I had planned to write this month about taking care of oneself as the kids are returning to school—finding the time amidst the notebook and pencil shopping and new clothes purchases and last minute meetings and play dates to breathe and focus, too, on you…but if one thing is certain these days, it’s that nothing is certain.
Most people don’t know when or if there will be a return to school, or to work, or if they will have a job, or be able to care for others, or even themselves. To say times are uncertain is an understatement. And humans have a tough time coping with uncertainty, especially when there is no end in sight.
While we cannot eliminate coronavirus anxiety and uncertainty, we can learn to manage the stress, and our reaction to it.
Focus on the Certain
You’ve all heard about ‘focusing on the Now’ and ‘staying present’ during stressful times. Another way to look at this is to confirm the Certain—your beliefs and even the things around you that are Certain. This could be as small and specific as saying, “I am certain I am holding a cup of coffee in my hands while I watch the sun’s rays come through my window.” Or, “I am certain that is the sound of my cat retching on the carpet.” These certainties can also dive deeper into your personal beliefs. “I am certain I love my spouse and will do everything I can to keep him safe.” “I am certain I have survived all the bad days in my life and will continue to push through.” What is certain in your life?
Learn from the Ostrich
I’m not saying to completely block out the world, but limiting your media exposure is not a bad thing. There is a lot of information out there—true and false, and if you regularly inundate yourself with all of the news you can find, from every source, plus your cousin’s friend’s girlfriend’s take on the matter, your body will remain in fight or flight mode, always alert and processing, never settling. Stay abreast of what’s going on—education is important, but keep your media bites to once a day, or even once a week.
What’s in Your Power?
Much of what is occurring around us is outside of our power. Remind yourself of what is in your power: creating a routine; staying healthy through daily exercise; eating nutritious meals; taking time for a daily meditation practice; wearing your mask and limiting yours and your family’s exposure; washing your hands; helping your elderly neighbors with chores; perfecting your home barista skills…it’s a big list. You’ve still got a lot of power. Just takes a little reminder here and there.
Besides reminding yourself of what is in your control, don’t forget to remind yourself to be grateful. Finding gratitude during tough times is a challenge, for sure, but with a little thought, I’m sure you can find something. Maybe you’ve been able to reconnect with family during this time; or you and your partner have become closer as you’ve spent more time together. Maybe you were able to pick up a new skill; or be the one to help your child shoot that 3-pointer; or were pushed into changing your career and have actually found something you love. Maybe it’s just that morning coffee you’re thankful for, or the sound of your cat purring, or the way the afternoon light washes everything in a golden glow. Gratitude doesn’t have to be about the big things—in fact, more often than not, it’s the little things that keep us going. And the best part? Practicing gratitude keeps you focused on the Now.
Most importantly, this will pass. As Bob Dylan says, “As the present now, will later be past…” You’ve survived 100% of the tough times life has thrown at you thus far—one foot in front of the other, and you’ll keep up those stellar odds. You’ve got this. And if you don’t—if it all starts to pile up and seems insurmountable, it’s ok. We all break. Know that you aren’t alone. There are so many resources and people out there to help you through this. Heck, you can even call me! We’re all in this together.