As COVID-19 has become a household word across the world over the last month, many of us find ourselves in uncertain territory. We are grieving the familiar bedrock of our lives like office time, schedules, in person meetings, and social activities. With children home from school, self-quarantines in place in much of the world, and restricted travel we are all navigating a new normal.
As we walk this unfamiliar path, perhaps fear, questions, and doubt are trying to overtake familiar landmarks like balance, trust, confidence and faith that things will all work out.
You are not alone. Most of the world can resonate with feeling anxious or uncertain, or walking through the pain of loss. Loss of job, routine, finances, stability, or even loved ones. But, believe it or not, there is hope and help despite how hard things might look in this moment. You can find your way again by taking these steps when your world feels out of control.
Step 1. Establish your mindset
It’s said that mindset is everything. You would never begin a journey without knowing where you are hoping to end up. In the same way, when we are in uncertain times, we need to have a mindset that will withstand the trial.
One way to combat a negative attitude that often accompanies hardship is to choose a centering thought. Be intentional and choose something that is meaningful to you like a favorite expression, a significant truth, a motivational quotation, or a faith-based truth. Make it your own and refer to it often. Put it on your emails, social media, or say it in conversations to keep it in the forefront of your mind. When we choose a mindset that is framed in the positive it help us avoid getting stranded on the dark path of negativity.
Step 2. Determine your non-negotiables
In a crisis, instead of constantly reacting to your circumstances, a bit of proactive planning will give you a head start. Stay focused by creating a list of your non-negotiables. Think about things like physical, emotional, mental, and soul care. Then ask yourself a few questions: What’s important to me? What routines will I try to keep no matter what? What can’t I live without? What won’t I tolerate? What guidelines would I like people to follow?
Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, make a realistic list of what you need. Whether it’s diet, exercise, sleep habits, regular social activities, faith involvement, children’s bedtimes/schedules, or working hours, you get to decide how you’re going to navigate your hard place. Once you’ve made your choices, be sure to communicate your needs to others so they can help you take care of yourself in this way.
If you don’t determine what your absolutes are, they will be determined for you. So be proactive!
Step 3. Ask for Help
In researching my two books, Alongside and Hope in the Hard Places, I surveyed hundreds of people who had faced all manner of loss, grief and hardship and asked what their greatest struggle was during that time. A huge percentage said that although they were lonely, overwhelmed, depressed, hopeless or afraid, it was very difficult to ask for or accept help.
Pride, shame, embarrassment, or guilt are significant roadblocks that stand in the way of hurting people getting the help they need. But it’s important to understand that being in need is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of being human!
Many people want to help and when we allow them to, we give them a chance to feel good in an uncertain time. Trying to handle everything on our own will burn us out. But in times of uncertainty, we have a chance to see the best, and be the best, in terms of our relationships.
Step 4. Stay engaged with others
There are many ways you, too, can be a source of help and comfort to those around you. Try one of these ideas to encourage and help others while maintaining your relationships:
- Call a friend and ask how they’re doing, giving ample time to listen.
- Have coffee dates or happy hour with friends or family by Facetime or video conference.
- Change your regular book club or study group to phone or video, and take a moment to share your highs and lows with each other.
- Download a video sharing app for your phone and use short video messages to stay in touch with groups of friends or colleagues.
- Order a box of cards online and take time to write one note of encouragement per day to someone you care about.
- Read an uplifting book at the same time as a friend and make a weekly phone date to discuss it.
- Host a virtual dinner party where you and your friends make the same thing at your own homes and then sit down to eat together online.
- Meet friends for take-out and maintain social distance by eating and chatting in your parked cars next to each other! (if your local authorities allow you of course!)
These practical steps are a way to set your course toward positivity and caring for yourself despite the tumultuous world circumstances. Even amid grief and loss you’re facing today, you can walk through the next days and months with hope, purpose and clarity.
Speaker, Pastor, and Bestselling Author of Alongside and Hope in the Hard Places