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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Think positive as we wait out this long pandemic

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

At a university I work for, I am a committee member in the department responsible for the computer network. But that does not mean I'm good at using the internet. I became a member by chance. Because there is nothing I can do myself, I am just amazed at every meeting by staff getting work done quickly and expertly.

    Since online teaching began amid the coronavirus pandemic, the department's tasks have increased enormously. And though face-to-face classes have resumed after the recent improvement in the infection situation, some classes remain online. Discussions are held during meetings over whether to go back to the IT help desk's regular hours, which were extended to support online courses, but they often wind up in the same place every time: "It's still unclear how the situation will turn out," and, "Shall we wait and see how the pandemic goes for the time being?"

    "Wait and see." I wonder how many times I've said this phrase since the pandemic began. I have shelved various work plans, volunteering, hobbies and fun activities, saying, "Let's wait and see a little more." While the number of infections has dropped and it seems about time to get back to things, it also occurs to me that the near-future situation is still unclear. Then I, too, settle on the conclusion to wait and see how things will go.

    In fact, this mere act of "waiting and seeing" becomes quite stressful. When we hold off on deciding whether to do something or not, negative memories such as of past failures can crawl out from the backs of our minds. This leads to anxious thoughts such as, "Things may not come off well if this keeps up," and, "Even if we do this, it may go badly." These thoughts alone can distress and depress us.

    To overcome this pandemic, it may be important to "wait and see in a fun way." While the future is still unclear, we should try to think as positively as possible -- for example, "This will be fun if we do it," and, "It'll definitely go well." Even if you begin to doubt yourself, tell yourself, "No way," and try to enjoy waiting and seeing, by thinking, "I'm sure I'll be able to green-light this plan sometime soon."

    I always tell patients in my counseling room, "Are you not exhausted with nearly two years of waiting and seeing, day after day?" I want you to ask the question to yourself, too, but be sure to add, "I'll be able to do what I want soon."

    (Japanese original by Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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