How to Think (of Others) in Times of Uncertainty

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The Psychology
16 min read

How to Think (of Others) in Times of Uncertainty

How to Think (of Others) in Times of Uncertainty
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Words by:

Garret Ozar

Illustration by:

Words by:

Garret Ozar

Illustrator:

Contents

I want to be transparent and let you know this blog is long, and is only intended for those that are looking to provide support to those in need.

There are no expectations, just suggestions and ideas of how people can support everyone (essentially all of us) affected by COVID-19.

Also, if you have any additional suggestions about what to add, please contact me (garrett@eterneva.com) and I will add them!

Here is where I am coming from...

Learning to Adapt to a New Normal of Uncertainty

Since July 2019, my family has been dealing with heightened emotions.

Our daughter, Everly, was born with a rare form of aggressive brain cancer. Our Tiny Warrior is now eight months old and finished a seven month journey that included brain surgery and six months of chemotherapy.

At this point, we have become experts in managing anxiety, fear of the unknown, stress and grieving normalcy.

We have learned how to make it through months and months of isolating ourselves from our friends, extended family and network to prevent passing a simple bug that could wipe out her baby’s non-existent immune system.

My goal is to help pass on what we have learned from our own journey on to you. If we can help just a few people, or help a few people know how to help others, then we will consider this a success.

One Billion Sacrifices (and Counting)

When we are forced to be in a position where it feels like we cannot control anything, it’s imperative that we do find the areas that are within our control and put all of our energy there!

As you very well know, over the past ten days or so, the entire globe has been threatened with a virus that can wipe out anyone who is immunocompromised or who has a weaker respiratory system.

Unfortunately, what that means are that billions of people around the world are asked to make sacrifices.

  • These sacrifices go beyond saving those who are immunocompromised.
  • These sacrifices will also help save people that will be in need of medical care during a time in which healthcare systems will not have enough beds to accommodate everyone.
  • These sacrifices also mean that billions of people will be dealing with a heightened sense of stress, anxiety, fear, and loneliness that will make them question life.
The number of people that will need support is countless. They will not just need medical support: they will need financial & emotional support as well.

Just because some people are dealing with more intense, scary situations, doesn’t mean that everyone else right now doesn’t deserve compassion and empathy. Literally everyone is experiencing an elevated level of stress in their own way.

So, how can we make an impact on the world, knowing all of this?

Begin With Yourself: Managing Your Mental State

The best thing we can do is first manage our own state.

What I mean is you have to make sure you reduce your anxiety and fear before looking to help anyone else. We need emotional rocks that are willing to be vulnerable and extend emotional support to those around them.

Our team at Eterneva has written a lot of content about managing your state of mind during these difficult times, however, the best way that I have found to do this is to take deep breaths, for at least 30 seconds, multiple times a day. Then, focus on everything you can think of to be grateful for.

Don’t just do this on your own, do it with your family and close friends. Make sure you are prepared and have systems for emergencies, and do not focus on the negative events that may, or may not transpire.

To place your energy into fearing what is to come is to put yourself through unnecessary pain, for something that may never happen, or if it does happen, it will hurt anyway! Why put yourself through pain over and over again?

Lastly, we GET to make a choice every single day.

We get to decide whether or not we are going to grow today, or if we are going to retract. Choose to grow.

Find areas where we can expand our minds and hearts, and find areas where we can help others.

Seek to Understand: The Power of Empathy, Right Now

The next thing we can do is to seek to understand how your friends, family and community are being affected and how they must feel during these trying times.

Once you can understand the extent of their situation, you should have clarity on what they need from you that you are capable of providing to them.

Here are just some of the groups that are currently affected with examples of their situation and how we can help them.

I look forward to seeing this list grow and hearing from real life examples of people putting their hero hats on to make a difference, even if it is to just one person.

That one person is worth it.

That one person also might be making a difference to hundreds or thousands of people in this situation.

Families who are experiencing a recent loss, or who will have a loss in the near future.

Their situation:

They will not be afforded the ability to grieve properly. Their death (life) may feel like it is lost in the midst of all of the chaos.

They will not receive the emotional support from their community. Their level of isolation and depression is likely heightened beyond the incredibly high occurrence rate without the COVID-19 pandemic.

They are likely frustrated at the rules and suggestions of home quarantines and social distancing. This is completely understandable. Imagine how strong and selfless they are if they are still following those guidelines.

How you can help:

Figure out what you can provide to them before reaching out. Don’t say, “Please let me know what I can do for you.” Instead, come up with a few ways you CAN help and list those out for them in plain english.

Let them know that they are loved. Let them know their loved one’s life mattered and will continue to matter… that no matter what turmoil is occurring in the world, that they are at the top of your mind.

Let them know you are there for them if they need to vent. Let them know if you are proud of the way they are handling the situation.

Handwrite them a letter saying all this, too (wash your hands first and write it on a clean surface!). If you don’t hear from them after writing them a letter, leave a voice recording or even better a video recording of you talking to them directly!

Stay engaged but know your boundaries.

Don’t expect a reply, and don’t ask for one. Just make sure they know you are 100% serious with your love and support. Remember you can’t “fix” their grief. You can, however, provide brightness, love, thoughtfulness, and humor to help their state.

Families that are bunkered at home or in a hospital because they or someone in their family is elderly or immunocompromised.

Their (our) situation:

They are sitting at home or at a hospital, protecting themselves and their immunocompromised loved one.

Slip ups can mean death. They already had extreme health scares to get to this point, now they are relying on the entire nation/globe to do their part to help flatten the curve.

While there are many ways to prepare and be as safe as possible, there is a heavy reliance on their network for support with necessities and many things that are just out of their control.

They can be feeling completely powerless and afraid. There is a fear that there will not be enough hospital beds.

We have under 1,000,000 in the US and not even 100,000 are set up for ICU. My back of the napkin math shows that we were already at 77% capacity when it comes to having enough beds to service the number of hospital admissions on an annual basis. Add in the fact that there are almost 50 million elderly people in the US & over 10 million immunocompromised, and potentially millions of healthy people that will need hospitalization from this virus, the math doesn’t add up in our favor.

Think about that for a second... Just 1% of our elderly and 1% of our immunocompromised equate to 60% of our entire healthcare capacity in the US.

So if they get the virus, or if they get sick and need medical care, there is a chance they will not be able to receive treatment. Doctors will be in a position that they will have to decide who will get treatment and who won’t.

The more people that don’t abide by social distancing, the more people will die in need of medical support that is unavailable.

How you can help:

Remind your network, in a thoughtful way, of the reasons we are all making sacrifices! We are all connected and attached to our social media networks right now.

Lead with understanding and empathy to serve folks with a gentle, but serious reminder of what is at stake.

Reach out to families that you know are supporting someone that is immunocompromised. Identify what you can do to help them. We are lucky to have an incredible network of friends and family who are willing to help us with grocery store and necessity runs.

Continual reminders and assurances that proper measures are being taken to not spread germs is vital. Fear has been present with these families long before the virus became a real threat. We need to help these families through emotional support, advocacy and by running errands.

Folks that have been laid off or work hourly jobs that can no longer work.

Their situation:

Their source of income has literally evaporated. They most likely aren’t receiving support from their company, because their company doesn’t have the resources to help.

They might be afraid of what is to come without having the ability to earn income, and to be stuck inside of their house or apartment.

Fear of the unknown and general frustration at the situation are most likely prevalent.

How you can help:

To start, show them compassion for their sacrifice. They had their income taken away and then are being asked to stay at home and isolate themselves from their friends, family and the world.

Remember this is temporary and it will pass. If you have the resources to help them, do so.

We typically take care of our own yard, but it is a perfect opportunity to find someone that is in need of work to take care of my yard for us. We can’t leave our house right now because our daughter is immunocompromised, so we have no problem with paying someone to safely pick up groceries and supplies.

Additionally, there are companies right now that are beyond overloaded with demand for their services. They need drivers, customer service, help with support and volunteering. Healthcare providers might need additional help right now.

Simply identifying what your community needs from healthy people right now and sharing that with folks that are displaced from employment but are capable of providing help goes a long way for everyone!

Small business owners that have been forced to shut down their operations.

Their situation:

They are most likely reliant on this income to provide for their families. Depending on the industry, they might have already been in a difficult situation.

Regardless, they fear not only for their families, but the families of those they employ.

Stress is a common state of mind for these folks. They can’t rely on anyone else to help, or at least that is how they feel. They can feel like they are on an island and can find it difficult for people to understand what they are going through. They can’t publically share their fears, nor do they want to share that with their family.

How you can help:

Support local companies if you can! I know a lot of them will be shut down, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t go write positive reviews if you had great experiences with them before this situation.

The inbox notification they receive from their community giving them support will help ease the stress and create a rejuvenated energy to ensure they are doing what they can to survive and figuring out ways they will be able to thrive once we are through this!

Depending on regulation, there may be more opportunities for small businesses to find ways to serve their community where large companies can’t.

Healthcare professionals that are tasked with saving millions of lives and risking their own safety.

Their situation:

They have families at home, including children. Their kids can no longer go to school, so they are panicked about who will watch them or how they will juggle care with safety.

They are being asked to work overtime, deal with people that have a heightened sense of stress, and are put into a situation where they themselves are at risk.

They were heroes before, and now, they are being asked to be super heroes.

How you can help:

Reach out to those you know who are in the field! Tell them how much you appreciate their sacrifice.

They are going to need an incredible amount of support from their network as well, so find specific ways you can help and lay out these offerings to them.

Employees of essential businesses still running that are putting themselves at risk so that we all can survive.

Their situation:

These folks are in a catch 22 situation.

They have a job, however, they are tasked with an incredible responsibility to remain safe as well as keep our system moving from a true necessities standpoint. They have emerged as true heroes.

How you can help:

If you know someone that is providing these services so the rest of us can survive, let them know how much you appreciate them!

Again, writing a handwritten letter would go an incredibly long way with helping them keep in good spirits and help them understand just how important they are to the world right now.

They also might have kids at home, their daycare might be no longer in service.

If you know someone in this situation in your network, helping find someone that is safe, responsible and healthy that could help resume child care services could be essential for single parents in these situations.

Folks that are healthy, young, not around eldery or immunocompromised, not around healthcare professionals, or anyone else that is directly affected, however they have elected to quarantine themselves.

Their situation:

They are being asked to sacrifice their incomes, their social lives, their freedom for a virus that might not even give them any symptoms.

They might not fully understand the implications of what could happen if the virus continues to spread at its current rate.

They are not receiving any support or notoriety for actually making those sacrifices. This is the largest group of people right now and they are being completely overlooked.

They are also heroes in their own right.

They are the difference between life and death on a macro level for millions of people, yet they won’t get any of the credit.

How you can help:

Just show your support, empathy and gratitude for them. If you are in a more dire situation than someone else, it’s easy to get frustrated when they complain about quarantining. Instead of being frustrated that they are complaining, THANK them for doing so and remind them of why they are making those sacrifices.

Get them to buy into the importance of what it is that they are doing by reminding them of the “why.”

Folks that don’t get it yet and are putting others at risk.

Their situation:

Everyone has reason to be cautious of taking everything they read or hear in the news or from the government as fact.

They might not be thinking through the implications or the severity of the situation. They are being shamed by those that are following the rules of isolation.

Their intellect is being questioned by people in sharp ways and they feel like our world is falling apart.

How you can help:

Remember, we all have completely different experiences. Everyone has something that is driving them to make the decisions they do on a daily basis.

It is not our place to shame others who are not understanding the severity of the situation. Instead, it is our responsibility to show them kindness and empathy.

You will not persuade people to do the right thing with anger and resentment, you will just push them further in the wrong direction.

Trust me, this one has been the most difficult for my family and I. However, after a lot of reflection, this group of people are the MOST important to protecting our planet right now.

We need to do everything we can to help them understand the situation without them feeling like they, or their intellect, is being attacked.

A simple reminder of all of the immunocompromised children that likely wouldn’t make it if they contract a virus should be enough for them to realize their actions, but only if THEY are given the choice to make that decision themselves and not feel like it was forced upon them.

Wrapping This Up

Look, I hope this helped.

  • I hope whichever bucket you fall into helps you realize you aren’t alone.
  • I hope that which bucket whoever you are FaceTiming with right now falls into gives you more appreciation for them.
  • I hope that every single one of us takes a moment to be grateful for the sacrifices all of us are making, and that what we learn during this period we can bring with us into the future.

This is a critical moment for us all. Each of us is grieving the loss of normalcy and more. May we all remember all lives are important –– and that is why we stay home for the time being.

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Written by Garret Ozar. Garret is a co-founder at Eterneva.

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