Times are tough! Talk about uncertainty. We are in the middle of a pandemic that has left us scared and scrambling. Our world has been turned upside down almost overnight and there is an eerie stillness on the streets at night.

How are you hanging in there?

If you’re like most of us, you may still be trying to get your bearings about you. What does this mean for you? Your work? Your family? You may have experienced an initial period of shock—maybe you’re still experiencing it—where you thought “this can’t be happening” and figured “people are over-reacting” or “things will settle down quickly.

But then life didn’t settle down. In fact, things have escalated quickly in the almost two weeks since much of the United States has taken action related to COVID-19. The new reality may be settling in for you now, though there’s no road map for the terrain we find ourselves in now.

However, it is possible to thrive in the face of uncertainty. We need to recognize that we are on new terrain and it may take a bit to get our footing. That’s okay! There’s no perfect map for the terrain that lays ahead. This is totally understandable. We are going to be worn out and frustrated and scared. This often happens when we are forging a new path. So be it.

But, it is possible to be steady on our path even when the path is uncertain. The key to remember is that predictability is an antidote to stress and structure brings order to chaos. Though the future is unpredictable and no one can provide 100% certainty, here are 8 ways to thrive in uncertain times. 

  1. Learn something every day. You’ve likely got more time at home. Make it productive time. Learn something new every day, whether via a great audiobook, an old-fashioned book (remember those?), a podcast, YouTube videos, or e-learning options. Challenge yourself and keep your mind active. This will help stave off anxiety and give your mind something productive to focus on.
  2. Get outside every day. Don’t stay cooped up. Just because you’re quarantined, doesn’t mean you need to stay inside. Spend some time outside every day, regardless of the weather. Put on a coat, put on sunscreen, do what you need to do, but get outside and breathe some fresh air. A simple walk will do. A hike is great. A run could be marvelous unless you have a gimpy hip like I do. The point is, enjoy the great outdoors every day. It will do your body and your soul some good.
  3. Have fun every day. Because you’re spending more time at home, it’s important to break up the day and we know that all work and no fun makes you a dull girl (or boy as the case may be). Plan for fun every single day. Play games at the end of the day. Have a movie night. Have a spike ball tournament (with those you can be close to, of course). Have a dance party after dinner. The meme game is strong right now so consider taking time and laughing to some memes or have a family contest of who can find the best memes. Everyone will win. Last week my teens and I watched the Dude Perfect Quarantine Classic over four nights. It was silly and it was fun.
  4. Move your body every day. The gym is closed, but you still need the benefits of regular exercise. This is a great time to be creative with your workouts and try something new. There are a lot of apps offering free memberships right now—check them out! Body weight exercises are very effective. Use some bands, use some canned goods, or use a partner for resistance! The possibilities are endless.
  5. Get quiet every day. We have so many inputs coming at us right now, and so many of the inputs are laden with fear and anxiety. It’s essential to create some boundaries where you can limit the inputs and build in stillness for yourself. This space allows reflection, self-awareness, understanding, presence, and peace. This is an excellent time for journaling, praying, and meditation.
  6. Connect with others every day. Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Make a point to connect with 3-5 loved ones every day via phone, text, email, face-time, skype, zoom, marco polo app, or social media. Relationships matter, they matter a lot! We are all coping with a lot and the ability to process what is happening with those we love can make all the difference in thriving vs. just surviving. There is no need to move through uncertainty alone. You aren’t meant to cope alone.
  7. Stick to the basics every day. Just because the world seems to be falling apart doesn’t mean your schedule needs to fall apart. Remember, predictability is an antidote to stress. Stick to the basics of good sleep hygiene, a good sleep schedule, a predictable daily routine, balanced nutrition that includes fruits and veggies and adequate water intake. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean hygiene should fly out the window! Get up, get showered, get dressed and ready for the day, make your bed. You will feel better about yourself and your contribution to your work.
  8. Be grateful every day. Find a way to be grateful despite the storms raging about you. This isn’t about dismissing or minimizing the difficulties you find yourself in, but it is about acknowledging that there is always something to be grateful for and that the degree to which you can be grateful is the degree to which you will develop resilience. That’s how resilience works. Perspective really matters. Ask yourself “what are the gifts of this time?” and you will be amazed at how you begin to develop eyes to see gifts everywhere you look. Whether it is a new-found appreciation for freedom to move about unimpeded or gratitude for more family time, when you begin to look at your life and circumstance with gratitude, your heart begins to expand and the stress that once was traumatic ceases to be. We call this post-traumatic growth and it is powerful.

Times of uncertainty need not be devastating. They can propel us to personal growth and deeper connection, but we must be willing to cultivate self-compassion, coping skills, and curiosity about our needs. You are meant to thrive, not just when the sun is shining and flowers blooming, but here, today, among the storms.