Nurturing Optimism in a Time of Crisis

Being optimistic is about having hope and confidence about our present and future outcomes. Even if you’re generally a positive person, living during a pandemic makes it difficult to be in a constant state of optimism. However, there are certain things you can do to nurture such an attitude.

The challenges are plentiful these days—we have to deal with changing routines, homeschooling, loneliness, loss of income, and boredom, among other issues. As a society, we’re also used to being on the run and focusing more on the external than the internal. That is, we’re accustomed to being “human doings,” instead of “human beings,” and this is causing an attitudinal shift. It’s forcing many of us to look inward and become more comfortable with ourselves, something that is unfamiliar to many.

As a writer, being alone is my natural way of being; however, I do miss the feelings of inspiration that arise when I have a coffee or a glass of wine with friends and colleagues, which is a way of connecting with others and feeding my creative juices.

The first step in nurturing a sense of optimism is to surrender to the numerous possibilities that abound. In our quest to do so, the Serenity Prayer below is an ideal daily mantra:

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Let’s break down the prayer in segments:

God, grant me the serenity. As a result of the pandemic, you’ve been granted solitude and peace. In examining the larger spectrum of life, you can consider this a gift: time to be alone with those closest to you. As such, it’s good to remind yourself to be gentle to your psyche and manage your mental health in order to honor all your emotions.

This is a time to practice self-compassion, whatever that represents for you. Perhaps it involves a daily meditation practice, a walk, a cup of tea, yoga poses, reading a good book, or journaling. Maybe this is the time to figure out what nurtures you and to go after it.

To accept the things I cannot change. We cannot change the fact that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a fact. We also can’t change all the uncertainties we’re facing. Statistically, the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing, especially where people do not obey social distancing or wear masks when in the vicinity of other people. We can’t change the national statistics, but we can do our part to remain indoors and observe state and federal government regulations.

Courage to change the things I can. There are other things you can do when you’re under quarantine as well. You can develop a new hobby, or even cleanout drawers and closets that you haven’t done for a while because you didn’t have the time. Consider your attitude and how it is viewed by others. Is it something that you need to change to navigate these challenging times? Consider asking yourself questions, such as: What would bring me joy now? What is bothering me, and how can I address it? Under the circumstances, what would make things better?

And wisdom to know the difference. You can only change that which is in your power. For everything else, you need to have faith that everything will work out if you do your part to make your inner and outer worlds the best they can be. And that’s where the concept of serenity really becomes a factor.

Surrendering to the possibilities involves making the most of the situation that we’re all in together. There are so many unknowns about this virus, so until the experts figure it out or time provides answers, it’s best that we stay put and remember that there’s always light after the darkness. Let’s chant the wise words of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who said: “No mud, no lotus.” 

In other words, the challenge is to cultivate our inner selves during these challenging times. If we do so, we will reap the benefits.

Previously Published on Psychology Today

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