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Building ‘muscles’ that matter through COVID-19:

Acceptance, Facing uncertainty and Relinquishing control

We are all dealing with change yet again as COVID-19 restrictions ease around the world. Our relationship with acceptance, facing uncertainty and relinquishing control hangs in the balance. If not before the pandemic, we are experiencing this now and we can use these developing ‘muscles’ going forward.

Having lived with mental health challenges for over four decades, these are the three muscles I’ve been working on for many years. They have ultimately aided me in better dealing with life while we have been in lockdown.

Acceptance

Before we can effectively move on, we have to have some level of acceptance. 

COVID-19 has affected everyone in the world in direct and indirect ways. It’s our new reality. Whether it’s the economy, our jobs, family, friends, etc we have all been hit. We have all had to accept ‘what is’.

As a writer and yoga teacher for over 10 years, I get to work on strengthening my acceptance muscle every day. Whether I’m writing wellbeing blogs for international organisations that are accepted or rejected or developing my practice and guiding students when I teach a yoga class, I’m always working on acceptance. That doesn’t mean I sit back and do nothing. Quite the opposite but when the cards are dealt, I try my best to accept. Then and only then, I can move on in a mental frame of mind that is useful.

Before COVID restrictions I was immersed in writing. I had taken the leap and applied for a professional writing gig with a mental health advocacy organisation Beyond Blue. I hadn’t heard any news, so I intuitively expected I didn’t get the consultancy. Negative inbuilt bias! In that potential though, I tried to accept the notion of not being successful because I had done everything I could in the application process.

I felt deeply that regardless if I got it, I was going to be ok. Something else would materialise if this one didn’t. 

I had been through a heck of a lot in the previous year. I had been in hospital getting electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as an ultimate effort to shift a persistent depressive episode that had lasted over 12 months. Luckily it worked with a combination of getting back on medication and I was in the land of the living once again contributing to my family, friends and society. There had been other prior episodes and like this one, I pulled through.

So not potentially getting the writing gig or COVID-19 restrictions were relative compared to what I had overcome. The muscle was working.

Facing uncertainty 

COVID-19 has presented us all with the challenge of facing uncertainty. This can be the thing that tips us over or we can allow uncertainty to be something we can deal with as it comes. It means things could go either way but having the courage to try.

I ended up getting the writing contract that I had applied for and as a bonus was asked to be a part of the ambassador and speaker program. So you never know. Even though the topic of writing for the organisation quickly shifted to all things COVID-19 and the role has changed, I have been able to be comfortable with the uncertainty. 

Experiences such as this have conveyed to me the importance of facing uncertainty and then the adaptability when things change. Being able to find a way to make it work and cultivate the positive amidst the challenges has been essential. The muscles are working. 

Though I have had significant mental health challenges over the years and don’t know for certain what will be in the future, I am able to face the uncertainty of whatever comes with more ease. I work on many things on a daily basis to sustain my wellbeing so this contributes to less likelihood of reoccurrence.

Relinquishing control

We don’t know for sure how things will be tomorrow so taking control of what we can today and letting the rest go matters. 

As we ease back into life as we once knew it, my writing and yoga teaching are being challenged in new ways.  Since I come from an academic background in public health, I have a tension between writing my lived experience which is raw, real and honest verses writing with a more academic lens. These are two parts of me that I would like to blend in my writing but intuitively feel more aligned with the former. I’ll continue to reflect on this but will relinquish the control that there is one right way right now. It will emerge. Likewise, my yoga teaching will evolve.

To be honest, my day to day mental health challenges have been unswerving as in not improved or worse through COVID-19. I still wake up and feel residual angst or despondency as that is my normal not reflected by COVID-19 restrictions coming or easing. I have professional and personal support, and I continue to work building my ‘muscles’ so that my overall wellbeing is maintained. 

It is normal to have some hesitation toward change but as Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher coined ‘change is the only thing constant’. As restrictions ease, you might like to think about how you embrace this next phase and how your developing ‘muscles’ of acceptance, facing uncertainty and relinquishing control will benefit you.

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