Q & A Today: Cultivating Hope in Times of Uncertainty

Updated: Jan 20

By Eileen S. Lenson, MSW, ACSW BCC

Posted on August 16, 2020


Welcome to Q&A Today, a column designed to answer your questions regarding challenges and concerns in everyday life, from family to coping with current events. A popular topic today revolves around the coronavirus. All questions are fair game. Just send me an email with your questions or concerns, and watch for the answer in upcoming editions of the Tasmanian Times. Q&A Today is published on the first and third Sundays of the month. If your question is printed, only your first name will appear in this column.


Q: Eileen, I work as a land-based tour operator providing affordable shore excursions to cruise ship customers. My business has been increasing yearly. I have a specialty in that I accommodate visitors with physical disabilities, making their outings safe and meaningful. They return home, tell their friends and as a result I have developed a successful word-of-mouth business.


But now Covid-19 has hit the cruise industry with a sledge-hammer. I have had to turn to other local companies to hire me as I wait for the world to return to normal. My in-laws are helping with childcare so that my wife could find a full-time job to help supplement our reduced income. Life was pretty much perfect before, but now I’m losing sleep over this mess. With no clear end in sight, can you give me any suggestions on how to not lose hope until that day arrives that I can be happy again? – Noah


A: Dear Noah,

There is no doubt that your line of work has suffered some of the biggest consequences of this pandemic. I am very sorry for the distress, both emotional and financial, that you are suffering as a result of the worldwide suspension of operation for cruise ships.


You’re not alone. The uncertainty, discouragement and fear resulting from this devastating threat are causing many people to feel hopeless. One way to not lose hope of better days is to determine how you can live your best life possible today.


Recognise that we each have inner resources to help us deal with challenging times, even when it feels nearly impossible. Be assured that we all have the ability to become more resilient if we figure out what we can learn from this situation, make good decisions based on what we’ve learned, and strategically move forward in a positive manner.

With a clear mind, you can develop your own roadmap.


Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s not that simple, but it is definitely doable. It can be quite a challenging path fraught with many obstacles.


First of all, months of extraordinarily tragic bushfires shattered many people’s sense of security, creating anxiety, fear and lasting feelings of uncertainty. The last of the fires were finally resolved only a couple of weeks before an individual unknowingly infected with Covid-19 entered Australia. Almost overnight an entire country had to regroup and figure out how to deal with yet another horrific experience.


We can, and must, each create a roadmap to propel ourselves forward in these multiple unprecedented and challenging times. First and foremost your roadmap must include a clear mind. Take deep breaths. They’ll slow down your heart rate and help you to regain perspective. Remind yourself that this is a moment in time, and change will come about in the future. In turn, your brain will become calmer and less reactive.

Use these calming moments to rethink your goal of believing you’ll be happy when you return to your former ‘perfect life’. Research reveals that striving for perfection can have a boomerang affect on us, creating a scenario for even more anxiety. Instead of perfection, look for happiness each day. Trust me, it’s still there.

Happiness can be found by deciding to experience more positive moments in the day rather than just focusing on your dreams for tomorrow. For example, express kindness for others who need your help, either in words or deeds. By doing so, you can find things for which you can be grateful, rather than disappointed.


Being curious about what lessons you can learn from events that occur will result in the development of a broader, more open-minded perspective on your life. You may find yourself modifying how you view your life. These changes may be small, but the impact on you can be significant. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by events over which you have no control you may find yourself more confident about being about to effectively evaluate and face your problems. You’ll be better able to figure out what you need to do and thereby develop new goals and a strategy to reach those goals.


Don’t go down this path alone. Connect with your social support system and make sure you find time for laughter. Laughter reduces feelings of sadness and enhances our connection with others. Strong social ties, be they your wife, her parents, friends, colleagues, or religion based, can provide a lot of support and be a source of stability. Your social network can be:

  • a resource to identify business solutions and ways to implement them.

  • amazing stress-buffers. We feel less vulnerable when we’re in the company of those we trust.

  • helpful in reducing or eliminating barriers that get in our way, by providing information and concrete services.

  • trusted people to talk with, thereby reducing our fear and anxiety and boosting our confidence about being able to meet new goals we set for ourselves.

  • a caring influence that will balance our negative thoughts with positive ones, encourage us to pursue healthy rather than unhealthy coping mechanisms, offer additional viewpoints and help strengthen the good in us that already exists.

I don’t know how long it will take for the cruise industry to re-establish itself. I recognise it has taken a brutal toll on your life, Noah. But I also know that you don’t have to wait for the ships to resume sailing to find the inner peace and direction you seek.


You can learn to feel good because of what you have right in front of you, rather than focusing on what you’ve lost. Use this adversity as an opportunity to push the reset button on your life, explore what you want to do differently both in the immediate and long term future, and proceed with a renewed sense of purpose.

Wishing you well,

Eileen

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If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional.

This column, its author and Tasmanian Times are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions.

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