Over the past five years, I have gone through so many transitions, and many periods of time when I had no idea what was next. This episode of uncertainty is a little more extreme than the others, and I thought it would be good to come up with a real plan for handling my Uncertain Future Anxiety (UFA.)
1. Recall past experiences of UFA, not knowing how things would turn out, and review the ways in which everything really did turn out OK.
2. Hash out your worst fears. Delve into the details of your Worst Case Scenario, and examine the feelings and logistics that might accompany the situation. Usually, it’s not really as awful as it seems, and nothing is worse than nebulous fear. Name your fears, and get comfy with them. This will also help you evaluate your options more clearly, when they come up.
3. Take this as an opportunity to dream about your Most Ideal Scenario. It’s really helpful to articulate what your dreams are, whether they seem achievable or not. This way, you can evaluate opportunities in a positive and hopeful way, working toward something good, rather than just trying to avoid something bad. Hash out ideas about what makes life rewarding for you, and how that can be a part of your future somehow. We often go through big chunks of life without making really deliberate choices about how we want to live. Take this time of uncertainty as an opportunity to be intentional. Jeff and I have frequently talked about what we’d like to do “in our new life.”
4. If you feel sad about what you may lose in your future transition, name your current advantages and make a point of enjoying them. Right now. Have people over, go visit a favorite place, knock a few items off of your “Want to Do” list. After all, you are still in your current location/ situation. Make the most of it! Don’t get stuck in a trap of not even being able to enjoy something you currently have just because it’s temporary!
5. In preparation for your Uncertain Future, take good care of your internal resources. If you need to be around people to feel fulfilled and energized, and you have a time of potential loneliness coming up, then by all means, go have fun as often as possible, with as many people as you can wrangle! I don’t fall into this category, but I do know that I must take as many opportunities as possible to enjoy the quiet times available to me. I will take up any offers on babysitting, and not exhaust my introverted self unnecessarily. This is not a time to be a super hero– that will come during your transition!
6. Think of ways in which other people can help you. Write them down, so you don’t forget when someone asks what they can do. What will you really need? Be honest with yourself, your spouse and people who would like to support you. Like fear, a nebulous sense of need is overwhelming. Identify your perceived needs, verbalize them if possible, and move on.
7. Humor. Don’t lose your sense of it, and take advantage of every opportunity for a good laugh. This may also include painting hilarious mental pictures of your worst case scenario, or dreaming up a ridiculously lavish version of your ideal life. Watching a comedy when you’re feeling stressed is very therapeutic, and worth the effort of polling your friends for suggestions. Not taking yourself and your problems too seriously is crucial– it’s a slippery slope to a pity party.
8. As a family, make a point of taking care of one another. Give your spouse a good laugh, your kids extra hugs. This is a time when stress can make everyone cranky– purposefully move in the opposite direction. This doesn’t mean being in denial about how you feel (please, do tell someone!) but not letting it take over and ruin everyone’s day. You and all family members really deserve some extra grace.
9. Think of something you can do that is a good distraction when you are feeling anxious, but that you can also carry on with no matter where you go. A hobby, for example. For me, it’s blogging.
10. Do your best to stay soft and flexible, and to expect the best. It is almost always harder to give up what you already know for something unfamiliar. It rarely feels like a fair trade, but that’s only because it’s unknown. Expect something great, and don’t get wrapped up in the details– it will all get done, and worrying doesn’t count as doing.
OK, thanks for letting me hash out my plan here! And if you are in a time of transition, hopefully you can use some help dealing with your own Uncertain Future Anxiety.