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Foregoing Fear: Why We Don’t Have to Be Scared About Our Post-COVID Future

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As we think about our post-COVID future, it’s hard to paint a clear picture of what that looks like. Will life ever be normal again? Does “normal” even exist anymore? This uncertainty is bound to make us feel scared and anxious. But, try not to let these feelings take over. Fear can prevent us from moving forward in our lives, and making the most of what the future, however uncertain, holds. How can you work to forego fear? Read on.

Fear doesn’t help us
As human beings, we tend not to do well with scary things. It all comes down to interpreting risk. We place more weight on things that are uncertain and uncontrollable (e.g., turbulence on an airplane and the fear of a crash) vs. more predictable events where we have individual control (e.g., a potential car crash, which has a greater odds of happening). COVID falls into the first category – uncertain, unpredictable and uncontrollable. This amps us our perception of risk and, along with that, comes fear.

But, overestimating our risk can lead to detrimental behaviours that we put in place to try and protect ourselves. During the pandemic, this can manifest as panic buying, a fear of leaving our house, or a general sense of doom. None of this is healthy for us – conversely, it can prevent us from being able to enjoy a fulfilling, balanced post-COVID life. An attitude of caution is a good thing as it encourages us to remain diligent about social distancing and other safe practices. Try to look ahead cautiously, but rationally.

Facing, and defeating, our fears
As restrictions ease, managing fear will be a key step in helping us move forward. Here’s how you can do this:

Keep community alive
Fear of being around others may linger long after the pandemic is over. But, so may a new sense of community. COVID brought out the best in many of us – helping out neighbours, checking in on vulnerable people, cooking for friends. Try to keep this sense of community alive in whatever small ways you can. Facing fear is much easier when you’re doing it together.

Adapt and adjust
After the pandemic, things will be different for quite some time. We will miss things, and wish they were different. Try not to bemoan what’s “lost.” Focus on the present, and adjust and adapt to a changed (but still fulfilling) way of life.

Make plans.
Thinking about things we want to do in our future can help us stay grounded in the present. What are your plans one, two, three months post-COVID? A road trip with family perhaps, or a golf weekend with close friends? Work goals? Write them down and take a look at your list when you think the future is not bright. When it’s safe to do so, start taking steps to make them a reality.

Turn to supportive friends
Emotions are almost as contagious as a virus. Avoid talking to someone who might light up your fears, or who are negative. When you’re anxious or scared, turn to those who can offer thoughtful, non-judgmental advice.

Focus on what you can control.
When you feel yourself getting caught up in fear of what might happen, try to shift your focus to things you can control. For example, enjoying your time with family, finishing work projects, or checking off to do lists at home.

Go light on media
Knowledge helps you assert control over your fears – don’t overdo it. Too much media exposure can heighten anxiety and fear. Get what you need (e.g., recommended social guidelines), and leave the rest. Consider allotting a set amount of time a day, preferable at one source you trust, to check in on the latest information.

 

Looking ahead with calm
There’s no doubt that COVID has impacted our future – but also in positive ways. More flexible work arrangements, a greater access to mental health support, a stronger sense of community and renewed relationships with friends and family are just a few examples. So, while it may not be the future we were expecting, it is certainly one to still look forward to.

Fear can prevent us from moving forward in our lives, and making the most of what the future, however uncertain, holds.

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