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6 steps to help you deal with the stress of uncertainty

Dr. Tamara Hodges
Licensed Psychologist
Senior Lecturer, Baylor University
Department of Educational Psychology

After reading Part One in this series, hopefully you stopped yourself from dwelling on negative events and allowed for time to notice all the ways in which you have grown. Are you successful in surrounding yourself with emotionally healthy people and extending kindness to others? Following our last post, let’s now turn our attention to two additional steps for coping with the new normal during COVID.

  1. Build community and foster collegiality.

Schools can also use a “tap in/tap out” system like the one at Fall-Hamilton Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee (Berger, 2018). The principal there adopted the approach to encourage teachers to call on their peers when they need to take a short break or step back from a tense situation. Instead of losing their cool, they can leave the classroom and take a breath while a designated colleague steps in. Educators in virtual environments could design a similar system. They could partner with a teacher who has a different schedule and exchange phone numbers and links to one another’s virtual classes.

  1. Be specific when naming emotions.

When we’re able to label emotions with specificity, we can take steps to manage them. If you feel overwhelmed, you might get stuck. However, if you know that you’re exhausted from worrying all night, or resentful that you’re too busy helping others and cannot find time to exercise, you can work to prioritize better sleep and self-care habits.

Once you’ve pinpointed the feeling or concern, ask yourself, “Does worrying about this help me or get in my way?” Make an effort to extinguish defeatist self-talk. If you’re telling yourself “I’m miserable,” try re-framing and instead say, “I’m sad now.” If you’re thinking “This is too much for me,” try saying, “I can handle tough stuff.”

There are four types of grief, and nearly everyone is experiencing two or three of them right now, says psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect (Harper, 2014).

  1. There is ambiguous grief, “which is free-floating, the pervasive sense that we’ve lost so much.”
  2. The opposite of ambiguous grief is acute grief. “That could be not being able to pay rent or a partner getting furloughed.”
  3. A third type is anticipatory grief. “What will school be like? How many hours will I be expected to be in a Zoom classroom? How will I manage distance learning with my own children? Will I get in trouble or lose my job if kids don’t show up?”
  4. The last type is moral outrage grief, a sadness for what’s happening in the country and the world right now. As she explains, “You ask people, ‘How are you?’ and there’s this hesitancy in their response.”

Educators can’t vanquish grief. However, as with any emotion, they can “name it to tame it.” In other words, they can develop a game plan, whether they reach out to a friend, take a mental health day, or see a therapist.

To Be Continued ….

“if you know that you’re exhausted from worrying all night, or resentful that you’re too busy helping others and cannot find time to exercise, you can work to prioritize better sleep and self-care habits.”

What are the key points that you want to implement from Part Two?

* “Tap-out” and walk away when necessary.

* Make time to practice self-care; sleep and exercise are non-negotiable!

* Finally, create a visual weekly game plan for how to take care of yourself.




Tamara Hodges

Dr. Tamara Hodges of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has a background in psychology and education. She received her doctorate from Baylor University in Educational Psychology and went on to pursue a license to practice as a psychologist. She has owned her psychology practice, consulted with many schools in Central Texas, given more than 150 presentations as a public speaker, and practiced eight years as a psychologist in private practice. For the past eleven years, she has been teaching at Baylor in the School Psychology Program.

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