For the last 16 months we have all experienced postponed plans, cancelled celebrations and disappointments on a small and large scale. Just when we thought everything was calming down and we could plan ahead, we are back to square one.
Disappointment is one of the more complicated emotions to deal with. We could avoid it altogether by not having any expectations but it would be a terrible way to live life. Imagine never looking forward to a special event or becoming excited about a special occasion in the future. Sometimes planning an event can be just as much fun as enjoying it so giving up is not an option.
We can’t avoid disappointment by never planning another holiday or event, so what can we do? Here is my suggestion for five ways to deal with disappointment.
1. Acknowledge your feelings of disappointment.
It’s okay to feel sad and even angry. There is nothing wrong with feeling these emotions; it’s how you deal with them. It is also a good opportunity to role-model appropriate reactions with your children. Talk about your disappointment together and ensure that everyone feels heard. Going through challenging situations with your family will actually bring you closer than happy times. Don’t stay too long in the sad and angry phase; acknowledge the emotions and then move on with life.
2. Maintain perspective.
This is one we need to keep reminding ourselves of in Australia. We have been sheltered from the worst impact of COVID-19 and most of us haven’t lost friends or family to the pandemic. It is heartbreaking seeing small businesses suffer terribly and I really feel for families who can’t be with their loved ones at the end of their life and those who are prevented from saying farewell at funerals. My heart also goes out to those in nursing homes and hospitals who aren’t allowed visitors during the various lockdowns. Yes, we can feel sad and angry when our own plans are turned upside down but reminding ourselves of the tragedy others are experiencing will help us deal with our own disappointment. Literally, the whole world is in a similar or worse situation than us.
3. Prioritise joy.
During challenging times, the temptation is to postpone things that might bring you joy. If your holiday is cancelled, don’t use the time to clean the house (unless it brings you joy). Think about what makes you smile or laugh and then give yourself full permission to dwell in joy. Don’t put a hold on joy. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson says that if you have small moments of joy such as a favourite snack or a TV show that makes you laugh, you are more likely to develop creative solutions during stressful times. One special treat during a lockdown can be as simple as having a ‘pyjama day’! You can’t go out anyway so why not just stay in your PJs all day? Turn the music up loud and enjoy silly dancing with the family. You will be surprised how good you feel afterwards. Another suggestion is to go on a ‘joy diet’. List the five senses and under each one, write down your favourite sensory joy. For example, give your fingers a treat by popping bubble wrap, patting your pet or stroking your child’s hair. Go into the backyard to smell the different plants, open each spice jar in the pantry, and savour their scents. The sky is the limit and this diet is guaranteed to bring you moments of joy helping deal with long-term disappointment.
4. Plan new things to look forward to.
Even if it results in disappointment from being cancelled, the planning and anticipation will still help deal with the current disappointment. I’m not suggesting paying for that overseas holiday yet but to start small. Catch up with friends, explore our beautiful countryside, make a list of things to enjoy and plan to make them happen. Even though we hope the worst is behind us, consider making a list of things you could even do in lockdown and you may even look forward to it! Change a trivia night to a Zoom trivia night; when you can’t visit grandparents, facetime with them, swap a day trip for a picnic in the backyard. Travel the world by enjoying different cuisines at home, dressing up for the part, and practising speaking the language. It’s great for the imagination.
5. Be flexible and monitor your self-talk.
Have a Plan B in case the rules are changed quickly again. Remind your children that you may have to change plans to help them be prepared. This is the new normal and we don’t know how long it will last. We need to have a mindset that will cope with big and small disappointments – even when there isn’t a pandemic. Despite the larger world tragedy, there have been smaller joys to be found in the current situation. Every day we can show others we care for them by washing our hands, wearing masks when it is required, and supporting local businesses which may be struggling. Lockdown during the first week of the school holidays is not most parents’ idea of a fun time but it gave us back our most precious commodity – time together.
Term 3 is going to be full of joy, overcoming big and small challenges and possibly dealing with more disappointment. However, we won’t let this stop us from planning the best term ever for all of our students.
Mike Curtis, Principal