How to Adapt to a Long-Term Crisis

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2020

From Dr. Aisha Ahmad, some advice for how to adapt to conditions of a long-term crisis like the pandemic we are currently facing. (This was written specifically for educators, but applies to anyone.) First, the necessary sobering bit (italics mine):

The answer to the question everyone is asking — “When will this be over?” — is simple and obvious, yet terribly hard to accept. The answer is never.

Global catastrophes change the world, and this pandemic is very much akin to a major war. Even if we contain the Covid-19 crisis within a few months, the legacy of this pandemic will live with us for years, perhaps decades to come. It will change the way we move, build, learn, and connect. There is simply no way that our lives will resume as if this had never happened. And so, while it may feel good in the moment, it is foolish to dive into a frenzy of activity or obsess about your scholarly productivity right now. That is denial and delusion. The emotionally and spiritually sane response is to prepare to be forever changed.

I’ve had a few weeks to process the fact that this will never end, but seeing it stated like this, so matter-of-factly, is still shocking. Luckily, Ahmad spends the rest of the piece gently and generously advising us on how to handle this changed state of affairs.

Now more than ever, we must abandon the performative and embrace the authentic. Our essential mental shifts require humility and patience. Focus on real internal change. These human transformations will be honest, raw, ugly, hopeful, frustrated, beautiful, and divine. And they will be slower than keener academics are used to. Be slow. Let this distract you. Let it change how you think and how you see the world. Because the world is our work. And so, may this tragedy tear down all our faulty assumptions and give us the courage of bold new ideas.

In a Twitter thread, Ahmad shared some further thoughts on adapting to our new reality.

To start, know that your feelings today are not going to last all summer. It’s just a transition period. Right now, it feels like your whole world has been taken away, but that’s just because you haven’t hit your creative adaptation phase yet. Trust the process.

It’s upsetting when our expectations & plans are overturned. Give yourself a moment to grieve. But don’t let your grief trick you into thinking you’re going to suffer every day. That’s not happening. Your mind & body will adjust. Joy & freedom are still on the table.

And this was my favorite bit:

Second, embrace radical acceptance. Let go of expectations and control. What you did last month doesn’t serve you today. Let the world, today, teach you a new way to be happy, joyous, and free. If we live in denial, fear, or self-pity, we will miss the gift.

See also how to deal with our collective pandemic grief. (thx, meg)