Our phones kept pinging with anxiety inducing news, it would not end and it just seemed to go downhill from there on. We were always on high alert, our bodies always in a fight, flight or freeze response. And what’s worse? We still cannot say with certainty what comes in 2021. Does it get better or worse?
But while we might keep going down that road that stresses us out and makes us anxious repeatedly – let’s look at another winding road, with lots of ups and downs but an important road nonetheless – 2020. We learnt many things in 2020 – without even paying much attention to it.
It’s absolutely understandable to have a list with the heading “productive things I did in 2020” – I think we have all tried to list down the “good or productive” things we have done this year, and we might all be at different levels of understanding “productivity”. But keeping capitalism, our own motivations, and social media differences aside , here are a few other things 2020 taught us.
Boundaries: We realised that we cannot pour from an empty cup. Staring at our mobile screens, supporting each other virtually and physically and being there for each other, hits pause when we really don’t have energy to support ourselves first. We gave our own selves priority this year. If that means setting strict screen time on our social media or telling our loved ones that we want space & time, or just taking some time out for ourselves.
Dealing with unpredictability: We survived this year, and that in itself is an achievement. As human beings, we love to know where we are headed. Our five year & ten year milestones were set and 2020 shook the whole foundation of our whole goal map! Suddenly, we were uncertain and many of our plans were either postponed or cancelled. Through this process, we learnt patience, and in the long run, this helped us take one step at a time instead of sprinting through ten steps in a day. We were mindful of what we could control and did what we could in our capacity to reach the goal (take note that this includes just breathing and living through the tough days of 2020). Most of these lost opportunities, actually only led us to better opportunities to grow and learn more!
Learning to Unlearn: The one question we asked the most this year is “why?” We learnt to unlearn a lot of things, then learnt them again. While it can be at different levels and different topics for most of us, it was important. We might have actually needed this year to sit back and question basic things – but question them anyway! Innovation: The importance of finding new ways of coping with problems – internal and external both. We put ourselves out there (sitting at home, of course!) and used various life hacks to go through this year. From finding new ways of fixing household items to wearing and coping mentally with our concerns, we have learnt the importance of innovation. Time: We sat our way through 2020. The way we spent that time completely depended on us. It gave us a sense of agency. Our time was precious and we all put it in the right place. While we might have wandered for a while, the importance of time helped us cope with 2020. Time to heal, time to cope and time for ourselves – and its importance. Importance of “outside” and others: We really took the outside for granted before 2020 – and we needed a pandemic to realise the importance of it all. Only after lockdown did we dream about being in nature and breathing in fresh air. We learnt to acknowledge our planet, nature, the people around us and ourselves in 2020. We also realised that a lot of what we are is given to us by this planet and by the people around us – helping us understand the importance of the kind of physical and emotional environment we live in.
Adapting to “new” normals: We replaced, changed, added so many new activities into our lives this year. We might have whined about new and forever changing routines, and forming new habits, but we did it. We adapted to new versions of normals, from theatres to Netflix parties, from conference meetings to zoom calls in a matter of a few months. Think about it, we solved so many problems by ourselves this year, from changing our own light bulbs to perfecting banana bread – we were cognitively flexible to go with the flow, solve various issues and to think out of the box. This means our neurons, our brain, mind and not to forget – you, worked extra hard this year! You deserve a pat on the back!
Mental Health: The biggest lesson of 2020 is that we grew even when we were still. The concepts of hustling and overworking were questioned in 2020. We sat in the same environment this year but we grew – our mind grew, we became more aware of our health. Even if this means we realised how miserable or anxious we felt this year – awareness of our feelings is growth in itself and it should be acknowledged!