Living through uncertain times - steps to coping
Life has a funny way of throwing curveballs when you least expect them! I entered 2020 feeling more grounded, centred and content than I have felt in a long time. What a wonderful feeling – I was even patting myself on my back, telling myself that I can be proud of my own personal growth. Then, the coronavirus exploded!
As I write this, my daughter faces this situation, alone, in a foreign city in China. She has been in the country for just over two months, when the Wuhan virus began to emerge. Fortunately, she doesn’t live in the epicentre of this virus but her own city has declared lock-down from this week onwards. She’s been told to remain in her apartment and only venture out once a week to get her supplies. While she has support from the various community members living there, for which I am extremely grateful, she is still alone, facing a very uncertain future.
As her mother, of which the same applies to her father and stepmom, I sit miles away (11,224 km/6,974 miles to be precise) finding myself trying to maintain a level of calmness, all the while, treading a fine line of managing the worry, sadness and frustration for the situation my daughter finds herself in. It is a very scary feeling when uncertainty creeps into your life. Being assured of safety is one of the fundamental basic needs of human beings and when this is challenged, one faces a wide range of emotions and reactions that can tip you into a space you would rather not be.
I am writing this life experience from my point of view. I cannot even begin to imagine what my daughter is experiencing though I can get the gist of it from our hours of messaging every day. I am sharing how my own sense of certainty is being threatened as I wonder how and when this virus will stop so that we can all return to a place of safety within ourselves.
Yet, I know that uncertainty offers us the opportunity to grow through the experience challenging us. So, after nearly two weeks of defaulting to the emotions of worry, anger, frustration, despair and sadness, I realised I was doing myself no favour, let alone being able to offer the kind of support and compassion my daughter needs right now. This was when I was reminded, once again, that I have the knowledge, the understanding, the wisdom and the tools available to me to help me through such an experience. After all, isn’t this what I preach to my clients on a daily basis? We are given these experiences to grow and to continuously apply what we have learnt through our own self-awareness journeys. However, sometimes, we forget this and slip back into the old ways that do not serve us.
It’s all about choice and perspective. This is what I am learning, again, right now and what I am using to help me cope. I hope these steps can help you through whatever uncertain times you may be facing.
1. You never stop growing – I thought I was sorted. I have identified many of my defaults. I have been working on them for the past seven years. I was grounded, centred and content. I was living with certainty. Until I was challenged with something so out of my depth. The journey of growth continues and once again, I am reminded of this.
2. You can do this – Never, ever underestimate the resources available to you. Especially your own. You are strong. You have courage. Go to your inner core and draw on your own strength. By doing this, you will find your sense of safety again even if the outer world reflects chaos.
3. Know your values – Truly knowing your values helps you through any situation that creates uncertainty for you. Align yourself with your values and you will then have a valuable tool to help you cope as you navigate an uncertain time.
4. Remember your vision/goal/purpose – When we face uncertainty, we tend to lose the bigger picture. Remember what your reasons are for being where you are. Keep the focus so that you can get to where you want to be despite facing uncertainty. Hold onto your dreams. This is just a blip on million-mile journey. Don’t let it stop you from getting you to where you want to be.
5. Breathe – When the unhappy emotions threaten to overwhelm, take deep breaths.
6. Focus on the facts – The media makes money from sensationalism. Sadly, China is facing the brunt of this right now. I choose to believe that China is doing everything they can to handle the coronavirus situation. After a week of having mini-heart attacks every time I read a news item linked to the coronavirus situation in China, I realised that I needed to get smart and focus on the facts as much as possible. I also chose to read articles that bring in an alternative perspective to the ones that offer a sensational perspective. Whatever uncertainty you are facing, step back and look at the facts.
7. Watch out for isolation – When one’s sense of safety is threatened, one tends to disconnect from the world. Don’t. Reach out. Talk to others. Tell others how you are feeling. Rant and rave if you have to, but don’t cut yourself off from humanity.
8. Do things that bring certainty into your life right now – Read a good book. Stick to your daily routine as much as possible. Carry on working. Do the laundry. Go walking. Do some yoga. Play with the dog. Watch your favourite TV series. Eat well. Be kind to yourself.
9. Have faith – Believe in yourself. Believe in a higher being. Believe in God. Whatever. Just keep the faith.
10. You are not alone – It helps to remember that everyone is facing some challenge of their own. It may not be as scary as the coronavirus but for them, their own particular challenge also brings uncertainty in their own world.
11. Be grateful – Every day is a new day. Start afresh and find things to be grateful for. What makes you happy? Who loves you? Who do you love? What do you have that many don’t? Write down ten things every day that you can be grateful for.
12. Pray – the power of prayer is soothing.
13. This too, shall pass – I am reminded of these words used so often by my father. When one is in the midst of a life experience that is challenging, it is good to remember that this too, shall pass.
To my daughter, if you are reading this, know that you are loved.