Right now, we’re hearing a lot of the word “can’t.” We can’t go to our friends’ houses. We can’t visit family. We can’t practice with our sports teams. We can’t attend events we’ve been planning for months. We can’t find what we need at the grocery store. Some of us can’t even go inside the grocery store.
In times like these- times when we feel trapped by all the things we can’t do, and times when the things we need to do aren’t the things we want to do- it’s easy to feel like we’ve lost control. And for a lot of people, that’s a really scary feeling.
Humans crave control. It makes us feel safe, and happy, and comfortable. So what can we do when it feels like everything is out of our hands?
A short term solution to feeling out-of-control and upset about the circumstances is to distract yourself. Watch a funny tv show, listen to music, take a shower, go for a walk, or find another activity to focus your attention on. Sometimes just giving yourself 20 minutes to do something fun or entertaining is enough to make you more relaxed and less upset about the situation.
#2. Call someone!
Just because we can’t see our friends and family doesn’t mean they aren’t there. And I know that texting and facetime aren’t the same as in-person interactions, but it’s the best we can do right now. Reach out to people you don’t normally talk to. People whom you’d only talk to at school or work. Try texting them a quick “hi” and ask how they are. Because maybe talking to you during class or at lunch was one of the highlights of their day, and now that they don’t see you, it’s gone. Even though we can’t be close to each other, our relationships are not out of our control. They may look different for the time being, but we can still support each other and spend time with friends and family from a distance.
#3. Learn something new
Right now, it’s easy to come up with a list of activities we can’t do. We can’t play team sports, or go to the gym, or have concerts and other events, or do a lot of our usual activities. It’s upsetting to put these things on “hold,” especially when we are used to devoting so much time to them. But we can still exercise, and listen to music, and create artwork in safe ways. Doing a home workout isn’t as fun as playing in a soccer game with your team, but it’s still exercise! If you are able to, find a new activity or skill to learn. Maybe try a new type of workout, or learn how to draw something, or make playlists for your friends. Think about all of those things that you’ve wanted to learn or do in the past, and pick one or two to fill the spot of an activity you can’t do right now. It might not be as fun as the activities you want to be doing, but trying something different is better than doing nothing at all. And you might surprise yourself with the new things you enjoy!
#4. Step back
It’s frustrating to live in a world of “can’t.” It’s upsetting to have events canceled and celebrations missed. It’s sad to miss out on experiences we expected to have. But it’s important to remember that these rules and precautions aren’t in place to make us suffer. They exist to protect us and the millions of people who are especially vulnerable right now. So when you feel upset and like you’ve lost control, take a step back. Acknowledge your feelings, because they’re valid. But then think about why the situation is the way it is. Think about all of the people you are protecting by following precautions. And realize that there are millions of people who, for various reasons, have always lived in a world of “can’t.” They’ve always had to wear masks, and avoid crowds, and miss out on events and experiences because of circumstances they can’t control. And when this pandemic is over, they still will. So take a minute or two to step back and think about these people. Think about how our actions affect them. It’s hard to have to live in a way so different than we’re used to. But it’s possible. And it’s worth it for the people we are keeping safe.
These circumstances are challenging. It’s ok to be frustrated by them. It’s ok to feel sad about things we won’t get to do, people we won’t get to see, and places we won’t get to go. But it’s also important to remember that right now, it’s not just about us. We aren’t just staying home to protect ourselves; we’re doing it to protect everyone. So right now, as we navigate this new world of “can’t,” let’s not think of it like that. Yes, there are numerous things we can’t do, or see, or experience. But there are still so many that we can. So the next time you’re angry, overwhelmed, or feeling lost and out of control, ask yourself, “what can I do?” We may have lost control of where we can go and what we can do, but we haven’t lost who we are. So try your best to focus on the “can’s,” even if they seem small. I promise you’ll feel a lot better.