Coping with Uncertainty

- Written by Ayushi Chamaria

It was the morning before my last final for the semester, marking the end of my Junior year at New York University. I had booked myself on the evening flight back to India right after the exam. The only things standing between me and a wonderful summer vacation at home were 36 hours, one test and some petty errands. You know the fervor with which you chalk out a day when you know something exciting lies at the other end? With that enthusiasm bubbling inside of me, I laid out a perfect plan.

11 A.M. - Return rented textbooks at the bookstore

12 Noon - Shop for essentials

3 P.M. - Launder clothes

5 P.M. - Finish up last minute packing

7 P.M. - Revise for the upcoming test 

That’s it. I could almost taste freedom. But like every good story, this too had a twist. 

Disclaimer: The events that followed, as unbelievable as they may be, have not been fabricated by the author of this post. 

The bookstore was shut because it was a Monday and I didn’t know any better. As I made my way to the shops with an overweight book bag in tow, it started raining cats and dogs. Completely exhausted and drenched, when I returned to the building laundromat, all the machines were occupied. Absolutely dismayed I decided to finish packing first, only to notice that the zipper on my suitcase was broken and I would need to buy a new one. To top it all off, I was afraid I was going to fail my final for lack of revision. All in all, it was the perfect storm. Nothing was going as per the plan, and it felt like the universe was conspiring against me.

I broke down, and cried for 15 minutes straight only to realize that nobody would help me if I didn’t help myself at that moment. It was then that I also learnt another invaluable lesson – uncertainty is the only certainty. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, but we’ve got to dust ourselves off and start again. (In case you’re wondering, I managed to get everything done, and scored an A on that final too!) 

2020 sort of feels like that day too, only a lot more dire. It seems like we’re being bombarded with one problem after another, and all our plans and goals are crumbling before our eyes. But we must persevere and take this uncertainty in our stride.  

The following are a few ways we can cope with uncertainty –

  1. Building immunity In the face of danger, humans have the instinct to either flee or fight. One way isn’t better than the other, and the choice should depend on the nature of the situation, but both require us to be fit and agile. In the face of an uncertainty like the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, we are witnessing the need for strengthening our immunity more than ever. Exercising and being cognizant of what we are putting into our bodies can add years to our lives.

  1. Maintaining mental health The brain is a muscle just like the rest of our body and is subject to wear and tear. It is important to toughen it up to battle adversities, just like we would the rest of our body. It is natural to experience stress, anxiety, fear, etc. during times of uncertainty. So, we must equip ourselves with the tools necessary to prevent these emotions from overwhelming us and clouding our judgement. Conversations about mental wellbeing, awareness, and therapy should become acceptable, and even routine. 

  1. Enlisting the help of friends and family We cannot control all the variables around us, but what we can control is the people we surround ourselves with when these variables aren’t in our favor. We should ensure that we weed out any toxicity in our lives and stay in the company of people who are positive and encouraging.  Conversely, we don’t get to choose our families, but we do get to choose the environment we create at home. Families should adopt policies of open communication and trust. Children are little saplings that may survive on air, water, and sunlight, but will truly blossom when handled with love and given nourishment. Social interaction, patience and communication are that fodder for human beings.

  1. Keeping informed and educated A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially during turbulent times. We must follow the news and keep up with what’s going on in the world to make the best decisions. Being informed can help us ask the right questions. “Do I get a moratorium on my credit card bills?”, “What is the status of the vaccine for Covid-19?”, “How do we curb the spread of the virus?” These are just a few pertinent questions that can be life altering in the current scenario. 

  1. Learning life hacks They say a stitch in time saves nine. Before the pandemic we had access to all sorts of resources at the click of a button. But the brutal reality is that now we do not have the luxury of these resources whenever and wherever we want. Therefore, there are certain emergency life hacks that everyone must know. First aid, sewing, basic plumbing and electrical work, to name a few, are skills that can come in handy during dire circumstances.