Dealing with uncertainty amid the Covid-19 pandemic
The news of the Covid-19 Pandemic brought a wave of grief, anxiety, uncertainty and fear to the world in 2020. This was heightened with the imposition of a lockdown in dozens of countries across the world. Maintaining social distancing and leading isolated lives is an additional risk factor for the stress we all are going through, especially for the younger and older population.
How is uncertainty related to anxiety and stress?
We as humans, like to be in control of things, plan, organise, and know what’s going to happen, and the pandemic has disrupted all of that. Humans crave security. Uncertainty can entangle one in countless ‘what ifs’ and over thinking about worst-case scenarios, leading to anxiety and stress.
Learning to deal with uncertainty
Constant uncertainty and worrying keep the body’s response to stress activated. Certain activities and techniques have been backed by scientific research and will help you deal with this uncertainty. These techniques can change the shape of your brain, increase resilience, improve your sense of self and calm the body.
And remember that there is no one “right” way to deal with this situation, so we have to try to be easy on ourselves and benefit from whatever seems to help us.
1 Remember that you are not alone
The first thing to remember is, that you’re not alone and it is justified to feel whatever you are feeling! Understand that it’s totally natural to feel overwhelmed in this situation. Acknowledge your feelings, and once you do that, we can move on to the next step and think about what we can do about it!
2 Count your blessings!
Gratitude is a powerful wellbeing booster. Try to count at least three things that you are grateful for in life, every day. It may be the smallest thing you can imagine. If you cannot come up with a new thing every day, mention something good that you are happy about in your life, in general. You can even maintain a small gratitude journal and when you look at it collectively, you’ll have so many things to be happy about!
3 Identify your triggers
Reading scaremongering media stories that focus on worst-case scenarios and spending time on social media amid rumors and half-truths, or simply communicating with anxious friends, can all fuel your own fears and uncertainties. By recognizing your triggers, you can take action to avoid or reduce your exposure to them.
4 Recognise things that relax you
Think about things that bring you a sense of relaxation, write them down, all of them. And when you are stressed, look at them and try to do one or two of them when you’re feeling anxious. It could be anything like dancing, taking a shower, listening to music, gardening, walking, cooking, doing something to help someone else, tidying up or anything else that can cheer you up!
5 Focus on things you can control
Divert your energy into aspects of life that you can control. Work on things that you can actually do something about. Make a list of things that are worrying you, if you can control something from it, take immediate action. If you cannot control something completely, but at least influence it, make a plan and take some simple steps for it.
6 Practice breathing exercises
Make an effort to consciously do regular breathing exercises to calm yourself. Slow breathing reduces the heart rate and sends a message to the brain through the parasympathetic nervous system to calm down.
Inhale for four seconds, pause for two seconds and then slowly exhale for six seconds. Practice a few such sets, listen to the silence around you, release the tension from your body, relax your muscles, and repeat!
Breathing exercises before going to bed have been proved to improve the quality of sleep too.
7 Eat healthy
Eating healthily can help maintain your energy levels and prevent mood swings. Avoid sugary and processed foods. Stay hydrated and eat right!
Exercise is a natural stress reliever and releases endorphins in the body. You don’t necessarily have to do intense work outs! Make time for a simple walk or a small work out session every day to keep yourself active and healthy.
9 Maintain a daily routine
Try to make a list of your daily tasks at the start of the day. Make a plan regarding how you are going to get things done. Try to accomplish it and stick to your plan. You’ll have a sense of accomplishment and sense of fulfillment at the end of the day.
10 Don’t ruin your sleep cycle
Excessive worry and uncertainty can disturb your sleep and lack of it can fuel anxiety and stress. With the lockdown most of us are awake at night and sleep through the day, which is both unnatural and unhealthy. Improving your daytime habits and taking time to relax and unwind before bed can help you to sleep better at night.
11 Connect with your loved ones
In the times of social distancing and lockdown, it is hard to stay physically connected but we can always have ways to connect emotionally. Spend time with your family if you have them in the same house. Technology has made connecting with loved ones quite easy for us, to both give and receive support and know that we are feeling the same things and are together in this.
12 Give mindfulness a chance
Meditation and mindfulness techniques can help restore a sense of control as you observe your breathing, focus on your surroundings, observe the sounds around you, track sensations in your body, recognize your emotions and label them. All these calm your senses and send signals to the brain and activate your body’s own soothing system.
13 Seek help
Every one of us has a different capacity to deal with uncertainty and anxiety. There is no manual available to deal with a pandemic. Each one of us requires different level of care and has a personal journey to cope with the challenges. If your symptoms are beyond your control and are affecting your mental health, physical health, sleep and behavior, you may want to consider seeking professional help. Even during this time, services like e-health and tele-medicine are available for the public and can be availed.
14 Hope is a cognitive construct
Hope is a cognitive process and you have to work to accomplish it. It is usually defined as goal-directed thinking. Hope can be learned voluntarily, as the human brain has the ability to form new neural connections called “neuroplasticity”. Having a hopeful outlook, contributes towards solving problems in life.
Remember that the world has gone through different challenges including wars, disease outbreaks, and similar uncertain times. And those times too, came to an end! If we focus on things that we can control, try our best to stay positive, who knows we might come out of this uncertain phase stronger, with a new perspective and zeal for life. It is important that we stay more hopeful than ever for our futures, because this too shall pass!