There is so much that we do not yet know about the novel coronavirus/SARS-CoV2/COVID-19. Yet in this time of information on-demand, not knowing seems to be foreign. We are no longer accustomed to the slow process of developing new knowledge, a process that creates far more questions than answers. Some will naturally tolerate the uncertainty better than others, but all of us can learn.
In the face of limited information we have several possible responses. 1. We can ask the questions that arise and search or listen for answers. 2. We can firmly establish what we do know, and draw comfort from focus on this knowledge. (The song “Some Things Never Change” from Frozen 2 is a great example). 3. We can attempt to avoid or ignore the situation about which we have limited information. While doing only one of these without the others can quickly become pathological, doing all 3 together can be a healthy way to cope with uncertainty.
Achieving balance among these three strategies enables us to learn and grow while also experiencing some peace and contentment. In response to the emergence of the novel coronavirus, balance includes having some times in which we work, exercise, read a book, play a game, watch a movie, or otherwise do something unrelated to the virus. It also includes asking curious questions and looking up the answers or reading articles about new developments in the efforts to battle the virus. Finally, this balance includes relying on the knowledge we do have (general health practices such as hand washing, avoiding contact with sick people, and mask wearing) and remembering that these tools offer us some protection from illness.
If you find yourself feeling continuously anxious or overwhelmed by the not knowing, a slight change in the balance of these 3 strategies may bring you some relief. Scrolling through your news feed multiple times every day? Give yourself a dedicated time to check the news and leave it alone the rest of the time. Use the extra time to focus on what you know or distract yourself with an activity you enjoy. Feeling distrustful of the information you read, or unsure of what to believe? Zoom in on the things that you know for certain and that endure over time, such as your core beliefs or your love for someone. Spend some time only in the present moment (mindfulness), and increase the distractions in your daily life to balance out the feeling of uncertainty. Having trouble making decisions? Ask a few specific questions and search for the answers to point you toward resolution. Remember to keep your focus on the next step YOU can take, rather than what you hope others will do.
And finally, remember that a little more sleep, a little more exercise, a good snuggle, and letting yourself play go a long way toward restoring your mental health. When that doesn’t seem to be enough, reach out for some help. We are here to support you.