It can be especially challenging to navigate new experiences in the middle of a pandemic. It seems like we just can’t plan fast enough to keep up the pace when major changes are happening in the world. Over the past few months, I experienced more first times than I can count, and let me tell you, they were hard!
I recently came across a podcast and blog by Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, where she shared how hard it is to be new at things. In the blog, she writes that “showing up and pushing ourselves past the awkward, learner stage is how we get braver.” This was a very helpful tool for me, and I believe it could be for you as well.
When the pandemic hit, the biggest adjustment for me was having to learn to work from home. I’m used to interacting with people face-to-face at work but felt completely thrown off when all communication had to be done through my computer.
Another area I’m struggling with is learning to keep track of where I need to be now that all of my meetings are virtual. It’s taken some time and much trial and error, but I was able to figure out how to communicate with others and manage my time effectively in this new working environment.
The hardest part, though, has been continuing to show up even though doing so on a screen makes me feel awkward and vulnerable. Once I was able to accept that working from home was “my new normal” and that there will always be a learning curve, I was able to use the tools in my toolbox to help me cope with this unexpected change in life.
Let’s Embrace It!
Pushing ourselves past the awkward, learner stage of doing things for the first time is often a daunting task, easier said than done, and messy at times. Here are some tips on how to embrace doing anything for the first time:
- Utilize signature character strengths – Identifying and utilizing our signature character strengths can help us overcome the struggles that come with experiencing something for the very first time. The VIA Institute on Character offers a free online survey that allows us to identify our top character strengths. The website also includes tips on how to use our top character strengths in everyday life. While I was trying to adjust to working from home, I was able to use my character strength of “hope” to stay positive and push through some of the tough situations I faced.
- Practice gratitude – Even though it’s hard to think about things that we can be grateful for when the world feels like it’s crumbling around us, psychologists Robert Emmons, Ph.D. and Anjali Mishra, Ph.D., say that practicing gratitude increases positive feelings and improves our well-being. With an improved mood, we can tackle novel tasks more effectively. For example, “I am incredibly grateful to have a job despite being in the middle of a pandemic.” Reflecting on that has helped me focus on what’s going well in my life and to feel happier at work.
- Deep breathing – A simple way to deal with the awkwardness and anxiety of doing something for the first time is by taking deep breaths. One option I use is the “4-7-8” breathing technique: breath in for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. This technique slows the heart and allows the body to relax. It helps us to be more present in the moment to learn what we need to conquer our challenges. I heavily rely on this technique when doing anything for the first time, especially during a period full of uncertainties.
Learn to Embrace Your First Times
The pandemic has forced us to face many first-time experiences, whether we’re prepared to or not. If you find yourself needing a little extra help in embracing your first-time experiences with grace, our licensed psychologists and therapists in Tampa are here to help. Get in touch today for more information on what we can do for you.