At first, the political authorities of many countries spoke of locking society in terms of weeks – a challenge, yes, but manageable; there are even those who have treated it as a rather new adventure. More recently, as the understanding of the pandemic grows, this metric is moving, discouragingly, toward months, even years.
Last week, Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical adviser, said that social distancing should continue at least year-round, while Canadians were warned to expect travel limits. and gatherings for about a year and a half. Donald Trump recently admitted that US pandemic guidelines – which he originally declared void at Easter – would likely remain in the summer and, cryptically, “beyond.” Some regions are planning to gradually reopen their economies, but the experiences of Asian countries where infections have increased while restrictions have been relaxed serve as a cautionary tale. Dozens of experts have testified that there will be no quick return to our previous lives.
Now that we are no longer at the beginning of this pandemic, but in a seemingly endless environment, the most relevant question to ask is not “when will it end?” but “how can we cope with this drag?” “
One healthy thing you can do is preventively reduce disappointment by readjusting your horizons, says psychologist Dr. Amelia Aldao. specializing in anxiety. Some of us may still have our hopes set on an event in the future – a wedding in July that we half expect, or a getaway in September that we think might work well – and that can be problematic, said Aldao. “The way things are going there is a lot of uncertainty – what is going to be opened? Will there be a second wave [of outbreaks]? We just don’t know.
Looking forward to the plans can be psychologically beneficial, keeping us engaged in life. But given the current circumstances, “Either focus on the right here, right now, the immediate days and weeks – we all have a lot of control over the next week,” says Aldao, “Or try to focus on the future.” farther away – maybe a year or more from now. “
Aldao’s advice is consistent with the wisdom of Vice-Admiral James Stockdale. Stockdale, who spent seven years as a prisoner of the Vietnam War, is renowned for his articulation of what is now called the “Stockdale Paradox”, a “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” ethos captured by his quote: “You must never confuse the faith that you will eventually prevail … with the discipline to face the most brutal facts of your current reality. “
A defender of fierce pragmatism in the face of adversity, Stockdale observed that his cell mates – “the optimists” who thought they would be free by Christmas and then, when that did not happen, at Easter, etc. – became demoralized and “died of a broken heart”.
While our circumstances are distinctly different from Stockdale’s, his wisdom about how to deal with uncertainty still resonates: we cannot afford to go through this entire pandemic while waiting for normalcy to manifest itself. detour – it only makes our pain worse.
So, in addition to canceling our plans and giving up on a definite end date, how can we really face the most brutal facts of our current reality, without getting bogged down in the sheer gloom of it all? It may sound counterintuitive, but according to self-awareness psychologist and researcher, Dr. Tasha Eurich, we can start by planning the worst scenarios in advance.
“We are not going to be able to control the uncontrollable, but we can develop an emergency plan,” says Eurich. “For example: if we are all locked in our homes until there is a vaccine, the question should be,” Use whatever I can control, how can I create a new living reality, knowing that it won’t last forever, but knowing that my plan for a four-week isolation will be very different from that for a 12-month period? »»
You don’t want to get stuck brooding over your fears, “but you have to understand what could happen so you can control what you can, without it becoming a source of constant sadness, “she said. Make a plan for tangible circumstances, such as what you will do if you or someone you live with gets sick, if your business cannot reopen, if a natural disaster occurs while you are locked out – then set it aside and try not to worry about it.
You can also shift your attention inward. “Imagine you are sitting with your grandchildren in 50 years and they ask you,” How was it during the pandemic? “”, Explains Eurich. “Ask yourself,” What are the things in my life that I want to use as an opportunity to clarify things, and how can I reframe my situation with this longer lens to understand what I should be focusing on right now? “”
If you’re worried, Eurich suggests assessing your well-being right now – and appreciating what you have. “For me, hope for the future can be replaced by hope for the present – gratitude,” she said.