Tips on rewiring our brains during 2020

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My recent web search of “how to deal with uncertainty in the pandemic” yielded 21 pages of results. In contrast to other searches that have often pulled up an array of random articles, this time every page was filled almost exclusively with links that were on topic.

Now, mind you, at the time of my search I wasn’t feeling any more anxious than usual about The State of Affairs in 2020. I just wanted to see what kinds of articles are out there.

I found that many of the stories were written during the first part of the pandemic as people initially wrestled with this era’s novel and trying ideas. But new articles are still appearing. One from Sept. 2 particularly resonated with me, perhaps because of the interesting way the author phrased her bullet points (after all, I’m a word person). But I also liked that when I glanced at the list, I felt as if I could actually do what was outlined.

I guess that’s where I am at the moment - looking for how I can more easily relax and cope in a place where we’re bombarded on all sides by gigantic questions and rifts. I care about those things, yes, but I don’t want to wear myself out in thought. I’m sure you don’t either.

So I was happy when I stumbled across Wired magazine’s “How to Deal With the Anxiety of Uncertainty.” The subhead:

“Our brains weren’t wired to deal with the ‘psychological pandemic’ of not knowing what the future holds. Here’s how to cope with living in limbo.”

I’ll share highlights.

- Stop With the Mental Time Travel. “Dwelling excessively on what could have been and what might be … is exhausting, and unless it is brought under control, can trigger depression and anxiety,” the author wrote. To stop the spiral? Mindfulness. Numerous apps and YouTube videos can help via guided meditations that target all kinds of struggles. Plus, other ways can lead to mindfulness. For example, you can eat mindfully, focusing on every movement, taste, smell and sound.

- Binge-Watch Your Favorite Childhood Show. “While you don’t want to waste time worrying about the past,” the author wrote, “taking a little trip down memory lane can do wonders for your mental health during periods of uncertainty … Anything nostalgic that reminds you of a time when you felt secure can help offset the anxiety that comes with so much unknown.”

- Ditch the Book; Play a Video Game. Sometimes reading a book can require too much concentration. So what’s needed is an enjoyable activity that can bring a state of total absorption, when time races by and you even lose self-awareness. If video games don’t speak to you, then other activities such as gardening or painting will do.

- Find a New Rhythm. During the pandemic, routines have often been disrupted. So to help ease the anxiety of losing our accustomed rhythms, we should build new ones. “Think about how to build some structure into your daily life that you can rely on, so that you know what will be happening at 7:30 am on a Monday morning” whether or not schools remain open.

- Play Around the Edges. “As much as we might like to, we can’t stay cooped up in our apartments eating comfort food and watching ‘Beauty and the Beast’ forever … Once you’ve found those things that help you regain a sense of safety, start building in some elements of flexibility … (Y)ou need to become secure first, and then you can start playing around the edges.” Let’s do it.

Sallie Rose Hollis is a Union Parish native, retired Louisiana Tech associate professor of journalism and Ruston resident. She can be reached via email at sallierose@mail.com.