Is it over yet?
I think we can all agree that this year really stunk—from the cancelled vacations and events to wide-spread job loss, business closures, and lost lives; 2020 will go down in history as a disastrous year. To be completely honest, I have been intending to write this blog post of a number of weeks now, but have been feeling so discouraged by the garbage fire that has been this year that I have been putting it off. My family suffered a great loss this year, which the pandemic robbed us of the ability to grieve in the ways we would under ordinary circumstances; my OSRC team and I have had to make some quick and significant changes in order to ensure we can still continue helping our clients; and don’t even get me started on my inability to manage the demands of my son engaging in distance learning from home while my husband and I had to continue juggling the demands of our business and roles at work. I am sure the list could go on and am certain that others can relate with the same, or worse, struggles this year, but I will attempt to make some sense of all of this, and more importantly, what we can do about it with some psychology basics.
2020 sucked—embrace it: I can sit here all day and tell you to focus on the positives, which I will definitely do a few points down, but before one can become ready to do so, we must accept the fact that there was a lot of negativity and loss this year. Acceptance does not mean you have to like it. Acceptance is more about acknowledgement and moving forward. This is not only true in reference to this steaming pile of a year, but can be used in a number of difficult situations in life. The sooner we stop resisting it, the sooner we can begin to move forward with a problem-solving mindset.
Challenges make us stronger: It may not feel like it right now in the midst of this pandemic, but research has shown us that difficult life experiences help us to grow as humans, and develop new skills. In my work with parents, children, and families during this difficult time, I have learned that many people have the same concerns that I do—how will this impact my child/children? I could write an entire blog on this topic, but in short: they will be OK. The resilience of children is an amazing thing that has been displayed over and over again in developmental psychology research. For now, just do what you can to keep them (safely) social, emotionally supported, and feeling loved unconditionally.
It wasn’t all bad: Our brains engage in these crummy things called cognitive distortions. Specifically in the case of 2020, I feel that we collectively have chosen to subscribe to the narrative of how much this year sucks. Although many aspects of it did, if we keep thinking this, our brains will continue seeking evidence to support this notion, thus making the entire year look like trash. If, however, we make a conscious choice to find some good in this year, even if only minor, we will begin to see that perhaps it wasn’t as bad as we think. In doing this exercise myself, I have grown to appreciate the friends and family I haven’t seen all year that much more, and have really enjoyed being able to have the opportunity to spend time at home with my senior cats—I am sure other pet-owners can relate. While being in the house with the same two people all day, every day has been trying at times, I have also come to appreciate our ability to find new ways to have fun together, and create new memories (we’re lucky we all like each other!).
Find something to look forward to: This too shall pass; although we do not know when, things will not stay like this forever. Sadly, one of my favourite stores has gone out of business, and in browsing what was left, I found a beautiful shiny gold ball gown. Am I going to wear it this year? No. Next year? Maybe. In any event, it made me really look to the future, and the fact that fun is not cancelled indefinitely, and this 75% off gem will eventually be put to good use. When I am feeling bummed out about all the cancelled events and trips for this year, I think about my gold dress, and all of the fun things that are to come, eventually.
It is my sincere hope that this post has been of some use to someone out there. If we shift our thoughts even slightly towards the positive, we will soon see that 2020 is just a number on the calendar, and doesn’t have to have the power we have given it. Take a moment and reflect on what went well, you may be surprised at all you come up with.
Be safe, and happy holidays.