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From the moment when COVID-19 first steamrolled into our lives, we've had to learn to deal with change, as each stage of the pandemic has changed the way we live, work and socialise.

While it's normal to feel frustrated and unsettled by all this uncertainty, there are ways you can equip yourself while dealing with life changes.

 Work out what you can and cant control

Much of the anxiety during COVID-19 comes from the reality that many decisions are out of our hands. Feeling like we're not in control of our own path is pretty unsettling, but figuring out precisely what you can and can't do will help you to maintain a sense of stability and reduce any fear or anxiety.

But how?

You can’t prevent a storm from happening, but you can pack an umbrella. Preparation is the key to figuring out what you can and can’t control. Try making a list of what’s worrying you (i.e. fears). You can then start to figure out ways to address these problems (i.e. fixes). For example:

Fear: Returning to team sport will be tough, and I won’t be any good after all this time off.

Fix: Remind yourself that everyone is in the same boat. You can also start working on your skills at home, so that when training resumes you’re not coming in cold.

Fear: There might be a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

Fix: Maintain your personal hygiene, continue to practise social distancing and encourage others to do the same.

By coming up with fixes for any fears you have, you’ll take back your decision-making power.

 Practice Self Control

Chances are your self-control has already been well tested during COVID-19. Whether you’ve been studying remotely or working from home, you’ll have faced many tempting distractions – PS4, anyone? By strengthening your self-control, you'll be more comfortable if (and when) things around you change.

But how?

Set yourself mini-tasks each week to strengthen your self-control. Maybe all the time you’re spending online keeping up with the news is leaving you feeling flat and empty, but you're finding it hard to look away. Start small by committing to switch off your phone during lunch. Then, day by day, slowly increase the amount of time you spend offline.

The key to building self-control is to use small victories to work up to bigger wins. Start with a manageable goal and build on that, day by day, week by week.

 Focus On The Positives

It’s easy to see the negatives when things change, but it can help to try and see the positives, too. As restrictions gradually relax, look for the upsides. For example, you might now be able to return to your favourite restaurant, even if it’s only operating at half capacity, or to resume sports training, but in smaller groups. Remember that even these small changes are a big step forward.

But how?

Practise gratitude. As the rules change and life start to open up again, practise identifying the things you are grateful for – even if it’s as simple as being able to have a coffee with a friend at a cafe!

Speaking of friends, surround yourself with positive pals. If certain friends are continually banging on about how crazy everything is, then maybe mute them for a while and focus on people who look for the silver lining. Laughing is also a sure-fire way to feel more positive when the going gets tough. Start a LOLS-Only WhatsApp thread with friends, dedicated to swapping funny videos or memes.

Practising positive self-talk can also be a big help. Each week, write down one thing you like about yourself. At the end of every month, you'll then have a little list that proves you're a legend. Ultimately, the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you'll be to find the good in any situation you face.

Change thought patterns

Hands up if you've had a rough day and gone straight down the rabbit hole? Often our default response to change is negative thinking. This is because there's safety in the familiar, and change feels like a threat to our comfortable setup. But learning to adjust your thought patterns will do you a world of good during uncertain times.

But how?

Having negative thoughts is normal, but sometimes the best way to deal with them is to put a limit on them. If you notice you're on a slippery slope with worries, anxieties or fears, allow yourself only a certain amount of time each day to dwell on those thoughts.

The ReachOut WorryTime app lets you decide on a time, place and length of time to deal with your worries each day. This means you can do it in one sitting, rather than carrying your worries around with you 24/7.

 Live in the now

It's easy to find yourself gazing into the COVID crystal ball and worrying about what the future might hold, especially if your school, work and livelihood have been affected. But if you invest too much time in thinking about what hasn't happened yet, you might just miss out on the moments that are right in front of you.

But how?

Try meditation or mindfulness. Smiling Mind is an Australian-made mindfulness app designed for users of all ages. It works off the idea of dedicating just ten minutes a day to focusing on the here and now.

If mindfulness isn’t your vibe, why not try to master the art of distraction, whether it's by going for a run, hitting the gym (when they reopen), jumping on the baking bandwagon and whipping up a cake, or meeting up with friends for a board games night.

Concentrating on these kinds of tasks will help to block out the noise. It's hard to worry about the state of the world when your brain is focused on something in front of you!

What can I do now?