Dear therapist,

I am struggling to feel positive about the future as a result of Covid-19. I not only worry about myself but how all of this will effect everyone’s wellbeing and quality of life. When things are uncertain and out of my control it triggers some anxiety in me, so how do you suggest I can help myself during a time where everything is uncertain? Thanks so much.

Dear worried,

In time periods of uncertainty, the anxious mind reaches for facts and knowledge so that we can have a sense of the future. The world feels tumultuous, and catastrophising is especially tempting, because we think it’s somehow safer to predict doom than to get our hopes up and then feel surprised and disappointed when things go wrong.  

These days, we can easily despair. For those of us who like to plan and prepare, well, the only certainty is the fact of our mortality. Yes, this may sound dark, but it’s oddly consoling. When we lean into this fact, we can let go of the idea that we are in charge of each and every situation. There’s so much that simply isn’t up to us. I’m not for a second suggesting that we stop trying to live responsibly and thoughtfully, but I do think it’s comforting to accept that not everything is in our hands.

Letting go is hard, but it’s wonderfully liberating. When we stop feeling responsible for everyone and everything, we can look at what’s possible, and within reach. As for what you say about feeling positive, it’s hard to stay upbeat right now. It’s not impossible, but it’s more challenging when we are constantly facing such distressing world issues. Therapy is a space for exploring distress, and it’s also a space for cultivating hope. Not unrealistic optimism, but hope for what’s possible. You might find it helpful, and even life-enhancing, to work through some of your anxious tendencies and make sense of all that you’re feeling and going through. In the meantime, as Sigmund Freud said, “what we cannot reach flying, we must reach limping,” so if we keep limping along, that’s good enough, at least for now.


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Further reading

Dealing with feelings of hopelessness

Why do we fear uncertainty and losing control?

The Covid-19 pandemic: a crash course in accepting uncertainty

Why can't I stop overthinking?

Don't get stressed over things you can't control

Why do some people get more stressed than others?