anxiety and overwhelm to ‘safer’ uncertainty. We also talked about building resilience and how that links to resourcefulness.

Joining me to kick the conversation off was Andy Gibson, founder of Mindapples, who works with businesses of all shapes and sizes – from solo-preneurs to bigger beasts – to help them look after the minds of their teams. And Andy and I were joined live by a zoom room full of curious and generous people from across the creative sector – directors, photographers, designers, producers, artists, event manager and label owners among them. As I’ve come to expect from my years of working in this brilliant sector we all love so much, the chat was lively, generous and insightful. We are all very wise, if only we would remember it!


Here’s some we made earlier!

Don’t just take my word for it though. Check out the video we made of the session that we’ve handily embedded right here! We guarantee it’s the best hour’s worth of chatter about making friends with uncertainty that you’ll watch this month!


We’re also sharing Sarah Singleton’s graphic illustration of our conversation. Those of you who joined us live will know all about this; for those of you watching afterwards, this is a drawing of what was talked about, done live as Sarah called in from her studio in Essex. (Sarah is also a brilliant portrait painter, so check her out here.)

Like what (and who) you see and hear? Check out our next drop in and sign up for Balance #3

If you like what you’ve seen on the video, and what comes next in this blog, please do think about coming along to our follow up Balance drop in session on Weds 5 August (9.30-10.30am). Head HERE for more info.

There’s no agenda, and whoever comes are the right people. Think of it as an opportunity to check in with people going through similar stuff to you, and a chance to share how you’re feeling with people you know also want to put protecting their mental health at the top of their to do list.

And if you fancy yet more still, please do sign up to our hub newsletter to find out about our 3rd Balance talk: Sorting the Shoulds from the Coulds: Staying motivated and making the right choices, happening on 19 August. More on that in the next week or so…


Top tips for dealing with stress and uncertainty – thanks everyone!

One of the beliefs that underpins a lot of the work that we do at the hub is that we’d all be a lot smarter if we shared what we know. So we like to encourage people to do that. That means that we encourage as much sharing of ideas, insights, experiences, books we love, that kind of thing whenever we run events.

The lovely folk who came along to this Balance talk were every bit as generous as we thought they’d be, and came up with this brilliant list of what works for them in terms of tackling anxiety and keeping worry a bit more at bay. Below is what we came up with between us, but before that I wanted to include a picture of tree bathing, which is one of the things on the list!

Photo by Retha Ferguson from Pexels
  • I kicked it off with this 5-4-3-2-1 exercise, and also mentioned dancing very fast and (one that I learnt from someone else… holding an ice cube in your hand very mindfully until it’s totally melted (best tried with a towel handy!). Here are tips and ideas that other people shared…
  • The 5-5-5 strategy: Will this matter in 5 minutes? Will it matter in 5 hours? 5 week/months?
  • Walking, running (Couch to 5k really helped during Lockdown. Bit of exercise, fresh air and also the structure – I didn’t have to make any decisions just run!)
  • Tree bathing (this kicked off a LOT of questions, so here’s a link explaining it and another link to getting started)
  • Sea swimming (especially when it’s cold) and open water swimming
  • Drawing with dots, colouring, doodling in repetitive patterns
  • Yoga and pilates (these came up A LOT!)
  • Playing board games – completely absorbs my mind, no space for other thoughts
  • Keeping busy – not having too much time to ruminate! I give myself a little physical task to complete to distract my brain from the spiral
  • Gardening, tending the allotment and sharing the produce with my neighbours
  • Creative writing with no expectations of writing anything good
  • Reading and audio books
  • Mindfulness, meditation
  • Writing a journal or gratitude journal
  • Put stickers/post-it notes around the house to remind you to be present/aware
  • Taking online courses
  • Planning an alternative direction
  • Binge watching world cinema and dramas; podcasts
  • Visual food
  • Discovery of new languages (I now know a few words of Chinese 🙂
  • Taking thoughts/worries to ‘court’ – what are the arguments pro and against? Usually there’s a lot more against and so it helps me think more rationally and reduce the weight of the worry
  • Accepting a thought is just a thought and nothing besides. Like a cloud I let it drift by and ignore it the best I can
  • Cross stitching
  • Limiting social media/news
  • Playing with the kids
  • Trying to show up for it even when don’t feel like it.
  • Visualising an empty wide open beach with big skies
  • Trying to visualise the stress trigger as a thing in itself, look at it as though it’s happening on a TV screen, and then imagine turning down the volume and then turning off the TV

Good reads – books, resources, articles that have made a difference to some of us

And while we’re sharing, here’s a quick round up of the good reads that were mentioned…

  • First up, Andy Gibson’s two books – A Mind for Business and The Mind Manual. As I’ve said before, they are both brilliant reads; really accessible, human AND funny too.
  • I also gave a shout out to Busy, by Tony Crabbe. I bought if for 2 quid in a charity shop, and it genuinely changed the way I think about time. (He’s a great speaker too!)
  • Jonathan Field’s Uncertainty is pretty good, and I’ve also found Helen Kennerley’s Anxiety really informative. And picking up on the comments about journaling, Meera Lee Patel’s Made Out of Stars journal is a thing of beauty, if anyone is on the lookout for a new book to journal in.
  • Meanwhile, this Arts Professional article includes a link to some resources you might want to think about if you are working to make your business more resilient.
  • If you’re looking for some fiction to take your mind off of things, Tracey Gibbs recommended The Salt Path, which I can confirm is just brilliant.
  • And last but not least, Julie Osman recommended this brilliant short read from Open Democracy, all about finding joy in the small things and how that can help with building resilience.


Where to go if you need a bit more help

One last thing, it’s a tricky time all round, so I’m very grateful to the brilliant and lovely Andy Uzzell, who’ll be co-hosting our Balance drop ins with me, for putting together this list of people you can get in touch with if you need a bit more help with your mental health.

  • Click here for MIND helplines and contact info.
  • Another MIND page with links through to crisis helplines and listening services.
  • Samaritans: There’s always someone around who will listen. Call 116 123 – open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • Mental Health Foundation’s brilliant range of videos and podcasts covering all aspects of well-being and mental health is here.
  • This list of NHS approved Mental Health apps is also great.
  • Also do check out Rethink, a mental health charity that provides lots of advice and information.

Final thank yous!

Finally big thanks to some people without whom we wouldn’t be able to Balance! Firstly, our programme partners, Creative Industries Federation, and secondly, our funders: the EU-funded South East Creatives programme in partnership with Colchester Borough Council, whose generosity has allowed us to take Balance online.