I can’t believe we are in the home stretch of 2020! Only a couple more weeks! While I know we’re all in a hurry for this year to be over, the reality is that the first few months of 2021 are going to be transition months, too. The Pandemic isn’t going to be over when the clock strikes midnight, and our lives aren’t magically just going to go back to normal. But that’s okay!
I have been reflecting on a lot of the things that have really helped me get through this wild ride, and all the lessons this year has taught me. I wanted to share a handful of them in hopes they help you too over the next couple of months as we (thankfully!) work toward having “normal life” back on the horizon!
7 Life Lessons That Really Helped Me in 2020
The importance of finding an offline, no-screen hobby:
This has been so huge for me. Before the pandemic, I didn’t really have any “hobbies” other than travel. Or skills that had to do with work, like photography. (When in reality, I don’t go around shooting photos as a way to “de-stress” so I don’t think that should have ever really counted.)
I have always wanted to play an instrument–ever since I was little. I have basically been singing since I could walk, but I never learned how to play an instrument. With the forced slow-down of 2020, I realized how much I really missed music, and decided that now was the time to learn! I had learned the Ukulele was one of the easiest instruments to pick up, so I just bought one, and taught myself how to play by watching YouTube, and I can’t tell you how much joy it has brought me!
I think the fact that it is JUST for me, JUST for fun, and perhaps best of all–a totally “offline” hobby that has nothing to do with work, is perhaps the most rewarding.
So whether it’s picking up a musical instrument, starting to learn how to paint, knit, woodworking, photography–literally anything–whatever you have always been interested in, but maybe never had the time to go for–DO IT! (Tip: Also, consider buying used if your hobby requires equipment–it will be more affordable that way!)
The importance of investing in myself:
On that note, kind of related–but different–I have also always wanted to take French lessons, but never got around to doing it. This was also something I invested in in 2020, and it’s been another life lesson in the importance of investing in yourself. Better yet, the importance of investing in yourself outside of work. It was the first time (aside from travel) I have ever really “invested” in an activity that wasn’t directly correlated to work! The first time I’ve treated myself to “self-improvement just for me.”
I realize this is absolutely a priviledge that not all of us have right now, but if you do have the extra funds, and there is a skill you’ve always wanted to learn, or an area you’ve wanted to improve (from language, to a personal trainer, becoming a better cook or baker, or hiring a coach of any kind–whatever!) and you have the funds to put toward it–just go for it! I never knew how rewarding it would be! Don’t feel selfish for spending it on yourself. It’s an ROI that is priceless.
Another idea: If money is tight right now, propose a trade! Do you have services or hours that you can offer in exchange? I bet you do! This system works great, and there is money involved!
Lean into things and services that make life easier!
We need ALL the help we can get this year, and prioritizing the things that make life easier has never been more essential–whether that’s leaning into delivery services, a meal service, help with childcare, a nice vacuum that makes cleaning 1000x easier, or investing in say, a Peloton, or other workout subscription that working out easier or more enjoyable–whatever it is, whatever your pain points are, there are almost always things that can help alleviate them if you look. There is NO SHAME in raising your hand for some help or investing in something that makes your life easier! In fact–let’s make a point to do it as often as possible.
For example, one such thing I can speak to in our lives is Blue Apron. Let me tell you, having them during this time has been an absolute godsend. I truly love cooking–but planning grocery store trips and meals is often a source of stress for me when I have a lot of other things on my plate, and it’s been so nice to get their meals a couple times per week to alleviate a lot of that pressure. It also has brought a lot of joy back into the kitchen for us and gotten us out of our “same 5 recipes over and over” rut. It’s a little change that simplified a huge pain point, and it has made a huge difference.
Note, they are a blog sponsor, but as you know, I don’t take that lightly and I only promote companies I 110% love and believe in. Right now you can also get $60 off your first 3 boxes just for being a GG reader! You can read my Blue Apron review and FAQ blog post right over here for more details!
Cutting yourself some slack does NOT mean you’re a slacker:
A little related to the above! For me, 2020 has been the year of cutting myself slack. Turns out it’s really hard to keep up with the same lofty goals you had pre-pandemic, and that’s okay. Sometimes I’m just not having a good day and I don’t feel like posting. In 2019, that would have been a VERY big deal. Now. I realize it’s actually not that big of a deal at all. What’s the worst that’s going to happen!?
Sometimes I’m absolutely exhausted and, so I let myself take a nap. A lot of times it’s just saying “no” to something I would normally feel pressured to say yes to, but I know it’s going to emotionally drain me, so I turn it down.
I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve learned that cutting yourself slack is not a bad habit at all. It’s actually a really good habit. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy, it means that you value yourself and sometimes you know you need a break.
Actively practice gratitude and positivity:
I shared this blog post with my “positive mindset trick” back at the beginning of the pandemic, and it has VERY much proved to be as essential as it has always been throughout my life. Getting through these times is challenging, but having a positive attitude is very much an everyday practice––it’s a muscle. The more you use it, the easier it gets, and the better you’ll feel. (Don’t get me wrong, there are days when this is hard for me to do, and there are times I let myself wallow a little, but it’s something I am always actively working on.)
A great way to practice gratitude every day is the 5 Minute Journal. Neal and I both have them on our bedside tables–they’re wonderful, and really do make a difference in your mental outlook!
How impactful my own small actions can be:
One really beautiful thing that has come out of 2020 is the assurance that we can make really, really good things happen when we work together. This year has taught me that my own little individual actions can add up to a really big impact. I don’t think I realized how much impact we all have as individuals before–and I’m not just talking about in a political sense–like voting, phone banking, etc. I’m talking about giving back, helping out neighbors, your community, going out of your way to keep small businesses alive, supporting more BPIOC owned businesses, helping a stranger, generously giving out compliments, wearing a mask, spreading positivity–just genuinely putting good into the world.
Selfishly, this has also improved my own well-being and made me a happier person! We are happier as humans when we are able to help others, however big or small–but leading our usual busy lives, we don’t often stop to realize the impact that we can make on a daily basis or go out of our way to seek out those opportunities.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort, time, or money to make a difference in the lives of others, and 2020 has left me looking for a lot more opportunities and ways to do just that, and for that, I’m very grateful.
Never underestimate the power of a long walk:
This one is so important for me. There are days in the winter when I will go DAYS without being outside, and that is not good for my mental state. I always feel leaps and bounds better when I make a point to get out of the house for a long walk. Let’s be honest, I am not particularly motivated to work out right now (especially by myself, with no classes to go to) and this is a form of exercise I can look forward to!
Anytime you’re feeling in a rut, I highly recommend *scheduling* your walks. Make them happen at the same time every day–rain or shine–you’ll feel so much better! If you can, consider walking (socially distanced) with a friend! We have so few opportunities to socialize these days, and a walk with a friend is enough to turn your whole week around!
The only sure plan is to not have one:
Alright, if you know me, you’re saying, “this is easy for you to say, Jess!”
I’ve never been one to have a “5 year plan” or any kind of long term plan at all. (Aside from financial planning, of course. That’s very important!) Being a “planner” is just not my personality. (I like to focus on being happy in the present because I think that’s all that really matters. And I’ve learned how little in life I can actually control.)
I’m not saying this trait is ALWAYS a good trait to have. It drives all the type A people in my life crazy. 😂 But this year, I think my “lack of pressure about how life is supposed to go” has really saved me. This is especially apparent when talking to my friends who are long term planners. And seem to be having a really hard time. (Rightfully so!)
If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 32 years, it’s that you really can’t plan for most things. But especially in a pandemic! Sometimes the best plan is to have no plan. Do what you can to set yourself up for the future. Control what you can control, and forget about the rest. Resisting things that are out of your control will just lead to friction in all other areas of your life–so go with the flow! I think 2020 has sharpened all of our “rolling with the punches” skills! I know we’ll be thankful for them later. 😉