HomeSoutheast Asian Media Studiesvol. 3 no. 1 (2021)

Finding Comfort in Uncertainty: Dealing with Anxiety Caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic




As a graduate student aiming to finish my studies in the United States, I was never really bothered when I first learned about the new coronavirus outbreak in China as life in the US was very much normal back then. More importantly, I had a strong belief that my family in the Philippines would not be affected. It was only after hearing about the rising cases of local COVID-19 transmissions, community lockdowns, and stories from friends about their relatives getting infected that I started to feel anxious. As I dealt with my anxiety, I found myself trying to settle the tension between wanting to know more about the relevant happenings in my home country and intending to avoid worrisome information. On the one hand, there was a desire to achieve some degree of certainty. On the other, more knowledge also meant greater degree of apprehension about the pandemic’s detrimental impact on various aspects of our lives. In this essay, I attempt to problematize the relation between uncertainty and anxiety. I challenge the prevailing assumption that reducing uncertainty always provides us relief and confidence. Like many other scholars of uncertainty, I argue that in times of despair, uncertainty may become a source of positive outlook and may serve as a motivation to maintain and reinforce interpersonal relationships. Therefore, it is not always a negative concept and experience.