How to Cope with the UNKNOWN in Difficult Times

The UNKNOWN. We know we need to cope with the UNKNOWN, but how? It hits the streets like a phantom in a dark alley on a dark night. We can’t see it approaching, but we know it’s there. It has affected the shelves on the grocery stores, shut down businesses, and forced us behind closed doors.

This time, it may be called one thing, next time it will have a different name. But it all boils down to one thing – the UNKNOWN.

When faced with having to cope with the UNKNOWN, our initial gut reaction is to panic. But panic is the worst thing we can do. If we just take a moment to stop and think about it, we actually have a ‘spotlight’ that will scare it away.

We may need to take precautions, but for the most part, we can do things that can help prevent it from affecting our way of life.

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Cope with the Unknown

Basic Hygiene

As far as our current situation, we just need to pay attention to a few basics:

Wash your Hands

Using basic soap and warm water, wash your hands for 20 to 30 seconds. Rinse, and then dry. Keep hand sanitizer nearby, to use when there is no soap and water close by.

Don’t Touch Your Face 

If there are any germs on your hands, it is best to keep them from coming close to your eyes, nose and mouth If your nose itches, grab a tissue and gently rub your nose with it.


Instead of coughing into your hands, use your sleeve or a tissue. Either way this can help keep from spreading any germs. If you use a tissue, discard it right away. If you use your sleeve, be sure to wash your clothing well.

Wash Your Clothes

Use 1/4 cup vinegar in your wash. Vinegar is a great disinfectant. You can also use it as a natural cleanser. Use it to wipe down light switches, door knobs and door frames, if you do not want to use a bleach product.

If someone in your home is ill, be sure to wash the sheets each day. I know this is extra work, but it will help keep the germs at bay to the best of your ability.

Keep Your Home Clean

This doesn’t mean you have to sterilize it. You simply need to sanitize it the best you can. Clean the bathrooms thoroughly, then wipe them down a couple of times a day. Do a ‘walk through/wipe down’ a few times a day as well – especially if someone is sick.

If you cannot find cleaning products, add 3 Tablespoons of bleach or vinegar to 4 cups of water.  Mix well and put in a spray bottle.


If you have to go to the grocery store or any other public place where you will be handling anything, take a Clorox Wipe with you. Store it in a zip top bag, and use it to wipe down door handles, buggies, or anything else you may need to touch.

Cope with the Unknown

Time Off From Work due to the UNKNOWN

All UNKNOWNs, including what we are going through now,  are serious issues, and should be looked at as a wake-up call. The self- and forced quarantines that are happening right now are difficult for everyone. However, it can also be a blessing in disguise.

If you find yourself at home, this can be a great time to do some serious planning. Planning is what may help you cope with the UNKNOWN, or any future threat to our well-being. You may even look to the future to see if working from home may be a possibility.

Feed Your Family

Food, water and shelter are the three most important things we need to keep our family healthy. With the current pandemic, grocery store shelves are almost bare. But with a little ingenuity, we can use what we already have.

Water and shelter should already be in place. Our water supply has not been affected, so using the tap should work just find.

For food, search for simple recipes that use basic ingredients, but will stretch. Casseroles can be made using a can of vegetables, a little meat (hamburger, chicken, etc.) that has been cubed or shredded, and a can of cream soup.

If you don’t cook much, a simple internet search for meals that require 5 ingredients or less can help. Just take an inventory of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer and start there. Check out my Ultimate Manual for the Art of Homemaking for worksheets that will help with this.

For something simple, see if you have macaroni, hamburger and a few other ingredients on hand. With these items, you can create Macaroni & Hamburger. This is a meal that is filling and will stretch. If you need more, just add a bit more macaroni.

Cope with the Unknown - Learn to Cook

Activities with Children

If you have children, they may be out of school. You may be looking at ways to help them cope with the UNKNOWN. Talk to them. Give them as much information, and in a way that works with their ages. Then find ways to distract them, rather than having them dwell on the ‘what ifs’.

This is a perfect time to teach them some of the basic skills. Let them help you create meals from what is available. Show them how to do household chores or make small repairs. Have them help you tackle your To Do list.

Teach them how to grow their own food.  This may be planting vegetables in containers.  Show them how to prepare the soil, plant the seed, then water and care for them.  You may even have them create their own Garden Growth chart, or use THIS ONE.

Encourage them to read.  Set aside an hour of quiet time each day and let them read their favorite books.  Reading helps stir their curiosity, their imagination and improves their thinking and comprehension skills.

Most children love to see their progress.  use a reading chart such as THIS ONE to list the books they have read and a little information about each book.  if you have them, place a sticker in the ‘Finished’ column to add a bit more fun.

Spend quality time with your children. Read to them. Play a game. Another option is to have them choose their favorite book, and put on a play using the same characters. Or encourage them to write a play, and then produce it for you.

You can also design a Treasure Hunt. Write clues on a piece of paper that send them throughout the house. The prize can be an extra 10 minutes of tv or video game time, a dollar’s worth of loose change, or even a few cookies or pieces of candy.

Assure your children you are doing everything you can to protect them, and let them know they are also doing their part. This will help them feel they have some control, and can cope with the UNKNOWN.

For other great ideas on helping your children weather this ‘storm’, check out these great posts:

12 Art Activities for Kids that Encourage Creativity At Home

10 phrases parents can use to help kids understand social distancing

Boredom Busters: 110 Fun At-Home Activities for Families & Kids

The Secret to Keeping Your Kids Happy, Busy and Learning if Their School Closes Due to Coronavirus

How to Establish a Family Routine and Why they Work

How to Cope with the UNKNOWN


Activities to Help Cope with the Unknown

I can create a list of things you can do that is as long as my arm. You can take the opportunity to catch up on your reading list. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and make a list of gifts you would like to make for Christmas this year. Then grab your knitting needles, crochet hooks or any other supplies and get started.

Clean your house. This could be the perfect time to tackle those heavier chores, like cleaning out closets, or decluttering your home

Start Journaling.  Grab a pen and paper, buy a Journal, or even start a new folder on your computer.  Write down your thoughts, ideas, desires, or even what you are doing to weather the current UNKNOWN. 

This is an excellent way to organize your thoughts, analyze your feelings, and find ways to work through your days. You can even encourage your kids to start their own Journal!

We all have that box of photos we stuck in  a closet.  Now may be the time to pull them out and get them organized into albums or scrapbooks.

Start an exercise or yoga routine.  This can help burn off excess energy and can help keep you healthy.  It is also a great activity to do with the children.

Binge Out 

If all else fails, you can take time to catch up on YouTube videos, favorite websites or movies.  You can also sign up for some on-line classes, as many places are offering discounted (and free) products and courses due to COVID-19.  Need some great homesteading and self-reliance websites to check out?  Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

15 Acre Homestead

Oakhill Homestead

Home Grown Self-Reliance

My Homestead Life

Rockin’ W Homestead

The Self Sufficient Homeacre

Better Hens & Gardens

Still Thinking?

Even with plenty of things to keep you busy, your mind is still probably wandering to the situation at hand. As the adult, you know you are going through the motions to help keep your family fed, and the panic at bay. To the best of your ability, you are trying to cope with the UNKNOWN.

Maybe this is the time for you to settle in for some personal quiet time. Reflect on what is going on, and what your status is. Is our current situation (or any UNKNOWN situation) concerning enough that you feel you need to make a lifestyle change? (Hint:  keep reading…I may be able to help with this…)

Trust me. There are many, many folks out there that are contemplating the same thing. Being dependent on others – whether it is an employer, the government, or corporations – can be a bit concerning. Perhaps it is time to retrieve a much independence as you can.

Ways to Be More Independent

Being as independent as possible is one of the best ways to cope with the UNKNOWN. There are several ways to do this. Some are designed for apartment/condo dwellers. Others need a bit more space, but are well-suited for suburban lots.


Growing your own food, or as much of it as you can, is one of the first lines of battle in hard times. You may think you don’t have enough room. There is that ‘black thumb’ you feel you have. I imagine you may have many reasons you ‘can’t’ garden. It could be time to shift your thinking.

Gardening can be done in as little room as will handle a few containers, on up to large acreage. You can even ‘companion’ plant and have more than one vegetable and/or herb in one space. You can think in terms of a ‘Theme’ Garden, and grow enough food to create 1 to 3 meals with the same herbs and vegetables.


If you have a freezer full of blueberries or other fruit left over from last year, now would be a great time to learn how to can. Starting with jams or jellies, is the perfect way to start simple.

Dehydrating is another great way to preserve foods. There are a number of great dehydrators on the market.  And I guarantee, if you ever get started, you won’t know where to stop.  It is one of the best ways to preserve your food!

Learn to bake bread. There are super simple recipes for making quick breads as well as yeast breads on the Internet. Country White Bread is very easy to make, and will provide one to two loaves when you are finished.

Don’t have yeast? Make a sourdough starter. It may take a week or better to be ready to use, but once it is, you can keep it going for years to come. Just feed it occasionally, then place it in the refrigerator. Daddy kept his going for over 10 years, and there have been reports of some starters being over 100 years old!


Have you always wanted to learn to knit or crochet? There are videos and websites geared toward the beginner. If you don’t have hooks or needles, then make a search for weaving on a small loom. There are many looms you can build just out of cardboard. Using a hula hoop and some strips of fabric, you can make a fun rug.

Once you master your new crafting skills, start working on gifts you can make for Christmas.  Almost everyone loves a handmade gift!


If you are in an apartment or condo, this may not work for you. But in suburban areas, look into the zoning laws for small animals. Chickens, ducks, quail and rabbits are a great place to start.

The fowl will not only provide eggs, but also meat. Rabbits are for meat, but take up little room. Both provide great compost for your gardens.

Bees are another consideration. You do have to check zoning laws for this, or may be in an area where the lot sizes are larger, but they are a consideration. Bees produce honey, which is a great sugar substitute.


Anything you grow or produce on your own can be used for bartering. Trade a dozen eggs for vegetables you don’t grow in your garden. A pint of honey is a great swap for a loaf of bread or canned items. Consider what you have, what you need, and trade accordingly.

Cope with the Unknown

There are Still More Changes that Need to be Made

With all the fun stuff and To Do lists aside, we know we need to delve a little deeper. We know a Lifestyle change needs to be made, but we aren’t really sure where to start.

Changing Lifestyles can be daunting. However, with all the societal issues we are faced with, it may be time to start thinking about it.

How to do it may be your biggest question. But with a little encouragement, I may be able to help with that. I made a major Lifestyle change 15 years ago. My whole life and world had been based on living a city life. Then the Country Boy and I made a drastic step and moved to 60 acres in a rural area.

It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of time, thought and serious commitment. And although I am still learning something new every day, I look back and know, without a doubt, it was the best thing we could ever do. If you want more details on my lifestyle change, you can read my book: The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm.

Your Lifestyle Plan

To Help you Cope with the UNKNOWN – Design Your Lifestyle Plan

If you are ready to make your own Lifestyle change, check out Your Lifestyle Plan. This e-book outlines the steps you need to make to help you create the person you were meant to be.

From Vision Statements to Finances, it covers everything you will need to do. There are also worksheets for each section you can fill in and keep in a notebook.

One thing you need to know. Completely changing from one lifestyle to another isn’t done overnight. It takes time, a lot of thought and self-appraisal. You lifestyle plan may also affect others in your family. Your Lifestyle Plan offers assistance on how to maneuver these types of obstacles.

Armed with paper, pen and a copy of Your Lifestyle Plan may just be the thing that helps you get through this latest crisis. Once we have passed the worst of it, you will come out of it with a plan of action and be on your way to being less dependent on others.

If our issues today have done nothing more than wake us up to any future UNKNOWN, then there is at least a silver lining to this very dark cloud. Learn to be your own ‘weather’ person, and find ways to cope with the UNKNOWN.

Once you do, you will find that your worry level will ease if any other crisis or pandemics come our way. You will know that, at the very least, you can still provide for your family, and help your neighbors a bit, too.

Now that you have a plan in place to cope with the UNKNOWN, doesn’t that make the dark clouds seem a little brighter?

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Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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