As a fundamental rule, humans crave stability. We find comfort in the things that are familiar to us and thrive in situations where we feel safe. Unfortunately for us though, we have been living in a perpetual state of uncertainty for the best part of the last 18 months. Usually when we are faced with this type of challenge, we can make adjustments and eventually find a way to overcome it. But COVID-19 is different. The lack of control, coupled with relapses and the absence of a true finish line make it a dynamic opposition to compete against.
To think of this in terms of sports, I am reminded of the comfort that comes with knowing what you are up against. Athletes typically feel more settled when they know who their opponent is, or how much time is left in their game, or how many more efforts are required of them. This knowledge affords them with the opportunity to both mentally and physically prepare themselves. Managing COVID-19 is a completely different ball game though. I liken it to attending that dreaded pre-season session, where the coach has got you running laps but has not specified how many you need to do or when you will be able to stop. It is virtually impossible to pace yourself because you have no clue what you are up against.
Uncertainty is a tricky opponent, there is no denying that. But as with any other difficult matchup, there is always something you can do to support your performance. Below are a few ideas/tips that might be helpful in supporting your response to uncertainty:
1. Control is overrated
Control is something we all strive for, but often overestimate our ability to achieve. There are so many things that are out of our control in this world: the weather, the way others think about us, St. Kilda making the AFL finals in 2022 – the list is endless. As much as we may try, there are just some things we simply cannot control. Therefore, I like to emphasize the concept of ‘choice.’ While we do not necessarily have control over everything around us, we do have the opportunity to make choices that can help shape the direction that we move in.
Whether it be with the way we exercise, the people we connect with or even the clothes that we wear – we still have the power to make important choices in our lives. No matter how big or small, take pride in the choices you can make, and embrace the sense of agency that comes with it!
2. My grandfather always used to say ‘if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail’
While I do believe this is sound advice, current restrictions make it seem like planning for the future is borderline impossible. These days, future planning only leaves us with more heartache and extra logistics to manage, which can be really deflating. For anyone else currently trying to reschedule an Airbnb or flight booking, I feel your pain. As difficult as it may seem though, effective planning can still be a powerful driver of both momentum and accountability.
If long term planning is stressing you out, try adjusting the scope of your plans and focussing on shorter periods of time. As the sports cliché goes, take it day-by-day. Better yet maybe even start by focusing on just the morning and build your day form there. Setting up realistic plans that you can properly actualize will not cure the world of the virus, nor rid you of your loss and frustrations, but it can help you get on with things in the interim and carry you through to be ready for the world when things do start to normalize again.
3. ‘If you do not read the news, you’re uninformed.
If you do read it, you’re misinformed.’ - Mark Twain
News is important. It is critical that people stay informed and keep up to date with the latest advice from the experts. But these days, following the news is not as simple as just reading the morning paper. News is now everywhere around us and plays a really crucial role in guiding the way that we think and feel. If all we are exposed to is hysterical and depressing headlines about the virus, our mind may start to identify with those themes. In a sense, our minds are like a powdered Gatorade mix. If we put too much of either the powder or the water, the taste is going to be off. So, to achieve the most deliciously balanced concoction of COVID-19 related news, consider both the source and duration of your consumption. I recommend choosing a few reputable outlets that are easy for you to understand (E.g., VicGovDH on twitter, or TheDailyAus on IG), and to set a time limit for how long you want to spend taking in the news (E.g., 2x15 minute blocks).
Managing uncertainty now may not be pleasant, but it is a very real part of our reality that will not likely be going away any time soon. While it may not always be easy, I assure you there are things we can do to respond to our situation and support ourselves moving forward. Challenge yourself to control the controllable. Look for opportunities to choose, plan within the scope, and curate your personal news coverage.