Coping in the Chaos: 6 Practices to Help Navigate Uncertainty
I don’t know how you’re doing, but if I were going to make an educated guess, I would imagine you are having many of the same difficulties the rest of us are having—sudden changes in routine, anxiety over COVID-19, loss of income, uncertainty, not sleeping well, loneliness, etc. The list could go on, unfortunately.
Your place in the world and the certainty that used to underscore all your decisions may have suddenly gone missing and you might find yourself up to your eyeballs in questions without answers. How many times do I have to wash my hands before I feel better about all of this?
I wish I were writing this because I had some answers. I don’t. Sitting in the discomfort of uncertainty is work and work takes energy—something on which I am running dangerously low.
In the middle of all this uncertainty, there are a few practices that are helping me cope. I’m sharing them just in case they’re helpful to you.
- Let people have their feelings.
This means everyone. From the angry person in line at the grocery store to the boss who has been micromanaging to the child who has complained of boredom every three minutes to you. Yes, you. Let yourself have whatever feelings pop up. Feelings are like a hyper toddler—they need to be acknowledged. They need space. Ignoring or repressing them will only make them louder and angrier. So, feel your feelings and let other people feel theirs, even if that means accepting that we’re not at our best right now.
- Take every day a moment at a time.
I can’t imagine doing this for a month or two or three. Know what I can imagine? Doing this for the next five minutes or ten minutes or thirty minutes. Give yourself small things to look forward to throughout the day. Are you already overwhelmed at 9am? That’s okay! Each moment comes with the opportunity to start over. Take a deep breath, unclench your jaw, release your shoulders, and move into the next moment with intention.
- Do something you enjoy.
Even if it’s only ten minutes a day, make sure you’re doing something that makes you happy. Something silly and joyful and playful. Watch butterflies, have a kitchen dance party, watch a movie from your childhood, listen to music that brings back good memories—whatever it is that lights you up, do that. It doesn’t have to be useful or productive. In fact, bonus points if it’s not. Give yourself permission to enjoy the quotidian things in life.
- Connect with others.
Thanks to technology, social distancing doesn’t have to mean social disconnection. We need to be intentional about reaching out and asking for time with people, but they’re only a click or two away. Be vocal about what you need from your friends and family. Taking the time to send a text or make a phone call will go far in reminding you that you’re surrounded by people who love and support you—even if they’re far away at the moment.
- Let go of the productivity push.
You’re not on vacation. You’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that will have a lasting impact on all of us. Our brains are experiencing trauma and it’s very hard to learn in this state. You don’t need to write a book or learn a new language or become a master baker. Give yourself permission to rest and understand that this situation is taking a huge portion of your focus. You can release any pressure to sustain your usual level of productivity and move your attention to the more pressing things in your life (like security and community).
- Speak kindly to yourself.
Am I stepping over the line? Maybe, but I’m willing to take the risk. You are spending a lot of time with yourself right now. Time without the distraction of routines and coworkers and business-as-usual. Maybe you’re struggling to continue going to work when others are quarantined at home. Maybe you have financial worries tied up in all the other worries. Maybe you’re doing fine and just need a small reminder. Whatever your situation, here’s the truth: You deserve kindness, especially from yourself. Be aware of your internal narrative and the way you respond to your own mistakes and limitations. Soften the harsh words and speak to yourself as you would to a dear friend. After all, you are doing the best you can and you are enough.
This is an interesting time for all of us and it feels surreal and strange to be in the middle of so much uncertainty. I hope that wherever you are and whatever you’re feeling, you have the support you need. Know that you are not alone in this and please don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.
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Be kind to yourself,