By Jenny Reesor, CFT Graduate Intern
One of very few constants of this year of COVID has been its unpredictability. The odd mix of stagnation and change we have been through would throw anyone for a loop. While we wait for vaccines to become more available, for schools to reopen, for stability to emerge, how can we deal with the mental and emotional consequences of being in a near-constant state of not knowing what to expect?
Change the Focus
It is natural to worry about the unknown. At the same time, constant worry can eat away at our wellbeing. While it is important to acknowledge the emotions that come up during this time, it is possible to shift our perspective and change the way we approach our thoughts. The future is uncertain – so how are things today? If you don’t know where you will be in a year, what plans can you put into place for the next day or week? What routines can you count on? Cultivating the ability to take small steps rather than listening to a desire to leap far ahead can be a helpful way to manage when the path isn’t clear.
Another beneficial way to change focus is to incorporate a gratitude practice. Taking a few moments to appreciate the good things in life, even the smallest ones, actually releases hormones in the brain that increase feelings of wellbeing. Noticing the beauty of a raindrop on a leaf or the enjoyment that your cup of hot coffee brings will not take away problems, of course, but it will help you feel better in a very real way. The more often you bring your mind around to gratitude, the more natural it will become, bringing some joy to the ordinary, uncertain present.
Remember Past Success
It may help to think about other times in your life when you have faced uncertainty and consider what helped you get through. Was it your sense of adventure, of curiosity? Did your faith guide you, was it your trust in the scientific method and human ingenuity? Could you connect with others, did you dig in and find resources within? Thinking about the strengths you already possess and noticing how you have applied them in the past may give you ideas for the present and bolster trust that you can do it again.
Accept Where You Are Now
We have faced losses, grief, changes we never wanted. Some of us feel fear, some feel hope, many of us may not even know how we feel. Yet here we are. Acceptance of the present does not mean giving up on hope for a different future: it is a way of taking stock of where we are in this moment. Right now, maybe the sadness feels exhausting – or perhaps you’ve had that cup of coffee and you’re feeling energized. Any emotion you feel is a valid part of your experience in the moment. Cultivating mindfulness, an awareness of our place in the present moment, can help calm overwhelming emotions and increase understanding of what is happening within.
Talk About It
Reading this list of coping strategies can spark ideas, but if you find that you want to explore more, you may find it useful to discuss these topics with a therapist. Call Eugene Therapy at 541-868-2004 to make an appointment to speak with one of our trained clinicians.