A year since the first instruction to stay at home was issued and, after many months of the latest lockdown, the restrictions are starting, cautiously, to lift. For some, that brings a jubilant anticipation of freedom. For others, it brings fear of mixing too soon and a resurgence of infections.
Last week, I had my first vaccination dose. For some, vaccination is the route towards some semblance of normal life. For others, the idea of being vaccinated brings anxiety and apprehension.
As the months go on, with news of more variants and a third wave of the virus in mainland Europe, it seems as though the only thing certain is more uncertainty about what lies ahead.
How are you managing? Do you notice yourself feeling unsettled at times and, if so, can you pinpoint the reason?
Those feelings of uncertainty usually come from the unknown elements of a situation. For example, children going back into school or returning to workplaces after working from home.
At times like this, it helps to understand and manage expectations. Whether yours or someone else’s, it’s important to create boundaries to look after yourself because self-care is important. It’s akin to putting your oxygen mask on first.
There will always be elements of the unexpected that lead to the feelings associated with uncertainty.
At the beginning of 2020, we heard of a virus on the other side of the world. The speed at which it arrived on our shores was surprising. Suddenly, there was a lot of uncertainty and change in a very short space of time. Fear and uncertainty reigned. Until, gradually, we all became used to the changes as we learnt to adapt to the “new normal”.
Every change brings opportunities and there have been some benefits to the isolation.
The main one for many was space in previously hectic diaries.
Many of us breathed a sigh of relief at not having the obligation to attend a hectic diary of social gatherings. Whereas before, those expectations meant we felt guilty or selfish for not going. Then, despite missing loved ones, it was a relief not to have to attend what may have become habitual events.
As things open up again, how will you manage expectations?
Will you retain the free space in your calendar and politely decline invitations to protect your boundaries?
Another welcome change for many was the ability to work from home.
With that came benefits for families and the environment. Now, a new change beckons – returning to the workplace. Along with that comes uncertainty about new working patterns and whether working from home will still be an option.
I have always worked remotely with long distance clients. Zoom has been a part of my life for many years. Before the pandemic, I was also travelling around Britain delivering workshops and coaching in person.
I have not missed the travelling one bit!
I will continue to use Zoom as much as possible and I still enjoy a good old fashioned phone call. Of course, some delegates prefer someone in the room with them. Will we stay online? Some will. There is still uncertainty about how much will continue virtually or resume in person.
What Are You Feeling Uncertain About?
When you feel uncertain, it’s normally about aspects of life that you have no control over. When we take things for granted, it creates an illusion of control. Then when things don’t go to plan it’s a shock, making you feel unsettled and worried. Being uncertain of what might happen can create anxiety, which can also come from a fear of missing out or losing something valuable.
The first thing you become aware of is the feeling. Often unaware of the thoughts that underlie the emotion, you may not immediately know why you feel the way you do. So, stop and ask yourself, ‘What am I unsettled about?’
Uncertainty is also experienced when a lot of change is happening. I’ve talked before about how to deal with change here and the need to recognise that brings both uncertainty and opportunity.
Learning how to manage your responses and expectations is very beneficial in times of change and uncertainty. Look around and notice the things that never change, like the seasons passing. Being in nature is grounding, helping to lower anxiety. Watching the birds return to your garden and the spring flowers burst into bloom can be reassuring.
It’s time to decide what’s best for you and negotiate what you need.
Negotiating Expectations and Setting Boundaries
Without managing expectations, problems may arise when two parties have differing opinions. You could end up in conflict if you don’t manage the situation. Whether at work or home, it all comes back to communication and gaining an understanding of the other person.
When creating your boundaries, decide what areas you’re prepared to negotiate and compromise on, versus what areas are deal breakers. As you recognise where the uncertainties lie, that recognition clarifies where your boundaries need to be. Then you’re in a better position to negotiate.
Confidently state what your boundaries are. During negotiations, find out what the other person’s negotiable range is compared to yours. What are you prepared to give up? What rewards will you get in return? Is the risk worth the reward?
To understand an uncertain situation, the usual thing to do is to research or ask questions. Sometimes waiting for answers can cause more uncertainty. For instance, the Government telling us to wait until a certain date before confirming the next step of the plan to lift restrictions.
It really is a case of developing patience during times of uncertainty.
Patiently Not Being Okay
It’s okay not to be okay. I remind my delegates of this in my Positive Change workshops. We’re designed to be unsettled and wary of change until we know things are safe; it proves that your self-preservation mechanism is working.
If you feel concerned about what others may feel when setting your boundaries and expectations then, instead of feeling guilty, find ways to express your personal needs and preferences. When the world opens up and we’re reverting to crowded travel and social situations, remember to replace obligations with options.
When we’re uncertain about what’s coming up, looking further ahead to a different point in time can help. Shifting the horizon from days and weeks to months or years ahead brings a different perspective. Considering what your outcome will be then is all part of goal setting, creating anchor points. The course taken to reach the objectives may change and that’s okay when you’re still making progress towards your chosen destination.
Regaining Some Certainty with setting compelling Goals
I’ve spoken to a few people so far this year who would normally set their SMART goals for the year and haven’t, putting it down to all the uncertainty about how 2021 will play out.
One way around this is to set your intention to celebrate achieving your goal on a date in the future without prescribing exactly when it has to happen. A desire to achieve something that you can work towards without having an arbitrary fixed timeline takes the pressure off you. There is still an achievement date and, at the same time, you have the option to complete the goal sooner.
I was uncertain about setting specific deadlines for 2021, so this year I created a ‘Contribution’ goal map instead. Being value-based goals, it focuses on what values I want to live by. The outcomes centre on the contribution I am making to the world this year. If you want to see my Goal Map, send me a quick reply and I’ll send you the link.
Finding the right approach for you may take some coaching. For assistance with your boundaries, managing expectations and handling uncertainty during whatever this year has in store for us, do get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.