Finding Meaning in Times of Uncertainty

By: Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. | March 31, 2020

We all know the Coronavirus is here. We are living through something that no one on the planet has ever lived through before. No protocols exist for a time like this, no wisdom upon which to rely or set a course to follow. In these strangely surreal times, we feel a myriad of emotions such as frustration, anxiety and fear. We feel helpless. As a grief and loss expert and person who has experienced significant loss in my life, I recognize similarities in this type of despair. From my own personal journey and from helping others on their unique paths toward healing, I know that we can find hope and meaning amidst times of chaos and uncertainty.

To move toward a place of hope and meaning, we must first more fully understand and embrace our reactions to the world’s health crisis.

What you feel right now is natural and unavoidable

We are shaken by the feeling that the world is not safe. We are confronted with the reality that nothing is the way it should be, and we don’t know what the future holds. As a society, we are mourning beliefs that no longer hold true while trying to adjust to some kind of new normal.

Just as each one of us is a unique individual, each grief journey is unique and our responses will vary. There is no “right” way to grieve, and and there is no one “right” way to feel at a time like this. We can expect a range of emotions from anxiety and fear to hope – and back again – on a daily, hourly, or even momentary basis.

You are doing enough 

The deluge of scary news from the media can be overwhelming at times, leaving us feeling helpless. The problem is so large that anything we do feels like it’s not enough. Amassing a year’s supply of toilet paper and overshopping for food are examples of how we respond to this feeling.

During times when little seems within our power and control it is important to shift our focus to what is within our power and control.

Do not underestimate the value of following public health guidelines, safeguarding our children both physically and emotionally, contributing to public discourse in intelligent and balanced ways, and sharing love and kindness instead of spreading fear or hate. Now more than ever is the time to practice compassion for ourselves and for others and give ourselves permission to grieve. Grieving requires courage, time, and a willingness to find what truly gives us a sense of purpose and meaning in life.

You are more resilient than you know

Resilience means the capacity to recover from difficulties. As human beings, we have an innate power for resilience and the capability to heal from trauma. Resilience does not mean denying ourselves a range of natural emotion arising from times of uncertainty and fear. Rather, it means trusting that we have the skills, resourcefulness, and the ability to come together to solve problems. As humans, we have the capacity to adapt, to do what’s needed to face whatever challenges might lay ahead.

We may not know what the future holds, but we do know we have the ability to persevere in whatever circumstances the future brings.

Finding hope

Like all concepts, the word ‘hope’ has many facets. I personally define hope as a vision of what could be. Evolutionarily, our brains tend to categorize things into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as a survival mechanism. Like many primal instincts, this reaction does not serve a useful purpose in today’s modern context, which often forces us to sit with uncertainty – making us humans feel very uncomfortable.

One way to ease this discomfort is to ask, “what can I learn from this?” Think about what lessons we learn from this experience to carry into the future. Ask, “how can I incorporate this learning into my life?” Let’s keep talking about what we want our future to look like, how we can make it better, and what we can do to be a part of that positive change.

Hope loves company

There are a lot of beautiful things happening in our world around us. Give thanks for healthcare providers and those working the front lines to keep our communities healthy and functioning. People have stepped up to contribute in so many ways – free fitness and health classes, mindfulness and meditation apps, and classes on subjects such as happiness.

You are not alone. You do not have to go through this alone.

Therapy Changes therapists will continue to be here for you to address the current crisis and practice strategies to manage anxiety. Therapy Changes upholds our mission of providing focused guidance when you need it most.

Your San Diego Psychologist now offers therapeutic services remotely through video and audio or by phone communication for both new clients as well as continued care for current clients. This type of service, called teletherapy, holds the same purpose as traditional, in-person therapy and is provided confidentially.

Be well

Improving the world starts with bettering its individuals. It starts with each one of us making a choice to contribute to the beauty around us, or to feed the chaos and fear. Won’t you join me in taking steps to better ourselves and hold hope for the future?


Image: Derek Σωκράτης Finch on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

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