Comfortable With Uncertainty

Comfortable With Uncertainty

How to live with uncertainty.

The current pandemic is the epitome of uncertainty. We are being asked to self-quarantine and to practice social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. However, we don’t know how long this will last or how bad things will get. Uncertainty is scary. To help combat the feelings of uncertainty, we seek out help.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Lessons from Improvisation

Improvisation is uncertainty. On an improv stage, there’s no telling what will develop. To handle this level of uncertainty, the creators of improv created some guidelines to make it easier for improvisers.

Listen

If you are not listening, you cannot develop a storyline. When you build a trusted group of people around you, you have to listen to one another to keep the story going. You do not have to agree with everyone, but you should hear them out. Right now, they are in the same or similar situation. This pandemic should be a unifier of human connection.

Be Open

Do not judge. This is true now and always. Judgment is not helpful. Be supportive and interested in others. Keep those who do the same close.

Say Yes

Saying yes to whatever is happening on the stage is an age-old trick to keep the plot moving and expanding. This is a true collaboration. Collaboration is essential now more than ever. It is not about being right or wrong. It is about working together to make our world safe again.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Lessons from Successful People

As we confront uncertainty, our brains overreact. Successful people can reverse this and drive their thinking in a rational direction. This shows emotional intelligence. There are strategies that you can use to challenge the decisions you make.

Organize Your Thoughts

When you’re faced with uncertainty, your brain has the knee-jerk reaction toward panic, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If you can pause for a moment and organize your thoughts into rational and irrational, you can start to grasp the situation. Push the irrational aside and focus only on the rational.

Stay Positive

Positive thoughts quiet fear and irrational thinking by focusing your brain’s attention. You have to help your mind out and give it any positive thought that could refocus your attention. When you’re stressing this is difficult to accomplish, but you can turn it around. Think of something positive that has happened to you, anything. The point is to have something good to draw your attention.

I recently listened to a podcast by Karen Unrue, and in the podcast, she compares our need for control to a big tree. The tree weathers storm after storm and the critters living their lives amongst the branches. It stands strong because it has rooted itself deeply in the soil. Like the tree, we need to deeply root ourselves in positive thought and embrace uncertainty because it will come, and we will be ready.

Perfection Is Not Real

Perfection is not the target of successful people because they know it does not exist. We are fallible. If perfection is your goal, you will always be left wanting. So, why waste your time grieving your failure when you could be enjoying what you’ve accomplished.

Don’t Ask What-If

Asking, “What if,” is the equivalent of throwing gasoline on an already roaring fire of fear and anxiety. The more you worry about what could happen, the less time you have to focus on taking care of yourself or others. Remember to focus on what is important in your life.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

The ability to manage uncertainty is one of the most important skills you can cultivate in an increasingly uncertain world. Try the lessons above, and your ability to handle uncertainty should take a step in the right direction.

Working from Home — Week 2

Working from Home — Week 2

You’ve been working from home for a few weeks now due to self-quarantine or shutdown mandates from your local government.

How is it going?

In Charleston

I don’t want to curse the situation, as I’m very superstitious nowadays, but we’re doing relatively well. That is considering the state of affairs here in Charleston (SC), where we are on a mandated shutdown. We have 456 cases of coronavirus and nine related deaths in South Carolina. Of those 456 cases, 60 were in Charleston County where we live. We’ve had only one death in the county.

We do have groceries and some toilet paper, but it is still impossible to find it in the stores. As for now, we can go to the store for food and supplies, but we have been asked to return home after doing so. Many of the stores are restricting how and how many people can shop at one time. Costco, for one, has created a 6-foot apart line system for people to wait in when going to the store because they only allow so many people in at a time.

At Home

My wife and I have divvied up the living room space for work and general living. Unfortunately, we only have one desk space, which means I get sequestered to the couch with a lap desk. It is fair considering the amount of work my wife has to do. She needs the extra monitor and room to spread out.

Amy’s desk space

All my writing and research happens on my laptop, and I rarely need room outside of writing. I’m a compact worker and always have been. It keeps me from getting stressed. Too much stuff on my desk sends me into a tailspin of worry about what I’ve not yet done.

Amy’s desk space

I have, however, learned that I must make room for lap cats who don’t care that you’re working. Have you become a personal mattress yet? Every day I share my space on the couch with one cat or another. Today, it is just one, but he certainly knows how to command a space. If my feet were to move, he would attack them and although he has but one fang left, he will do damage. I have scars to prove the little bugger is quite irritable.

Amy’s desk space

Are you keeping to a schedule?

One of the top recommendations for keeping sane during this pandemic is to stick to a schedule. Be it busy or loose; a schedule will give you something to work toward, a goal. For the goal-oriented, this is ideal, but for those of us who struggle with organizing our day, creating a schedule keeps us focused and on task.

Quick Tip for Maintaining Focus

Alan Hedge, former director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University, said that concentration could falter in as little as 20 minutes. So he recommends the 20–20–20 rule: Work for 20 minutes, break for 20 seconds, then while breaking, look 20 feet away to reset your focus and attention span. Then repeat.

Our Schedule

For me, a schedule creates more to look forward to, thus making me feel like I’ve had a full day. If I laze about without a schedule, I often look back and feel like I haven’t done much, and that makes me anxious. I don’t want to be worried or down on myself right now. I need to keep my wits about me so I can try to steer clear of this virus.

Schedules don’t have to be strict; they can be loosely defined. If they are, you need to make sure you’re completing them. That is why my wife and I work off of lists. She has one for work. I have one for my day. Then we have one for the home and fun.

Example: Amy’s List (Work)

  • Respond to all programming emails
  • Watch one webinar
  • Update Microsoft Teams
  • Work on a narrative report

Each list is very different. For Amy (my wife), her list is specifically for work. It is part of a larger to-do list that she keeps building each day. She takes 3–5 doable tasks from the more extensive list and completes them daily. She even has a separate much larger list for things to do outside of work.

Amy loves lists. Everything is on a list. I think she even has secret lists that I don’t even know about. I am betting some of them are about me, but then again, I’m good at being paranoid.

Example: Ash’s List

  • Write an article for Wonder
  • Rough draft of Medium Article
  • Apply for at least 1 job
  • Gather info about a new client purchase (iMac)
  • Tai Chi
  • Read/Listen to an audiobook

My schedule is based on the Ivy Lee method that I learned from reading James Clear’s work. It is something my therapist recommended for me to feel accomplished during the day. I have to admit it really works. I love checking things off. The hard part is being okay with not getting everything done on the list. I’m still learning how to deal with that, but it is a point of growth when I shrug and add them to tomorrow.

Example: Daily Cleaning List

  • Litter Box
  • Trash
  • Clean bathroom sink area
  • Clean hummingbird feeder
  • Clean shower
  • Wipe down walls in bathroom

This one explains itself. I do not believe it is possible to clean your entire house every day and also work most of the day. If someone can, more power to them. They have special powers that I simply do not possess. So, we break it down into digestible pieces.

Example: Ongoing Fun List

  • Make succulent arrangments
  • Read lots of books
  • MasterClass
  • Exercise every day
  • Practice sewing
  • Redo bookshelves

This is our fun list of things to do in our downtime or weekends. It is much larger, but I think you get the idea. You need to make time for fun too. Don’t forget that.

More Fun Ideas

  • Check out museums at Google Arts & Culture.
  • Start a journal or a blog
  • Watch all the long movies you’ve avoided until now.
  • Look at pictures of puppies, kittens, or dolphins
  • Put on a telenovela, mute the sound, and recite your own dialogue
  • Try on ALL your clothes and see if they spark joy — Marie Kondo.
  • Try to do something you’ve seen on Pinterest

Conclusion

Stay on a schedule, make lists, and have fun. Now, wash your hands!

Coping with Isolation in Self-Quarantine

Coping with Isolation in Self-Quarantine

Quarantine does not mean isolation.

Quarantine and isolation are public health practices used to limit the spread of diseases like COVID-19.

  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of healthy people who may have been exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. Some of these people may have been exposed to a virus and do not know it. They might even have the disease but do not show symptoms. However, quarantine helps limit the spread of contagious diseases.
  • Isolation separates sick people who have a contagious disease from those who are healthy. It restricts the movement of sick people to limit the spread of diseases. Hospitals will use isolation for patients with contagious diseases.

Feelings of Isolation in Quarantine

Whether you are quarantined due to suspected exposure, staying home because you are high-risk, or at home to help limit the spread of infection, you could find yourself unprepared for the feelings of loneliness. People with chronic illnesses are likely to be familiar with long periods alone at home, but most of us are used to going out daily. To cease this suddenly is disconcerting.

This one is hard for me. I’m an isolation ninja. I will isolate quickly and quietly, but I have to remember that this behavior isn’t helpful. Remember that support starts with you. You have to decide who you’ll let in. It is essential to have people to count on and help you through tough times. Regular contact with supportive friends and family members is curative. It is not a sign of weakness.

Loneliness in Social Isolation

For these reasons, it is vital to take care of your mental health during times of limited social interactions.

What is the best way to get through this isolation? There are many tactics you can employ to ensure good mental health. Most of these involve either finding ways to keep busy or to connect with others.

Distraction works to help you avoid ruminating about everything that is wrong, which is a risk factor for becoming depressed. — My therapist

Below are some ideas on how to manage your feelings of loneliness during these times:

Stick to a Schedule

Try to keep to a regular schedule as much as possible. Loneliness can feel like it will never end, trying to make days feel as normal as possible will help you to get through it.

  • I like to start each day with a plan that I jot down in a daily task book, but any book will do. You just want to be able to make a list and check it off as you get things done.
  • Keep a daily diary to track how you’re feeling, what you’re doing, and if you have any symptoms of mental or physical illness. It will help you and your doctors make the best decisions proactively.

Stay Inform, but NOT Too Informed

While you do not want to feed your anxiety through continuous updates about the state of the virus, keeping up to date on the latest information may give you an edge when it comes to protecting your mental health.

  • Limit media consumption, as too much news and content, can be overwhelming. Set a schedule for when you will connect for more information and do not go over your time limits. Try twice a day for twenty minutes to start.
  • Seek out factual information, not just social media rhetoric. Find trusted sources and always double-check your information.

Stay Active

It is easy to focus solely on how to manage your mental health and loneliness directly during a crisis, but sometimes forget that our physical and mental health are linked.

  • If you spend 14 days of isolation without exercise, it will have an effect on your ability to cope mentally.
  • Let me admit that I struggle with this one despite its importance to my life. I can come up with some of the most ridiculous excuses not to exercise, and I will wistfully accept them. I know that this is important to my physical and mental health. So I won’t preach at you, but I will suggest that you try walking.

Do Something Significant

All of us want to feel like we belong. We want to feel that our life has importance, which is why we should include significant and meaningful activities into each day.

  • Doing something meaningful each day, even if only for a short while, it will give you a sense of purpose.
  • Take a class at Coursera, write poetry, draw, paint, or volunteer to tutor someone online.

Connect with Family & Friends

One of the best things you can do to battle loneliness is to connect with others in non-traditional ways.

  • Write someone an email, text, or video chat with them.
  • I’d say write a letter or send a postcard, but we want to limit the germs being spread.

Connect with People Online

You can also fight loneliness by participating in online exchanges with people around the world. They can be those with whom you share something in common and communicate online.

  • Join Facebook groups about topics you are interested in
  • Sign up for online forums about your hobbies or interests
  • Join and play multiplayer games

Create Something

If you’re finding it hard to express what you are feeling, channel it into something creative.

  • Practice writing in a journal each day
  • Start a daily blog with your experiences
  • Write poetry
  • Write short stories or start the novel
  • Complete a paint-by-number project
  • Start needlework, knitting, or crocheting
  • Compile a digital photo album
  • Work on an adult coloring book
  • Take up a new hobby like origami
  • Choose a space in your home and start organizing
  • Redecorate by moving things around or from room to room

Take Care of Yourself

If you find yourself down and struggling with your mental health during our self-quarantine, it is crucial to reach out for help. Consider calling a crisis line or an online therapy service to find out about options. It is normal to feel afraid and lonely at a time like this, but poor mental health could indicate the need for outside help.

Text or Call

Mental Health Apps

My Coronavirus Anxiety Spiral

100 Word Story

In the past weeks, we’ve experienced closings, testing delays, stock market declines, and toilet paper raids. Then you go online and fall into a loop of news and fact-checking. Overloading on information can be overwhelming. You’re stressed, but you are not alone. I know that you might be stuck indoors, but you can take steps to alleviate stress and stay safe. Here are a few ways:

  • Talk to a mental health professional
  • Limit information consumption
  • Try new activities: reading, yoga, crafting
  • Look at the bigger picture, not just the present situation.

Remember that your anxiety can impair your immune system.