A friend recently told me that the brain hates uncertainty. And I will add to that statement- especially my brain.

Living in a new and unfamiliar place has brought with it many moments of uncertainty. Which once again my brain hates. I have felt anxious and out of touch with myself these last few months. Not quite me. Trying to control things that are 100% out of my control. Not feeling like I could be the true ‘me’ was a huge sign that I needed to re-evaluate. Reflect. Process.

So how can I let go of this wanting to be in control? How can I live in the present moment therefore being more ‘me’?

Here are four things that have helped me to tame my inner control freak while living abroad. Here we go:

Remind yourself of the things you have control over

  1. My reflection/processing: I can set aside time to reflect on this experience. I can take time to write in my journal. To write this blog. I can periodically check in with myself (both when things feel overwhelming or great).
  1. My emotional well-being: I can choose what I want to focus my thoughts on. I have the ability and the tools to address my emotional needs. I can breath when I am overwhelmed. I can do things that sooth me.
  1. My output of energy: I can prioritize what I choose to put my time/energy into. Whether that be people, thoughts or ideas. I have the ability to put energy into things that fill me with happiness and joy.
  1. My mental stimulation: I can choose to learn something new. I can read a book when I want to. I can continue to learn Spanish.

Stop living by a countdown

Recently I have noticed my want to control things as manifest itself in a series of different countdowns. A count down to the end of the week, the days until holiday break and the weeks until my next big trip.

My daily countdown symbolically represents my countdown until one period of uncertainly is over. But I am beginning to realize that it would be incredibly easy for me to live from one countdown to another. But one symbolic countdown just leads to another. And another. This cycle could become endless if I allowed it to occupy enough space/time.

Instead of living by this metaphorical countdown I can focus my attention back to the present moment. I have the ability to notice when I am thinking about the past or the future. I have the power to focus on the present.

Breath. Be gentle with yourself

Educationally and personally I have learned about the importance of breathing. So I could tell you all about the psychological and biological benefits of breathing. I could tell you about what oxygen does to the heart. Or share how breathing helps you to sleep. All this information is easy accessible online.

Instead what I will say is that it is ok to allow yourself to breath. This may seem intuitive. Quite obvious. But at times stopping to breath has felt like a sign of defeat. A sign that I ‘can’t handle’ this present moment. I want to reframe this thinking. Instead I would like to start telling myself in those moments of uncertainty. You have a lot going on in this moment. Taking a breath can help you to be more present. When you are more present you are free to be more ‘you’. When this happens you can be more of the person you know and love.

Be Grateful

I have many things to be grateful for. My health. My friends. My family. My host family. Guatemala.

I am grateful to have this time in Guatemala to reflect and to better understand myself. I am grateful for everyone who supports me on this blog. I am grateful for the people and experiences that fuel me every day. It is my relationships to these people and experiences that have brought me joy. Having gratitude for the people/experiences in my life has reminded me to give less weight to things that I cannot control.

I also want to remind myself to be grateful for the small things. The way one women at the organization enjoys holding me while we talk. Laughing with the children at the project about my emerging Spanish. The card my mom gave me on my way to Guatemala that simply says “always remember that your family loves you”.

I lay out this advice not because I think that I have great and powerful wisdom. Simply this has been a space for me to express myself. Connect with others. Process in a more meaningful way what this experience has been like. I wrote this particular blog because I need to remind myself what it means to let go of control and be more present.

There are many reasons why I embarked on this yearlong journey to Guatemala. Some of which I was aware of when I packed my bags. Others I am slowly uncovering. I believe that learning to be present in the midst of uncertainty is one lesson I am slowly discovering here in Guatemala.


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