To say that 2020 has been a stressful year would be an understatement. A global pandemic, struggling economies, political and social unrest, climate crises, forced isolation - each of these has impacted our everyday realities and in many cases, our mental health. Some of us have been able to weather these challenges fairly well. We have maintained connections with family, friends and community. We have held on to jobs and adapted to new ways of doing them. We have become inventive and creative in pivoting into new ways of being. We have abandoned our dependence on cars and taken to walking and biking, improving our mood and clearing our skies. We have pressed pause on our daily scramble and have had time to hear, think, reflect and understand issues that we may not have paid as much attention to before.
But some of us have suffered greatly. Threatened with or actually experiencing loss of work, health, connection, it has been difficult to maintain a sense of optimism and hope. Some of us have become angry, depressed and anxious. Not knowing what lies ahead and feeling that we have little to no control over our lives, we feel unbalanced, in limbo and scared. For those with a history of trauma, these feelings have triggered an even more profound sense of doom.
When feeling threatened, we may attempt to fight it, flee from it or become frozen. In the short-term, these responses may have helped us survive what life has thrown at us, but when the threat becomes more long-term, these stress responses can become maladaptive behaviours that are not only unhealthy, but also hamper our ability to recover from current and future threats.
Now as we are about to enter the winter months ahead, we may be feeling particularly low on resources, worried about how we will survive the dark, cold days ahead. Now more than ever, it is important to move away from the negative thoughts and feelings in favour of self-care and self-compassion. Many of us may be very good at showing care and compassion for others, but may not be as generous with ourselves. But now it is vital, particularly for those of us who live alone, to take care of ourselves and treat ourselves well.
Self-care means having a stocked fridge and remembering to eat; sleeping at regular hours, and fitting in some form of movement or exercise every day. For some, self-care may mean remembering to bathe regularly, or creating an environment that is clean and safe. Self-compassion is treating yourself with kindness and respect and accepting that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes, that it’s okay not to be or do everything for everybody and that it’s equally okay to reach out and ask for help.
In this holiday season of 2020, I wish us self-care and self-compassion. I hope that the lessons that we have learned this year will not be lost in the next and that we can look forward to a better and happier future and world next year.
P.S. A local hospital, here in Toronto, has developed some coping strategies to deal with the effects that the pandemic may be having on you. I attach it here for your information.