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I think it’s fair to say that 2020 was not what any of us were expecting…
But tough times and forced pivots do give us a great opportunity to learn, or confirm things we suspected.
So while 2020 may have been a tough year for all of us, I thought it would be super helpful to look back and see what this, errr, interesting year had taught me about mental health.
Lessons that we can take into 2021 to keep our mental health happy and stable.
Plus, I was getting jealous of everyone else doing 2020-year-in-review posts and wanted to do my own!
So without further ado…
20 Mental Health Lessons We Can All Learn From 2020
1 – People deal with things differently.
Just because someone isn’t reacting how you would react or how you expect them to react doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting.
We all cope in different ways and that’s okay.
One person’s coping mechanism might be another person’s good day or even normal day, but if someone tells you they’re hurting accept it, even if they seem fine to.
2 – A safe and happy home life is bloody important.
Being quarantined in our homes with our household members for months on end has certainly made me feel incredibly grateful for my safe and secure house and wonderfully supportive and safe household (my boyfriend and two cats!)
I was very lucky to be in such a good position to ride out the global pandemic and I know many people out there don’t have that safety, security or happiness in their own home life.
But I think this year has taught us that few things are more important that a good home base and living with people that you get on with and can support one another.
It’s not necessarily easy but it is worth prioritizing.
3 – Financial security needs to be a priority for strong mental health.
Like with the item above, financial security is no easy-peasy done in two minutes job.
It’s something you have to work on each day and educate yourself in.
But financial security is something very close to my heart (originally this blog was going to be about all things finances would you believe!) and something I’ve been working on and educating myself on for many, many years now. That meant that when the global pandemic hit and neither my boyfriend were sure how it would affect our jobs or if the government would be offering any assistance, we didn’t have to worry because we knew we had enough money saved to ride out the worst of what was to come.
This kind of peace of mind cannot be underestimated if your mental health is always happy, because, wow, can finances cause stress!!!
Like I said, it’s not an easy thing to do but any stretch of the imagination, but any savings can help you stress less, which in turn will help with your mental health!
I think this post is a great illustration of why having savings is so darn important, especially as a woman.
4 – Good things can come from bad things.
While there was lots of bad in 2020 it’s important to remember and take notice that good things can still happen.
For example, despite my boyfriend going on furlough (a bad thing if you like) it actually turned out to be a good thing for us because we were able to spend more time together.
So don’t let your “bad” blinkers stop you from seeing the good stuff too!
5 – You are allowed to be happy, no matter what is going on in the world.
Following on from my point above, it was so lovely being able to spend more time than ever with my boyfriend but I would frequently feel guilty for this higher than normal happiness.
Like I should be sad because so many other’s in the world were not happy.
This, of course, is not a good mindset to have…
There are many reasons why but the two that spring to mind are:
- It’s a lot harder to help people when you’re feeling rubbish yourself…
- Just because others are sad does NOT mean you must be sad too (that makes no sense…)
So just know that you’re allowed to feel happy in any situation if you can find something to be happy about.
6 – But you also have to choose to be happy.
We often think happiness is something that just happens to us…
But I personally find I often have to choose to be happy.
Like I can choose to focus on the bad things going on and all the bad things that could happen… Or I can choose to focus on the good people are doing and the good that could happen.
Make the choice to be happy, don’t just wait for it.
7 – Your honesty about how you’re feeling gives people strength to be honest with how they’re truly feeling.
And this cannot be underestimated especially when it comes to mental health, a subject still shrouded in a lot of stigma!
You never know who you are “giving permission” to talk about their own struggles when you talk honestly about yours.
So if you do feel safe enough to speak honestly about your mental health then please don’t hold back.
I know even for myself seeing so many notable people talking about the important of mental health during things like quarantine has opened up mental health conversations that have continued despite changing situations, and this can only continue if we continue to talk about it.
8 – Reframing a situation really works.
Yes, it is as simple as looking for the silver lining in a situation, but it really works.
Next time you don’t want to do something, try rephrasing “I have to do…” to “I get to do…” and see how much nicer it sounds…
There is nearly always a positive to be found somewhere.
9 – Being creative helps.
Who knew eh?
Turns out LOTS of people haha.
But turning away from consumption (mainly of media like TV, etc) and instead focusing on what small thing can you create really makes you feel good.
10 – Work isn’t everything.
Oh hi, number 10. Are you just for lil ol’ workaholic me?
Truly though, 2020 was a shockingly clear reminder that the times when I’m really happy are not when I’m being a productivity machine…
Yes, sometimes being a productivity machine is necessary. But to really enjoy life I also need niceness scheduled in.
And a lot of downtime!!!
11 – Don’t be so much in a rush, slower makes life so much nicer.
This kind of follows straight on from number 10, but taking things slowly and not overpacking the day does make one happier…
I know “busy” is often seen as a badge of honour (especially if you’ve yet to “make it” whatever “making it” really is…) but we need to not forget the joy we found in 2020 when we were forced to go slower.
Let’s take time to stop and smell the roses.
12 – Always question if that is really important to you? Or is it really important to someone else?
So much of “normal life” was taken away in 2020.
How much of it did you really miss?
How much of the stuff that was “essential” was really essential?
Let’s not just blindly add back all those things when we get the all clear, let’s instead question everything going back on our schedules as to whether we really want them there or not…
13 – It turns out a lot of us can work from home…
If you are someone that has always longed to work from home, or to have their partener home a bit more or anything to that effect and have always been told “it’s just not possible.”
Well, I think 2020 showed us that working from home is a lot more possible for the majority of us than people were letting on…
So if you know that working from home would help with your mental health (like my anxiety used to be awful, awful, awful when I worked in an office) then definitely don’t forget that 2020 taught us we have that extra flexibility and still get our jobs done!
14 – People come before economies, efficiency and stuff like that.
Yes, it might well make economic sense not to save lives, but when it comes down to it what’s the point of a good economy if everyone you care for is gone…
And is that an economy you want to live in?
In my own country in the UK there was some criticisms that the quite extensive financial aid and emphasis on keeping infection rates as low as possible (by quarantining and closing places like the high streets and certain businesses) was destroying the economy…
Certainly I’m sure things could have been handled better, and certainly the economy is not in the bestest shape, BUT I would much rather live in a country and suffer the consequences of an economy in poor shape than live in a country where each human life isn’t valued above the state of the country’s finances.
That, I know, would NOT be good for anyone’s mental health.
15 – Black Lives Matter. Period.
Discrimination and judgment holds no place in a happy society.
While I have mainly focused on the impact of the pandemic in this post, the fact is that 2020 also shone a harsh but extremely necessary light on racism and how it is still impacting people of color everywhere.
In my white bubble of naivety I truly hadn’t realize racism was still the problem that it really is and I’m sorry for my ignorance. I’m still learning and educating myself on how I can help and am doing those things.
Like I said, discrimination holds no place in a happy society and the mental and physical health of people of color around the world is suffering due to this discrimination. Now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand, but instead we must do what we can to help change things.
16 – Collective trauma is a thing and us COVID survivors probably have it.
This is something I’ve only just started learning about but basically when a whole group of people go through something traumatic (and yes a global pandemic totally counts, as does racism, see number 15) they can experience collective trauma.
This is a good post that explains the basics (I’m not yet educated enough to explain it myself) but the bottom line is pleased don’t be upset with yourself or surprised if this whole COVID thing leaves your mental health not so happy.
That’s, unfortunately, normal and there is probably a whole load of us going through different but similar stuff.
17- Most of the time people don’t set out hurt you, they’re just trying to deal with stuff in their own life or they’re ignorant.
And always assuming one of those two options first, rather than that someone is out to get you, will make life a lot nicer.
18 – You’re allowed to not know or change your opinion when you learn new information.
Don’t stick to old beliefs for no reason.
You’re allowed to not know something.
You’re allowed to go away and research and learn and change your beliefs.
You’re allowed to grow as a person.
19 – Don’t shame people for changing their beliefs.
Just because someone used to believe that they could touch the sun and now has educated themselves and realize that was in fact impossible, doesn’t mean you can or should ridicule or shame them for their previous beliefs, no matter how silly, wrong or ridiculous they were.
It’s that kind of behaviour that makes people scared of not knowing or of being wrong.
And being scared of those two things stops people from growing.
So instead maybe just ask them more about what they’ve learned and have a nice converstation about the sun…
20 – If you can make something both fun and easy to do then you’re far more likely to do it…
2020 saw a lot of us lose motivation as we lost our routines and “normal” life.
But one thing (that I might have been saying all along) is that when something is fun, easy or BOTH you’re much more likely to do them.
And this is so relevant to mental health because self-care can be such a game changer, but self-care can also feel pretty boring and life a lot of hard work…
But if you can make it both fun and easy (like the kind of self-care I recommend) then its a whole lot simpler to do!