The first thing I do after brewing the coffee each morning is look at the headlines. For the past year, many of them have reflected on groups of people who have suffered in specific ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We all struggle differently, but everybody is struggling, and it’s helpful to hear a variety of stories so we can empathize with each other.
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the world changing as we know it, it is definitely helpful to reflect on what we have gone through. But now it might be time to move from reflection to resilience. Some of my clients say that it was helpful to process their experiences and feelings, but now they are ready to think about the future. Others tell me they are tired of looking back. I think looking to the future, at this point, gives us hope. It may feel scary to engage those thoughts because there is still a lot of uncertainty about how it will unfold. Below are some factors that might help you prepare for what comes next.
Manage expectations about how quickly “normal" will return.
We are all craving the things we miss. Walking around without a mask, eating in restaurants, seeing family that lives far away, and traveling to our favorite destinations. But since we don’t know when restrictions will be lifted, we don’t want to continue to feel disappointed and frustrated. Therefore, enjoying the experiences that we can have as they become available and savoring those moments is the best approach to keeping a positive attitude and reducing our anxiety.
Express gratitude as opportunities emerge.
Acknowledging that we are grateful to be able to return to the office, return kids to school, spend more time with people once we are vaccinated, and be able to visit family and other locations will help us remember the progress that has been made. Even though we don’t have everything back yet, remembering where we were one year ago and reminding ourselves that we have gotten through it keeps our brain hopeful that more positive changes are to come.
Set goals and make plans.
Spring is here, and with spring comes renewal. While it may not be time to plan international travel for an extended vacation or plan to put your mask in storage, we can certainly make a wish list. It’s OK to start dreaming about what we will do and the kinds of plans we will make. I am dreaming of throwing a backyard barbecue with all my friends. It might not happen next weekend, but I can visualize the food I will make, the music I will play, and the fun we will have.
Give yourself credit for your bravery.
I was reminded today by a meme that we can’t learn to be brave if everything is always wonderful. Let’s remember that we have been brave, we have faced the uncertainty, and every day we get closer to more freedom.
Encourage each other.
If you see people around you struggling with uncertainty, feeling discouraged, or expressing frustration, take the opportunity to let them know they are not alone. Remind them that we are in this together and we are all looking forward to talking about the pandemic in the past tense. It’s not going to happen at once, but each lifted restriction and each vaccine distribution is a step closer in the right direction.