Hellie Painter – a second year student at Exeter Uni – shares 7 ways in which she has been embracing the uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Hellie is now back at her parents home near Bath during the lockdown. She is currently wondering what to do next now that her internships have been cancelled and her final Study Abroad year is now also uncertain.
The coronavirus pandemic has already caused so much uncertainty and anxiety across the world. Uncertainty around our health and wellbeing, but also the economy, education and job security. Not knowing how long it will last and the extent to which it will impact us is something I have thought about a lot recently. Like most people, I am trying to deal with the uncertainty as best as I can.
I am a second year university student, and my summer internships have all been cancelled. I am now having to put in place contingency plans for next year’s Study Abroad year. This virus has affected everyone we know but for young people, whether at school, university, or looking for an internship or job, it is hard to know what comes next and how long we have to endure this.
Embracing the uncertainty that comes with this is something we will all have to learn to do, at whatever stage of your education or career.
Here I am going to share with you some of the ways in which I have been embracing the uncertainty. Hopefully you will find them useful for your own situation.
Focus on small and achievable goals
Think about what you can do right now. With your work – whether it is a job, internship, university or school – try not to plan too far ahead, unless it is something within your control.
As the uncertainty can make us feel out of control and powerless. So make sure that you remind yourself of things that you are in control. Plan your week and set achievable goals, so that you can easily reach them. You can do this better by breaking up what you want to achieve into smaller tasks, as it makes it easier to focus on them and get them done. By achieving the goals you set out for yourself – no matter how small – you will begin to feel more productive and focussed.
Prepare yourself for when this is over
Doing things which help you feel best prepared for when we come out of this can help to reduce your anxiety about the future. Whatever stage you are at in your education or career, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for when this is over. It might be taking the time to do some extra reading or catching up on a project.
This is primarily about taking control. For me it’s doing the extra research into internships I want to apply for next year. And graduate jobs I might apply for and the steps I need to take to get there. Instead of feeling powerless and unable to do anything to advance my CV this has given me some control over the future again. I have been able to plan what I need to do and thought about how I can do them next year instead.
Learn a new skill
Learning something new is a really good way of focusing your energy. Whether it’s learning a language or a new skill, doing new things develops new neural pathways which can help improve your memory and efficiency.
A lot of people have done this by giving themselves a ‘quarantine goal’, such as being able to do the splits, running a certain distance, or learning a language.
I have taken up painting and drawing again. Doing this every day, has given me a break from my university work, which has helped me become more efficient when I’m doing it.
Hear positive news too
Listening, reading or watching the news is a good thing and it is important to keep up to date on the latest advice and regulations. However, a constant stream of news about COVID-19 is not helpful.
Personally, I only read or listen to the news once a day in the morning or at night. If I am working I turn off the radio and phone notifications on my phone so I can focus on what I am doing now. This has really helped me focus on my work and avoid the constant news updates.
Also balance your intake by downloading a good news app to change your perspective. There are some great positive news apps out there such as GoodNewsNetwork and Moodboost News which give you daily positive news stories from around the world. Reading some good news is a really good way to boost your mood and change your perspective.
Meditate and stay active
Mindfulness and meditation are all about focusing on the present, and not only does it help your mental health but it can also help with your physical health by reducing blood pressure, stress, and chronic pain, to name a few.
Taking care of your mental health is so important, especially during this time with so much stress and anxiety. We should treat our mental health the same as our physical. Even taking 5 minutes each night before you go to sleep to practice meditation or mindfulness can be so beneficial.
There are many great apps out there that can help you with guided meditations or to track your progress, such as; Headspace, Calm, Smiling Mind, 3 Minute Meditations and The Mindfulness App.
DO Positive Activities
If you like reading, there are lots of books that give you a better understanding of the brain and mindfulness, including ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle or ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk. Nhat Hanh has also published a series of short books about the essentials of mindfulness, the book ‘How to See’ explores perspective and insight through short passages.
Staying active and healthy is also important so make the most of your daily outdoor exercise. If possible go for a cycle, walk or run outside. A change of scene, and fresh air is so important for staying healthy and supporting your mental health.
Connect & Help Others
Human connection is one of the main things we have lost during this crisis. Try and organise at least one facetime a week with a friend or family member, or a group of colleagues. Seeing and talking to people outside your household is beneficial to both you and them. Even if you may not feel like it, someone you know may be feeling isolated and you could really help by connecting with them.
Helping others during this time is also really important. This could mean just getting a few items for your local food bank or your neighbour when doing your grocery shop. During this time, we have to look out for the people around us and think about people less fortunate than ourselves.
REMEMBER TO ASK FOR HELP
Also remember that if you are finding things difficult there is help available. Reach out to friends or family members to talk about how you are doing. Or if you are struggling to cope please visit the NHS website for their guidance or visit the mental health helplines to talk to someone. Talking to others about your concerns and fears can make it so much easier to deal with.
Changing our perspective and taking control of the things we can control, are some of the best ways for us to be embracing the uncertainty that coronavirus has brought.
I hope that these can help you, and as the author Bob Goff says,
“Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later”.
If there are any of these that you find particularly helpful or any others you would add let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or through our social media @catalysechange Please also let us know how you are doing and what we can do to help.