Coping with Uncertainty: Encouragement from Our Therapists

May 22, 2020

Clinician post by Dr. Kyler Shumway
Postdoctoral Fellow, Deep Eddy Psychotherapy

Can you believe that 2020 is almost halfway over?

Neither can we.

You’ve probably read dozens, if not hundreds of articles about “these uncertain times.”  So many of us have found ourselves feeling worn down, lost, and disconnected.  But the fact is, humans have always struggled with uncertainty, even before the pandemic struck.

What will happen in the future?  Will I be able to make rent this month?  Will my family and I be okay?

No matter how long you’ve wrestled with uncertainty, we want to help.

Over the past few weeks, Deep Eddy Psychotherapy therapists have been putting together a few words of encouragement to send out to our community.

We hope that you’ll find something here in this trove of wisdom that resonates with you, brings comfort, and gives you some emotional resource.  Please feel free to share with friends and loved ones, and stay safe out there:

Inside you is a hidden treasure.  Maybe your heart is waiting for you to slow down, sink in, listen–to make the transition from being alone to being with yourself.  Though it may be scary and possibly painful, here is an opportunity to say “yes” to everything inside and embrace yourself and your full, real feelings.  I hope you discover that you hold the universe within you during this time of retreat and transformation.

– Charlotte Howard

 

Lately I’ve been looking more to others and to the physical world for guidance. There are still people who inspire me and beauties I see every day on walks that give me hope and joy. I’m relying on this inspiration more now, and I think that’s okay. This inspiration and guidance shifts our thinking, helps us feel our feelings, or simply makes us feel held.

– Emily Kerzin

 

What an interesting time to be alive?! Today I watched the news tell me about the massive health crisis that is facing our country and our world.  I also watched John Krasinski interview a cancer survivor about her experience coming home during shelter in place to a line of cars with her friends and family welcoming her as she got the chance to go home.  We have an opportunity here to hold both the anxiety and fear and also the excitement about possibilities that only come in times of change.  What unique ways are you making the most of this opportunity to change and how are you accepting the reality of the emotions that come? A common first to big change is either panic or denial.  How can you be proactive to allow a healthy balance of both and what creative ways can you share with us?

– Matt Halvorson

 

This has been a powerful time for being able to re-evaluate what matters to me in life. I know that some of my anxiety comes from the gap between what my core values are and how I am actually living my life. Realizing the discrepancy between choices I have been making out of “necessity” or “because that’s just how I do it” with what I know at my core is important to me has been both painful and illuminating. I have been allowing myself to be thoughtful of how I can restructure and organize my life to close those gaps and feel more aligned, more purposeful, and more “myself” on the other side of this.

– Lisa Baker

 

You are not alone.  We are hardwired for connection, which also means we tend to pick up on each other’s anxieties and worries.  Your friends, coworkers, and neighbors are afraid, too; and that’s okay.  Notice those worries, and don’t get caught up in them.  Take advantage of this time.  Slow down, reflect on your life journey.  Make plans for the future when this blows over.  Connect with friends and loved ones.  Learn new skills – cooking, sketching, dancing.  Sharpen your mind by reading, writing, or playing games.  Make the most of this experience.

– Kyler Shumway

 

Ignore everyone who is posting about productivity on social media right now. It is OK that you keep waking up at 4 a.m. It is OK that you forgot to eat lunch and you cannot do a Zoom workout class. It is OK that you have not touched that project you’ve been meaning to get to in three weeks. Know that you are not failing. Let go of the profoundly daft ideas you have about what you should be doing right now. Now more than ever we must abandon the performative and embrace the authentic.  You are doing your best and that is all that matters right now. Slow down. Take a few deep breaths. Be patient. Be kind. Love yourself. You are worth it.

– Brian Traeger

 

If you find yourself anxious or upset in response to this crisis, see this as evidence of your sanity and thank your mind for such an emotionally healthy response. One thing to remember, though, is that our brains think in terms of relatives more than absolutes. That means it cares more about whether things are worse or better than they were yesterday (versus how actually good or bad things are). So…the fact that we are all less connected and less secure than we were “yesterday” means that our brain will be feeling upset–which is healthy. That being said, a decrease in our regular sense of security and connection does not in any way mean those things are completely gone (even though it might feel that way). So while we need to honor our fear and sadness (and know those are healthy and based in reality), we can also gently orient our brain toward reminders of the places where goodness and beauty remain. Goodness, beauty…even security and connection…are still very much real and waiting to be discovered.

– Tori Olds

 

Now is the time to be kinder to yourself than ever. We are facing fear, physical isolation, and an ocean of uncertainty. If you notice impulses to engage in old habits, respond to that part of you with kindness and endeavor to meet the core need if you can. For example, if you find yourself eating more cookies than usual due to a need for comfort, talk to that young, scared part of yourself with compassion after the cookie episode (use language that’s authentic for you: “Aw sweetheart, of course you need comfort. You’re facing isolation and the fears of a global pandemic. Let me nurture you.”), and then try drawing yourself a bath and cuddling up with a bunch of soft, fluffy blankets  to watch reruns of your favorite show or read a comforting book.  If you feel no motivation, show yourself compassion, allow lots of rest, and, in a few days or weeks, when ready, take gentle steps towards being active again. Reach for connection in safe ways — jump on virtual hangouts, wave to neighbors as you walk your streets, express gratitude to the grocery-store cashier, soak in the support of any animals or people who live with you, and recall all the people who have shown you love in your life and call on them as living, internal resources. Relationships stay real and alive even when we do not physically get to be together. And know, that many people — myself included — do not want you feeling alone in this and are sending you so much care and compassion from afar.

– Owen O’Brien

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