The world can be a dark and scary place for some people even when there’s not a pandemic going on. Coping with every day life is hard enough as it is. But the past few months have been rife with uncertainty and fear for a great deal of the population. Many people, when faced with a crisis such as this, tend to fall into the trap of feeling hopeless and negative. We are only human, after all, and it is a normal response. However, living in a place of fear and negativity is not healthy or helpful. And it can do more harm to you, physically and mentally, than you realize. Choosing to live in a place of hope at a time like this (and yes, it is a choice!) is so much better for you . . . but also so hard. So how do you choose hope over fear amidst the Covid-19 pandemic?
Choosing Hope Over Fear
Ultimately, how you react to the chaos of the times is up to you. You will have to make the conscious and daily (if not hourly) effort to shift your focus and mindset in a way that will put you in a place of hope instead of fear. It will not be easy, but it is possible! Here are some tips:
Find joy in the simple things.
Stop focusing on the big things that scare or concern you and start focusing on the little things that are bringing you joy right now. While it’s stressful to have the kids home 24/7, recognize that you are getting some really amazing quality time with them right now. You many never again have this kind of time to really invest into your kids in this way. For me, I am so thankful that my kids are finding new and creative ways to play with each other and outside for most of the day. I feel blessed that we have, for the most part, beautiful weather. My daughter has learned to ride her bike without training wheels and my son has overcome his fear of getting on a bike at all. We are rediscovering books and puzzles and games we forgot we had. We are enjoying a lot of simple things that had been lost to us in the chaos of ordinary life, and I hope we can continue to enjoy those things long after this is all over.
Set a flexible routine and stick to it.
Fear often causes feelings of helplessness and lack of control. One way to regain a sense of control of your universe is to set up a flexible daily routine and stick to it. I suggest a “flexible” routine because if you try to adhere to a strict schedule and it doesn’t go well, it will only exacerbate your feelings of helplessness. So figure out a daily routine for your family that works well most of the time. It may help to write it down and display it somewhere in your home as a reminder for everyone. Here is an example of a daily routine that works really well for my family right now:
7:30 am – Everyone up and breakfasting.
8:00 am – Exercise time! Biking, walking, jogging, etc.
9:00 am – Bible/journal time for the kids; yoga time for mom.
9:30 am – Educational show on Netflix for the kids while mom showers and gets dressed.
10:00 am – Math/science/handwriting activities or worksheets while mom cleans up the kitchen and living areas.
11:00 am – Arts & crafts time while mom preps lunch.
12:00 pm – Lunch outside if it’s nice!
12:30 pm – Stay outside and free play while mom gets some work done.
3:00 pm – Educational apps on iPads or more outside time depending on the day.
5:00 pm – Chores/clean-up time while mom preps dinner.
6:00 pm – Dinner time as a family!
7:00 pm – Bath and pajama time; quiet activities until bed.
7:30 pm – Bedtime for the kiddos! Wine and movie/book/bath time for mom!
10:00 pm – Bedtime for mom.
Turn off the news.
Stop following “Negative Nancys” on Facebook. Instead, fill your feed and your mind with positive role models who are helping to uplift and inspire. Read stories of people who have overcome tremendous adversity. Look for the messages of bravery, courage, hope and faith. They are all around you if you just search for them.
Pray or meditate.
If you believe in God, don’t forget that He is in control of all of this. None of this is a surprise to Him. Remember your faith in these uncertain times and lean into your God for strength and hope. Talking to Him about your fears and frustrations through prayer can give you a deep and abiding sense of hope. If you have a different faith or none at all, try to incorporate meditation into your daily routine. There are many free apps available that can help you with guided meditations.
Take control of your mind.
Fear and negativity is more contagious than any virus known to man. The human brain is wired to focus on fear and negativity in order to ensure our survival. This is a trait psychologists call the “negativity bias.” There are simple steps you can take to counteract this default state of mind, however:
- Recognize the fear and remind yourself that it will eventually pass; do not act upon your fear.
- Lead from a place of love as love casts out all fear. Choose loving responses, loving reactions, loving connections.
- Seek out positivity and turn away from negativity in things you read or watch.
- Channel your energy into productivity, preferably things that create calm or positive feelings.
- Recognize negative self-talk and practice flipping the script. For example, if you catch yourself thinking, “The coronavirus might make my family sick,” stop that negative thought and replace it with, “My family is healthy and well and we are taking care of ourselves.”
Take it one day at a time.
Do the things you know you can do: make your bed every morning, take a shower, get dressed. Call a family member or friend. Plan a healthy dinner for the evening. Clean up messes around you and create a calm haven of your home. Enjoy your children and your partner. Spend time outside. Each day, do the things you know you can do and try not to worry about what may come tomorrow. Be present and make the best of each moment.
Many people lash out when they are afraid. I’ve personally experienced this several times since the start of the quarantine. People are rude in stores. People are judgmental online. Neighbors are suspicious and grouchy. Make an effort to be unlike these people. Instead, smile at the woman in produce as you pass by with your cart. Tell your neighbor you think her yard looks lovely. Tip the Uber Eats driver a little bit extra and thank him for doing his job. The more you spread kindness, the more you will feel it return to you.
The amazing thing you will see if you consistently choose hope over fear is how much calmer and positive you and your family will feel. Your reactions to things will also change. And you will find that facing the adversity of the time is no longer quite so helpless, hopeless, or fear-filled. Keep practicing choosing hope over fear and it will get easier and more natural. Before you know it, we will all be on the other side of this pandemic better off for having learned such a valuable life lesson!