5 Lessons From An Extraordinary Year

Warning: objects in mirror are closer than they appear (i.e. We are still in 2020, yet mentally we have left it far, far behind)

How do we reflect on this very strange year? We definitely won’t be using the words: ‘unprecedented’ ‘uncertain’, ‘new normal’ ‘trying times’ and ‘speaking moistly’.

It’s almost overwhelming to zoom out and realize how much we have gone through, and how much we have survived. If you have ever wished your life was like a movie, 2020 granted that wish.

Remember March? Of THIS year? It feels like a different lifetime altogether.

Here is an accurate depiction of the passage of time in the year 2020 AD:

This year messed with more than our sense of time and ability to identify what day it is.

COVID amplified the existing inequities in our society and introduced new ones. Many of us faced increased anxiety, depression, and extended periods of loneliness. Zoom became a lifeline for work and socializing, and daily walks our solace.

We experienced a long overdue racial reckoning and organized meticulously in our communities to fight for justice and systemic change.

Moreover, we accepted a hard toll on our mental health to keep everyone safe. North America is an individualistic society, meaning that the priority is often the individual over the entire group. Yet in order to flatten the curve (remember this?), we had to flip this script and think of the greater good. In other words, we prioritized the needs of the group and especially its vulnerable members over our own needs.

For some of us, 2020 was a breakthrough year on a personal level. It’s important to hold space for these accomplishments as well!

Most of us were forced to slow down and reflect on our lives. Now, this wasn’t necessarily an easy process. Our thoughts and feelings can feel like a very unsafe place when we are not used to reflecting on them, or being alone with them.

This is where we (i.e. therapists) came in!

Therapy During A Global Pandemic

Being a therapist in 2020 was (is) HARD.

Like everyone else, therapists were dealing with their own mental health, complex relationship and family dynamics, and financial issues. We were managing all this while simultaneously supporting our clients through their struggles.

On some days, this looked like showing up with a smile while feeling like absolute garbage on the inside. On others, we drew SO MUCH strength from our clients. Overall, like most things that are worthwhile, it was a tough path but one we are glad we stayed on.

If you are a therapist, we want to wrap you up in the BIGGEST virtual hug. We see you! Thank you. Truly. Therapists needed a therapist too, especially this year!

It wasn’t easy, but your work added hope and value to your client’s lives. You deserve to rest, to do nothing for a few days, and to have as much of your favourite food as you can possibly eat without getting completely sick of it.

Now, I know we are eager to let 2020 eat our dust.

Before we do that, let’s take a few minutes and summarize what this strange and unique year has taught us. There are lessons in everything, even with the cascade of emotions, vulnerability, and both welcome and unwelcome change that was the year two-thousand-and-twenty.

5 Things We Learned In 2020

In case you are already rolling your eyes, we are not only looking for the silver lining here! This is a no toxic positivity zone.

Read on to find out more 🙂

1. Space And Shelter Are Absolutely Sacred

Confined to our homes, we discovered the true value of space.

Space and shelter are sacred. They foster safety. They anchor us in this world. We need space to think, feel, create, pray, and celebrate. We also need space to be alone- to reflect, to cry, to soothe ourselves.

This includes green space! This year we discovered the importance of being in nature. Daily walks and hikes became a refuge from scrolling through increasingly alarming news.

The vital position community spaces hold in our lives became more apparent than ever. This includes the library, recreation centre, malls, community centres, and drop-in programs. This year, we felt their absence and recognized the safety and refuge they provide entire communities. We are unlikely to take community spaces for granted again!

Space and shelter have always been sacred, yet not all of us have equal or even fair access to them. We organized and protested against evictions, and advocated for those facing chronic and relentless housing insecurity.

Most of us are leaving 2020 appreciating the spaces we occupy more than ever.

2. The Arts (And Artists) Are Essential

The films and shows we watched, the stand-up comedy that gave us a much-needed belly laugh, the music that became the soundtrack to our quarantine, and the art we purchased to bring life to the rooms we were now spending so much time in. All of it was completely essential.

Young people are often discouraged to pursue creative careers. We hope that people never forget that when everything was falling apart, we turned to art.

3. There Is More To Life Than Being Productive

At the beginning of our first lockdown, many of us were perplexed at how difficult it was to be productive. We were hard on ourselves about this. Despite wanting to work and feeling the urgency to meet deadlines, we found ourselves overwhelmed, easily distracted, and unmotivated.

Eventually, we learned to stop putting pressure on ourselves to be productive during a global pandemic and acknowledge the reality of our situation, rather than pushing on as it nothing was happening. We understood that good work does not occur in a vacuum- we are not robots, we are people. And if we are not well, this will show in our work.

Even more importantly, we finally began to understand that our self-worth is not tied to our productivity. We are more than a measure of performance. We deserve breaks and reasonable expectations and accommodations. And with this collective realization, the world of work will never the same.

Now, let’s take this energy all the way into 2021!

4. Mental Health Is Health

This year, we finally faced ourselves.

We realized the intimate connection between our mental health and overall health. Mental health became a central issue this year. We saw a widespread breakdown of stigma and reduction in unhelpful rhetoric around mental health issues.

For some of us, we did it unwillingly. Without the usual fast pace of life and endless distractions, we had to look inwards. It’s important to acknowledge how difficult this is. If you continue to struggle with higher levels of anxiety and depression this year, please know that you are not alone.

Such a wave of increasing mental health needs made services affordable and accessible for many people this year. However, therapy continues to be a far-fetched option for far too many people.

5. We Need Each Other

In the words of a hilarious TikTok video we saw a few months ago: “The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it”.

Hi, we still need each other!

Without the majority of us cooperating and making personal sacrifices, we would not be here today. Declining an offer to gather at someone’s home because you considered the well being of an elderly person in the community was an act of service that had, and will continue to have, a monumental impact.

Supporting local businesses, eating takeout from the family restaurant down the street, buying groceries for your neighbour, checking in on each other- we learned this year how important and irreplaceable we are to each other.

This year has taught us that as individualistic as our culture may be, we need each other to not only survive but to thrive.

Wrapping Up

We can’t leave without wishing you and your dearest ones a happy new year!

We hope and pray that the coming months bring you ease, comfort, and delight. That your wounds heal, and your heart finds peace. We hope that you find the right opportunities to ease financial worries, and repair strained relationships.

We offer prayers for all those who have lost their loved ones this year. May their journey home be a soft and peaceful one, and may their memories be a healing balm for the broken hearts of those who loved them.

We are always here for you, WellNest family. It has been almost a year since we launched this blog and your support and engagement means the world to us.

We are so incredibly grateful to you and for you! 💛💛💛

Happy New Year! See you in 2021.

Sarah Ahmed, Zainib Abdullah, and Hala Shamsi

WellNest Psychotherapy Services

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