By Jennifer Guttman Psy.D.
I had prepared myself to embrace 2021 with an abundance of optimism and a commitment to leave all the negative baggage of our tumultuous 2020 behind. Then 2021 came. In these first two weeks, we’ve seen the pandemic infection rate dramatically increase globally, new strains that are even more contagious, a historic vaccination process underway that could end the pandemic but will take months to distribute, and an attack on our democracy broadcast live worldwide just days before a new administration prepares to lead our country.
Every day my clients have been asking me to make predictions about all the above, and I remind them I couldn’t possibly know the answers. I can guess, and my guesses would be no more “correct” than anyone else’s. What I’ve encouraged them to do is to use the tools I detail below to remain optimistic about the future.
You can be effective if you’re able to manage your daily expectations. It’s a daunting task that requires mental diligence and the ability to avoid making assumptions based on negative biases and dire forecasting.
Here are some suggestions you can incorporate into your thought process every day to help you remain as content as possible in the present, and hopeful about the future.
- Be vigilant about watching and eliminating negative forecasting. Stay in the present and focus on what happens today. If you’re fretting about things like the vaccination rollout plan and feel it’s confusing and sluggish; appreciate and be thankful it has started. Ensure you exercise frustration and patience tolerance. These skills will build resilience and help you feel more empowered throughout the first half of 2021.
- Stay connected to your family and friends. In time, the pandemic will eventually subside. When it does, there will be fewer opportunities for quality time with the loved ones and friends you’ve grown closer to over the past year. Be grateful and cherish the extra time it has afforded you to be together. Create new and lasting memories with them you will always cherish.
- Take advantage of whatever extra “found” time you have. Dedicate time to practice one of your skills or learn a new one. Engage in your lost hobbies. Value and treasure your time, and don’t waste it wishing the days away.
- Dedicate time to insert self-care into your daily routine so that once life speeds up, you don’t forget the importance of devoting some of your mental energy to yourself. Show compassion and give yourself the permission to set aside and spend time on you, whether it’s engaging in some form of exercise, meditation, or just spending quiet time alone. Remember, it’s okay, necessary, and effective to put yourself first.
There was no way to predict these unprecedented times were coming, and we don’t know when they’ll end. However, we can embrace and use this time to learn more about ourselves and what’s important to us. Once the world reopens, we’ll benefit from the knowledge we’ve gained about ourselves and each other. I’m confident we’ll feel stronger and hopefully, more satisfied.