How do you make plans when it’s impossible to make plans?
The ground beneath our feet is constantly shifting. Planning for anything more than a week out can feel futile — almost silly — since no one knows what the next week, much less the next month, will bring. A surge in coronavirus cases in your area? More lockdowns? Worrying about natural disasters? And concerns about health and financial well-being make matters even worse.
“One day the W.H.O. recommends this, and the next day the C.D.C. recommends something else,” Mr. Tasler said. “One day the economy is opening back up. A week later it’s closing back down.
“And all of this changes not just day-by-day, but country-by-country, state-by-state.”
It’s enough to frazzle anyone.
Knowing how to react when our plans fail, according to experts, is essential for recalibrating. Fortunately, there are strategies we can take that can help us cope when life resembles an endless stream of curveballs.
Overcome mental barriers
During a setback, it’s easy to get stuck in feelings of panic and disappointment. One of the most psychologically jarring things for many of us right now, Mr. Tasler said, is the radical upheaval to our daily routines.
“Many of us had already made pre-decisions that determined how we spend the majority of every day — what time we wake up, what we wear to work, what time we go to work, where we eat lunch, etc.,” he explained. “Now, suddenly, all those pre-decisions have had to be made anew.”
But the key to mental agility and not falling into an anxiety spiral, Mr. Tasler said, is to remind ourselves that it’s OK to switch gears. One way to achieve this mind-set shift is to use a technique called temporal distancing, which is like having access to your own personal mental time machine where you can transcend the here-and-now and visualize the future. Mr. Tasler suggests closing your eyes and asking yourself: “In 10 years, how will I want to remember telling the story of how I responded to this crisis?”
Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychological science, medicine and public health at the University of California, Irvine, agreed that focusing on the future rather than the past is what ultimately helps us cope with difficult experiences.
“Many people throughout their lives encounter adversity that doesn’t go their way or is unexpected,” she said. “And when people successfully navigate these new life adversities, they are likely to learn things about themselves they didn’t realize.”
This is not to diminish the very real feelings of disappointment and angst we all experience after a setback — especially when we’ve invested emotional and financial resources. But if we can approach our failed plans with a sense of our own resilience, we’re better able to overcome these challenges.
Read the whole story: The New York TimesMore of our Members in the Media >