Temporal Distancing

Since the start of the pandemic many of us have found ourselves in a place where the ground beneath our feet has been constantly shifting.  Folks have struggled to plan for things as it’s hard to know what the next week, much less the next month will bring.  A surge in coronavirus cases due to the Delta variant, more lockdowns, worrying natural disasters, concerns about the health and financial well-being of loved ones — the uncertainties can seem endless, especially after the last year and a half. And the goal posts are constantly changing. It’s easy to feel stuck in feelings of anxiety, worry and even despair.  Fortunately, there are tools to help get us through this.   

The key to mental agility and to not falling into an anxiety spiral is to remember that it’s okay to switch gears. One way to develop this mind-set is to use a technique called temporal distancing, which is like having access to your own personal mental time machine where you can transcend the here-and-now and visualize the future. Consider closing your eyes and asking yourself: “In 10 years, how will I want to remember telling the story of how I responded to this crisis?” Focusing on the future rather than the past is what ultimately helps us cope with difficult experiences.  

Along the same lines, remind yourself that once you successfully navigate these new life challenges, you are likely to learn things about yourself that you didn’t realize.  Approach each of these transitions with a sense of your own resilience, you’ll be better able to overcome new problems. No matter how disorienting it may be for you, remind yourself that you have the capacity to find new solutions.  Trust your innate capacity to handle these changes and adapt to these new situations. A big part of stretching our mental flexibility comes down to accepting that what we thought we knew was unknowable to begin with.

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