March 2020 will always bring back everything we have lived including masks, lockdown, virtual learning, vaccines, boosters, etc. No denying it; the last two years have not been easy. Keeping hope and optimism high through all that the pandemic thrust upon us continues to present challenges. Those challenges, for the most part, are not in our control; however, our response embedded in our coping mechanisms and outlook is within our control.
“Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days”
Everyone has them from time to time. Who do we turn to when things get tough? When we experience one of those “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days,” isn’t it our parents who always have our backs? But what happens when it is the parent who is experiencing one of those days? Especially when those days do not stay contained to 24 hours, but rather linger on and on and on?
Staying optimistic and positive is not always easy and the last two years have definitely put our optimism to the test. Parents are human. They are not superheroes attired in capes with super powers — they feel pain, loss, anxiety, fear, stress and all the many different emotions experienced throughout the days and nights of the pandemic. One advantage that moms and dads have over their children is the life experience to know that this, too, shall pass. While parents and teachers may not always feel optimistic, it is important that they are able to model for their children a sense of confidence about tomorrow.
Ways to Keep Hope Alive and Optimism High
- Make up a class or family mantra. Positive affirmations help to shape a hopeful outlook. Repeat the mantra daily.
- Feed an attitude of gratitude. Start and end each day by reflecting on one thing that brings joy. Training your brain to see the positive will water the seeds of optimism.
- Connect with positive role models. Those we surround ourselves with impact our thinking and fuels our positive energy.
- Practice self-care by watching nutrition, getting exercise, drinking plenty of water and following routine sleep patterns.
- Live in the moment. It is easy to become anxious about the future. Staying focused on today helps to maintain a positive perspective and prevents the anxiety about tomorrow from creeping in.
- Take breaks from all devices. Use breaks to play board games or engage in a physical challenge with family and friends.
- Laugh often – laughter is sometimes the best medicine.
- Acknowledging that these are difficult times is important, but also important is staying cognizant that generations before us have made it through and we will, too. Stories abound from prior generations showing how young and old have overcome obstacles.
- Look for the many leaders who serve as role models for how to handle adversity and obstacles. Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa, goes down in history as one of the strong models who never let obstacles dictate his path, working tirelessly to end the apartheid system of racial segregation in South Africa. As he stated, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Is the Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?
While the last two years have been challenging, looking ahead with hope can feed optimism. According to developmental molecular biologist and bestselling author Dr. John Medina, optimism promotes the production of the neurotransmitter called dopamine. A daily dose of dopamine can make us happy, increase motivation and even provide the courage needed to take risks. While those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days will come from time to time, thinking like an optimist is a choice we make each day leading to the “glass half-full” outlook.