Amid the COVID-19 global crisis, there’s no question that we’re living in unprecedented times. And without anything to compare it to—aside from the 1918 flu pandemic, which is hardly comparable to the circumstances of our modern, digital-focused world—many are filled with uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
Right now, you might not be able to predict what’ll happen with your personal health or the health of your loved ones. You may not feel secure about your career, your retirement savings, your kids’ education, or the economy—not to mention the nation’s supply of toilet paper, disinfectant spray, and medical supplies. Thinking about all these unanswerable questions, even for just a few minutes, is enough to make a person’s cortisol levels go through the roof.
Not only that, but many of us are making substantial lifestyle adjustments. Although it’s for the greater good, sudden change is uncomfortable. After all, even positive changes lead to stress. So, how can you cope with the unknown during such trying times? While many aspects of your present situation are out of your control, there are a few things you can do to feel a little more OK.
Embrace the Things You Can Control
You may not be able to decide on whether you work from home or when your kids go back to school, or even when you’ll be able to get your favorite brand of paper towels again. If you’re a Type-A person (or even a Type-A-minus), this is a tough pill to swallow. With so much out of your control, I suggest embracing the things you can control.
Maybe it’s taking the time to do a six-step nightly skincare routine or laying out your clothes for the next day before going to bed—even if it’s just your work-from-home outfit. It could be doing some intricate meal planning. Sure, grocery stores are sold out of some items, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat healthy, delicious meals.
Perhaps you set aside 45 minutes each day to take a walk or stream a yoga class from your living room. Better yet, put it on your calendar as if it’s a mandatory appointment with yourself. Maybe it’s finally cleaning out your closet, reorganizing your pantry, sorting your filing cabinet, or deleting all unneeded emails from your inbox. These are small things, but you might be surprised by how much better you feel when you make a point to do them.
Turn to Humor, Optimism, and Gratitude
Aside from embracing various acts and day-to-day practices that are in your control, another approach to coping with the unknown is an attitude shift. When in doubt, I recommend turning to humor, optimism, and gratitude.
Similar to times of grief, humor can be unexpectedly therapeutic in periods of uncertainty. The threat of the new coronavirus should certainly be taken seriously, but that doesn’t mean you can’t laugh when you see that someone made a toilet paper cake.
As for optimism, now’s the time to have faith in people and remain hopeful for what’s to come. Of course, this is easier said than done, and no one expects you to be upbeat all the time—especially when you’re worried about the future. But when you consider a few silver linings—like virtually nonexistent traffic and the unforeseen opportunity to spend quality time at home with your partner and read all the books on your list—it might change your outlook.
The same goes for gratitude. Do you have a job, a house, savings, a loving family, good health, or all of the above? Counting your blessings during times of uncertainty can really put things in perspective. Although it’s completely natural to feel uneasy about the unknown, remember that we’re all in this together. Social distancing can be isolating, but since everyone is going through it simultaneously, the solidarity can be comforting, too.