Let me just start by saying how thrilling it is that every single person I know is vaccinated. Though this is true, the life of my family has not changed since this development. The kids are still doing school on Zoom, I am still doing all of my speed workouts for my Olympic Trials dream in my garage (who on Earth wants to run 5:40 mile repeats at the gym with a mask on?), and my husband is still working from home.
As the world begins to open back up and we peek out of our caves for a taste of sunlight just in time for summer, it is undeniable that the bizarro year (and some months) continues to affect us.
There are still many unanswered questions about what “getting back to normal” even means. With protocols and guidelines shifting so fast it’s hard to keep up, the only thing that feels certain is uncertainty. When will tech companies open their doors? When will public schools really open up? How will children deal with the sudden, extreme change? Should we have people in our homes again? How long do we wait and what’s safe? Is summer travel okay or should we suck it up for a few more months “just to be safe”? There are no clear answers.
The anxiety caused by constant uncertainty is only human. According to Psychology Today: “If your brain doesn’t know what’s around the corner, it can’t keep you out of harm’s way. It always assumes the worst, over-personalizes threats, and jumps to conclusions. (Your brain will do almost anything for the sake of certainty.) And you’re hardwired to overestimate threats and underestimate your ability to handle them – all in the name of survival.”
So, how do we deal? Here are some tips…
Be Mindful of Media You’re Consuming
What you look at plays a huge role in what you think about. Are you scrolling the news? Reading unhelpful rhetoric on social media? Watching someone else thriving on Instagram and wondering where you’re going wrong? These things don’t serve you and will increase your anxiety. It’s important to know what’s going on in the world, but it’s also important to be mindful of what your brain is doing with that information. Is it serving you or stressing you?
Stick to a Schedule
It’s not just children that thrive on routine. “Carrying out routine activities reduces stress by making the situation appear to be more controllable and predictable,” says Indumathi Bendi, M.D., via piedmont.org. Sticking to a schedule gives a person a sense of security, certainty, and purpose. Things that may seem basic can become a lifeline, even when feelings of anxiety and depression are present.
I am a testament to the success of a well thought out, regimented routine being a healing practice. My in-patient eating disorder treatment philosophy was “symptom interruption.” Every day, at the exact same times of day, there were meals and snacks. This forced habit (which was unbelievably hard to cultivate and maintain) transformed my entire life in just four weeks of highly regulated implementation.
Be Kind to Yourself
These coping strategies can be hard to develop, especially on your own. If you mess up or if things seem hard to bear, don’t dwell on your mistakes or give up — start fresh. This is a crazy situation and the best you can do is try to cope in a healthy way. To be human is to fail. You will burn out, you will melt down, but you can also get out of it. As a species, we are resilient and capable of getting through seemingly impossible situations.
“Regular life” is still a big question mark. You don’t have to suddenly feel perfect because things are “opening up.” In fact, biologically, you just won’t. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re a human. We have no real say in what happens next in our world, but we do have a say in our mental state and tools to use to persevere and preserve the illusion of control in an uncertain time.
“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.” —Epicetus