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5 Tools for Navigating Uncertainty

By Jodi Cohen

A person with long hair standing with their back to the camera, gazing at a scenic view of mountains and a river in a forested area.

There is no doubt we are living in interesting times.

The quote “May you live in interesting times” is attributed to Robert Kennedy’s June 1966 speech in Cape Town where he said, “There is a Chinese curse which says ‘Like it or not we live in interesting times’. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.”

There is no doubt we are living through an interesting time on the planet. A time that is triggering a lot of fear, anxiety and uncertainty as it challenges our sense of safety and our innate sense of control over our environment and our world.

Having navigated my own period of anxiety and uncertainty over the past 19 months, I feel called to share the tools that helped me navigate my new reality after the loss of my son Max. I fully recognize the differences in the situations, but I also recognize the similarities. In one day, life as I had known it changed forever. A child who I loved more than life died, leaving me to struggle with feelings of:

  1. Grief for what I had lost
  2. Fear on how to navigate the unknown
  3. Anxiety and Overwhelm from both the magnitude of the loss and the challenge of the new skills I was trying to learn to survive this new uncharted territory
  4. Loss of Control – My false sense of control always made me feel safe. I needed to shift my definition of control from that over the outside world to that of my own response to the outside world
  5. Boundaries – with limited energy, I had to be intensely careful about who I allowed into my space and my energy

The intention of this post is to share the tools that helped me navigate these challenges. As essential oils were critical tools that I used to support this journey, I will include the ones that have helped me the most.


The Pivot

In order to navigate uncertainty, there needs to be a pivot – a point where we stop mourning what we lost – a loved one, a relationship, a job, a financial situation, a state of health – and start making the best of our new situation.

My friend Debi Silbner uses the analogy of a house destroyed by natural disaster to describe this pivot. She notes that you would be perfectly justified to mourn the loss of your beautiful home, but a certain point you are going to need a place to live, which means you need to rebuild your house within the confines of the new normal. This is the pivot – Accepting that your old house no longer exists and that you will not get that exact same house back AND that the potential exists to rebuild an even better new house. Once you are able to stop mourning the loss of what was, you can focus your energy on rebuilding. In the rebuilding process, it is possible to rebuild better, stronger, happier structures than the ones that were destroyed.

For example, I experienced a small pivot this week. My yoga studio and gym are the two places I could always rely upon to help myself calm down and reset. As both are currently closed, I choose to engage in my own personal pity party, child-like temper tantrum for a good week. But this week something shifted, I let go of the disappointment that my expectations were not going to be met and decided to make the best of my current situation. The minute I shifted gears in my mind to open myself up to the new possibilities, I literally ran into a friend’s husband who shared (from an appropriate social distance of six feet) that his wife was practicing yoga in front of her red light therapy device to emulate the effects of hot yoga. I own a similar device and started reaching out for suggested streaming yoga options to set up my own home practice which, while not my perfect situation, is certainly something that I can make work. The upside is the time efficiency of doing yoga from my own home on my own timeline.

The minute we allow ourselves to pivot, our experience starts to improve. We start to open up to new possibilities and invite them into our experience. I think the ability to pivot is critical to the ability to navigate this current period of uncertainty, so I want to take a moment to share what might stand in the way of your ability to pivot and grow.


The Victim Mentality

Whenever we choose to focus external blame on others or choose to see ourselves as a powerless victim, we are allowing ourselves to step into the victim mindset. While I do recognize situations where we have very little control over the actions of others, including this current situation and cases of one party abusing another, we always have control over our own response to the situation.
As Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl notes “When we are no longer able to change a situation- we are challenged to change ourselves.” Changing ourselves means releasing any blame or judgement we might feel toward others and stepping into personal responsibility.


Stepping into Personal Responsibility

I first read the phrase personal responsibility in Linda Ronstadt’s biography. It literally jumped off the page at me as it encompassed a term I had been trying to encapsulate – the idea of taking responsibility for your actions and choices, without assuming responsibility for other people’s choices or feelings. As an empath, I have always felt very responsible for others in a way that was not always healthy or beneficial for myself.

The word “Responsibility” breaks down to “response” and “ability” or “the ability to choose your response” to external circumstances. When you are able to accept responsibility for your circumstances, you are better able to change your circumstances. I believe this is because when you are able to release thought patterns that make you feel disempowered like blame and judgement, you allow yourself the mental and emotional space to change your circumstances. As Stephen Covey notes, “Until you are able to say, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday’, you cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise. ”


Setting Boundaries

In addition to assuming responsibility over our own choices, we need to release of anything we are carrying for other people that is not our responsibility. Ayn Rand asks in Atlas Shrugs, “What would you do if you were carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders?” “Shrug”. So many of us carry the weight of other people’s emotions for them. When we allow others to blame, shame, guilt or otherwise manipulate us, we allow them to project their emotions upon us. They refuse to take responsibility for their actions, so they project that responsibility onto us. We do not need to carry this for them. Just like Atlas, we can choose to shrug. To stop assuming responsibility for the emotions that others are unwilling or unable to carry for themselves.

This can be incredibly challenging, especially in long standing relationships where the other party benefits from the current dynamic and pulls out every weapon in their arsenal to try to undermine your attempt to instill healthy boundaries.

This was one of the most difficult lessons I had to learn in the aftermath of Max’s death. I had a close friend who had so much anxiety that she constantly catastrophized and controlled in a way that send my own anxiety sky rocketing. I tried to put boundaries in place, asking her to text me instead of phoning, which she continually ignored. The more clear I tried to be with polite boundaries, the more she defiantly ignored my requests. At one point she crashed a lunch date with a mutual friend, literally showing up at a restaurant uninvited, announcing she was hungry and sitting down to join us. She then proceeded to dominate the lunch conversation preventing me the opportunity to connect with the friend I had intended to see.

It seemed the harder I tried to communicate my needs, the more she disrespected my requests. When people are benefitting from your poor boundaries, it is in their personal interest to maintain the status quo and they might employ below the belt strategies – like shaming, blaming, gas lighting or gossiping to others to try to keep you entrained in that unhealthy dynamic. This can feel awful, especially if you are an empath. But at some point, you have to learn that you cannot keep setting yourself on fire to keep others warm. You have to prioritize your own time and emotional energy and allow yourself to take a break. In this break you might begin to see the dynamic of the relationship more clearly. If the other party is able to accept personal responsibility, you may even be able to build a foundation for a more mutually beneficial relationship. But if they choose to stay stuck in victim, requiring you to be cast as bad cop, it might be a relationship you need to release.

I experienced both – relationships that grew deeper and closer through clear boundaries and honest communication and a few that faded away.

Essential Oils for Navigating Uncertainty

The following essential oils helped me pivot, shift out of victim (and release the emotions that were keeping me stuck in victim mentality) so I could move into personal responsibility and set clear boundaries.


1. Release Grief

We are navigating a huge period of grief – over the loss of our freedom, our sense of personal safety our job security or investment portfolio. It is hard to let go of our attachment to the world as it was and allow ourselves to process our grief.

These feelings of grief and loss are stored in our bodies, ironically in our lungs which are being actively triggered during this viral outbreak. According to Chinese medicine, feelings of grief and loss can obstruct ability of the lungs to accept and relinquish, impeding their function of “taking in” and “letting go” of oxygen and feelings. Grief that remains unresolved can become chronic and create disharmony in the lungs, weakening the lung’s function of circulating oxygen around the body.

Lung Support™ can help us release these feelings of loss and support our ability to transport oxygen from the atmosphere into the capillaries so they can oxygenate blood – and eliminate carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the atmosphere. Apply 2- 3 drops over the lungs, allowing yourself to deeply exhale any grief as you apply the blend.

Read More about Essential Oils for Grief HERE.


2. Release Fear

We are all navigating extreme amounts of fear and uncertainty right now. Fear about our personal health and safety and that of our loved once, especially any friends or family most likely to be effected.

We may also be fearful of how this health quarantine may impact our finances or employment prospects.

Fear triggers our primal survival “fight or flight response” which can be calmed by the balancing “rest and digest” parasympathetic response. Fortunately, the body has a relaxation response which is the counterbalance to the fight or flight stress response, shutting off sympathetic nervous system and switching it over to the nervous system is relaxed state known as the parasympathetic nervous system.

To help trigger your body’s natural parasympathetic response and counterbalance your fear and safety concerns, apply Parasympathetic® blend on the vagal nerve (behind ear lobe on mastoid bone).

On an emotional level, your kidneys, two bean-shaped organs that filter blood and regulate the balance of fluids in the body, are considered the seat of courage and willpower. They control the volume, composition and pressure of fluids in all the cells. Blood flows through the kidneys at its highest pressure, filtering out toxins and directing nourishing materials to where they are needed. Water is symbolic of the unconscious, our emotion and of that which we do not understand and that which we fear.

Feelings of fear and paranoia can be held in the kidneys impairing function. Kidney Support™ blend helps promotes feelings of safety and dispels fear. Apply 2- 3 drops of Kidney Support™ over the kidneys (one inch up and out from belly button), back of neck, or around the outside of earlobes.

Read More about Essential Oils for Fear HERE.


3. Calm Anxiety and Overwhelm

Anxiety and overwhelm result from the repetitive experience of FEAR. When the world feels unsafe and unpredictable, your survival mechanisms kick into high alert, monitoring for potential or imminent danger. This requires a lot of energy and everything else needs to shut down so you can devote all of your available energy to detecting danger. This may explain why little things can feel overwhelming when you are feeling anxious. You simply don’t have the available energy to focus, plan, or execute on anything that is not critical to your immediate survival.

When you are able to calm the key chemical processes in your body that are triggered by anxiety – including your fight-or-flight response and your cortisol response – you are able to calm your response and lessen the feelings of overwhelm.

Parasympathetic® for “Fight or Flight” Response: Anxiety triggered by your “fight or flight” sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. It activates all your muscles to flee danger, increases your heart and respiratory rate, increases your blood pressure, and activates you into mobilization. This is why anxiety promotes twitches, shaking legs, twirling of hair, and pacing. It says move, act, fight, flee. While these effects can helpful in the case of a true threat, they can be debilitating if the fear is all in your head. The more you activate your parasympathetic system, the less anxiety you may feel. A drop of the Parasympathetic® oil placed on the vagal nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) can help promotes a feeling of safety that helps to shift you out of anxiety.

Adrenal® for Cortisol Response: Anxiety triggers your adrenal glands to release stress hormones, like cortisol, to provide emergency energy and help keep you safe from harm. Anxiety also increases your need for energy in the form of blood sugar or glucose. This emergency fuel is released from your adrenal glands in response to a signal from your brain in the form of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. Every moment of anxiety means your adrenals are activating the increase of glucose in the blood so your muscles and your brain have more fuel.

In that way, the adrenals are providing you with the fuel needed to negotiate a stress. But this repetitively firing of your adrenals impedes your brains ability to calm the adrenals. The anxiety response, triggered by a thought or an event, signals the adrenals to turn on. The adrenals continue pumping out their hormones long after the trigger has been resolved.

Balancing the adrenal glands with Adrenal® can help calm these hormones and with them the anxiety symptoms. Smelling Adrenal® though the left nostril or applying to the adrenal glands (on the lower mid-back, one fist above the 12th rib on each side) can help calm anxiety and overwhelm.

Read More about Essential Oils for Anxiety HERE.


4. Surrender Control

“Anything you can’t control in life is teaching you how to let go”

My false sense of control always made me feel safe but it also kept me stuck. I needed to shift my definition of control from that over the outside world to that of my own response to the outside world.

Our large intestine lets go of those things that don’t serve us. Physically, it lets go of waste after our upper digestive system has taken all the necessary nutrients out of the food we eat. Emotionally, it allows us to let go of patterns of negative thinking, destructive emotions, and spiritual blockages that prevent us from being our best. To help release control and move through transitions, apply 2- 3 drops of Large Intestine Support™ blend over the large intestine, around the ears or on the bottom of the feet.

I have personally observed that the need to control situations and others is often tied to underlying anger. We believe that is we can control a situation and its outcome we can avoid intense negative emotions like anger. We often project this anger onto others, in our attempts to control them, but it often boomerangs back and throws you out of balance. In Chinese medicine, our anger is stored in your liver. Liver Support™ helps support the release of anger, including frequent irritation, impatience, resentment or frustration, being critical of yourself or others, control issues, an inability to express your feelings, feelings of not feeling heard, not feeling loved, not being recognized or appreciated. Just place the bottle under your nose and breathe deeply, fully inhaling the oil for 3 – 7 breaths. It helps you breathe into and work through the emotion. You can also apply it over the liver or around the ankles as this is often an area where we hold resistance to moving forward in life. Start at the back of the ankle and apply under the ankle bone around to the front and back under the other ankle bone, all while allowing yourself to release challenging emotions.

Read More about Essential Oils for Surrendering Control HERE.


5. Boundaries

As I mentioned above, securing my boundaries and who I allowed into my space and my energy helped me focus my limited energy on navigating a challenging situation.

On the physical level, the small intestine plays a critical role in your digestion process, absorbing and assimilating key nutrients while preventing harmful pathogens and toxins from entering the body.

On an emotional level, the small intestine plays a similarly discerning role with emotions, helping to understand experiences and determine healthy and appropriate relationships and boundaries. It is also an area where we can hold deep childhood scars of rejection, abandonment or abuse; negative thoughts fueled by feelings of lack of self-worth, low self‐esteem, loneliness, neglect and anxieties about survival and success.

Small Intestine Support™ blend supports the healthy functioning of the small intestine as it sorts and transforms food, feelings and ideas into useful ingredients for the body/mind. It also helps correct imbalances where you are overly in tune with other’s criticism, feelings or opinions at the expense of your own.

Read More about Essential Oils for Boundaries HERE.



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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.