Stay at home orders are beginning to lift and non-essential businesses are starting to open their doors. This news may be exciting for some but anxiety provoking for others. Many people are unsure of what their lives might look like after a global pandemic, which can be unnerving. David Kessler made an impactful statement in an interview with Brené Brown stating, “The world as we knew it is now gone forever.” It is certainly true that life as we knew it has moved on without much warning. None of us expected having to put our health at risk going into essential work places, getting furloughed from jobs, losing loved ones to this illness, and practicing social distancing or putting ourselves in quarantine for weeks to months on end.
Kessler makes a thought-provoking point in that our way of living before COVID-19 is gone. That thought alone can be incredibly scary for us to come to terms with. The world has been through a massive change, which leaves us to grieve the past for what it was-the past. Grief brings many intense emotions such as sadness, anger, denial, and anxiety. Although we are grieving as a society, it is important to find hope in what is to come. It can be easy to give in to negative thinking patterns and feel that this is never going to end. As rational as it is to feel exhausted, it is crucial to remind ourselves that this cannot go on forever and we will begin to create our new normal. Things might look different for a while, but we humans are resilient and will adjust as people do.
Many of us are wondering how we can prepare for what is to come. It can be difficult to glean any positivity out of the situation when we are still feeling quite unsure about what to expect. As challenging as it may be, it is possible to mentally prepare and find hope in the future. Here are some ways that can help us get there:
Grieve the losses: It is okay to let yourself feel and experience the tough emotions. It may be uncomfortable, but give yourself permission to “go there” and allow yourself to feel frustrated or hopeless for the moment. These emotions are not unwarranted-our society has gone through an unexpected trauma and we need to get through the rough parts first. Grief for you may look different than for someone else, which is appropriate and expected. It is also common to feel “old” emotions come up again even if we thought we were past it. Be kind with yourself and accept the emotions that are coming up for you.
Find the little (or big) things: It may feel impossible to see any good that has come out of this situation, but if we look hard enough we may be able to find something. It could be that we have been able to spend more time with loved ones than we would have otherwise, or we noticed something beautiful on a walk around the neighborhood or on the drive to an essential job. Reframing our mindset is so important during times like these, and any positivity we can find for ourselves can help immensely.
Look forward to connection: It is without a doubt that we are all missing friends, family members, coworkers, and even just people in general. It feels like it was ages ago that we could converse with others in a group setting, go to church, eat at a restaurant without restriction, or travel for a vacation. We crave connection and experiences, and it can be tempting to indulge in feeling like we may not get to engage in these activities again. It is okay to miss these things, of course, but also keep in mind that we can look forward to these joys again. Certain aspects of life will look different, however that doesn’t mean they will cease to exist. It is healthy to foster hope and know that we will get to enjoy our favorite things about life again, even if it looks different.
Reflect on the experience: Experiences like this have the ability to shape our lives moving forward. This could mean that we have learned something along the way, or we have become aware of something we would like to change about ourselves moving forward. Changes impact our world as a whole, as well as every individual. Change can be uncomfortable, but it does lend opportunity for good to come from it.
Through times of uncertainty, finding hope can feel nearly impossible at times. COVID-19 has impacted our lives in ways that we could not imagine before its onset. Thinking of the future might make us feel discouraged or anxious. It is important to exercise empathy and remind ourselves this hasn’t been easy on anyone. It is hard work, but we can do our best to find hope amidst this chaos. We will heal from this and adapt to life moving forward.