Written by Seo Jung Lee, Associate Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Change is always hard, whether it is planned or not. It can be exciting, yet the unknown can be a source of worry and anxiety. If it is a sudden change, then how greater is the anxiety? Since the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 has changed the way of doing life in a short amount of time for the entire world. This change has caused governments to have to figure things out on the go, which also causes minor to big changes to happen constantly. How do we adjust and keep ourselves steady during this time of constant changes and as we go into the unknown? How do we adjust to a pandemic while trying to adjust in a foreign, or new-to-us, country?
The First Steps
The beginning of that change and adjustment starts with acceptance. Research has shown that avoidance or denial is associated with psychopathology, such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, a comprehensive review of studies has shown that acceptance and being mindful of situations have influenced a positive quality of life. Acceptance does not necessarily mean agreeing with, liking, or thinking positively about a thing. It can mean just being okay with it or being aware that this new change cannot be controlled.
When we start the process of acceptance, we make space for a new perspective and come up with the energy to adjust. We are able to see change as an opportunity to try something new. It could be a new routine (sports or things you do daily), a tradition, or even trying a new hobby. It could be a chance for you to start the project that you didn’t have time for.
Creating a routine can be a good way to prioritize and organize the changes. It gives you a sense of control and to some certainty, as a routine is made to be predictable and consistent. Plus, it’s in our DNA to like routines. In between those routines, I would like to invite and challenge you to find and add little joys! Some examples are Taco Tuesdays, a drink of hot chocolate or tea after you are done with the day, spacing out for a few minutes, getting a massage, taking a bubble bath and more!
Don’t Forget to Connect
Being in a foreign country during these times can be especially difficult. There is more time to think, which could lead to more time to think about home and missing home. If we miss home and our families, why don’t we bring home to the place where we are? Were there some traditions you did with your family members back home? Then bring those traditions here! Of course, some modifications might be done, but continuing tradition with family and friends here would bring home to you.
Finally, make time to connect with friends and family. Having people who share memories with you and who know you is very powerful. By connecting with people who know you well, it can help make your time away from home easier and perhaps even give you moments to relax. Conversations with them can be a time to be comfortable. By connecting with them, you can ask how they are adjusting to their new living situations and get ideas from them!