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Why managing your own expectations keeps your sanity intact.

Are we nearly there yet?

Boris Johnson’s next announcement on the ‘roadmap’ for England, out of what can be described as this pandemic ‘siege’, is expected to be Monday 22 February; however, he has said he will be led by data, not dates. So, if the data isn’t available and the number crunching hasn’t been done, the announcement will be later in the week.

The Prime Minister, flanked by his team – the usual suspects being Sir Patrick Vallance – the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser and Chris Whitty who is Chief Medical Officer for England, will be at their podiums, armed with all the data, and the PowerPoint slides to illustrate them (I read recently there are mugs, placemats and more, bearing Chris Whitty’s now famous phrase: ‘Next slide please.’). We anxiously await news of how Lockdown will be eased and although Boris Johnson has apparently said he doesn’t want to release any details early, we already know residents in care homes will soon be allowed to have one visitor – always the same person – and that although not allowed to hug, they will be able to hold hands. That touch from a loved one will no doubt be so very cherished. There’s also talk four people from two different households will be allowed to exercise outdoors together. Again, another welcome lifting of restrictions.

2020 vision

For this pandemic has raged on for a year now. Who would have thought this would have been the case? I celebrated my Birthday last year one week into Lockdown. When my youngest celebrated hers in Lockdown in early summer, we thought surely this is the last family Birthday when we need to turn to a Zoom party to celebrate their special day. September brought muted celebrations with staggered visits by grandparents due to #ruleof6 and now, I will perhaps be celebrating another Birthday with restrictions. This is not me complaining, just merely stating the timeline that we have all lived to this past year. Birthdays and so many other milestones and events have been and gone, overshadowed by the virus.

The impact is immeasurable. Loss of life, jobs, businesses, time with loved ones, lack of face-to-face education, the inability to socialise, the imposed isolation, the list goes on and on and it has affected each and every one of us in so many facets of our lives.

And so, this is why the next government announcement is much needed and eagerly awaited. Patience in Lockdown 3.0 is hanging on by a mere gossamer thread. The shredding of nerves is palpable. However, at this juncture, a health warning is advisable – a mental health warning.

You say tomato, I say tomato

It’s about managing our expectations. For each of us has our own expectations as to how we feel things should change here on in. Each of us has a view, not to mention a need and a desire for how things could, should, must improve. And if our expectations are not met, there will no doubt be yet more frustration, dismay, disappointment and anger. Yet who is responsible for our expectations – we are. When we believe someone isn’t behaving as we think they should – who’s responsible for that belief? Us. When decisions are made that we don’t agree with, who’s in control of creating the expectation that a different scenario should’ve taken place? Us. We have our own set of expectations and these are based on our own individual Mental Map. Our Mental Map is where our expectations are formed and is drawn from our past experiences and conditioning, our beliefs and values too; it’s our opinion and expectation of the way the world should work.

Our Mental Map doesn’t describe how it is, but how we think it is. For example, ask someone 10 things to do if visiting Paris, would you get an identical answer if you asked a second person? No. Everyone has a different Mental Map as to what is relevant, important and what motivates them. So, is it therefore realistic for everyone to have the same expectations as us? No.

You will have your own beliefs as to how Lockdown easing should take place and not everyone is going to think the same as you as to how we should navigate our way out of this, nor the timeframe within which it should happen. It will depend on what individually we place importance on, what affects us the most, what is currently on our radar. If I didn’t have school-aged children, I wouldn’t be concerned about juggling work and home-schooling, so therefore wouldn’t hold the opinion that teachers should be a top priority to receive the vaccine, as they’re on the frontline as it were, in terms of potentially being exposed to the virus by being in contact with a high number of people.

Jo Whiley feels very strongly that people with complex needs should receive the COVID-19 vaccination because she feels they’re incredibly vulnerable. Her motivation is driven by the fact her younger sister Frances has learning disabilities and diabetes, and Jo feels being offered a vaccine before her sister, is plain wrong. The author Ian Rankin agrees. His son Kit has a learning disability and Rankin too believes the prioritising is wrong.

Good for them using their voice to raise awareness, to want to bring about change, rather than have a Pity Party. There is a difference between positive complaint and a Pity Party - positive complaint is solutions-focused, it’s how we get things changed.

Beacon of hope

COVID-19 is a Lighthouse because it’s an immoveable force over which we can do absolutely nothing about, so the most important thing we can do is to intelligently navigate our thinking around the situation. Because what’s the alternative? To bang your head against the rocks? That’s your prerogative but where is the benefit in that? It’s totally understandable to have days when you wake up and just don’t know how you’re going to put one foot in front of the other. We are reaching fatigue. Fatigued with Zooming, fatigued with the same old same old of each day looking like the last, fatigued of what this new normal is. So, it’s important to acknowledge and embrace those feelings. Don’t try to quash them and pretend you feel fine. That doesn’t fix the issue – it’s like wearing rubber gloves to cure a leaky pen. Wallow. Have a day under the duvet. Two. Three. But it’s when it turns into a stretch that you need to be consciously aware of the nature of your thoughts and what you can do to reframe and shift gear – to a mindset where you are moving forward.

Optimism is key right now – a belief that it is going to get better, that there is a way out. Successful people in life won’t hook their energy and expectations into something of which they have no control, they can ‘hope’ but can’t ‘expect’ if they have no control of the situation. And we don’t have control over this, only in the way we choose to think about it and respond. Part of the secret of being able to carry on, is to foster resilience and perseverance. I think we’ve mastered that this past year.

Optimists accept things can go wrong but expect to cope and if we can retain even a modicum of optimism in all this, it means we can keep moving forward and know there is a way through this.

This too shall pass. Granted, no one expected it to go on for quite this long, but there will be a roadmap out of here. We’ve come so far, for the most part, managing to keep our mindset in check, so let’s manage our expectations of what we hope will happen, keep on keeping on for what must hopefully be the home straight.

 

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