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  • Writer's pictureJulie Burn

How to Live in Uncertain Times

It is okay to be anxious. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to be frustrated. The period we are living through right now is unprecedented. None of us knows for sure what will happen over the next few months, or for how long we will have to self isolate in order to protect our most vulnerable in society from the dreadful Coronavirus.

Humans don't do well with isolation. We crave connection to others. This can be a particularly hard time for the single and the elderly, who are not able to get social contact from work colleagues, friends and extended family. Grandchildren can't be hugged, banter by the water cooler is no more, meeting friends for pizza after work isn't an option. Virtual socialising via Zoom or FaceTime may help ease the extreme loneliness somewhat but they are poor substitutes for in -the- flesh togetherness.

Even though many of us are lucky to be home with our partners and children, enforced constant togetherness can bring its fair share of stresses. Parents can feel overwhelmed in their attempts to balance working from home with entertaining, exercising and educating their children. Many large families are living in cramped conditions, without the luxury of a back garden in which to let off some steam. Tempers get frayed, voices get loud, doors get slammed.

We humans also don't do too well with uncertainty. We like to know what will happen and when. Change can make us nervous. However, be encouraged for as a species we are strong. For hundreds of thousands of years, we have overcome incredible hardships - environmental, war, disease. We are resilient. We will ride this storm.

But what can we do in the here and now, in the midst of all this uncertainty, to help ease our tension and lessen our anxiety? The following suggestions can help you gain some sense of control over your current situation. Whilst we cannot control what is happening 'out there', we can control what is happening 'inside ourselves'. Even when we think we don't, we always have choices and regaining a sense of control is often key to helping us feel more stable and content with what is, in our present situation.

Write it down

Get out your journal or start one online. The daily act of writing down your thoughts and feelings can help alleviate some of your worries. Getting your concerns out of your head and onto the page can be incredibly therapeutic. Don't worry about grammar, punctuation or whether it makes sense or not. This is basically a good old 'brain drain' and can clear confusion and ease stress.


If you are able to, make the most of our once daily allocation of some form of outdoor exercise. Go for a bike ride, rally the troops and set off for a family hike, or if you are in need of some ' Me time', go for a solitary run or offer to take the dog on a ramble. Sunlight, fresh air and a change of scenery can do wonders for your mental and physical health. If you are restricted to staying indoors, then try accessing an exercise class on YouTube or pull out your old DVDs. Be it Yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi, it doesn't matter so long as you get moving.


Try it. What have you got to lose? Meditation gets a hard press sometimes but practising mindfulness and present moment awareness can be so beneficial in this current climate of stress and anxiety. Our minds often race ahead to find answers in an uncertain future, and this can cause us to be anxious. Meditation helps us stay present, to breathe, to be in the here and now. Download a meditation app. I recommend Insight Timer, which is free and has many guided mediations to listen along to, or a timer setting for you to control how long you meditate for in silence. Start small, say 5 minutes a day, and enjoy the practice of switching off your busy mind for a while.

Avoid Media Saturation

If we wanted to, we could spend all day, every day in front of the news, soaking up all the horror stories, advice and statistics from around the world. This is not helpful. Be informed by all means, but a once or twice daily check of the main stories is enough. Instead of alleviating our anxiety, bombarding ourselves with too much media coverage merely exacerbates it.

Appreciate the Little Things

Our current situation has been described as a 'global pause'. How true. Globally we are being forced to be still, to stop our usual activities. Now is not the time to go shopping to acquire more stuff. Now is not the time to get some overtime in at the office. Now is not the time to sign the kids up for Easter camp or start planning our summer holiday. Instead, we are told to stay at home with our loved ones. We are told to be still.

So what can we do to fill our days? How about read that book you've had on your shelf for months, or apron up with the kids and bake a cake, run around in the back garden with the dog, and settle down to watch more Netflix than you could ever have thought possible, get the dusty board games down from the top shelf in the cupboard and actually gather the family around the dining table and play them. Simple pleasures.

Yes, of course there will be moments of hair pulling as the kids squabble, the dog eats the cake you just baked, and you can't bear to watch one more moment of Grey's Anatomy but remember... you might never again be given this chance to be at home with your tribe, without the constant do more, be more, achieve more pace of regular daily life. Enjoy your first sip of coffee on a morning, notice the quiet neighbourhood due to fewer cars on the roads, hear the birdsong on a spring day, cherish moments of togetherness with your loved ones, do some work from home if you can, get a little home study done with the kids. Above all do your best to enjoy simplicity and do what works for you and your family.

Stay Connected

Many of us live alone, many of us are classed as 'vulnerable' and must stay isolated in our own homes. Families are separated for an uncertain period, friends can't meet for coffee, social events are cancelled, grandparents can't hug their grandchildren. Many of us are feeling alone and sad and see no end in sight. Try to stay connected via FaceTime or Zoom or use the good old fashioned telephone to chat to loved ones. If you are housebound allow neighbours to help with offers of shopping or running errands for you. People love to help. Talk to your neighbour over the garden fence (keeping a respectful two metre distance of course). You are not alone. We are all in this together.

Remember, nothing lasts forever, and this too shall pass. We don't know the when or how right now, but change will happen. Sit tight. Stay strong and look for the good in every day. There is kindness everywhere.

If you are finding these times unbearable and really struggling with depression or anxiety, don't suffer alone. Many counsellors, myself included, are offering their services online via FaceTime or telephone. If you need some help and support please reach out.

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