Vladmir Lenin’s words “There are decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen” seem to perfectly encapsulate the 2020 experience. A year marked with profound grief, disappointments, loss and uncertainty has also led to several learnings which can stand us in good stead going ahead.
There is a lot that 2020 has taught us about ourselves, our relationships, our passions and our values. As we made our 2019 New Year’s resolutions we had nothing but hope for not just a fresh year, but a fresh decade to make our own with lots of new memories, adventures and successes. The year 2020 however, had other plans. If we could take the pandemic away in an instant we would, but since that’s sadly not something we can do right now, we can choose to focus on the next best thing which is looking out for the silver lining - the lessons. From tough times come tough lessons, personal growth and learning opportunities; and this piece is all about exploring and reflecting back on what this otherwise turbulent year has taught us.
One of the most important things we’ve all possibly learned this year this is to focus on aspects of our lives that we have been taking for granted. While physical health has certainly topped the list of things we all paid attention to be it about being hypervigilant or having our daily dose of vitamins, it is important to know that there is no better time to address the other equally important priority: Mental Health. There is no denying that 2020 has been a hard year. More than anything, it has put additional pressure on our mental health. And yet, there is a silver lining. This is probably the first time that we’ve become more attuned with our needs. This year taught us how important it is to take care of our Mental Health, prioritise our Wellbeing and finding time for self-care. In the race to the top, we have neglected ourselves so much but this year served as a great eye opener. It also made us understand that maintaining a work-life balance is important, because it eventually hampers our mental health and overall wellbeing. From painting to doodling, cooking to gardening to whipping up Dolagona Coffees and baking Banana bread, this year was all about discovering choices, and giving time to taking care of ourselves, something we need to do more often without feeling guilty! We learned that Self-care is a priority, not a privilege as our peace, ME time and sleep are as important as our work, to-do lists and meetings.
Some years are about thriving, and some are about surviving, and that’s ok too. For many of us with extensive to-do lists, this year made us revaluate our priorities and also encouraged us to take a step back and slow down. Whatever said and done, it is essential to realign our priorities from time to time, be it at the personal or professional level. At the end of the day, it’s all about maximising a sense of self-worth and satisfaction. While many people may boast of several achievements this year, knowing that if all you did was survive this year, that’s enough. Alone with trying to stay afloat through the time, we also accepted it’s ok for us to take breaks from time to time. Most of us feel guilty for taking time off to relax and engage in our favourite activities or to have days where we don’t get a lot of things done, but this year changed that notion as we focussed on being kinder and more patient with ourselves than just running a race against the clock to get things done. The thing is, it’s not easy to stay productive forever, leave alone in a challenging and uncertain time like 2020. A pandemic after all isn’t a productivity contest and coping in times of a crisis is not a competition.
We’ve learned to say ‘No’ more and reinforce our boundaries, be it personally or professionally. We all know how suppressing our innermost feelings leads to a lot of stress and conflict within ourselves, which is why it is so essential to let out what you feel. For instance, many people earlier felt the heat of meeting toxic family members around the holidays and this year, that was something a lot of people managed to avoid and it did them wonders. Going forward as well, remember that if someone or something is bothering you, make sure to be vocal about it, as expressing our innermost feelings goes a long way.
There is tremendous power in human connection and the lockdowns and forced isolations only reinforced this. This was a year when we were forced to stay physically away from people, and that’s what made us realise how important it is to build relationships and maintain them. Many of us turned to our loved ones even more in this time and realised that even though we were physically distanced, it didn’t need to be an emotional distance. We reached out more, found new ways to be connected and checked in on each other a lot more - things which we all need to do more irrespective of whether it is a pandemic or not.
While the year made us realise the value of human connections, we also realised the reality of so many people. As they say, difficult times show us the real face of people. While this year threw us all into the same storm, we were all not in the same boat and that was something so important to be mindful of. We needed to realise that while no 2 people may experience the situation in the same manner, that doesn’t mean any one experience was less valid. Sometimes “I’ll always be there for you” is a hoax & not all those who we value, value us and a lot of us learned that the hard way this year. A lot of friendships and relationships were put on the line of fire this year and by the end of it, it was only the real solid ones which emerged stronger and survived, and that’s ok too.
We also learned the value of gratitude and not taking anyone or anything in our lives for granted. That last time you laughed together till your sides hurt, went out to the beach, gorged down a meal, took selfies or hugged a loved one suddenly became so much more than just everyday moments. These became moments we found ourselves yearning for and in that yearning did we realise the true value of the moments we spent together which became a memory we would be all we have to cling to till the next time we got to live those moments in person. Stemming from the idea of gratitude came the realisation that basic things are not that basic anymore. Some of the things we took for granted such as clean water, warm meals, a job, a bed became the things we are so privileged to have and this was highlighted in the humanitarian crisis which the year unleashed. A feeling of gratitude also exposed us to our vulnerabilities. It gave us a wake-up-call of sorts that we may never know when would be the last time we see our family, friends and people we care about. So while we don’t always have the chance to say goodbye, we should never let those we love ever feel unloved or unheard, even if it is for a fleeting second. Also, having a healthy body, a breathing lung, a beating heart, these things we take for granted can all be taken away from us tomorrow. Nothing is promised, so always choose to be grateful and count your blessings.
The idea that ‘Its ok to not be ok’ is something more and more of us had to adapt to this year and at the same time we also learned that these feelings were normal and that reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness. Telehealth, Mental Health helplines and conversations around Mental Health became more popular as more people felt the discomfort and distress triggered by the pandemic and this also helped to combat some of the misinformation, misconceptions and stigma which otherwise existed around the subject of Mental Health. We are not robots that can be programmed to be happy 24x7 and this year made us acknowledge that we all have a range of emotions which are normal and we need to accept (and honour) the way we feel. They often say that You can’t heal a wound if you keep pretending you are not bleeding, and that’s what this has been about. It became a time where we realised that we were not feeling tired, frustrated, sad or anxious for no reason and that our emotions served as a guidance for us to make better decisions, seek help, take breaks and prioritise our Mental Health. Not all days are sunshine and rainbows, and that’s normal.
All in all, we can say that 2020 has surprised, rather shocked us beyond our imagination. 2020 wasn’t just a year of pandemic, it was also the year of awakening and learning for us. So moving into 2021, let us hold on to these lessons which will stand us in good stead, pandemic or not and keep the faith that things will get better with every passing day. Hope is very powerful, embrace it!
Written by: Vedica Podar
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