Resolutions: don't drive yourself crazy!

Corona has radically thwarted many of our plans. But: Even the greatest planners among us can train how to deal with uncertainty and loss of control. With the good feeling just don't prove anything to have to.

Verena Carl

There is a new normal. For months a virus has been knocking our plans over our ears, faster than you can say "lockdown". From annoying to dramatic: parties and vacations canceled, career steps put on hold, new loved ones prevented, existences and lives threatened. Around 80 years ago, in an even darker time, the poet Mascha Kaléko wrote: "Chase your fears away, and the fear of your fears. Tear up your plans, be wise." Sounds like a New Year's resolution for 2021. A good recipe?

Feelings of powerlessness vs. self-efficacy

After all, we are not alone with the perceived powerlessness, says the Berlin psychotherapist Eva Gjoni: "People are burdened in different ways anyway, and Corona has given everyone a shovel." Even if it is only because the pandemic has overturned an important belief, at least apparently: You have your own fate in your own hands. Psychotherapists speak of "self-efficacy", the trend term of the last few years. Roughly translated, it means: "You can do everything on your own." Is that now a thing of the past, and when will it come back?

We react very differently. While some withdraw in resignation, others let their anger run free – whether on Twitter or at the large demonstration – there are also people who are comparatively well able to get through the crisis. Break up your stress into consumable bites, taking one step at a time. A type that stands securely on unsteady ground, like stand-up paddling in higher winds. Being able to keep the balance not only helps in a corona crisis, but also in other strokes of fate, whether separation or job loss. What are these people doing better?

Called the Hamburg photographer Isadora Tast.She has just published a volume with portraits of actresses in Los Angeles * who all have something in common: They don't belong to the top league, but they didn't fail like crazy either, sometimes more, sometimes less successful. You live with the constant unpredictability, with highs and defeats – currently more than ever, of course. "Most satisfied are those who bring both: humility and gratitude, at the same time great inner independence. The conviction: I can do something, I am worth something, regardless of the result of the casting and the number of jobs," says Isadora Tast. which protects against hurt and self-doubt.

Believe in yourself

Applied to our current everyday life, this could mean: As bitter as it is when someone loses their job or goes bankrupt – people who have the courage to reorient themselves and believe in their abilities will get back on track.

A completely different example also shows that the inner attitude is more decisive than the objective burden. Helen Heinemann, an expert on work-life balance, tells of a course for parents-to-be: "I remember two couples in particular. One of them had his life completely under control: in love, married, built a house, timed for a child The other was the exact opposite: hardly knew each other, once ended up in bed, they immediately became pregnant. A few years later I met both couples again. The first were separated, failed because of the high expectations. The second were happy together. " Could have gone differently, but there is an important lesson in it: Those who let life come closer to them often find it easier to do even on bumpy stretches – those who work up a sweat every time they deviate from the five-year plan are stressed faster.

Even more. We even seem to have some need for experiences beyond our control to counterbalance our timed existence. Even if they're not all positive. When the Corona crisis reached Germany, this became particularly clear: the sudden gaps in the calendar, the unfamiliar, really free time, some also felt as unexpected wealth after the first shock. The well-known sociologist Hartmut Rosa dedicated a book to this longing * even before Corona was on everyone's lips. His thesis: It is precisely what we cannot plan, the "unavailable", that creates the experience of resonance and depth. Moments beyond our control, from the first snowflakes of winter to a life-changing chance encounter.

There is no such thing as a born optimist.

But as wonderfully romantic as it sounds when people manage to get involved with the unexpected: Is it a mere question of type and thus set in stone how we react to the unexpected? Is merry lack of plan only given to sunny optimists? Or can we learn to keep our hips looser no matter what happens to us?

The second, says the therapist Eva Gjoni: "There is no such thing as a natural crisis-coping personality, i.e. the optimist or the extrovert. For example, a certain degree of pessimism is also helpful because it helps to accept the unchangeable and not to rebel against it senselessly." Something else is decisive: to move from the feeling of helplessness into active action. By learning to differentiate: What do I actually not have under control, and what do I have? Because if we look closely, there is a lot of leeway, says Gjoni.

Using the example of Corona, this means: "How do I structure my day in the home office sensibly? How do I use the additional time I spend with my partner? I actively look for alternatives to my habits, I go jogging in wind and weather when the training in the warm gym has to be canceled? And if negative feelings arise: Do I let myself be pulled down by it, or do I create an inner distance to it, observe my feelings without being overwhelmed? " Uncertainty and fear are not signs of weakness: "Admitting these feelings to yourself and others is where resilience begins!" "Eva Gjoni quotes the writer Alain de Botton:" One thing that we are spared in a crisis is the pressure, satisfied to be." Don't have to prove anything. Drive on sight, take care of yourself and cut plans a size smaller.

First, learn again to deal with crises

Looking back can also help when the unexpected hits us: How did I deal with roller coaster rides in previous phases of my life, what helped me to feel safe again? Knowing beneficial mechanisms and knowing that even deep valleys have been traversed at some point can act like a psychological vaccination. Our society has a lot of catching up to do on this, says Petra-Alexandra Buhl, author * and coach from Radolfzell: "We are used to crisis, our coping strategies are not well developed. Too emotional, too little self-directed." As a young woman, she had to learn that the hard way when cancer forced her to screech on the brakes. Today she is committed to the psychosocial aftercare of cancer patients and knows what life feels like when it is accompanied by constant residual uncertainty.

The decisive step, regardless of whether it is about one's own illness, fate or a global health crisis: out of the role of victim. Buhl: "It is a waste of energy to work off the question of who is to blame. Or to insist like a defiant child that everything should be the same as it used to be."

Find happiness in unhappy times.

Like Eva Gjoni, Buhl speaks of a triad: acceptance, limitation, consolation. "Within a given framework, I can create panic-free areas. For a dangerous diagnosis, it means: Once a week I consciously think about what deterioration could mean and how I would then have to change my life. Otherwise, I surround myself with all that that gives me strength – things, projects, people. For Corona this can mean: I only deal with the news once a day, avoid people who drag me down with their fear or anger, maintain helpful contacts. The art is, happiness in to find times distant from happiness. "

In any case, there is an opportunity in the challenge posed by the virus: just as past crises can make us strong for today, the common crisis could at best make us more resilient for the future. But also more open to change. Especially for the good, even if it comes from an unexpected direction. A chance for a career change, a love where you wouldn't have expected it. Or something completely different that we don't even suspect that we are missing.

SOS – help in hard times

Together with colleagues, Eva Gjoni founded a nationwide hotline for qualified, free psychological advice – by telephone or video-based, multilingual, anonymously if desired, on a protected platform. The service is primarily intended for people who have reached their psychological limits in the Corona crisis, with more profound problems the counselors help with the search for therapy offers. Monday to Friday 12 noon to 3 p.m. at

* For further reading

"Hollywood Calling" Isadora Tast's photo book is called. 60 international actors * in L.A. talk about their eventful careers and how to deal with unpredictability. Great pictures, honest texts. (35 euros, Fotohof Edition)

"Unavailability" by Hartmut Rosa is an essay on the dichotomy between the desire for control and the longing for the strange and irritating. Demanding lining for the head. (10 euros, now in paperback at Suhrkamp)

"Healing on withdrawal" by Petra-Alexandra Buhl is an encouragement book not only for cancer patients: In addition to medical chapters, it is also about long-term survival and dealing with mortality (13.99 euros, Klett Cotta)

Would you like to read more about the topic and exchange ideas with other women? Then take a look at the "Coronavirus Forum" of the BRIGITTE community!

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BRIGITTE 01/2021