The main reason why the COVID pandemic has been so stressful? It has been shrouded in uncertainty and nobody has any idea if and when life will ever return to any semblance of normalcy. It plays upon the common fear of the unknown – a fear that almost every individual has to a certain extent. It has left us all wondering ‘what happens next?’ and, most importantly, will the world be able to cope with what is still to come?
Ultimately, the only way in which to preserve our mental health and make it through however much longer this virus is going to dominate our lives is to find an approach to overcoming that overwhelming fear of the unknown. Here’s how to go about it.
Question your fear of the unknown
You have already accepted your fear and uncovered why it is there. The next step is to question the basis of its existence. What, specifically, are you worried could potentially happen in the future? What evidence supports these concerns, i.e. how likely is it that your prediction could come true? Why do you think that you won’t be equipped to deal with the outcome?
Accept that failure could be the result
There isn’t a single person out there who can tell everyone for certain right now that everything is going to be alright. As such, it is important to accept that failure and some negative consequences could indeed be looming. You might lose your part-time job as a result of the economic downturn. You might fall behind in your coursework due to a lack of resources to allow for optimal online learning.
Once you accept that failure is possible, you can start to put contingency plans in place. For instance, you could start building up some savings now to help cover you in the event that you lose your job. Or you can make more time to revise to help keep ahead of your assignments and prepare for exams well in advance.
Putting contingency plans in place should provide you with a certain amount of peace of mind – but it might not be enough to quieten all of your negative thoughts and anxiety. This is where being more mindful comes in. Learn how to recognise negative thinking and turn it around immediately. Teach yourself to be content in the moment rather than allowing your mind to wander into the near or long-term future.
If, despite your best efforts, you are still struggling with a significant amount of fear regarding the unknown, seek support from a friend, relative, or professional. You can always contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 011 234 4837 or 0800 20 50 26.