Avast! Preparations!

Preparation is key to all survival strategies. I have therefore compiled a (seriously long) list of Things That Could/Will/May Happen That May Cause a Lot of Stress During The Move. Each item will be associated with a strategy or skill to help combat the possible issue. I have divided it into two parts – things that almost certainly will happen, and things that may go horribly wrong.

I will still try to prevent most of these things happening – it’s both smart and my nature (even the unpreventable ones). But this list will help me know what to do when all my precautions have failed.

 

Very Likely/Certain To Happen  
Upset at leaving friends and family. Of course I am; I love them. I must accept that sadness will happen, and continually remind myself I will see them soon.
Huge emotional let down after goodbye party/events. Meditate in advance and after the events are over. Focus on chores to do in England.
Last minute packing stress + indecision about what to pack. Know that anything can be shipped, or bought, if I desperately need it. Know that I can survive on very little, and have done so before.
Afraid of flying. Have a very distracting novel or comic on the plane. Carry a stress ball. Focus on breathing.
Emotional wreck at airport. Be prepared to cry, and remember that it is an acceptable response. Remember that allowing myself to cry will make me look less like I have the measles than if I hold it in. Bring tissues and a face cloth. Don’t hang around for very long.
Flight delayed. (I originally had this in the disaster section. Then I realized I’d better assume the flight will be late. They almost always are. Especially ones with enormous passenger capacity.) Make sure there’s plenty of time between flight landing and train departure. Know that I can always book another train journey if I have to. Expect everything to take at least an hour longer than planned.
Train delayed. I am on no deadline to get to Loughborough. I have everything I need with me.
Exhaustion. Don’t over schedule myself with too many appointments. Be prepared to buy or make tea. Regularly remind myself that I am going through a lot and will lean towards irritability.
Over hungry. Carry snacks. Use an alarm to remind me to eat something small every two hours, even if I am not hungry.
Homesick. Go out. It doesn’t matter how much I don’t want to, go out. Call someone to go to the pub. Go to the gym. Go meet people in a park.
Culture shock. Exercise. Focus on the familiar.
Can’t make electrical things work. Remember my panic and dialectical therapy skills. Patience is hard. Even if I am angry, it will pass.
Spend way more money than I want to in order to get by. I can take out a loan if I run out of money. I am good enough to get a grant. This is an investment in my future. The first couple of months will be very expensive no matter what I do, and it’s not my fault.
Have panic attack. Panic attacks don’t last forever. I will carry my ‘panic card’ with me (which I can present to other people to explain what is happening to me, and instructs them not to touch me, and how to help).
Have strong urges to self-harm, break things, or act recklessly. Return to skills. Remember that these emotions are transient, and are expected given how hard it is to completely uplift one’s life.
Have to book more days at the hotel in order to find apartment. There will be at least one hotel I can stay at. If I am truly desperate, someone will let me sleep on their couch.
I get mildly sick. Watch movies, eat chicken noodle soup.
There are delays in getting my finances overseas.  Practice my skills again. Don’t be afraid to speak up for myself and remind people that this is not my fault, and I am doing my best.
Jet lag. Get up, and get out. Ignore tiredness during the day as much as possible.
Insomnia. Try progressive relaxation. Try running a movie in my head. If these do not work, try getting up and having a cup of milk. Do not exercise, but get up and sit on the couch, and maybe read something quiet.

 

 

Varying Degrees of Disaster*  
Overweight bags. Be prepared to rearrange the bag distribution. Also just pay the fees. It’s highway robbery, and there is nothing you can do about it if you want to get away with your life.
Forget passport. Don’t.
Denied entry. Remember to breathe. Focus on my ribcage going in and out. I will be able to enter, as I have a visa. It just may take a lot of sorting out, and every official needs enough time to do their job.
Flight changed. It isn’t my fault. The world has decided to be difficult, and I can be patient. Anger is understandable, but patience will kick the universe’s butt.
Miss train on other end. It still isn’t my fault. I left 3 hours between ETA and train time. The universe has decided to hit me with as many fees as it can. Getting a PhD is worth it.
Hotel forgets we’re coming/loses booking. You will find someplace to stay. It may be more expensive or more awful. But even if it means the streets, I’m still there, in Loughborough, so part of the challenge has passed.
I cannot find an apartment. You will find something. It just may take an unreasonable amount of time. Sleep in your office if money runs out. I can do anything because I am tough.
I cannot use a Canadian cheque in the UK as a deposit for my apartment. Ask for enough time to run to an ATM and get the money out in cash. Ask for time to get a certified cheque from another bank to transfer the money. If they will not give you 24 hours to do this, they aren’t going to be an easy landlord to get along with anyway, so you’ve dodged a bullet.
My supervisor wants me to do something very different than what I am preparing. It’s my PhD. We will find a balance between her wisdom and my needs and ideas. Do not do something that makes you unhappy or bores you to death from the outset, or else you won’t finish the PhD. My supervisor wants me to finish too.
My supervisor and I do not get along at all. Fortunately, I chose to go to a school where there are many people in my field. It is highly likely that I will get on well with at least one of them, and if not, it is certain that I can transfer to another university.
Have panic attack while with supervisor. This scares me a lot because I want to appear capable and strong, and a good student. Let her know in advance that I have anxiety troubles. Remember that panic is a way of your body to deal with extreme stress, and so your brain is in fact being as adaptive as it could be in the circumstances. You are working to make your brain’s response stronger, so that it doesn’t have to go into self-defense.
Can’t make computer work. There will be computers on campus that I can use. There will also be student services, and computer science students somewhere who will geek out on being able to fix something.
Overdraft bank account or credit card. I have an incredible history with my finances so far, so they will work something out with me.
Self-harm habit begins again. Self-harm is an adaptive strategy for me. However, it isn’t the BEST strategy, not at all. Try to return to the skills to reduce the need to self-harm, and seek help from my counselor. Also, remember that I am going through a lot of stress, so it makes sense that my emotions are trying to adapt any way they can.
Do something very reckless. Quite possibly resulting in trouble with the law or more severe injury. Seek help. Talk to counselor. Don’t hide it from people. Consider their options, and consider taking time off in order to participate in a therapy group.
My master’s thesis is failed. I can still write it again from the UK. It is not my fault that it took so long to find out, as I handed in my thesis early.
I get seriously sick. Accept that you have to recover. Make sure you spend a lot of time resting, but also keeping connected with new acquaintances in England, to avoid depression.
Someone dies at home. This is honestly one of the worst things that can happen. It is OK for it to feel like the worst thing that could happen because it is. You have managed deaths before. You will take a leave of absence to help as required. It will be OK, in the long run. I can be sad. I can need hugs.
There are unforeseen restrictions in transferring finances overseas, preventing me from paying tuition or rent. These are likely only to be a matter of time. Ask the university finance department for help, as they have worked with international students for 50 years.
Lose medicine. Ask the pharmacy for emergency supplies. Call CAMH, or home pharmacy, if necessary, and get them to speak to the local pharmacy. Don’t think they are too expensive to replace. They are important to my PhD success, and my health.

*I wrote the left hand column while feeling kind of scared and nervous. I wrote the right hand column while feeling particularly strong. Not only did the strong feeling get better as I filled in more of the chart, but I also realized that the answers to many of the left hand worries were actually quite easy, and not as ‘disastrous’ as I felt they would be when I wrote in an anxious state before.

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