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COVID-19: How to deal with uncertainty

 
Road sign: winding road ahead

Life is feeling especially uncertain these days. Have you or someone you know asked:

  • When will I be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine? 
  • Will the vaccine help life get back to ‘normal’? 
  • When will I be able to see my family and friends in person again? 
  • When will the restrictions be lifted?
  • What will life look like after the vaccine rollout?

Uncertainty doesn’t feel good

It is completely natural to want to escape or avoid the discomfort of uncertainty. Some distraction can be helpful (watching a Netflix episode, having one drink, going for a walk to clear your mind, playing a game). But overuse of these strategies and relying on our less-healthy strategies to avoid feelings of uncertainty come at a great cost – they keep us from connecting to who and what matters in our life.

How to deal with uncertainty

Our daily practices can serve to make us more resilient to uncertainty. You wouldn’t expect your car to run on an empty gas tank or bad fuel, would you? The same is true for you! So, what can you do to help ride out the ongoing uncertainty?

Attend to what is within your control

Make a note of the things you can control in your life.  For example,

  • what time I wake up
  • what I eat to nourish myself
  • how much time I spend taking in the news

Being intentional about the things you can control will help you feel more empowered and ready to face uncertainty.

Woman and child doing stretches on the floor

Our daily practices can serve to make us more resilient to uncertainty. You wouldn’t expect a car to run on empty, so make sure to fill yourself up with habits that fuel your day.

Make small but impactful changes

  1. Start your day with a nourishing routine. Take a walk outside, connect safely with family or friends, enjoy breakfast, meditate, sing, have a shower, do something fun (yes, fun!). Before connecting with the world (and uncertainty), give yourself the fuel you need for the day. If work and family demands make this challenging, consider another time of day or connect a nourishing routine to something that you already do (listen to music as you commute to work, call someone on a walk).
  2. Set boundaries. Although you may need to pay some attention, you can set boundaries around the time and energy you spend talking about and taking in information about COVID-19 and the vaccine. Notice when taking in information is helpful and when it is not.
  3. Identify significant stressors within your control. Once you identify them,take a problem-solving approach. For instance, if you miss seeing your friends and family, identify ways that you can connect with them right now.
  4. Find something to look forward to. Plan things you will do with your family and friends when restrictions are lifted. Having something to look forward to is helpful even when there is no specific date attached.

How to manage uncertainty around things you can’t control

Although there are a few things we can control, there is a lot we can’t. Still there are things you can do to help yourself and others manage uncertainty around things you can’t control

Acknowledge how hard this is

Take note of the difficult thoughts and feelings like “This sucks!” and “I want things to go back to normal” and “I feel worried/scared/lonely/sad/angry.” 

Woman holding a cat

Acknowledging how hard this is can help you and others manage uncertainty around things you can’t control.

Remember that acknowledging thoughts and feelings is not about liking them. It’s just about allowing what is already there to be present. There is nothing unusual or wrong with feeling scared, lonely, etc. Often pushing feelings and thoughts away has the effect of making them feel even bigger. Try for a moment not to think about a blue elephant…

What did I ask you not to think about???

A blue elephant

Show kindness and compassion to yourself

We all need a little extra kindness and care these days. If you are like most people, you are likely the hardest on yourself. Here are some ways to show self-compassion.

  1. Check in with yourself. Asking “what do I need to be well right now?” is one way to show kindness.
  2. Say something caring to yourself. Words like “this is hard, and I may be patient with myself” can give you comfort.
  3. Try a caring gesture. Give your hands or shoulders a squeeze. Touch, including giving yourself a hug, is a universal gesture of care.

Self-compassion may not feel comfortable at first. With practice, it will become more comfortable and is truly one of the most powerful ways of dealing with difficult moments.

Find joy

Acknowledging difficult feelings also allows us to experience pleasant ones. Even in—and perhaps especially in—difficult moments of life, there are opportunities for joy. This is not to take away from the considerable challenges of life, but rather to allow joy to exist beside them.

Consider adding this daily reflection

Something that brings me joy is…

…the sun streaming in through my window this morning.

…the smile of a neighbour.

…the sound of the snow crunching beneath my boots.

…the feeling of a hot cup of tea in my hands.

When to ask for support

We all need and can benefit from support. It can be helpful to talk to friends and family. Getting support from a psychologist or therapist can also be useful. There are many different ways to connect with support and you need not wait until a crisis! Learning new strategies can build resilience such that you feel less stressed and overwhelmed.

Man using earphones attached to his cell phone
Getting support from family, friends, a psychologist or therapist can be useful to help you manage feelings of uncertainty.

Resources

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”

  • Carl Jung
 
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This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.