By Dr. Kenneth M. Karotkin
Recently, global events like the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly reshaped our lives and brought unimaginable change. Sudden changes can make us feel overwhelmed, with fear being a normal response to such situations.
Fear is necessary to keep us safe, but it can become disproportionately magnified or out of control—keeping us from doing our best and doing what’s necessary to manage the uncertainty. Coping with fear and uncertainty is a learned skill. Being actively aware of our thinking and how our emotions can shape or distort our beliefs, thus positively or negatively influencing our actions, is fundamental in improving the likelihood that we’ll achieve the desired result of coping with these uncertain times.
In order to cope with uncertainty, we must see the problem clearly, understand what we can do, develop a plan, and execute those strategies that improve how we deal with the situation and achieve the eventual outcome. Simply put, it’s doing the right thing and doing our best, over and over again, because while emotionally we want and need resolution, intellectually we understand that success is in the steps taken that lead to the desired result.
The following are a few suggested strategies to help cope with fear and anxiety during uncertain times:
- Seek guidance and feedback from your loved ones or an expert. We only know what we know. A crisis is an opportunity to get smarter and more skilled.
- Be flexible. Some problems require adjustments in planning and behavior as conditions change. Assume a “work in progress” mindset and pivot as the situation changes.
- Structure and organize your day. Keep track of your daily activities and progress.
- Focus on things that you can do to move closer to your goal. Concentrate on your desired result and take steps to move towards achieving it.
- Keep a “big picture” perspective. Being anxious is like looking through the wrong end of the telescope. We only see a small part of the larger reality, thus limiting our view of the world, contributing to a distorted objectivity, and promoting emotionally driven thinking.
- Take time to address your mental, emotional, and physical needs.
- Take time to acknowledge what you’re grateful for.
While these uncertain times are challenging, we can take steps to help ourselves feel safer, more satisfied, and more connected with others to conquer our fears and anxiety. We are all in this together and we will successfully get through these uncertain times together.
Be smart. Be persistent. Be consistent.
Dr. Kenneth M Karotkin is Clinical Psychologist. He has a hospital-based Clinical and Neuropsychology practice with a BA from the University of Texas at Austin, MA from North Texas State University, PhD from Texas A&M University, and a post doc from UCLA, Neuropsychiatric Institute.
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