How to Face the Question of “What’s Next?”
Feeling 10x more anxious than usual? Check. Craving all the carbs? Check. Intensely cleaning & reorganizing? Check. Finding tiny moments of normal before remembering how crazy everything is right now? Check. This stressed-out checklist is me right now (because COVID) but also me whenever ANY big changes are happening in my life. Anyone with me on this? I think yes.
The scariest thing about change (especially big, drastic changes) is the unsure feelings and the panic that comes from not knowing what the future holds. The stress that comes from the not-knowing is enough to drag most of us into an anxiety spiral.
I tried to break this down in my head, we all have normal stress in our every-day lives that comes from small changes, inconveniences, and struggles. BUT. We also have a sense of comfort that comes from routine and knowing what any given day in the future might look like. When that comfort and routine is taken away, we panic. When we start guessing at what “might” happen, we panic. When we can’t make plans for our future, we panic.
Okay. So we like routine. We like when things are consistent. We stress when our routine is broken and we stop being able to assume what the future will look like. When we ask ourselves, “what’s next?” we often look really far into the unknown future and we assume the worst.
Some people take crazy, changing times as a time to look inward, get away from the rat race, and take more naps. Some people take change and use it to be extra productive, extra motivated, and race the hardest they ever have. I have seen people on social media talk about taking this time to live in the moment and stop looking to the future. While others like to share their ideas on what the future might hold (be cautious of reading too many of these posts! They tend to make me even more anxious).
But I don’t think we necessarily have to stop thinking about the future. But the question of “what’s next?” is a bit too broad for my liking at this unsure time. Instead of asking, what’s next for our world? Our health care system? The economy? My job? Your job? (All of which make me incredibly stressed right now). I have been trying to focus on what is REALLY next. How am I going to pay rent on April 1st? What am I going to eat for lunch? When will we need groceries next? How will I move my body today? Who should I Facetime today to check in? These questions have real answers that I can figure out right now.
I am a person of action. So being unable to act on the long-term “what’s next?” is difficult. I like being able to make a to do list or have some tasks that will move me forward. But the world is telling me I need to focus a little more on the next 24 hours. NOT the next 24 weeks, or months. Approaching what really comes next makes my level of stress decrease and lets me feel a bit more sure of the future. And it’s tough – don’t get me wrong – but focussing on the short-term future is much more positive and doable than the alternative.
So give yourself a moment today to focus on the next thing. The ACTUAL next thing. Not the fate of your career, or the state of our community, we literally cannot predict the results of those, and trying to only makes us feel worse. Keep yourself busy thinking about what comes next from where you are right now. Then do it again. And again. And we will all figure this out together.
Oh. And wash your damn hands.