Conquering chaos, building resilience

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‘Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong’ says Murphy’s Law, and Sri Lanka might just be living proof of that truth. Ever since 2019, the country has been facing crisis after crisis. A terrorist bombing, multiple waves of a global pandemic, a political and economic crisis and if the predictions turn true, a countrywide food shortage in the coming months. Everyone has been affected by these circumstances as a result, and students are some of the worst affected.

Amidst dealing with the stress that comes with keeping up with the curricular material, students now have to deal with a myriad of other problems. Students attending local universities would often have to travel long distances to sit for an exam, spending valuable money for travel, food and lodging, only to have exams postponed.

For those doing exams online, connectivity issues and lack of electricity would often get in the way. Purchasing a computer, a tablet or even a smartphone would be out of reach for many, given the import limitations. Even if a device can be found, there’s the staggering price tag that comes with it.

Anyone with an ancient computer, tablet or smartphone who had been saving their money to would have to put their plans on hold, and even the most minor damage or hiccup could have devastating effects since components are also in short supply.

Of course, this is overlooking anyone taking part in private university programmes or distanced learning programmes in foreign universities. With the rupee crashing, many are wondering if they even afford to continue their education in the first place.

Sri Lanka hasn’t been very good for students for the past several years, and it seems students are yet to see light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, things might just be getting gloomy. Sadly, it’s not just Sri Lanka. From Palestine, the South Americas, and to recently Ukraine, many students around the world have to deal with circumstances that are beyond their control and challenges that seem insurmountable, sometimes only to find that there isn’t sufficient or adequate employment waiting for them after graduation.

Under such circumstances, how can a student possibly pursue an education with hope and enthusiasm, believing that the hard work and sacrifices they make to pursue an education today, will lead them towards a brighter tomorrow? Saying that ‘it’s not going to be easy’ would be an easy candidate for the understatement of the year award.

To even be able to continue on would require each student to cultivate a mindset of resilience, and be able to conquer the chaos surrounding them and continue their education. Fortunately, mindset isn’t genetic, it’s something that we all cultivate within ourselves.

Hundreds of thousands of books exist, as do millions of blog articles, videos and motivational quotes to ‘help’ you in this journey. Just be aware that there are a lot of people who won’t think twice to capitalise on someone’s desire to grow and make such people their personal ATM’s. Exercise wisdom in your path to discovering yourself.

And if you need help along the way, don’t be afraid to reach out to pro-bono services and helplines such as the ones Sumithrayo has. There is a stigma that is still prevalent, but it is being broken by people who realise that a trip to a therapist is no different from a visit to your general practitioner.

There are also some good mental health hygiene practices that you can follow to help you get through these troubling times. Find what works for you and stick to it. You could for example, start avoiding social media and the news, or maybe even practice daily meditation or yoga.

One technique that has always helped me is to focus on ‘the now.’ It’s important to plan for things in the future, but sometimes, the necessity arises to not look too far ahead. Instead, focus on the immediate tasks that require your attention and take things from there.

Most importantly, take inventory of your mental health every week and practice good health habits. Stay well-groomed, exercise, get quality sleep and eat healthy. Have a friend or close family member you can reach out to when you need to connect with someone.

It’s going to be difficult times ahead, and as students, there will only be more challenges to come. But that also means you now have the opportunity to train yourself to become mentally resilient and become a person capable of conquering chaos.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage