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How to Keep Moving Through the Unknown

The past few weeks have felt like the intro scene to a zombie apocalypse movie. The streets are getting quieter and quieter since the pandemic was announced. I know we’re all just at home doing our best to keep everybody safe, but it still seems eerie when I look outside.

It makes sense that many people are feeling some degree of anxiety these days. There are so many unknowns around COVID-19, it can be difficult to assure ourselves we are safe and secure.

One of the many challenges when we’re presented with huge unknowns in our lives is figuring out how to make and adjust our plans and how to accept when our previous plans are no longer possible.

It can be really hard to adjust especially when we’re facing the unknown. You may find yourself having to change your well-honed daily routine, lose out on your well-earned vacation plans, modify a milestone event, isolate yourself from loved ones, or perhaps all of the above. What’s worse is that many of the usual strategies you use for coping with these sorts of challenges, i.e. going to the gym or visiting with a friend, may not be possible anymore. Thus, whether you’re adjusting a financial plan, figuring out a new school schedule, solving childcare needs, etc., all of this unknown can create a spiral of anxiety. Our brains are always trying to help us plan and figure out the best course of action in a given situation. When we can’t, our bodies react.

Another effect we may experience as we try to manage and adjust to sudden change is loss. The initial response to a sudden change is often panic and/or shock, which is a sign of grief. We tend to go through many of the stages of the grief cycle, which includes: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are not linear so we might experience different stages at different times or sometimes all at once.

Sometimes, throughout this process, our brains want to fill in the blanks to try to make sense of the unknown. In order to regain some control over this process, here are some tips on dealing with the loss you might be experiencing:

  • Consider alternatives/other options for your plans

  • Ask for help! Talk to those you trust for emotional support, assistance with logistics, etc.

  • Use strategies that feel soothing, comforting, and enjoyable

  • Give yourself permission to feel sad, angry, or anything else that comes up. Whatever it is, your feeling is valid.

  • It’s not necessary to resolve everything at once. Take the time you need to make a decision.

  • Keep to your usual routines as much as possible by modifying them to your situation (e.g. workout at home or go for a walk, get dressed for work even if you’re working from home, etc.)

  • Find ways to be safe (e.g. currently that means washing your hands, sanitizing, staying inside, etc.)

  • Ask for and take time to yourself

There’s a lot going on for all of us as we try to adjust to these changes without having the answers. That’s okay! Myself and Shift’s team of therapists are here to support you if you have further questions on how to manage your mental health during this challenging time.