The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll not only on the global economy but also on people’s mental health. Before the pandemic, many people had career goals at the forefront of their mind. Thinking of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people were focused on getting to that pinnacle. Now that mindset has shifted to focus on coping with these uncertain times. With travel disrupted, loss of jobs, and the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the negativity one may feel is natural. Such thoughts may leave you feeling emotionally drained, which brings your morale down. These challenging times can send our emotions on a rollercoaster almost every day.
As we emerge from the pandemic, most people are experiencing a blurred focus on what should be an obvious next step in their life and how to get to it. There are constant ups and downs. Navigating your new, post-pandemic world will offer different challenges. Here are some tips to help you navigate through uncertain times:
A positive mindset may lift your spirits, especially during daunting times.Life includes struggles and setbacks. No one is immune to them; however, it is up to you to decide how you view these life hurdles. The power of reframing your mind away from catastrophic thinking is an important tool to help you achieve looking through a more positive lens. Instead of thinking, “Why is this happening to me?” reframe your thinking to “What can I learn from this?” Avoid thinking traps to maintain this positive mindset. These are some common thinking traps:
- Everything is all or nothing. For example, if you are turned down for a date with someone you like, you tend to start thinking “No one will ever want to date me.” By seeing everything in black-and-white terms, you miss out on the good stuff in between. If a situation doesn’t go exactly to plan, you immediately deem it a failure. However, life is not black and white, it’s quite colorful so sprinkle some of that color in there.
Replace this with: “Nothing in life is perfect. Even though I didn’t get the date with X, it doesn’t mean I won’t get other dates. There are plenty of others out there.”
- The trap of mind reading. This happens when you jump to conclusions by assuming that someone is thinking something negative about you without having any evidence for it.
Replace this with: “I can’t read minds. I should ask what they are thinking.”
- Trapped into being a fortune teller. This happens when you immediately start predicting situations with only negative outcomes. For example, “I’m definitely not getting selected for that promotion.”
Replace this with: “No one can possibly predict the future.”
- The emotional reasoner. This is when you start believing emotions to be evidence of the truth. It is true that how you feel is tied to the way you think. However, because you feel a bit down, doesn’t mean life is miserable. For example, “I feel useless, therefore I am useless.”
Replace this with: “My feelings are not objective evidence for reality. I can accept all of my feelings and still move forward.”
- Mislabeling your emotions. This is when you wrongly attribute a negative label to either yourself or someone else. For example, “I’m a failure” instead of saying “I failed the exam.”
Replace this with: “A failed exam does not define who I am.”
2. Focus on things you can control.Make a list of things that concern or worry you and then divide them up into things you can control and things you cannot control. For example, you cannot control the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but you can practice good hand hygiene and appropriate precautions. You cannot stock store shelves, but you can consider alternative ways to conserve household resources. You cannot control when and how schools reopen, but you can come up with ways to balance the needs of your family.
3. Maintain constant substantial connections to others.Connections to others matter significantly in the human experience. At a time when social distancing is necessary, it is important to know the difference between socially distancing yourself and isolating. While it may seem like you are alone, that is not always the case. Technology is everywhere and has become more user friendly. Use it to stay connected with your friends and family. Humans need to socialize for a healthy mental and emotional state, and the lockdown impeded that for most people. Regularly interacting is a rich source of positivity and can combat negativity and worry. Simple and regular interactions with family, friends, or even strangers may let you have a different take on situations by keeping loneliness at bay.
4. Talk to yourself as you would a friend.We are harder on ourselves than anyone else. Most of us would never dream of speaking to a friend the way we speak to ourselves. Be kind to yourself and try cheering for yourself in the same way you would for a friend. Try using a mantra when self-doubt kicks in. For example, “I believe in you.”
As we navigate our life’s course, we are all looking for satisfaction and happiness. We also have our basic needs that include mental and physical safety. Some people that used to find satisfaction and joy in money and material things have now shifted to find happiness in connection and stability. Using some of these tips may help you find your footing in the new normal. Look out for my next blog post that will continue to give you navigational tools and stay tuned for an exciting webinar discussing practical applications and use for these tools in late October 2021.