How to Prepare for the Unknown in 2021

Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC

Like many people, I took an extended vacation at home over the holidays. Besides responding to a couple of emails, I did nothing work-related. Instead, I binge-watched several Netflix series, ate too much, and slept way more than usual. Even the 9-10 hours I was getting didn’t seem like enough. I felt totally exhausted and feared something might be wrong with me until I listened to Brene Brown’s podcast Unlocking Us – The Queen’s Gambit, Revisiting FFTs and Resting Our Tired Brains, which explained why this pandemic and all the resulting changes have taken such a toll on our energy level.

Brene had experts explain the psychology and physiology behind what we have endured for nearly a year, which are situations we have never experienced in our lifetime – something she calls FFTs (F’ing First Times). In essence, our brains are completely exhausted from trying to make sense and certainty out of all the chaos and uncertainty. In addition, we have been in near isolation for many months. As social beings who crave connection, this can negatively impact our mental health. It’s no wonder we are completely wiped out!

Whenever we are faced with an FFT, she suggests the following 5 steps to help us navigate it successfully:

  1. Name it. “I’m in an FFT right now and that’s why this is so hard.”
  2. Try to develop perspective. “This is not permanent. I have evidence that I’ve made it through other FFTs before.”
  3. Reality check expectations. “It’s not going to be perfect the first time.”
  4. Build in rest and recovery time. Sleep is the best thing you can do for your brain.
  5. Get and stay in fit FFT condition. This is different for everyone. Figure out what this means for you. It could be exercise, meditation, prayer, time alone, connection with others, etc.

I wish us all a new year that is far better than 2020. Stay hopeful and positive, while managing your expectations. Some things may never go back to the way they were prior to 2020. Heed the sage advice and wisdom of Dr. Robert Anthony. He says to never fear what comes next in life. Fear itself is usually far worse than what we are afraid of, because of the anguish our rumination causes. Instead, view life as an adventure to be experienced rather than a predictable existence to be controlled. Enjoy life and all its uncertainties the same way you would a new Netflix series. Not knowing what comes next is what makes them both so thrilling and fun.

“History is the study of surprises.” – Edward T. O‘Donnell

“We’re living history surprise after surprise after surprise…Uncertainty is chronic. Instability is permanent. Disruption is common. And we can neither predict nor govern events. There will be no new normal. There will only be a continuous series of not normal episodes, defined prediction and unforeseen by most of us until they happen.” – Jim Collins

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