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The Student Insider

How to catch a curveball - coping with whatever life throws at you 


Written by
Jennifer Russell

In what continues to be a challenging time, find out what you can do to cope with uncertainty in this guest piece from TalkCampus’ Clinical Director and trained counsellor, Jennifer Russell. University of London is proudly partnered with TalkCampus to provide peer support to our students across the globe.

Student looking at her mobile

It’s safe to say that 2020 hasn’t been the year any of us expected. Not only has it changed how we live, socialise and study, it’s also introduced wider repercussions for life beyond 2020. Things are more uncertain and it’s likely that the futures, careers and plans we made look quite different to how we first imagined.  

Dealing with uncertainty and change is one of life’s big challenges and if you’re struggling with this then you’re not alone. We at TalkCampus have pulled together a few thoughts about how to cope with some of the things that the pandemic has thrown at us, how to manage those really tough moments but also how to enjoy and thrive even when life throws curveballs at us! 

Don’t always look for safety in numbers

When things are tough, it’s natural to want to search for people in the same position as you. It’s reassuring to know we’re not the only ones and there is definitely value in realising that everyone has ups and downs. However, everyone and every situation is unique. What works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa, so try to find the pathway and solutions that are right for you. On the surface, someone might seem to be in the exact same situation as you, but dig a little deeper and those similarities will be limited. Instead, surround yourself with people who can inspire you, walk alongside you and encourage you to find your own way forward. 

Stay in the moment, at least some of the time

Focusing on the here and now is a great way to connect with yourself. Tuning into your feelings and your body and slowing down your thoughts can bring a real sense of calm. Our minds have a tendency to get stuck in the future, worrying, planning, obsessing even. The reality is that the future is never certain. In fact, did you have plans for how life would work out when you were younger? I’m willing to bet that things didn’t turn out how you originally thought they would. I’m also willing to bet that for the most part things have turned out okay, perhaps even better? Many of the jobs and technology (not to mention the current affairs) that exist now wouldn’t have existed when you first started to think about what you might want your life and career to be. The same will be true of the years ahead. Rather than focus too much on planning at the moment perhaps you could focus on you and developing your skills, learning about what you enjoy and caring for yourself so you can embrace the future, however it looks. 

Be curious about change

The one consistent in life is change. Change can be scary, but it can also be energising, opening up new doorways and challenging you to grow and explore different parts of yourself. It doesn’t feel easy, it often feel uncomfortable. We each have our own comfort zone and the closer we get to the edge of this the more challenging it gets. But this is also where there is the most potential for you to explore life, to understand yourself better, to know what makes you tick and the kind of people you want to surround yourself with. It’s where we grow and growth can be an incredible thing! 

It’s okay to be sad. It’s also okay to be happy 

When life gets tough we can easily stop giving ourselves permission to also enjoy it, or parts of it. Even in the darkest moments there is room for joy. It’s one of our bodies coping mechanisms, it gives us a small break and it connects us with others and ourselves. Life has beautiful moments and devastating moments and they all come together. Let yourself see the good, look for it and appreciate it. If you find yourself feeling happy, enjoy it, celebrate it and remember it. Happiness and sadness can coexist. 

Find your anchors

We don’t always have control over what happens to us and around us in life and this can be very unsettling. The things that happen in the world, and also in our own lives, can leave us feeling unbalanced and a little at sea. To help you in these times find your ‘anchors’, the things that ground you and make you feel calm and which will help you navigate these stormier times. Maybe it’s a routine - the same breakfast each day or a moment for a coffee or tea each morning; something you do each day or return to. Perhaps it’s a hobby or perhaps it’s a friend you talk with regularly. Maybe you find a bit of time each day to ground yourself or you go for a run, listen to music or write in a journal. Find what works for you and use it to give yourself consistency, familiarity and to guide you through the ups and downs of life. 

Stay connected 

When you’re struggling it can be tempting to withdraw and isolate yourself. It’s not easy to tell people how you’re really feeling and it can be even harder when you pretend that you're okay when you’re not. But connecting with others can help you get some of those difficult feelings out, to air them, digest them and hopefully lessen them. Talking with someone else can be one of the most helpful things you can do, whether it’s a professional, a friend, someone you trust or whether it’s talking to a complete stranger in a safe context. 

Know that you’re not alone

Life is tough and we don’t say it enough. Too often we plaster a smile on our faces and pretend that everything is great, when actually sometimes it isn’t. I think we all know deep down that this isn’t helpful to anyone. We end up feeling more alone than ever because we can’t talk about how we’re really feeling. But if there’s one thing you remember from reading this far, let it be this: you are not alone. We are all in this together and while life may look different for all of us and we will all go through our own twists and turns, you don’t have to go it alone.

University of London and TalkCampus

The University of London is committed to promoting student wellbeing and we are pleased to be partnered with TalkCampus, who provide a safe space for students to give and get peer support. You can instantly connect with other students from around the world and talk about how you’re really feeling, any time of the day or night. You can talk to someone who might just be able to offer that listening ear and walk alongside you for a little while, so you never have to feel alone.

University of London online, flexible and distance learning students can join TalkCampus via the Wellbeing page of the Student Portal