So we have all seen 2020 end (and I do not think many of us were sad to see the year end) and 2021 has started with some unexpected surprises as we continue to adjust to the “new normal” without a specific end date in sight.
An important tool that we all may need to identify and embrace as we move forward in 2021 is a “Recovery” tool. Recovery is defined as “the return of something that has been lost, stolen” or “the act or process of becoming healthy after an illness or injury”. While each of us lost different pieces of our regular lives prior to March 2020, the impact of the loss/losses (e.g., friend or family member, job, social contact, routine of dropping off kids, spontaneously leaving the house to do a chore) has hit each of us differently and each person had to learn to take the next step to wake up or just finish the day we were living.
As 2021 opens up and we are looking ahead to upcoming changes (e.g., vaccinations arriving in each state, schools re-opening in a hybrid model), there are a few self-care action steps we can compete now that will help us reset for the year and process the grief from 2020.
- Acknowledge your feelings of grief from 2020/COVID pandemic.
It is important to give the experience of the loss you felt this past year its place and time which will allow you to process the grief and the space to appreciate that loss without comparing it to someone else.
Initially many people minimized the loss or saw the changes as temporary, but as the days and weeks went by and there was no end date, we all had to adjust to a new reality of the changes in our communities, businesses and schools closing, working from home or not having a job among other losses and change. While it has taken our minds time to adjust, the adjustment period for many people was delayed because there was no end or way to plan for the unknown.
RECOVERY Self-Care Step – As much as we have all walked through these experiences, one of the first steps we can do now to start our recovery process and gain some of what we have lost is to acknowledge those losses, no matter how big or small, in a way that you can see them rather than just saying them (e.g., writing them in a list). After you have made that list or documented the loss, you can engage in an action that allows for the release of those losses such as tearing up that page.
- Since you had to process so many feelings that were uncomfortable, extremely emotional and likely challenged many of your beliefs, anger tends to be the first emotion released related to the loss you experienced and may continue experiencing. While releasing the anger is important, the way in which you did so may have left you feeling isolated in your experience and may have been perceived by others as a distancing action rather than gaining you access to comfort, connection, and reassurance to replenish you.
RECOVERY Self-Care Step – Identify a way that you can express these feelings that will serve as a release and is productive for you (e.g., getting outside and walking or running), and then schedule time in your week so you can be sure to have access to this release valve in your week before there is an explosion of these feelings.
Although we do not have any hard or fixed dates when vaccinations will reach of us, when our kids will be in school, when our jobs will return, and/or when we can spontaneously hug our family and friends, a step toward your personal and emotional recovery can be to work within the pieces of your world that you do control.
- Take a few minutes and walk away from the screen and think about what you do control in your life right now and write that down so you can see it and appreciate that corner of your world.
- Identify alternative activities you can do that will be a source of replenishing energy for you. Be sure to be open to new activities and ways to gain the energy – you may be creating a new way to get that same need met that you would not have considered before COVID.
- Remember you are not alone!
- While we may not return to exactly what our lives looked like before COVID, we can create an alternative that still meets our needs one step at a time and remember – there are multiple ways to get there, not just one – that is recovery one step at a time.