Who knew Idina Menzel’s “Into the Unknown” from Disney’s Frozen II would end up being the perfect foreshadow to this ungodly year? Anyone? Anyone at all? Elsa apparently did. I actually saw this movie with my four-year-old in the movie theater. Remember movie theaters? Crazy that we could go to them less than six months ago. Seems like a different lifetime. At any rate, we seem to be deep “into the unknown” with no plans of going anywhere else remotely soon. And that really sucks.
The unknown and I do not get along. At all. Well, I do love surprises. But I usually spoil them because I find out or I’m dying to reveal. So, no we do not get along. I like to be in some sort of control, have some idea as to what is ahead, and therefore consider myself an exceptionally excellent planner. But obviously, we can’t plan everything. It’s the feeling that we can and do that keeps us sane.
This season of life, and I really am trying to look at this time as a season, is one big ball of heightened unknowns. When will there be a COVID-19 vaccine? Who is going to be our next president? What is the next series I am going to watch on Netflix? When will bars open again? Will we have to wear masks forever? Is Halloween cancelled? What if I get COVID-19? When will the constant hate come to an end? What is happening with Britney Spears? I just sneezed. Do I have COVID-19? Who in my family is dressing up as Santa this year since the real Santa is definitely staying up in the North Pole? And then there’s school. God bless all of us with school-aged children, those who are teachers, administrators, students themselves. I personally have a rising kindergartner. Do I send my kid to school? When is school going to start? Could we feasibly handle virtual learning? And the list goes on and on, entering any additional questions that fit into your current situation.
When faced with all of these thoughts, some are able to let it go (might as well throw in a reference to the first Frozen while I’m at it). I am not among those some. I get anxious and send myself into a tizzy and next thing I know my whole life is doomed. But thankfully, I am of a sound mind at the moment and would like to provide some advice and tips, some that was bestowed upon me and some of my own.
Give yourself a chunk of time each day, 10 minutes, 30 minutes max, to fixate on these unknowns. Allow yourself to worry about them. Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel about them. You are in control of the time in which you allot to them.Rachael Brooks
When panicking about the unknown, isn’t it so helpful when someone says, “don’t worry about things you can’t control?” Hell no. It’s like telling someone who is hyperventilating to “just breathe.” Ugh. During one of my recent bouts with high anxiety due to all the mysteries of the world, a very wise someone turned this statement around to say “control what you can.” Okay. I can do that. I love control. It spoke to me. Specifically, what are some ways to break this down?
1. Make a list of your unknowns. Actually write them out on a piece of paper or in a journal. Get them out of your head. There’s something about the act of physically writing things on paper that gives me more control.
2. Try ranking your unknowns, from least to most severe circumstances. This way, you’ll be able to unpack what is causing you the most distress in that moment.
3. Run through worst-case scenarios. Put it in some sort of flow chart if you have to, with boxes and arrows. Write out the unknown, and then all the things that can lead to the worst possible outcome of that unknown. Doing this, once again, allows us a sense of control in choosing to work through it. And you might even see that what you thought was your most daunting unknown, in fact is not.
4. Give yourself a chunk of time each day, 10 minutes, 30 minutes max, to fixate on these unknowns. Allow yourself to worry about them. Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel about them. You are in control of the time in which you allot to them.
5. And then let it go. It takes practice. I am no pro. But I am working on it. I also want to note that cases of anxiety and depression are at all-time highs right now. I take medication and see a psychiatrist to help me manage my mental health. Take care of and listen to yourself and know that there is no shame in doing the same.
The unknown bead is a doozy for me. It’s ugly, has some rough edges. It’s not what draws me to the necklace, that’s for damn sure. I say this, however, as we are living in a very distorted version of reality. Everything is amplified right now. For those facing struggles with the unknown, I see you, I feel you, I am right there with you. Until next time, stay safe everyone.