Close-up of a woman with psychological problems during therapy

Coping in Uncertain Times

Editor Note: This entry was written by Brandi Nichols. Her bio and blog follow:

Brandi Nichols AMFT #109783 Supervised by Dr. Don Welch Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) LMFT50129.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

I am passionate about human connection and the witnessing of stories.  I believe that you are inherently worthy and grow towards health, if given the opportunity to be truly seen and the tools to help. Life is hard and we all need a safe place to share our stories without fear of judgment or shame. I would be grateful for the opportunity to join you on this journey.

I have experience working with women in trauma and the use of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) in their treatment. I have spent time working with those who have experienced the death of a loved one or those who have been given a serious medical diagnosis. I also have experience working with adolescents with mood disorders and their families. 

Ultimately, I use a holistic approach in looking at the mind, body and spirit to assist healing in a safe and nurturing environment.

Coping in Uncertain Times:

The times we find ourselves in are uncertain: uncertain in how long the social distancing will last, uncertain in how many will be affected by the COVID19 virus, and uncertain of how to move in a world without regular routines. If you’re anything like me, you can feel an increase in your anxiety levels as you navigate your days moment by moment. 

I would like to offer some ideas on how to cope during this uncertain time. When we can’t control our external environment, it is helpful to take control of things we can. This concept applies to the people in lines at Costco, as they buy up the supply of toilet paper, as we humans like to assert control in small ways when we do not have control of our larger situation. So, what can we do? We can practice being present. In the present what we are experiencing is tolerable. If I dwell on the past, I can become depressed and if I look into the future, I can become anxious. But right here, right now, is usually tolerable. Take each moment as it comes. We do not know what tomorrow holds, and that is both hard and hopeful. So, we hold both. 

We can take deep breaths, inhaling gratitude for life and exhaling fear and worry. This mantra may sound silly, but it gives us something to do and puts an intention behind why we are doing it. Feel free to make it your own: inhale something you are grateful for, and exhale something hard. Our mind, body and spirit are all connected and using all three in synchronicity helps to ground us.

Body: Move your body. Being cooped up at home can make us feel stir crazy. Our bodies need the physical exertion to help us produce the happy hormones in our brain, allowing us more chemical balance as we face the day. Eat healthy and drink water. What we put into our bodies, fuels our bodies. If we fill up on sugar and carbohydrates, we have a high and a low in our energy. Things are hard enough as is, we don’t need food induced mood shifts added to the uncertainty. Sleep. Get plenty of rest as our bodies are consuming energy all day as we think, feel and do. In psychology we love acronyms, and there is one called the PLEASE skill: P L -treat physical illness, Eeat balanced meals, A-avoid mood altering drugs (alcohol, caffeine included), Ssleep 8 hours a night, Eexercise. 

Mind: Monitor what we are letting in. We must be intentional about what we are filling our minds and hearts with, as this information directly impacts our thoughts and feelings. In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Aaron Beck theorized that our thoughts impact our emotions, and our emotions impact our behaviors and the cycle continues. If our thoughts sound like, “the world is coming to an end” this increases our feelings of fear, which may motivates us to do things like isolate or stockpile supplies. While if my thought is “the world is uncertain and I am okay today” I can then feel both some concern and calm, which may motivate me to call a friend or offer my support to my community who are more at risk. We want to use wisdom and follow the regulations set in place by local governments, and yet we still need other people to survive. We are a social species, and if we isolate, we are more at risk for depression and anxiety. We need each other to survive. 

Spirit: Take some time daily to check in and ask yourself a few simple questions: What do I need today in order to support myself? Have I made time to connect with God? What can I meditate on today? What do my beliefs tell me about how to cope with hard times? What examples were left to me about trials and tribulations? Ask and it will be answered, seek and you will find. God is waiting to meet you where you’re at today, will you give Him your time?

I’ll leave you with a beautiful prayer that I remembered while writing this, the Prayer of Saint Francis: 

“Make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love

Where there is injury, pardon

Where there is doubt, faith

Where there is despair, hope

Where there is darkness, light

And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may

Not so much seek to be consoled as to console

To be understood, as to understand

To be loved, as to love

For it is in giving that we receive

And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned

And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life


Brandi Nichols, MA Associate Marriage and Family Therapist
Phone: (619) 858-3105 ext 140

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *