Plan Who You’ll Be After This
How to audit your priorities and adjust your daily routines
Like so many people, I’ve been killing time lately by daydreaming about all the things I want to do once this is over: Eat tacos on the patio at my favorite restaurant downtown. Take a trip up north to the lake with my husband and kids. Jet off somewhere fun by myself for a break from said husband and kids.
There’s more to it than pure escapism. In uncertain times, making future plans can feel particularly soothing, lending a much-needed sense of control, explains Marianna Strongin, a clinical psychologist in New York and the founder of Strong in Therapy. “Anxiety is a question about the unknown, and planning answers it with ‘I’m going to do this,’” she says.
Creating a blueprint for tomorrow (or next year) can also help with that hopeless, glued-to-your-couch feeling you may be experiencing. “Momentum and a future focus are the opposite of depression,” Strongin says. “We all need future momentum to keep going — points we are working toward, goals, and things we are looking forward to.”
At least, that’s all true in ordinary times. But these aren’t ordinary times, and the unknowns that drive you to plan for the future are the same ones that complicate that planning. Who knows if the taco place will survive the pandemic? Or when it will be safe to travel again? Who knows what their finances will look like, or their city?
But even with all those uncertainties, it’s still possible to reap the psychological benefits of anticipating the future—with a little bit of a mental shift: Instead of planning what you’ll do when your self-quarantine ends, use this time to plan who you’ll be.
Start by clarifying your values
Turns out a devastating global crisis is a good opportunity to revisit your values. What do you want more of in your post-pandemic life? What will you relegate to the back burner?
“Times like these not only create an external focus on big-picture things like our communities, country, and the world; they also have a way of clarifying what’s important to us,” says Ali Mattu, a clinical psychologist based in California. “It’s often when we are deprived or lose control of things…