Shelter-in-place, home school and virtual reality took on new meanings. We spent a lot more time washing our hands—and our groceries.
Now that 2020 is behind us, how can we greet 2021 with hope amidst the ongoing change and uncertainty?
Resilience is the key, says Dr. Erin Martin, a physician and empowerment coach from Santa Rosa, California.
“The human ability to bounce back from adversity is what makes us so adaptable,” Erin says. “We actually can thrive despite and in the midst of adversity.
“I encourage my patients and clients to dig deeper and find a source of resilience they may have not tapped in a long time or, for some, ever. When we don’t have a choice and there’s no definite end in sight, we can choose to find the resources and the inner strength we need, or we become the victims of circumstance.”
Erin suggests beginning 2021 by writing down all that has happened in the past year: the good and bad, accomplishments and setbacks.
“We move so fast in life that we often don’t take the time to reflect on what actually transpired and give ourselves credit for what we’ve made it through and our successes,” she says. “Most of us need to have a little more grace for ourselves, and it’s easier to see that when it is in black and white right in front of our eyes.”
Many Americans began 2020 with a list of resolutions and goals, only to toss them out a few months later with the arrival of the coronavirus. This year, Erin suggests setting an intention instead.
“Examine what you really value, what you really hold important in your life, and set intentions to amplify these things,” she says. “If family is important, set an intention to cultivate experiences that connect you deeper with those you love. If helping others is something you prioritize, set an intention to be of service in new and creative ways given the current limitations of the pandemic.”
It’s tempting at the start of a new year to overcommit. Don’t. Decide what is valuable. Say yes to those things and little else.
Life has its ups and downs. There is a week of sunny days and then a storm blows in. A loved one gets COVID-19. The school district announces classes will remain online for another semester.
“When those things pile up, most of us keep it to ourselves and isolate more,” says Jan Berg, a certified life and professional coach from Tacoma, Washington.
“We would be better off to recognize the cycle—that it gets bad and then it gets better again and then it gets bad and then it gets better again.”
Rather than waiting until life is difficult to try to figure out how to cope or tough it out alone, Jan says it is easier to create a plan when things are better.
Think about what brings satisfaction and connection. Activities may include meditation, exercise, regular conversations with loved ones, holding a child or reading books together. Friends can help friends by setting regular times for virtual support calls.
When times are rough, work the plan.
Finally, remember to take in the good. Americans have created new candy delivery systems for trick-or-treaters, celebrated virtual graduations and had drive-by birthday parades.
We no longer wash our groceries.
“We are reimagining our sources of friendship and support,” Jan says. “It takes imagination and focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t want.”
Tips for a Better Today
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, symptoms for anxiety and depressive disorders in U.S. adults have more than tripled in the past year, increasing from 11% in 2019 to 41% in 2020.
Amy Marshall, a licensed clinical social worker from The Dalles, Oregon, offers these tips for a better today.
- Smile from behind your mask. Tell your neighbor you are glad to see them. Share your appreciation with the grocery clerk, postal carrier and others. You will feel better and so will they.
- Make a phone call or create a virtual visit with another human every day. Now’s the time to call the people you have not had time to call. To express yourself on many levels, contact different friends and family members who share your interests, such as a fellow gardener, a fishing buddy, a hiking pal or a church member.
- Remember all the things you did to connect early on in the coronavirus pandemic. Do them again.
- Pick one thing to accomplish each day, then check it off the list. Feel the relief that something is over.
- Create a sense of timelessness by spending time outdoors where there is no indication of what year it is.
- Shift your perspective. Imagine it is a year from now. What do you want to have learned or experienced in 2021?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration operates a disaster distress helpline, offering free confidential counseling 24/7, 365 days a year for anyone experiencing emotional distress related to a natural or human-caused disaster, including the coronavirus pandemic, wildfires, floods and incidents of community unrest. SAMHSA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Call 1-800-985-5990 for more information or to find help.