We are living in uncertain times. No one knows exactly how or when this coronavirus pandemic will end — or what it will mean for our lives and the lives of our loved ones in the future.
There’s so much to worry about: health, finances, even our social fabric.
Here are seven tips we can learn about uncertainty, from people who’ve been there.
Check in with yourself. Allow yourself to get in touch with how you’re feeling. Reflect both on what’s hard and on what’s still good. Maybe that’s in a journal or through a prayer or a conversation with a friend.
As a teenager, Robyn Walery faced an uncertain future as wildfires ravaged her neighborhood in San Diego County. She eventually learned the devastating news that her family’s home was destroyed. It would be a few years before they rebuilt and life began to return to something resembling normal.
Walery says it doesn’t matter how you reflect, just that you find time to pause and take stock in the midst of a crisis.
2. Don’t “should” on yourself.
There’s no right way to get through a difficult time. Some people get super productive. Others, not so much. Walery says to let go of the pressure of other people’s expectations.
3. Know when to shut it down.
After you stop obsessing about what you should do, find some things you want to do — things that take your mind off your worries during uncertain times.
That might mean zoning out with a movie, ordering takeout, letting the kids eat cereal for dinner — whatever you need to do. Accept that some days, especially when you’re under a lot of stress, you have only so much bandwidth.
4. Find your “best gift” for the day.
Once you’ve set aside external expectations and taken time to recharge, that might free up energy to do good, meaningful, even productive things. For Bowler, it was writing books in the waiting room during her chemotherapy treatments.
Writing history books in the middle of a crisis might feel like a bit much for most of us, but we all have our thing — our “best gift,” as Bowler calls it. Maybe for you it’s baking a pie or organizing a closet or conquering a video game. Whatever it is, find the “best gift” you can give yourself and the world that day.
5. Move past shame.
Uncertain times mean navigating changes in your life that you can’t control. They may mean doing things differently, even reaching out for help — that’s part of being resilient, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
For White, that meant getting a roommate at one point, reaching out to her mother for help and taking gigs that didn’t feel like a great fit but helped pay the bills.
“And as a friend of mine said to me at one point, ‘Get off your throne.’ You have to get off your throne,” she said.
6. Find your “resilience circle.”
White said it was also important to connect with people who could lift her up and point her in the right direction. She called these friends her “resilience circle.” Some of them were other people in her age group facing similar financial struggles during the Great Recession.
White said it’s important to remember we are not alone.
If you don’t talk to others, “you’ll think you’re in a ditch by yourself. You’re not understanding that there are millions of Americans who have landed here,” White said. “And this is the thing that I think is so significant about this moment in time with the pandemic. It has pulled back the cover. We see all the fault lines that were already there.”
7. Don’t try to make sense of things too soon.
Both Bowler and White said it can be tempting to rush through an uncertain situation and try to make it seem certain — to fill in blanks, leap ahead to what might be next. But they both say: Just don’t.
Sometimes there isn’t a reason. Things are just hard.
“Don’t fast-forward,” says White, “and run the tape of doom and get sucked into that hole. Don’t try to make sense of things too soon.”