Dealing with Uncertainty During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Human beings struggle with uncertainty in the best of times, so going through this pandemic with no real information for the future is more than uncomfortable – for some people this is almost paralyzing.
I wrote this blog back in the spring when we were still hoping school would be back in session come Fall. Well, that hasn't really happened. Whereas before we had this huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over us, leaving us in a kind of fog, now we have something like an appetizer sampler platter from Applebee's - a tiny bit of several different things all in one place.
We have colleges that are fully remote so freshman may be staying home for at least one semester. Students with apartments are going back to school to take classes remotely using their computer, but are closer to campus and living with friends. Freshman may be going to campus for the first time, wearing masks in the dorm, learning in outdoor classrooms and eating in tents. They may or may not be going to in-person classes as they await schedules that have yet to be finalized.
AS IF STARTING COLLEGE WASN'T STRESSFUL ENOUGH IN THE BEST OF TIMES?
So how can we deal with this a bit better?
- First, be aware of what you are feeling. Different people have different tolerance levels for uncertainty. If yours is low, you are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and eating disorders. The last two are born of a need for control, and we certainly are all feeling like we have little or no control right now.
- What we need to do is work on increasing our tolerance for uncertainty, by thinking of it as a muscle. When you have urges to sink into an internet rabbit hole desperately searching for answers, try to delay. Stop checking your weather app. Stop looking at traffic predictions. By moving away from these “app habits” on our phones, we are putting ourselves in a place of uncertainty and it’s a work out for that tolerance muscle. It will get stronger the more you expose yourself to uncertainty and sit with the discomfort as long as you can.
- Human beings are incredibly resilient and research shows we OFTEN underestimate our coping abilities. We tend to overestimate how awful we will feel when something bad happens but in reality, we bounce back fairly quickly. Understand that you don’t know how you will react so don’t predict that you will be a mess. You very well may be upset for a little while, but it will pass. Take a look at everything you have managed to deal with since COVID19 arrived to rock your world. Focus on all the positive things you have done so well! The world better watch out fo the class of 2020 because THEY ARE FIERCE!
- REACH OUT and TALK to others. We are ALL feeling this. It’s important to keep talking. Bring it up yourself in a group chat or zoom session – hey, how are you all dealing with this uncertainty? Find the balance between catastrophizing (imagining all the worst case scenarios) and positively supporting each other. If it starts getting too dark, change the subject!!!
- This crisis is a huge lesson in delayed gratification. Use this time to practice positive self-fulfilling prophecies. Tell yourself things like: “I will do well. This is not what I planned for but let me find the upsides. This is NOT the end of the world. This too shall pass.” Fight fire with fire – when the dark thoughts come, argue with YOURSELF and go toward the light.