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  • annabelchaffey

Coping with change out of our control

Firstly, I feel like I should apologise for jumping on the bandwagon and writing another ‘pandemic reflections’ type blog. However, I’d like to think that maybe it will provide someone with something to interpret and look at in a different way and help them to make sense of the year. An experience that I have found valuable when reading other blogs of this kind.

Rewind to March and my biggest stress about the pandemic was the thought of having to work from home for three weeks and not be able to see actual humans in person. For anyone who knows me and who has worked with me they’ll understand my horror at this. Low and behold it became a lot longer than three weeks, with me eventually going onto furlough at the start of April and then being made redundant in August. 

And yet, I bet some of you reading are wondering why out of all the things to worry about was this genuinely my biggest concern? Well, one key factor about the pandemic is that is has wholly and utterly been out of our individual control and there was nothing we could have done or really do (apart from keeping apart, washing our hands and wearing masks!), to change the course it was taking. And for me this was a weirdly comfortable place to be in. 

Well why was this comfortable for me I hear you asking? I’ve never really gone into much detail about the ins and outs of my last few months involved in bobsleigh and I won’t now either for those of you hoping for juicy gossip. However, the one thing about that time - it was to some extent entirely and utterly out of my control. Okay, yes there were certain decisions that I could have made that may have changed various outcomes but in essence to leave the sport at 20 wasn’t a decision that I would have chosen. 

Which means when we arrive in March 2020 and everyone is - quite rightly - agonising over this loss of control of their day to day lives, I was completely okay with it. I had already experienced losing the thing that gave me purpose to most days (training), the chance to travel (competitions) and the influence on my social life (training & staying in shape), so then when we lost our freedoms earlier this year to do these things I already understood the emotions that were being experienced. 

I feel it is important to say now why I want to share this - it is not, as some people may think, to sound superior and as if I coped way better than everyone else and to say ‘who are you to have had emotions about this ridiculous change in our circumstances’. However, I am sharing it because I feel thankful to have already experienced something so life changing for myself. That first experience of exiting sport taught so much that has got me through this year. I learnt and now know that all bad things will come to an end and that we learn to live with decisions thrust upon us. That in actual fact knowing this has allowed me to remain optimistic and moving forwards, under conditions I would never have said I would be okay with (ie. working from home and living on my own). It is also meant to give you an example of hope, maybe a little shining light, that actually at the end of the day we will all move forwards from this and yes our lives will not be the same, but that kind of out of the blue change isn’t always bad. In literally just living through this year we will have learned so much, experiencing the emotions we have and maybe being more aware of them this time around will stick within us all. 

I could, and I think I will, insert a relevant if cheesy metaphor here about that experience of living through emotions and knowing them for when a round two comes along. As we are hoping that immunity will be arrived at to Coronavirus with our bodies’ cells recognising the virus and acting against it, so too will our emotional selves when a change that is shocking and scary comes along again. I don’t doubt that all of us will experience something that triggers all the emotions of the pandemic again, that is life, but I hope that having gone through them as a collective society we are all now more aware of the emotions such a change can cause. One amazing thing about this is that it is a shared experience with everyone in society - and yes some are experiencing heightened examples of the same thing, our experiences are not the same, but they are shared. So we all know and aware of what we are going through. And in that awareness is the key to coping with them better. I am fortunate, I was able to relate and understand my emotional Covid response from a previous life changing experience because I was aware of what I had experienced and could see the similarities in the two events. 

I suppose what I am trying to say is that when that life changing event does come along, I am not saying it won’t be horrible and turbulent but it will be endurable, you will get through it. You, deep down, will have learned that these things end and we can make sense of the new circumstances we will find ourselves in and that in itself will make the experience that tiny bit easier to cope with.  

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