In a COVID-19 world, uncertainty dances around us every day. New variants are forming, new vaccines are coming out, and mask guidelines vary from city to city. It’s all pretty anxiety-inducing, but there are things you can do to cope.
Our brains are wired to see ambiguity as a threat. When we try to focus on something else, our brain redirects us back to resolving those feelings of uncertainty. However, this doesn’t mean that focusing on uncertainty is the best solution to resolving it.
Studies show that job uncertainty can have a more significant effect on your health than actually losing a job will. Similarly, in one study, participants who were told they had a 50% chance of feeling a shock felt more anxiety than those who knew for certain they were getting shocked.
Let this speak volumes to the importance of feeling safe and secure for the sake of your mental health.
“Knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” – John Allen Paulos
Resisting the idea that COVID-19 comes with an amount of uncertainty will only lead you toward delusions. It’s true, you’ve probably never faced something like this in your life. However, that doesn’t mean you’re excused from accepting it as real.
Instead of suppressing the emotions you feel about COVID, let yourself feel them. Accept them as the only truth you know these days. Resisting them will only let them fester and grow in intensity, potentially resulting in an underlying anxiety disorder or feelings of depression.
See life for what it is right now—challenging, frustrating, and for some, really boring. Don’t lie to yourself, it totally is. Accepting the current situation means allowing your emotions to flow and then exit, because they’re simply not helpful right now.
This doesn’t mean you should turn into a doormat for people to walk all over because nothing ever gets to you. Rather, it means lowering your expectations for what’s possible for the time being.
Right now, we have multiple COVID variants, several vaccines, and lots of time to wait for people to catch up on the research and eventually, slow the spread. It’s not ideal, but it’s realistic and the only option we have right now.
Comfort Yourself in Healthy Ways
While we wait for the rest of the world to catch up, let’s take care of ourselves in the meantime. Feelings of anxiety can pair with a desperation for dopamine, making unhealthy “rewards” like drinking, binge-eating, or doom-scrolling through social media especially tempting.
Fill your dopamine meter in healthy ways, like going for hikes with friends, flipping through old memory boxes, or watching a funny movie. It’s not indulgent to take care of yourself as long as you’re doing it in healthy ways.
Take Everything You Hear with a Grain of Salt
Rumors about COVID are constantly flying. Protect your sanity by assuming everything you hear from friends has an asterisk that means “may be true upon doing the research myself.” Allowing yourself to believe and get worked up by other people’s “facts” that are blown out of proportion for the storytelling of it all can leave you feeling frazzled.
Don’t go through the grieving process if you have no one to grieve, and don’t convince yourself you’re in danger when you know you took the steps toward being safe.
When In Doubt, Seek It Out
Go out of your way to find the information you need from a trusted source, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or your state’s website outlining COVID-19 guidance.
If you have all the COVID information you need and just need helping to cope with the stress of it all, consider starting counseling. Together, we can build an arsenal of anxiety coping skills to get you through this difficult time.