The Constant Uncertainty of a Pandemic
How many times have you heard these past months referred to as “these uncertain times?” It seems every commercial, article, and news story uses this term to describe the chaos Covid-19 unleashed on our society and around the world.
There’s a reason everyone is saying it - these times are uncertain. Even though several vaccines have been approved and hopes are high this marks the end of the pandemic, we still don’t know where we are heading. The economy, politics, social life - no one can say for sure what it will all look like by the end of 2021. It affects our daily lives: should we go to work? Send the kids to school? Am I safe at the supermarket? But it also affects long term thinking: where will we be after
We’re going through big changes but it may help to remember humans are not strangers to big change. We’ve seen our share of transitional periods and of course the stress that comes with them. A lot of that stress stems from uncertainty - mostly about whether these changes bode well or ill.
The human mind looks for patterns to make sense of the world and stay safe. Right now many patterns have been disrupted. It can leave us with an uncomfortable, insecure feeling. Some even feel a sense of loss. Usually, we would soften the blow with familiar coping strategies.
However, many psychological comforts like social gatherings and daily routines have been upended by the pandemic. Our usual coping mechanisms may not be readily available, at least not in the same way.
The depression and anxiety may lead to tunnel vision, making us feel like our only options are to suffer in uncertainty-limbo, or even worse. Those suffering from severe depression may feel like suicide is the way out.
But we don’t need to let this uncertainty wreak havoc on our mental health. Sure we crave familiarity but the fact is, we are incredible at conquering adversity.
If we understand that change (and the uncertainty that comes with it!) is a normal part of life, then we can fortify that viewpoint with a few mental health tools.
ACCEPT: Whether we like it or not, this pandemic and the consequences are happening. But does that have to equal hopelessness? Acceptance allows us to live in the present moment instead of projecting a gloomy future or dwelling on the past. By being fully present with a positive attitude, we can take effective measures to move forward.
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN: We can not control how many vaccines are distributed. Nor can we control others’ safety precautions, their political views, the economy, or any of these external factors. What we can control is how we meet these challenges. A purposeful daily structure and healthy lifestyle choices puts it in the positive to be our best selves, even in the midst of the current challenges. What better way to forge ahead than with a healthy mind and body?
BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS: If the anxiety and depression are causing tunnel vision then it’s no surprise things seem bleak. Sure, a lot of bad things are happening right now but can we still see possibilities before us? Perhaps you can try something new like starting an exercise regimen or learning a new skill. This is a time when we can work on ourselves and concentrate on productivity instead of worries and stagnation.
RECOGNIZE BEAUTY: Being fully present is good for our problem solving and our productivity. But it also helps with quality of life: for example, take a walk and notice beautiful things in nature or listen to a favorite song and appreciate the way it makes you feel. When you can see the beauty in everyday objects and events, then you can realize there is still plenty to be grateful for despite recent challenges.
When you can be at your best despite these uncertain times, that is when the real beauty of humanity comes out. Deploying these techniques to help us through hardship allows us to respond productively and with compassion - which then helps ourselves and our communities.
If these tips don’t help and you still feel hopeless, please reach out to a mental health professional. Bregman Medical Group offers online psychiatry and therapy straight to your device, simply schedule online at www.bregmanmd.com or call 305-740-3340.