The pandemic is advancing over time and the constant uncertainty and changes create a feeling of dread, exhaustion, and a sense that there is no end to the suffering. We cannot predict the future in this dynamic and fluid environment. We are also naturally concerned about the future direction of our lives. We want to know if our efforts will pay off. Our well-being is affected by prolonged periods of extreme uncertainty.
A natural channel for the tension of uncertainty is creativity, it’s an energy we can channel into shaping our responses to change we cannot control. This time is already difficult, so there’s no need to add to the emotional overload. It is possible to find a novel approach in times of chaos. The changes we feel compelled to make can be viewed as psychological expansion.
Our world is constantly changing. So why not embrace new roles, new activities, and new ideas with an open mind? If we can let go our self-judgment and try these new things, we can develop a creative mindset that allows us to be more flexible and adaptable to dynamic situations. This reduces stress levels and opens up the possibilities for how we respond. Expectations and thinking that were set for a predictable future now create a deep sense of disappointment and despair. This is a time for creativity, new roles, and active participation in shaping our life experience.
This kind of creativity expansion is possible through improv games and exercises that emphasize positive social connection and mutual support. Research showing that improv is effective at helping people break set with old mental patterns was published in the article “Breaking away from set patterns of thinking: Improvisation and divergent thinking” in Thinking Skills and Creativity. In “Working With(out) A Net: Improvisational Theater and Enhanced Well-Being” published in Frontiers In Psychology, Gordon Bermant discusses “a positive relationship between improv practice and well-being in other life domains.” Expansion into creative thinking and expression—linked to enhanced spontaneity and a greater sense of possibility—have a positive impact that we need right now.
Creative risks can be emotional and can trigger all kinds of emotions, from paralyzing self-doubt, to inexplicable joy. The trick is to be generous and compassionate to ourselves, as we would be toward a friend at an important turning point in life, when movement in many different directions is possible. This can lead to excitement about the risk. Although the outcome may be different than what we intended, this approach can provide moments or even hours of deep reward. When a steady stream small but clear risks propels us forward, it can lead to moments and hours that feel deeply rewarding.
This is a period of great change. We can all expand into it and find something together. Improvisation is a way to make anything possible. Let’s be open to it.
Jude Treder-Wolff returns to the WBI/JCC Online Positivity Hour on Thursday, August 19, for a talk titled “Improv for Well-Being in Uncertain Times.” Register here.