Dear Anxious and Frustrated,
Transitions and unexpected changes are a part of life, and they come with uncertainty. The pandemic is offering us many lessons, including the importance of sitting with what feels intolerable. Many of us struggle with “unknowns” and put a lot of effort into planning and preparing. I promise this won’t be the first time you’ll experience uncertainty, so let's strengthen your tolerance now to be prepared for dealing with it again later.
A good place to start is by practicing distress tolerance. Distress tolerance includes the concept of radical acceptance – which should not be conflated with radical “approval.” It just means you are acknowledging the reality of a situation, which can result in less over-thinking and less triggering of emotional pain.
Another suggestion for dealing with so much uncertainty about the Fall is contingency planning, which involves envisioning various scenarios. For example, if you’re not sure whether you will be back on-campus in the Fall or studying remotely, take some time to imagine both scenarios and ask yourself the following questions about each:
What will be challenging about this scenario?
What will I need in order to make this scenario manageable?
What supports and resources are available to me, as I try to plan for the challenges ahead?
What might help me cultivate acceptance for this version of things?
Sometimes, creating a pros and cons list can help you do some reality-testing, as well as prepare you for any disappointments encountered along the way. If it turns out that you have to let go of a preferred contingency plan, take some time to acknowledge the loss. It’s not easy letting go of things we have envisioned for ourselves, but it is possible to process the loss in a way that frees us up to embrace new possibilities.
Finally, consider reading this excerpt from Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron.
Dear Anxious and Frustrated,
In addition to learning how to cope with the emotional roller coaster of the global rearrangement of things, we must also deepen our awareness of how we feel in our bodies. For example, being aware of variations in body sensations, how are you sleeping? Or, when doing routine activities, have you experienced sudden racing heart? I ask these questions because it can take a while to realize this about ourselves. Even Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, can hold stress in her broad shoulders just like any other Goddesses/Or Gender Binary Identified Entities would. Anxious and Frustrated, what are you experiencing? I want to encourage you to really center yourself and listen to your body. And, Anxious and Frustrated, I want to encourage you to really center yourself and listen to your body. Develop deeper awareness of mental health as a meaningful core component of total human health, and consider what that looks like in your daily practices.
Here are a few resources for increasing mindfulness and awareness:
Listening to your body