Taking Charge in Uncertain Times
By Maureen Pollard,
Emotional Health Editor
Maureen Pollard, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker with a private practice in Cobourg, Ontario. www.maureenpollardmsw.com
As the world continues to adapt to the threat of Covid-19, we have been living in uncertain times for many months now. Since schools and communities began to shut down across Canada in March 2020, we have all been living with so many unknowns. When will school re-open, and how? When can we be together with family and friends and share hugs? What will keep us safe from the virus? What changes are temporary and which ones will last a long time?
It can be hard to feel safe and happy when faced with so many changing rules, and so many unanswered questions. There are some things you can do to manage in your own day-to-day routines.
Notice what you can control.
There are so many things that are out of our control in life. Our schedule is often decided by school officials, or employers. Our behaviour is governed by laws. We don’t get to determine what stores will be open when, or what entertainment will be available for us. It’s easy to become frustrated.
It’s also true that there are things we do control. You may not decide what time the bus comes, but you do choose how early you will wake up and what activities will be part of your morning routine before the bus arrives. Do you enjoy that invigorating last-minute dash for the bus as you wolf down a granola bar and wipe sleep from your eyes, or would you rather have time to wash your face and brush your teeth after your toast, followed by a leisurely stroll to the bus stop?
You’re also in charge of managing your feelings and behaviour. It’s true that feelings come and go as they please in response to the things that happen to us. You can’t stop feeling angry when someone wears your shirt without permission and damages it. You can decide how to handle your upset. You can take a deep breath or go for a walk before you talk to the person about repairing or replacing the shirt. You can keep your voice low and avoid swearing or name-calling.
“We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” M. Jackson Brown
Release what you can’t control.
The practice of mindfulness is useful when it comes to releasing the things that we have no control over. Mindfulness teaches us to notice our thoughts and feelings, without judging them, and without reacting to them. It’s ok to notice that you are annoyed with the fact that you don’t know what day you start school yet. Then see if you can observe that thought – that it makes your life harder when you don’t have a date that you can plan for - without getting caught up in feeling annoyed. See if you can release the thought without letting the feeling overwhelm you. Perhaps imagine the thought floating away on the breeze.
Self talk is another important tool in releasing the things that are uncertain and beyond your control. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can under the circumstances, and that is good enough. Tell yourself that whatever happens, you will find a way to cope with it. Take some deep breaths as you give yourself the message that you will be just fine, even if you don’t know what will happen next. It’s true. You will be just fine. Maybe a bit uncomfortable at times, but at the end of the day, you will do what you have to do with as much courage and grace as you can gather.
“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” - Steve Maraboli