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How to Plan Ahead When the Future Is So Uncertain, According to a Psychologist

There’s no arguing that the global pandemic shocked the world, causing fear and uncertainty in many people’s lives.

Unfortunately for most of us, COVID-19 completely turned our lives upside down. Beyond all the health implications and everything that came with it, it also forced us to put our lives on hold, cancelling plans and inhibiting future goals. We had to adjust to new ways of life and adapt to changes as they happened, causing a real sense of unease when it came to making any plans.

And that unease is still with us today - when will the cycle of coming in and out of lockdowns end? When will we be able to travel again? As we move into the future and are hopefully seeing light at the end of the tunnel, it’s normal to have some reservations about wanting to make plans again. However, that certainly shouldn’t stop you. Here’s how to feel good about planning ahead again, in a post-COVID world.

How to make plans in an uncertain world, according to a psychologist

1. Be flexible

We all know the feeling of disappointment when a grand plan gets completely obliterated by a new restriction or concern. While this disappointment is sometimes unavoidable, you can still achieve your goals and be surprised by the outcomes if you can be flexible.

Making plans when things still feel a little uncertain can be scary, but don’t let that stop you. Be ready for a change at any moment and adapt if, or when, they come.

2. Make a Plan B

Some people try to avoid making a Plan B for fear of it limiting their ability to reach Plan A (or their original goal), however it doesn’t have to be that way. Making a Plan B can allow you to have a fall-back option that can sometimes be just as good - or even better - than Plan A.

Having an alternative plan is certainly better than having no plan at all, and it means you can still get excited about the future.

3. Take a phased approach

While we all want to jump right back to our ‘normal’ lives and plan accordingly, it’s important to realise that we’re going to be living a new normal. Most of us had hopes and dreams pre-COVID and while we don’t have to forget about those, we have to be realistic.

With any planning, try to take a phased and gradual approach, taking into account both short and long-term considerations. For example, if your plans pre-COVID involved an international holiday, consider planning a domestic holiday for now. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on your international dreams, it’s just an adjustment or phase of travel that you’re allowing yourself to still enjoy.

4. Set the right expectations

Setting expectations are crucial when it comes to planning, however if your expectations are high, this can lead to disappointments. While you shouldn’t eliminate expectations completely, try to prepare for all possible scenarios in your mind. Set an expectation about the best possible scenario, along with understanding that there is a chance that things might not go ahead at all.

When it comes to expectations, try not to get into the habit of being pessimistic, instead being realistic about what could happen while hoping for the best possible scenario.

5. Reframe your attitude

Similar to setting expectations, having the right attitude can be beneficial in ensuring that things don’t lead to disillusionment.

While it’s important to be realistic, having a positive frame of mind can help with stress management and can even improve your health. Remind yourself that your attitude really can determine your perspective, often allowing you to appreciate the little things, even if something hasn’t gone quite right.

The right perspective can also make you see the funny side when things go wrong and appreciate the smallest things going right.

Noosha Anzab is a clinical psychotherapist & psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.

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