How To Find Real Hope When Facing Uncertainty During The COVID-19 Pandemic

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How To Find Real Hope When Facing Uncertainty During The COVID-19 Pandemic
Self

It's normal to feel overwhelmed right now. But you can also feel hope.

Few things in life give people more pause than when facing an uncertain future and a brush with their own mortality. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of those things.

There is, however, a way to find real hope and real relief during this uncertain and unprecedented time.

You can use practice getting into what I call the “hope zone.” It can help you turn your fears into fearlessness and empower you to stay grounded while weathering this storm.

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It’s also the key to taking this all one day at a time, one moment at a time, and then emerging from this transformed for the better.

And the good news is, this strategy can be implemented right now. But before doing so, let’s get clear on what finding hope is and isn’t.

Finding real hope is not about wishful thinking, reciting positive affirmations, or force-feeding yourself a “hopeful” belief that everything will be OK. Because right now, everything is far from that.

You probably have a cacophony of contradictory thoughts or concerns. The logical part of your brain believes that in a few weeks or months, things will get better. But there are also parts of you that are scared and worried that this is just the beginning.

You may worry about you or a family member getting sick, or that the hospitals are overwhelmed and not everyone will get the care they need.

Adding on to all the health stress, you worry that you'll lose your job, retirement funds, go broke, or many other potential devastating economic consequences that could affect your life.

No matter what the fear, there's a resource of hope inside of you that will help you get grounded, back in tune, and in sync.

Finding real hope in this crisis is about committing to a practice that will allow you to authentically honor, validate, and quell your contradictory concerns.

It will help you stay sane, and with time and consistent practice, it will also help you deepen into a more authentic experience of yourself and develop a stronger relational skill set, too. Practicing it is a win-win, both now and going forward.

Since this crisis is still so new, the thought of “deepening into oneself” most likely isn’t high on your priorities. That being said, the number one psychological priority for most people at this time, is to find some moments of peace, calm, quiet, and relief.

Even if it’s for just a minute or two a day. And that is very possible.

The practice of getting into the “hope zone” offers simple strategies that will help your more analytical brain work not work so hard.

While that part of you is necessary in times of turbulence to help you plan, plot, and prepare for what’s next, it may also inadvertently traumatize you, too.

Healthy doses of worry motivate people into action. But too much of it can cause a sort of overdose that’s hard to recover from.

That’s where your intuitive brain and body can come to the rescue and offer you some real relief and inspired ideas on what to do next. That’s what the “hope zone” is.

Take a few minutes to practice getting into your "hope zone":

  • Close your eyes and scan your body for tension.
  • Connect with your breath and see if those pockets of tension can soften just by focussing on them and your breath.
  • Bring one hand to your heart and the other to your stomach and follow your breath cycle for 10 to 20 breaths.
  • Ask yourself this question: "If I wasn’t panicking, what would I rather be doing?"
  • Listen to the answers that bubble up inside of you.
  • Continue focusing on your breath and body sensations, and listen as more thoughts, feelings, and concerns come to mind.
  • Validate them all — no matter how ridiculous some may seem.
  • Now, write them all down and take five minutes to do some stream-of-conscious journaling about them.
  • When you're finished, close your eyes and follow your breath for another 10 to 20 cycles.
  • Open your eyes and notice any small shifts or changes inside of yourself.

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Chances are, by practicing this, you found a moment or two of respite. Keep practicing it, and you will find a moment or two more. And each moment adds up to more time spent in the “hope zone.”

This is needed because your next coronavirus freakout will come again, but so too can this feeling of quiet in the chaos.

It’s this feeling that gives people a sense of hope and inspires creative solutions that your analytical brain just isn’t capable of. It’s a feeling that can only happen when you shift your focus from the external to the internal.

The more you practice this, the more you'll experience the reservoir of inner peace, quiet, and hope inside of you. And that will soothe the stress response you're experiencing right now.

Yet, as the crisis begins to normalize, everyone’s internal anxiety will shift, too.

The mandated social distancing and sheltering in place orders will most likely get extended. This will positively affect public health but will complicate the psychological health of many.

This pandemic will stir up a new flavor of anxiousness — an existential one, to be exact.

People may begin to ruminate over deeper questions such as: What’s the purpose of my life? What matters to me most? How do I live to the fullest? How do I love the way I most want to? What if I die before I ever really get to live?

This pandemic will have many finding themselves facing their own existential “rub” while experiencing it. The same strategy that will help quiet the initial survival panic will also help quiet the deeper transpersonal panic you may begin to experience.

And when that happens, do the same practice as above where you focus on your breath and body sensations.

Ask yourself this line of fill-in-the-blank questions:

  • “If I could tap into my inner resource of courage, I would..."
  • “If I could tap into my inner resource of confidence I would try..."
  • “If I could tap into my inner resource of creativity, I would..."
  • “If I could tap into my inner resource of compassion I would forgive myself for..."

Then take some time to journal about your answers, and include any fears and negative thoughts or beliefs that come up. Notice how you feel. Did you feel a little flash of courage or confidence? Did you feel a spark of creativity and get some ideas that you could try?

Most importantly, were you able to feel any compassion toward yourself?

The last part is always a tough one for most. But keep practicing getting into the "hope zone” this way, and in time, your heart will open toward yourself. The more self-compassion you have, the greater relational capacity you will have for others, including your partner.

So there you have it. A simple real hope strategy to help you face and embrace all the nuances of uncertainty during this crazy time. You can start to feel better now.

And because everyone is experiencing this crisis, practicing getting into the “hope zone” consistently will also help those who do learn how to come to terms with their own mortality. There will be tragic and unnecessary losses during this time, but that is also true of any time.

Now is a time for you to identify what matters most to you. It’s a time to wish, dream, and dare; to choose to live your life to the fullest, do your best, and have the courage to be your true self.

There’s nothing like the wisdom from the most well-known song from "The Fiddler on the Roof" to offer everyone a small nugget of certainty and celebration of life during our collective brush with mortality.

It’s a choral line which roughly paraphrased is this: "The sun will rise and the sun will set. Swiftly will flow this year. One season will follow this from another, and it will be laden with both happiness and tears."

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Maura Matarese, M.A., LMHC, R.Y.T. is a psychotherapist, author, and yoga teacher, practicing in Sudbury, MA. Check out her new online course, Finding Hope After Heartbreak: Learn the Secret How To Start Feeling Better Now, or try the free mini-course version first. Maura is also available for teletherapy during this time, too. Visit her website for more information. 

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