Coping in Chaos: Strategies for Wellness During the Election and Pandemic
If you've sought out this post, it's likely you are looking for coping strategies during this incredibly chaotic time. Given the upcoming election, the pandemic, and generally entering a completely different way of life, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is develop a coping skills routine. For so many adults, the term "coping skills" is one they are peripherally familiar with though not one they can easily make actionable. Additionally, given the 24 hour news cycle and general awareness of others suffering during this time, it can make it hard to feel deserving of the time and energy to create a coping skills routine.
I am here to tell you that learning about why uncertainty causes internal chaos and developing a coping routine can help you navigate life with ease. When you think about uncertainty, what do you notice come up for you? Maybe it’s concern, anxiety, overwhelm or hopelessness. If you found that last statement true for you, not to worry. That is what learning and practicing new coping skills is for. So what coping skills are the most helpful when you don’t know exactly what might happen but you know you are concerned about the possibility of something scary happening? The skills that will be the most helpful for coping with uncertainty include:
learning to be here now, learning to respond rather than react, learning to name emotions and lastly learning to connect rather than isolate.
Be here now:
Being here now comes from the mindfulness traditions. It asks its practitioners to do exactly what it says, be here in the present moment. When you can live in the present and experience emotions in the present you are able to be more connected with yourself, learn coping in the moment and are able to watch our emotions occur and subside within minutes. A great way to begin your mindfulness practice is by taking 1-5 minutes to sit comfortably by yourself and connect with your breath. As you do so, allow the thoughts that come up to be noticed briefly and sent away. Allow this process to be done without judgement. Doing so for a brief period of time, multiple times a day can help you connect with yourself in the moment, learn what you feel like when grounded and help you connect with calmness throughout the day when you need to.
Respond rather than react:
Much like the previous skill, responding rather than reacting asks those practicing it to be present and notice how and why they respond the way they do. So how can you learn to respond rather than react? It begins with becoming present. Allowing yourself to let go of anything that has happened throughout the day or any feelings you might be holding on to. After you are able to be present, it is then helpful to stop what you are doing and reflect on your knee jerk desire to react. Notice what your initial response is and what comes up. After you have taken a moment to reflect on your initial reaction, breathe for a minute or longer and allow your mind and body to relax. Likely after taking the time to relax and reflect, you will have learned about your reaction and might be able to respond differently.
Connect rather than isolate:
Often when you find yourself pulling away from your support network or life, it is an attempt at coping through avoidance. Although isolation is usually where most people go when they initially don’t know how to cope, it can make an already difficult feeling, worse. When you find yourself feeling stressed, overwhelmed or fearful, it can be helpful to lean into connection rather than isolation. One of the foremost experts on isolation and depression, Johann Hari, states that isolation is the number one cause of depression. As social animals, it is paramount that we connect with others in order to gain support and have our experience reflected by others. When we are unable to connect with others for support, rumination, anxiety and depression increase. If asking for help feels difficult at first blush, reach out and instead of asking for help, ask someone if they can simply listen.