Dealing with Sudden Change and Uncertainty

Frankly, my mind is a bit overloaded at the moment, and I’m sure most others feel the same way. I just got back from a late night run to the grocery store, hoping to grab some things for the coming couple of weeks and dodging the long lines from earlier in the day. It was surreal seeing empty shelf after empty shelf. Like many other areas, our school district is shut down, and we’re doing our best to cope with having young kids at home and trying to still work as well. Also like millions of other people in America and around the world, we find ourselves in some very uncertain times.

Economically speaking, America had a false sense of invincibility just a few weeks ago, while also sitting on top of the largest mountain of debt we’ve ever seen as a nation. I admit I’m personally just as guilty in not being as prepared as I should be for the unthinkable to happen.

Well, it is happening. We’re here. We’re all here. Now what do we do, besides doing our best to preserve life and flatten the curve? Making jokes, pointing fingers or trying to otherwise place blame doesn’t help. The situation is real, and we are all doing our best to make it through.

Here are some suggestions that I feel are helpful, and are just as much a reminder to myself:

1) Be Grateful – Most of us will make it through without serious health conditions, and that is absolutely something to be grateful for. Be grateful that our leaders are taking the advice from other countries hit earlier and harder and doing their best to protect us all, especially those most susceptible to illness. Take time out to notice other things in your life that you can express gratitude for – loved ones, food, shelter, etc.

2) Be Present – We can only ever be in the present moment. When we start wondering about the future it can create anxiety, and dwelling too much on past misfortunes can create anger, sadness, shame and other emotions that aren’t going to help. We need to be present to deal with whatever comes our way now, to be supportive of those who are not doing well mentally or physically, and to find comfort in everyday things that really matter in life.

3) Be Positive – There is more science to the power of positive thinking than most people realize. Sudden change and uncertainty tend to shock people into focusing on bad things, especially when it is in our faces 24/7 via the news, social media, text messages and phone calls. We have to be more consciously aware of our negativity bias and instead be intentional in our positivity. Following the first two points above will enhance our abilities to be positive, and being positive will in turn have a greater impact on the outcome.

Perhaps when we get through this global crisis, which is now in each of our living rooms in one way or another, we will refocus more of our attention on the things we feel are most important in our lives. We will be able to learn from it as communities, families and individuals, to see how we can be better prepared for sudden change and even catastrophic conditions. It is possible that this is a reset that many of us needed in order to find deeper meaning and to seek fulfillment instead of blindly following the path of total consumerism. When the period of physical separation is over, it will help us enjoy and appreciate connection with others even more.

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