“Relax. Nothing is under control.” ~Adi Da Samraj
This has been an incredibly difficult, stressful, and uncertain year for me, as it has been for most people.
If I was told a year ago that in 2020, my work hours as a healthcare professional would be reduced, I would be quarantined for months in a small one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend of seven months, I’d gain fifteen pounds in a few months, and I wouldn’t be able to travel to other countries, I would have rolled my eyes, laughed in disbelief, and thought to myself whoever is delivering this information had eaten one too many Cocoa Puffs.
The truth is these past nine months, starting from before the pandemic, have been some of the most challenging times, both emotionally and mentally, that I have ever experienced.
A little backstory: Prior to early November, I was working two part-time jobs. After some thought and deliberation, I decided that I was going to quit one job (of course the one that provided my health insurance) because I couldn’t keep working eleven-hour shifts while commuting an additional two hours in Chicago traffic to be at this clinic.
Working these two jobs had drained me, and I’d stopped taking care of myself. So, I took a leap and decided to quit one of them in early November. At least I had until the end of the month to figure out what to do about health insurance. And honestly, how much could really happen in a month?
I devised a plan to slowly increase my hours at my other job. Come the end of November, I ended up having a surprise “change in my health status.” This really shocked me and threw a curve ball since I would lose my group medical insurance at the end of November. Since I didn’t want to pay $700 a month in COBRA insurance, I decided to pay out-of-pocket so I could keep seeing my healthcare provider in December to address my change in health status.
What are the chances that this would happen? How unlucky could this timing be? Why now?
Then in December, my health status changed again. Lucky for me, I did not need to worry about continuing to pay to see my healthcare provider again. However, I did have a nice bill from those December visits with my primary care provider.
I thought to myself, well this can only get better… right?
Then in February, I got in a car accident while I was driving to work. My car got totaled. Fortunately, both the other diver and I were fine. But we’ll just say these past few months were off to a rough start.
So, once the Coronavirus started to accelerate in March and my work hours were reduced, I didn’t even know what to think. With the pandemic, all this uncertainty really came full force. I remember staying up into the wee hours of the morning the week of March 16th with a heavy knot in my stomach reading all the articles I could about Coronavirus to try to make sense of what was happening.
Instead of it making sense, panic started to fill me. I couldn’t stop texting friends every new article I could find about how the Coronavirus was continuing to affect others and spread. My friends in turn would text me similar articles, which only perpetuated the fear.
This apprehension and restlessness wouldn’t stop. It grew and grew until it was the only thing in the room with me. It was all I could think about.
I worried about my family and friends. Every article I read seemed to contradict the previous one. I worried about finances. I didn’t know what to believe. I worried about my job. Even now with the pandemic continuing, it’s still so confusing.
These past nine months have really reinforced why it is okay not to have everything under control.
The valuable lessons I’ve learned about control (or lack thereof) are helping to decrease my anxiety levels when I become overwhelmed and stressed. I hope this might help others who may feel similarly in these uncertain times.
1. Life is full of uncertainties, and that’s okay.
It’s human nature to want to have control and explanations for pretty much everything. It helps us stay at ease and somewhat sane. However, life really is somewhat of a series of uncertain events.
Yes, we have control over some things—like our actions. But when it comes down to it, we don’t have control over many things—like a pandemic, other people, the weather, accidents…
It’s about being comfortable navigating through uncertainty. The more I am okay with not knowing everything, the more at peace I feel.
2. Focus on the journey, not the destination.
During times of stress this year, such as with my car accident, change in health status, or the pandemic, my mind would always go into fast-forward mode. Suddenly in my head I would skip to five years into the future.
How am I going to buy a house with all this money that I am paying toward bills? With the pandemic, will my loved ones and I be okay? Will I have a stable job?
This thinking pattern helped me realize that all anyone can really do is stay in the present moment. Especially in a case like the Coronavirus, going too far into the future with my fears and uncertainties will only add unnecessary stress to my life, since I have no idea what’s coming, or when.
Yes, we can take precautions. However, it is also important to also realize that worrying constantly solves nothing in the long run. It only creates more problems to fixate on and takes us away from life and all the precious moments that are unfolding around us in the present.
3. Make changes in your life that may be scary.
Since I am doing contract work, I am now on a private individual insurance plan (which is not cheap). However, because my work caseload has been cut in half, I decided to go out of my comfort zone and take a job halfway across the country for a year because it offers healthcare benefits and the chance to grow professionally.
I feel like this is taking a big leap traveling across the country with my boyfriend during a pandemic. However, I also believe life is short, and now is the time to continue to make changes to keep evolving.
4. There are lessons every day.
Let me tell you, I have not always had the best emergency fund prepared. It’s been in the back of my mind but not a priority until everything hit the fan for me in November. If this isn’t the universe sending some kind of strong message, I am not sure what it is.
I have learned to start putting money into an emergency fund, and to use it more wisely. To not take my health for granted. To really appreciate and enjoy quality time with family and friends. This year has also taught me that nothing is guaranteed, and in an instant, everything can be taken away.
5. The only constant in life is inner joy.
I used to believe the quote that the only constant in life was change. This was before I traveled to Thailand and stayed at a yoga retreat two years ago. One day when my friend and I were taking a meditation class, our teacher, Ulf, told us that the only constant in life is inner joy. The more I think about this statement, the more I agree.
Nobody can take your inner joy away. No matter how hard life gets, it’s important to find joy. So even though it can be quite challenging at times, that is what I have been trying to do more consciously.
Taking a walk and finding joy in the sunshine. Talking to a friend on the phone that I haven’t reached out to in over a year. Eating a meal made from scratch. Cuddling with my boyfriend. Joy can be found even in hard and dark times because it comes from within. Nobody can take joy away except for ourselves.
For all of you out there who are having a difficult time with all this uncertainty, here’s to being okay with not knowing and finding inner joy when everything seems to be unraveling and out of our control. Here’s to dealing with life and all of its uncertainties with openness and awe. Here’s to living.
About Sarah Masse
Sarah Masse is an occupational therapist who loves to write when she’s not working. She’s always up for a new destination to explore whether that be in the country or outside of it. Sarah has a traveling blog which document some of her adventures at truetravelnista.com, Visit Sarah on Instagram at smasse14.