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Navigating Uncertainty and Chaos: A List To Keep You Sane

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

When remote learning unexpectedly strikes and the campus is shut down, how do you function normally when confined to the unnatural state of being stuck in your room? Or when you’re waiting for something indefinitely, how do you latch on to peace and keep yourself grounded enough to move forward? When your everyday routine is disrupted into a tangled mess of confusion and anxiety, how do you not unravel?

These are some of the questions I have reflected upon recently, given the unpredictability of the happenings around me and my friends. As a person who tends to enter a freeze-state and shuts down completely when overwhelmed by external stress, I have been consciously prioritizing little ways in which I could create temporary stability and safe spaces for myself during a seemingly endless wait for life to return back to normal (if that is even possible). Here’s a list of things that my friends and I have done to stay sane since the pandemic and beyond when things become a bit erratic:

  • Stay informed, but cut down on digital consumption. With thousands of sources to track and follow for a particular event, it can get mentally draining very quickly as you spend hours overconsuming media, driven by the anxiety to stay up to date and be the first to know in case of a crisis for a rapidly developing situation. At some point, you need to limit yourself from drowning in a situation that is largely beyond your control — it’s admirable to care about a cause, but it is even more admirable to care about yourself in the long run — and that, in turn, recharges you to create an even more significant impact!
  • Engage with the physical space you occupy. Clean your room, organize the kitchen cupboards, buy flowers for your living room — there are countless ways in which you can move within the walls of your apartment/dorm to elevate your mood instantly (and beyond). Think of it as acts of service for your future self; what’s one thing you can do today to make your life easier and happier tomorrow? Sometimes, the answer is simple: meal-prepping your favorite pasta or sleeping on freshly-washed bedsheets.
  • Set up consistent waking and sleeping times, and try to have three meals daily. It’s very easy to stay up till 4 a.m. while doom-scrolling on your phone when you know you are staying at home the next day and can sleep with your camera off for your Zoom classes. It’s also possible to lose appetite and neglect proper nourishment when there is no structure to the day, so scheduling my meals consistently, like my typical routine, helps me feel motivated throughout the day.
  • Create structure by integrating a central interpersonal event every day. It could be cooking lunch or dinner, getting together for a work or study session, a fun activity like game or movie night, or just coexisting together in the same space, virtually or in person. Feeling connected to the people you see every day is hard when there is no immediate reason to do so, so being proactive about it not only helps you support each other but also gives your day a purpose in case you’ve been struggling with low motivation, which is very common during uncertain times. It gives you something to look forward to when you wake up in the morning and also serves as something to reflect upon at the end of the day.
  • Talk about it. Then talk about it some more. Talk with other people or write to yourself; either way, those thoughts need a place to be expressed and explored. If I have the social battery for it, I usually call 3-5 people daily to do quick catch-ups and mental health check-ins and have more extended conversations on the root cause of the uncertainty and chaos. It has allowed me to support friends when they needed me while also allowing them to be there for me during tough times. And if you’re drained but still need an outlet, journaling also works! Whether you have zero thoughts or too many to function, writing is the best way to vent, reflect, and show up for yourself when you need it the most.

Ultimately, if it all feels like too much, I hope you know that even doing the bare minimum and surviving the day is an accomplishment, too. The suggestions in this article are not an exhaustive list of things you can do to bring back some structure into your day-to-day life and find ways to connect with your peers to support each other, so I encourage you to try and uncover what upholds your rhythm! We’re in this together. <3

Swathya is a third-year Astrophysics major at UCLA, from New Delhi, India. A poet at her core, she spends a lot of time picking apart the intricacies of modern life to reconstruct the bigger picture as a way to find her place within the enigmatic universe. When she is not surrounded by a galaxy of words—academic and creative—she loves surrounding herself with people she can go on little adventures with to find the best caffeine and sugary treats in town.