Living in peace with the unknown and uncertainty
If you could only live an unpredictable life filled with uncertainty how would you instinctively feel? Does it bring excitement and wonder? Do you think of the endless possibilities and opportunities there would be for creativity and learning? Or does it make you feel uncomfortable, or even conjures up automatic thoughts of fear and anxiety?
If you think the latter is more your current lean to thinking, then this article is a MUST READ for you. In it you will discover the advantages to living with the unknown, how to find peace with living in the present and why you need to let go of continually trying to control your future.
Most of us go to great efforts to bring control into our lives. We can’t bear the thought of living with unpredictable futures. We spend much of our time reliving past hurts and working out the possible outcomes of our future. We avoid even the thought of experiencing any possible pain, suffering or loss that uncertainty may bring.
The disadvantages to living a life of control
When we try to control every element of our lives, life becomes;
• Unimaginative and uncreative
• Fear filled and cautionary
• Stressful and negative
• Ordinary and non-progressive
Here’s some examples of how we limit our lives because of fear of the unknown;
Missing out on an amazing adventure holiday abroad for fear of contracting some disease, or being unfamiliar with the country and not being able to predict what may or may not happen there.
Staying in a job that you really can’t stand, because it pays well and if you can stay there long enough you should get a comfortable pension.
Putting off returning to study for fear of failure and wasting your time and money.
Why we feel the need for control and avoid the unknown
In order to let go of control we need to understand why we feel the need to control our lives. Largely this is born out of fear of change or loss. When change happens, feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty often follows. We then feel we are risking our security and comfort. Negative self-talk kicks in telling us we are likely to experience something that could cause us pain. So the question we should be asking ourselves here is, how do we get used to coping with change? How do we make change comfortable, and not painful to live with, so we no longer fear it, and learn to accept it?
Newsflash! Change is inevitable! When we live in our comfort zone, risk and pain is still a probability. The problem is that if we don’t learn to experience it and get comfortable with it, we are far less resilient to change when its forced upon us, which makes for a more painful transition back into our comfort zone.
Living with uncertainty
The best option we have to protect our self from pain is to learn to live with change and uncertainty. When we choose to live a little more with the unknown and stop trying to control every last little outcome, that’s when the pain and negativity dissolves and the magic happens! We allow ourselves to experience life in the present. We become more aware, creative and imaginative, more courageous, adventurous, alive and open to new experiences. We feel excitement and anticipation for the limitless possibilities and outcomes it may bring. We feel an excited anticipation for the future. Life becomes more fulfilling and rewarding. Old self-sabotaging habits diminish, and we replace them with new, more optimistic habits.
The advantages of living with the unknown
• Opportunities to learn
• Limitless possibilities
• Challenge and achievement
• Wealth and reward
Start getting comfortable with change and uncertainty
I’ve put together some tips that you could try in order to bring a little change and uncertainty into your life, so that you can start to get comfortable with the unknown, and start living a more rewarding and extraordinary life.
Try something you’ve never done before – something small, that’s still safe to you, but at the same time brings you out of your comfort zone. Perhaps painting, deep sea fishing, having a conversation with someone you’ve never met before, write a blog, present at a conference, or sign up for that course you’ve been promising to do for ages. Then repeat and repeat and repeat, until it becomes your new habit.
Focus on the positives – Choose to see how change has shifted your perspective. Examine what positive experience the change has brought to your life. Look at what you have learnt, how you can make even greater changes to make the experience even better. What positives have you learnt about yourself that you weren’t previously aware of?
Acknowledge gratitude – Even when things don’t turn out how you would have liked, don’t view it as a failure. Find gratitude in what you have gained from the experience and give thanks for experiencing that change. It could be the people you have met, the lessons you have learnt, the skills it has brought you, the opportunities it opened up for you, the new, more desirable life it has brought you.
Getting peaceful with the present – this may at first seem odd to read this. We do need to visit the past to some degree, to recall our treasured memories and accomplishments etc. It’s nice to visit the future to keep our eyes on our desired destination. Having said this, we shouldn’t get too hung up on our future destination for fear of losing site of the journey we are experiencing on the way to our destination. By getting peaceful with the present, you just might see a more agreeable, authentic destination than the one you may have already designed for yourself.
Change your routine – routines can be great as they help to organise your day, especially when your life is extraordinarily busy. The problem with living a life filled with routine it can become soulless and predictable, devoid of opportunity to experience the new, the different and the joyful. So mix it up a bit, this encourages your brain to make new connections and form new habits, making you ultimately more adaptable and comfortable with change, uncertainty and the unknown.
Practice letting go – Let go of self-doubt, fear, and trying to predict the future and open your heart to the freedom of the unknown. If you find this difficult, ask yourself; how well have these first three masters served me in the past? Chances are they’ve controlled you, forced you into a corner of predictability, caused you stress and anxiety and created limitations. Remember fear and self-doubt are conscious choices you make. These choices are discouraging and limiting choices. Abraham Lincoln uttered these wise words “Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed”.
If you choose to live peacefully with uncertainty and the unknown, I wish you well and all the freedoms that it has to offer.
Call to action: I would love to hear your feedback on this blog post, or you may have experienced positivity in the face of uncertainty. Maybe you have tips or stories you’d like to share about how to live peacefully with the unknown. Please like and RT this article on Twitter @asteriaLifeC.
Keep the faith!
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Adjusting to university life and overcoming homesickness
Having problems with adjusting to university life and feeling homesick can really spoil your first university experience. Turning it from being one of the most exciting are rewarding periods in your life, into something really quite scary and lonely.
In this article you will find ways you can adjust to university life, gain insight into how other students feel about being homesick. Learn the symptoms of homesickness, and find ways of dealing with the anxiety, homesickness or loneliness that you might be feeling right now, or in the months to follow.
Scenario; so here you are, you did all the hard work, got the grades, researched and found the course you want to be on, maybe went through clearing, and finally got into university. You’ve moved into halls or a shared house or flat, you’ve faced the Fresher’s Week hype and you’ve gone through the induction period. You’re ready to start your university course, meet new people, learn new things, and experience full on university life. Well done! That in itself is quite a big deal and something to be celebrated. Then suddenly all the excitement is over, your family have returned home, you’re around new people and everything seems unfamiliar and scary. You’re a little anxious, alone and starting to feel homesick, and university just isn’t what you thought it would be. Does this sound familiar?
The important thing to realise if you’re feeling this way, is that you’re not alone and it’s perfectly normal! The truth is, adjusting to student life and overcoming homesickness takes some longer than others. It’s all part of you experiencing independent living probably the first time ever, and stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security. These thoughts and feelings will subside.
The symptoms of homesickness
o Continually thinking of home
o A negative outlook
o Lack of concentration
o Decreased motivation
o Changes in appetite
o Unhappiness and depression
o Finding it difficult to cope
o Difficulty in sleeping
Research into students feeling homesick
A study conducted by YouthSight, released in 2013 on behalf of The Nightline Association (a student listening service), revealed that around a third of students feel some kind of homesickness or anxiety throughout their time at university. The research found 75% had personally experienced psychological distress whilst at university: 65% stress, 43% anxiety, loneliness, feelings of not being able to cope. 1/3 had feelings of depression or homesickness and 29% worried about not fitting in. In fact, you’d probably be hard pressed in finding one student that said they were not aware of anyone feeling like this at some point, while at university.
Problems adjusting to university life?
It’s sometimes difficult experiencing new things, moving from your comfort zone where all your loved ones are around you, into a world that may feel quite alien. Not only are you new to university life, but probably for the first time ever you’re having to deal with things you’ve never had to concern yourself with before. Thinks like paying bills, budgeting, shopping, cooking, doing your own washing and cleaning, maybe even getting a job. You might not know your way around campus yet, and you may have found making friends difficult. All this and studying! The good news is that when we go through new experiences that are difficult to deal with, this is when we develop and grow, transitioning from child to adult.
Tips for getting used to University life and dealing with homesickness
I’ve put some advice together for you, so that you can start moving forward. Hopefully making homesickness and worries about fitting in, just a fleeting memory of your student experience.
Visit your Student Union – if you didn’t get chance to attend Fresher’s Week, drop in and see them as soon as you have time. They can get you acquainted with events, groups, doctors, dentists, internal services, transport, areas of interest, NUS student discount cards, promotions and a whole lot more.
Visit your academic library – introduce yourself to your subject Librarian or Information Specialist. They’re not just there to say shush in the quiet study area. Librarians are research specialists and can help you with your research needs, access online-resources and teach you how to evaluate websites. Most academic libraries have workshops and clinics for assignment writing and academic study skills. They can help you to find what you need quickly, so that you use your time effectively, saving you time and stress.
Money management – It may seem great when your student loan comes into your bank account, but have you worked out the costs you’re going to face? Which university cited 10 things you’ll need remember to budget for. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves. Budget now!
Get a routine – If you’ve never really had a routine before, now is the time to start putting one in place. They’ll keep you on time, on track, and keep your landlord sweet. Spend an evening each term working out your study and lecture times, assignment writing days, chores, leisure, social activities, bill paying dates and if you’re in private accommodation, recycling and bin collection days!
Visit the university bar – This may seem a little counterproductive when studying, but when you think about it, you're likely to be going to go to a bar at some point, so why not the university bar? The drinks prices are greatly reduced, there’s always lots going on, there’s plenty of opportunities to meet new people and take part in things. This way you can make new friends, and it saves you money that you might be spending in the pricier in town pubs and clubs.
Connect with your universities social media – By doing this you’ll be able to find out what’s going on at your university, connect with other fresher’s and lecturers. Find out about activities and events that interest you, and maybe even find yourself a student job.
Brush up on your culinary skills – Not only will this save you lots of money, but when word gets out you can cook a tasty meal, new friends will suddenly appear, as if by magic. Nice skill to impress with!
Stay in touch – Remember family and friends are only a phone or Skype call away from you. So setup a time to call every couple of days. They can really pick you up, when you’re feeling low. Probably best to call in the evening when they’re back from work. Also it’s more likely that you’ll be feeling homesick in the evening, when no one's around you.
Talk to people about how you’re feeling – Chances are there’s a lot of Fresher’s feeling just the same way as you, maybe even your housemates. By getting out of your room and meeting people you’ll be able to speak to someone. Remember, a problem shared, is a problem halved!
Get plenty of sleep – You may not have thought about the importance of sleep before, but sleep disorders can play havoc with your mental wellbeing, physical and mental performance, mood, behaviours, diet, cognitive skills, as well as a whole host of chronic health problems. In your teens and early 20s you need around 9 hours of good, solid sleep every night, to keep your body and brain functioning to its optimum. Try to find a few minutes to read my guide Sleep Easy: A guide to getting a good night's sleep. You’ll be sleeping peacefully in no time at all.
Healthy eating – Healthy eating can relieve you of negative thoughts and offer clear benefits to your mental wellbeing. Although research is in its infancy, there’s mounting evidence which suggests what we eat affects the function of our brains. See this article published by Community Food and Health (Scotland), ‘Food, mental health and wellbeing’. A word of advice though, speak to your GP before making any changes to your diet.
Get some exercise – All of us know how important it is for our physical and mental health to get regular exercise. It doesn’t have to be much just as long as it’s regular. Just some light, gentle exercise, nothing too extreme. Maybe a routine walk in the park, a bike ride, early morning swim, or 30 minutes in the gym every couple of days.
Give yourself something to look forward to – When you've something to look forward to, you often feel more motivated. It gives you a reason to do things, making life less boring and predictable. Make sure it’s something that you enjoy or excites you.
Remind yourself of home – Bring things on your next visit from home that remind you of home. This could be family and friend photos for your bedside. Also comforters, you know what I mean, that over-loved teddy, or scruffy old favourite jumper, a favourite read. Smells from home are important too, so why not bring back some homemade food favourites back with you.
Give yourself a break – Yes taking regular breaks are important, but what I mean here is don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember this is a huge transition period for you, especially if you’ve been in a secure, supportive home life prior to coming to university. So try to relax a little and let things happen naturally.
Confidential helplines – If you really don’t feel like speaking to friends and family, but still want someone to talk to that offers absolute confidentiality and anonymity. That will be non-judgemental, non-directional and non-advisory, there’s a service called Nightline.ac.uk. Nightline is a student listening service, which opens at night and is ran by trained students for students. Check if there’s a Nightline service at your university. They cover many UK universities, and are accessible via phone, email, Skype or text. Don’t forget you can also contact your student well-being office or your university counsellor.
You now have a few ideas of how to adjust to university life and understand why you may be feeling homesick and lonely, and some great tips to help you deal with it all. Try to remember this is a transition from childhood to adulthood and is an important process for your personal development. You’ll make friends in time, but don’t get too anxious about it, you have a busy year ahead of you.
The very best of luck to you!
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Procrastination: Identify and Resolve
Are you a serial procrastinator? Do you ever promise yourself or others that you’ll do something but leave it to the very last minute? Do you put off doing things you know should have done much earlier? “Does the phrase “A stitch in time, saves 9” pass completely over your head?
If this sounds like you, then please read on. This week’s blog will be discussing procrastination and its real meaning. The pros and cons and science behind procrastination, the reasons we do it, along with solutions to resolving it.
Postponement, adjournment, delay, stall or defer are all terms associated with procrastination. The Collins English Dictionary defines procrastination as “To put off or defer (an action) until a later time; delay”. We can delay, postpone and stall on an action because there may be some very good reasons for not taking action at that particular moment in time. CEO of a global company Lolly Daskal’s (2016) writes an article 7 reasons why we need to embrace procrastination. In it she explains that procrastination can bring wisdom, greater insight, can give time to calm situations and rationalise. That it helps to resist peer pressure, nurtures creativity, lends opportunity for clarification.
We could also suppose that this term presumes that we will use this postponement time to action something in between, whether that be through thought or deed, in order to progress from the current situation. So procrastination when viewed in these terms would actually be considered wise, beneficial and appropriate, and not something to be avoided.
However, this is not the term I refer to when I write about procrastination. No, the term procrastination I refer to is more derogatory, a none-favourable attribute. This term is best described in the Oxford English Dictionary, and that is “often with the sense of deferring though indecision, when early action would have been preferable," or as "deferring an action, especially without good reason." The American Heritage Dictionary offers the term as “To keep delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring. Other dictionaries mention, laziness, slowness, etc. When procrastination is mirrored in these terms it can become a source of anxiety and distress in your life but also detrimental to your effectiveness and reputation.
The science behind procrastination has identified that this trait is a uniquely human characteristic and something we all do from time to time. According to Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Carleton University, in Ottawa, procrastination is a battle between the hugely influential Limbic System, which is where our internal warning system, emotions, instincts and memories are formed, and the pre-frontal cortex. This is the weaker, but more action driven area of the brain, which allows you to make decisions. According to Pychyl, when our brains are not consciously engaged, the Limbic System takes over and gives in to whatever makes us feel good, or something we’d prefer to do in its place.
4 Reasons why we Procrastinate
1/ Too many tasks and too little time – feeling overwhelmed
When too many other things take priority, it can feel overwhelming, but it’s often due to lack of structure, and organisation. We say yes when really we should be saying no sometimes. Be realistic on what you can and can’t do, but in order to do this you need to know what you’re already committed to doing.
The resolution: Get organised!
· Use calendars – on your phone or pc calendar pre-set alerts and share them with the appropriate people.
· A daily list of to do’s, with dates and times for focusing on the task. Detail the time you have to spend on it. Prioritise, then stick to it!
· Avoid over-exaggerating what you can do. Only list what you definitely can achieve, not what you’d like to achieve. This will allow for greater flexibility, and helps to avoid the disappointment of failure to complete tasks. The purpose is to build your confidence.
· Be assertive - say no to others requests when your schedule is getting full.
2/ Unpleasant / boring tasks
Many jobs have unpleasant or boring aspects to them; responding to emails, housework, essay writing etc. The trick is getting it over and done with as soon as possible or distracting yourself while doing the task.
· Consciously put time by and just do it! One hit! A bit like ripping off a plaster
· If a task is particularly unpleasant to you then break it down into bitesize segments that are more palatable to you.
· If a friend has the time to help, and it’s appropriate, pull them in too. Being around friends can make any task more fun and agreeable.
· Think about the end result and what you’ve achieved by doing it.
· Use the time productively, think of other things while you’re doing mundane tasks
· Housework - turn on your music and have a dance and sing along.
· Reward yourself in some small way for completing the task.
3/ Stepping out of our comfort zone and fear of failure
Fear is an emotional response to a particular situation. Break it down! Ask yourself what exactly is the fear you’re feeling? Is it rational? Have you any evidence of anything similar going wrong before? If you have, what have you learnt from that situation that could bring more positive outcomes? Our minds like to play tricks on us, and things are rarely as bad as we imagine they’ll be. Remember fear is an illusion when life is not under threat. Fear limits you from discovering your potential.
· Identify what the actual fear is and then look for ways of combatting it
· If you’re not sure how to do something, find out who have done this before and ask them for tips and advice. This is also a great way of making new contacts and friends.
· Watch instructional videos and find techniques that help you.
4/ Thrill seeking
The thrill of completing a task so close to a deadline is a bit of an adrenaline rush for some, and the reward is delivering the goods at the critical time. If you arrive just on time to a train station when you’re with a group, you may not see the point of arriving earlier. However, you may want to consider how other individuals, who are not thrill seekers, react and feel when they are waiting on you to deliver or arrive. This can often be a source of great stress and anxiety for them.
· Take others emotions into consideration. Agree a time and date that you’ll deliver the goods
· Turn up 10 minutes earlier than you would normally do. This will give others more confidence in you and help to relax those around you. This will probably increase your reputation with your peers as being a trustworthy and reliable individual.
Now that you know what the term procrastination truly means, why we do it and what we can do to resolve it, you can now make decisions to decide even if the task actually requires doing at all.
Decide early on whether you will do it, or ditch the task or idea completely. Be honest with people. This will save your reputation and give clarity to those around you as to what your intentions are, and more importantly what you’re not prepared to do.
If you have the time I would love to hear your feedback from this week’s journal article. Or follow me on Twitter: @asterialifeC
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