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Managing Your Expectations

5 January 2021

Barbara read How to Manage Your New-Year Expectations by Courtney Rubin and was grateful for some practical advice on how to navigate her emotions while continuing to adhere to pandemic restrictions.

Tags: balance, barbara read, covid-19, mbti, mindfulness, new year’s resolutions

I’ve never known exactly what to do with the concept of New Year’s resolutions, and this year is worse because I have been so diligent about training my mind not to look beyond next week’s grocery pick up. I tend to make resolutions throughout the year when problems arise, but my loudest refrain since March has been—stay home.

I know January won’t be dramatically different for me than the last 10 months. I am allowing myself to get my hopes up a little because of the vaccine, but I know that is not coming quickly. As I read Rubin's article, I was grateful for some new ideas and reinforcement for things I was already trying to help myself manage my mind.

“Plan small treats." In October I began having a weekly call with a friend who I used to see about three times a year. We got started by discussing the book, Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad. We have continued to read other Black writers and talk about how to be aware of and overcome racism we didn’t know we had. Then we talk about what is going on in our lives, how family members have so many different ideas about how COVID-19 days should be managed, and parks where we can walk to have different outside venues. Moving from three times a year to once a week with this friend has been a treat I'm not sure either of us could have imagined pre-pandemic.

“Define what matters.” Rubin shares lessons from “Mitch Abrams, a psychologist who oversees mental health services for New Jersey state prisons.” One of the questions he asks inmates to find out what matters to them is, “How can you nurture your relationship with yourself, so that you can do the same for your relationships with others?” I nurture my relationship with myself by doing a 30-minute meditation on Zoom twice a week. We have an inspiring quote or poem for five minutes. Breathe together for 20 minutes. Then have five minutes for saying how the meditation was for us today. Often, we are so calmed we just fold our hands together and say “Namaste.” We had started before the pandemic with one day a week, but then we needed more, and I offered to lead one. It matters to me to help myself have a calm 20 minutes and to share that moment with others.

“Stay in the moment.” I am an Intuitive in Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) terminology, and it used to be an absolute rush for me to plan for the future. However, Rubin said, “Anxiety comes from casting yourself into the future,” and she's right. I have had to stop. To keep yourself from doing it, she recommends listing five things you are grateful for right now. My cup of green tea, my house, the trees in my back yard, anyone who calls or FaceTimes me, and my health. Then I try to tell myself, "I believe I will get to travel again but for now I need be in this moment."

“Take control.” Rubin says the uncertainty of the pandemic has caused us to feel like we are hostages. Rubin quotes “Emma Kavanagh, a former police and military psychologist in South Wales….Those who mentally fare best in hostage situations often work to regain some measure of control over their environment, whether it’s declaring, ‘I will walk 100 steps around my cell today’ or ‘I will do 50 push-ups.’” I have felt imprisoned and as if I am the guard who locked the door. I am the caregiver for my husband, which has unexpected surprises to deal with fairly regularly, but I keep trying to exert control by imposing an artificial structure on my day—write till noon, read at lunch, leave the house at 2:00, walk at 4:00, dinner at 6:00, movies after dinner. My heart goes out to those of you who are working full time and overseeing home schooling children. You have way too much to do. Some days I have too little.

“Find flexibility and tolerance.” When I read that bullet, I had the reaction—well no joke. If I could do that, I wouldn’t be as anxious or sad as I am some days. But when I kept reading, she said, “Uncertainty tolerance is also something you can improve—even in lockdown…Try something new you haven’t tried before, preferably something that scares you a little.” I decided to drive to another neighborhood to walk on sidewalks. That wouldn’t feel like a brave act to me before the shutdown. Just a year ago I flew to California to teach and loved every minute in the airport, on the plane, in the hotel, and talking in front of 30 physicians. But I’ve sequestered myself and my husband so thoroughly that it took courage to drive to an area three miles away. When I walked there, I liked that no one knew me in that neighborhood, and I could wear a mask without anyone commenting on it.

I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we sure have a long way to go. How might you manage your New Year expectations?


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