The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of uncertainty in all aspects of our lives. For students, whose studies have been impacted in the current term, there is continuing ambiguity on the nature of studying in the coming academic year. Those completing their courses this summer are graduating into a very different world than they had anticipated, and many may be facing uncertainty about further studies or career opportunities with their original plans in limbo.
Uncertainty can be very difficult to deal with. When we know what is coming, we are able to prepare for it. Not being able to do so can be a great source of anxiety. Coming to terms with uncertainty means acknowledging our inability to control certain things,
If anything, the current situation has shown just how dependent -and even fragile- many of the things we take for granted are…the ability to travel, and see our friends, or even move in public without being acutely aware of our proximity to others. Having to acknowledge, for some of us perhaps for the first time in our lives, that there is an innate uncertainty in everything can be an intimidating thought.
On the other hand, uncertainty is also freeing. It gives us an opportunity to reflect and re-evaluate. For those whose future plans are now up in the air, it is a chance to reconsider these, and either strengthens our conviction or allow us to explore other avenues. What is it that is actually important to us? What do we want to succeed in and why? Perhaps there are alternative choices, or paths we have not yet considered.
In addition, this is a great opportunity to practice being resilient, and adaptable, finding different ways to do things, and growing through adversity. One way to protect our mental health through uncertainty is to consider things that do still feel certain. That may be hobbies we have consistently found to help us relax, or friends and family we have found we can rely on during this time. What is unique about our current times is that they affect everybody. Uncertainty is a defining characteristic of what we are facing, and no one knows for sure what the coming months -and even years- may bring. Connecting with others over our shared lack of knowledge can help us put our own uncertainty into perspective.
Likewise, while there is so much we cannot control, it can be helpful to focus on the aspects of our life we can control, as insignificant as they may seem. To some, it may be helpful to come up with a Plan B and C, and giving thought to what could be done should certain events occur. That being said, it is important not to put pressure on yourself to be prepared for all possible eventualities. Resilience is not having complete control, knowing exactly what is coming and having a fixed plan to deal with it. Instead, it is, knowing that we are resilient and that we have the tools to deal with situations as they arise, whatever they may be. While so much is uncertain, that is something we can work on being certain of.
So, while it is incredibly challenging to be faced with such widespread uncertainty, the ambiguity caused by our current situation can also allow us to re-examine things we may take as givens, as well as expand upon our resilience.
Author: Student Care and Research Assistant, Teresa Ries