“The mistake is thinking that there can be an antidote to the uncertainty.” ~David Levithan
A dear friend of mine is currently unemployed, going through a divorce, moving homes, and experiencing the tumult that accompanies this pandemic. Her life is incredibly uncertain and difficult right now. I know many of my readers can relate, which is why I want to address this topic today: How can you and I plan when life is uncertain.
Some of you may be thinking–why plan at all? Why not just go with the flow and forget planning altogether? I will tell you why. Planning is important for several reasons: It affords you some semblance of normal in your life; it helps you feel a sense of control, which then reciprocally calms you and decreases anxiety. And lastly, planning allows you to use the time you have in a productive manner, so you are able to be productive and accomplish things/reach goals, instead of simply wasting time. We are happiest when we create the life we want, instead of letting life happen to us.
My friend’s wise words inspired my post today. When I asked her if she was okay and how she was surviving with all the uncertainty in her life, she responded, “I can’t let it get me down too much. This is just a stage and I’m strong enough to make it through. I know it won’t last forever.” So, when life is uncertain:
- Keep perspective. Remember that the uncertainty you are going through likely will not last forever. Whether it is not knowing what school will look like in the fall, being unemployed, or having your life turned upside down by COVID, most things are temporary and will not last forever.
- Live in the present. While each one of us would like to know what life is going to look like in three months or three years, we simply cannot. Instead of fretting about the unknown future, literally the only thing we can do is live in the present and work with what we have. Take it one day (or one hour!) at a time.
- Do what you can do. This has been a critical step for me during quarantine. I am the only one in control of my day and my time. I look at what I have to do/need to do/want to do, and I make it happen. Instead of focusing on what I cannot do, I focus on what I CAN do. And then break it down into manageable steps and get things done.
- Use your resources. Just today I was thinking about how quarantine has reminded us how awesome libraries are. Local libraries have made resources available for parents, for children…for everyone. This may sound like a silly example, but it is a legitimate resource that many individuals and families have tapped into during this time of uncertainty. Whether it is a resource like that, or maybe help from family/neighbors, accommodations being offered at work… do not be afraid to take advantage of resources. Now more than ever it is okay to ask for help.
- Adapt. The only thing you CAN plan on during uncertain times is change. Count on your plans changing. Be flexible. Adapt. Be okay with change and know you can work through any unexpected challenges.
I know life is hard right now. Trust me, I am a planner. I love having a set plan, a routine, and knowing what my days, weeks, and months will look like. I know some of you feel anxiety with the absence of predictability and control; I hope that these steps will help. Keep perspective, live in the present, do what you can, use your resources, and plan on adapting. During this uncertain time, remember you always have control over YOU!
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
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