Thank you and goodbye 2020, I don’t think you will be missed much. I’m assuming that pretty much everyone agrees that we are more than done with this year and ready to see what 2021 has to offer. 🙂
Despite this year being weird/stressful/horrible/disappointing/insert any negative feeling here, I did experience lots of good things too. Wellbeing truly became the positive theme for this year. Time to do some reflection.
2019 was already a rough year. After the first six months I recovered from plantar plate tears in both of my feet when I was diagnosed with spontaneous Mal De Debarquement Syndrome in August 2019. This led to a whole new world of anxiety, and dealing with a condition that has no cure and has a heavy impact in my everyday life. Basically MDDS is a neurological disorder which leaves you feeling as if you are dizzy, swaying and in constant motion. It is a very fatiguing condition, and before you get diagnosed there are a number of more horrible suggestions on what could be wrong with you. I visited every specialist I could think of, had tests, scans and many, many moments of desperation. What the hell was wrong with me? I had panic attacks, I was exhausted, over stressed and super focused on all the things that seemed impossible for me to do. At first I couldn’t even read books, watch TV or look at my computer screen without feeling like I was falling and nauseous. Walking was difficult, sleeping was difficult, overall life became very difficult and I was just such a mess before I slowly started to accept that I might have to deal with this beast for a long time, perhaps forever. Realising that was the first step to move forward, and focus on the things that I could still do. It became really important to remind myself of the slow progress of re-adjusting my brains to walking, watching TV, reading, playing games etc. MDDS is still a daily factor in my life but it is now more manageable, and I just have to be mindful of not getting too tired or stressed which will cause the symptoms to flare up. What I didn’t know was that all of this misery would help me to cope quite well with the covid-19 pandemic.
I had about 9 months time to deal with all these negative feelings, and learn how to cope with (and despite) them before the covid-19 pandemic hit the world. So when everyone started to deal with something that causes high-stress, anxiety and worry, I had a “head-start” and noticed that I was coping surprisingly well mentally. I certainly wouldn’t say that I’m grateful for the experience the Mal De Debarquement syndrome has taught me, but I can admit that dealing with that helped me deal mentally with the covid-19 pandemic. And because I had to deal with a lot of self-analysing with my condition, I was already somewhat prepared to the emotions and reactions the pandemic would bring to me and the people around me. I think the whole experience with the syndrome has really helped me to coach others to focus on their mental and physical wellbeing at work. Of course I’d rather live without the syndrome, but if that’s not an option (no-one knows if this condition will ever go away), then I’m happy that at least it has given me some learnings of life which I can then share to others.
I’m not saying that the pandemic had no effect on me, quite the contrary, but I knew what to do when I started to recognise my own reactions to the global and local situation. I knew what works for my mental wellbeing, and I had an idea on how to work on my emotions and fears. I was used to talking to a psychologist so it was super easy for me to reach out for that help (and highly recommend it to others too). I had already had to deal with change and uncertainty with my condition, so I was prepared to do that with the pandemic too. For many this year might have been the first time experiencing real uncertainty, fear of change and risks to your health. I did my best to use everything I had learned along the way to cope through this year and share any advice, comfort and honest thoughts at work to help others with wellbeing concerns.
Funny thing is that when the pandemic started, it was suggested to me that I do short wellbeing themed videos to share on one of our Slack channel at work. It was super awkward at first (still feels a bit unnatural) but I received a lot of good feedback for putting myself out there, sharing my own experiences with honesty and revealing my own uncertainties, worries and concerns and giving my tips on how to move forward from those. Suddenly I was doing those videos weekly and it became an essential part of my work during this year. Finally there was time to really focus on everything related to wellbeing. If there is anything good 2020 brought us, I think the newly found appreciation over both mental and physical wellbeing matters is it.
Did I enjoy 2020? Nope, can’t really say that. Am I grateful for the positive effects this year has presented to me? Definitely. Good stuff from this year:
- Remote work – This really helped me deal with my syndrome because I was able to have more control over the hecticness of my days (in an office environment it can be really overwhelmingly hectic which causes fatigue and stress and it worsens my condition). I was also finally able to have real breaks like reading a book outside for 15 mins or going for a short walk. At the office I’m usually in work-mode during my breaks too, so they don’t really offer real pause from work. With remote work I’m able to recover better from work days and have more energy and better sleep quality. ❤
- Cozy time at home – We are introverts, my husband and me, and we really did not mind staying home and having just more time to enjoy our home life when our calendars were emptied. I don’t think there will be another calm year like this when the pandemic is over, so we tried to make the best of it and enjoy being able to have a less hectic year. And of course it has been so great to spend so much time together, it’s been a bonding experience for sure ❤
- Less focus on unnecessary things – For many I think this year has really shown what really matters and what has been unnecessary in our lives. Whether it’s cooled off friendships, unhealthy habits etc., I think this year has brought focus back to our core values. What is important to me? Am I living the life I want to live? Is there something unnecessary dragging me down in life?
- Wellbeing focus – As said before, this year boosted focus on wellbeing and all of its aspects. Exercising at home, going outside for regular walks, eating in a healthy home cooked meals, getting enough sleep, limiting your exposure on unnecessary rumors and news flows, reflecting on how am I really doing and reaching out for professional help etc. All of these have always been such important matters, so it’s a shame that it took a pandemic to shake people to really pay attention to these wellbeing matters (if they didn’t before).
- More time – Somewhat related to wellbeing, but I wanted to mention the gift of time as a bonus. More time for old and new hobbies, more time at home, more time with my husband, more time for my wellbeing. Time is truly one of the greatest gifts since time is such a limited resource usually. I still can’t believe I won NaNoWriMo this year (never happened before) and read 72 books, knitted so many socks and headbands, did old school puzzles, enjoyed cooking, played games, organised cupboards, recycled old clothes etc. This year was productive in many new ways. 🙂
Yes this year was difficult but as I keep saying at work: don’t let this year be for nothing. Reflect and learn what happened to you this year. How did you change? What went well or didn’t go well? How could you improve the way you deal with difficult situations? How can this year prepare you for the next challenge life throws at you? This year was unusual, sure, but it likely won’t be the last challenge you deal with. Don’t let this year be all about what it has taken away from you. What can you take from this year to help you prepare for all the years that are still to come?
Personally I hope that I can keep some of the calmness this year has brought to us. I value my time and wellbeing even more, and will continue to make those my priorities also after the pandemic is over.
Happy New Year and may it be a better one for all of us!