We’re not going to lie: It’s been a little hard to find the silver lining at times this past year.
With so much stress, loss, and pain at the forefront of our minds, it sometimes feels like we’re in a constant waiting game, counting down the minutes until our “normal” lives are back. But after a year like this, there’s no going back to normal because we’ve all been changed forever in one way or another. We’ve lived 12 years in the past 12 months, and we’ve grown in the process — and that is a silver lining to be proud of!
So we decided the best way to acknowledge and appreciate the growth we’ve experienced is by taking a second to reflect on this past year and find the positives that were woven through each day.
To see the good that has come from these hard times, we adopted a lens of learning and growing, and it empowered us to do just that! Here are nine important lessons we’ve learned in the midst of COVID-19.
1. Family is nonnegotiable.
For many of us, this year brought with it quality family time that we never expected and, honestly, might never have had otherwise. It’s reminded us just how much family matters. And I don’t just mean blood relatives, I mean chosen family, too.
We were encouraged to take a step out of the craziness of our former lives and deeply invest in those relationships again, whether it was face-to-face or not.
We’ve had the opportunity to not just catch up on life, but to also spend priceless time with our loved ones, asking personal questions, being there for the important moments, leaning on each other for support, and growing together. As a result, we remembered just how much we need each other!
2. Prioritize health and wellness.
When the pandemic first began, the world started paying attention to health, wellness, and hygiene like never before. We realized just how effective our handwashing wasn’t, how much we shouldn’t be touching our faces, and the beauty of both modern and natural medicine. These are all crucial practices and levels of care that will hopefully stick with us in the future.
Not only that, but without the usual benefits of daily activity, in-person workouts, and restaurant dining, a microscope was placed on just how willing we were to maintain our wellness all on our own.
With the pandemic came a myriad of free cooking and workout classes on social media and a realization that, particularly when we’re stuck inside, our bodies really do need nutrients and activity to survive.
3. We can get by on less. Much less.
The road to discovering how little we need was paved with uncertainty. With the overwhelming job loss that came with the pandemic, people had to learn how to pinch pennies, clip coupons, and trim excess like never before.
Even for those who kept their jobs, without indoor dining, salons, gyms, and a wealth of other standard social activities, saving money actually became easier to do. Even though we’ll all be lining the doors when things are back to normal, we realized in the process that we actually can live on a lot less and still be content.
4. Build that nest egg.
In addition to pinching those pennies, we learned the endless value of having a rainy day fund — or more appropriately, an emergency fund. An emergency fund is one that is set aside for the most essential of needs, including rent, medical expenses, childcare, and food.
As we’ve all heard over and over again, these are unprecedented times. The nature of unprecedented times is that we don’t see them coming, so we don’t plan for them.
If this year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of setting aside a little extra money and leaving it there until the day comes when we might need it.
5. Slow down.
We’ve realized that not only is it OK to slow down, but it’s actually essential.
When the pandemic hit, it was as if the whole world was running on overdrive and then, all at once, it crashed. We allowed it to get this way because we have a tendency to align our worth with our busyness. But luckily, this past year has shown us just how unbalanced that meter is.
There are a few key points to remember moving forward. First of all, self-care is not self-indulgent; it’s one way that we keep ourselves healthy, both physically and mentally. Second, slowing down is what helps us truly live in the present and find contentment in our circumstances.
6. We should be talking about mental health.
One of the best silver linings of this year is that we learned just how valuable mental health is. Studies show that ever since the pandemic hit, close to 40 percent of Americans now suffer from anxiety and depression. The causes are endless: financial stress, difficult home lives, boredom, loss, fear, and, perhaps the heaviest of all, loneliness.
These universal mental health issues truly are a “second wave” of this global crisis, and the greatest benefit has been the light shed on their gravity.
People are being more vocal than ever about the importance of honesty and vulnerability when it comes to our mental health, just like we would a physical ailment. By doing so, we can get the love and support we need.
7. Our thoughts on people have changed.
The more closed off we’ve had to become socially and the more we’ve noticed the deep need around us, the more we’ve realized whom we consider to be truly essential.
In our own lives, we’ve learned which friends we want close to us in times of trouble — and maybe even some relationships we’ve been needing freedom from.
In our communities, we’ve finally realized the overwhelming value of our essential workers: in health care, education, food service, and the most underappreciated segments of our workforce. May we never forget how brave and resilient they have been for all of us these past 12 months.
8. Becoming comfortable with uncertainty.
“The one thing that’s certain about this current crisis is the massive amount of uncertainty,” Paul Knopp, U.S. Chair and CEO of KPMG LLP, told Accounting Today. “In order to succeed, you must execute on the activities and behaviors that are within your control.”
We have definitely learned flexibility this year. From working and schooling from home, to rerouting our careers, to finding new ways to stay connected, to moving back in with our parents, our flexibility has been award-winning and record-breaking.
A benefit of this growing pain is that it’s made us more comfortable with uncertainty. There’s so much about the future that we can’t possibly know or predict right now, so ultimately all we can do is be OK with it — and choose to find the wonder and joy in our present circumstances.
9. We are deeply resilient.
We are capable of so much more than we ever knew. This year has been rife with chaos, unrest, injustice, loss, and pain — but we’ve survived. We’re still standing. Even in the darkest time, we’ve been able to look outside ourselves and pull through for those in need in remarkable ways. It’s helped us realize the stuff we’re made of.
More than that, we’ve done it together. We’ve all been in isolation together, and we’ve survived together. It’s reminded us that at the end of the day, we are all just human beings, and we need each other.
And now we know with certainty that we can handle anything!
After the levels of stress we’ve lived through this past year, the best we can do is make sure it wasn’t for nothing. We can search for the good, continue to grow, and allow our circumstances to change us for the better. Only then will we continue to come out on the other side stronger, more resilient, more compassionate, and more hopeful than ever!
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