Many of us had big plans for 2020, a new decade, a fresh start, big goals, but before many of these things could come to fruition, COVID-19 turned a lot of our lives upside down. Whether it was the stay at home orders, mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, losing our jobs, or all of the above, this wasn’t what any of us had in mind for this year. As humans, change can be extremely stressful for us since we find comfort in what is familiar. Even just one change like a job loss is enough to send us into a tailspin, so the fact that so many changes happened all at once, it makes complete sense why a lot of people’s already frail mental health is in the toilet. For example, take me a week before the country shut down; I ended my 4-year long relationship. I was going to stay in our apartment and have all my bills double for a few months until I could move in with a friend, but of course, when the state shut down, my hospitality jobs were the first to go. I was coming off slow season, so my savings account was already low, and my stress and anxiety were at all-time highs. I was panicking.
Up until this point in my life, I’d never experienced an anxiety attack. Still, I’m pretty sure once other companies in my industry began to lay off all of their employees, my anxiety and heart were racing. My thoughts and mind were scrambled. How was I going to do this? I decided I needed to meditate. Meditation was a skill I wanted to acquire in 2020, and I knew this was a perfect moment to start. I pulled up the first promising guided meditation on YouTube, sat on the floor of my living room, and started to take deep breathes. Ten minutes later, I felt relieved. Nothing about my situation had changed. I still was in the dark on so much of what was going to happen, but I’d found this sense of calm within myself, acceptance that millions of people are experiencing the same thing, and I cannot let the fear of the unknown consume me.
I had to rise from the panic and chaos and have faith that everything will be alright. Right now, I was still employed, I still had a place to live and food to eat, I have a family who loves and supports me who I could always lean on if I needed it. Even though I didn’t have health insurance, I still had my health. I reminded myself that my anxiety was coming from me, not knowing how to pay future bills that weren’t due and worrying about a potential job loss that I had literally no control over. Many people let themselves get worked up about situations they can't control. This is a waste of time. Me worrying about losing my job won’t stop it from happening. In fact, all it would do is prolong my suffering. I accepted that I have no control over what’s happening in the world at this moment. I have no control over this virus or the world shutting down. I have no control over if I lose my jobs and can’t afford my bills. The only thing I can control is my mindset and how I handle it. So that’s what I did. I took control of myself and my mind. I told myself that I would take this situation day by day and have gratitude for my blessings, and be optimistic that everything else will find a way to work itself out. Shockingly it did.
Our government did at least one thing right and passed an extra $600 per week for those on unemployment. This was enough to cover my bills even though they were doubling with my ex moving out. I was able to defer my private student loans for a few months, and our government automatically deferred my federal loans. I could finally take a breath; I knew I was at least going to be alright until July. That was perfect timing since I planned on moving in with a few friends, and my finances would decrease significantly. While none of this was ideal, and many of us would have still preferred life to go on as normal, it’s all about perspective. I could sit here and complain about how hard and difficult my life is and how it isn’t fair (life’s never been fair regardless), or I could take responsibility for the way I viewed this and turn it into a positive. This year wasn’t the outbreak money year I had thought it would be. I wasn’t going to get engaged like many people thought I would or go to Thailand for a month in December. Instead, this was a year of trial and tribulation, a year of seeing what I’m made of. When life gave me lemons, did I make lemonade or throw my lemons out the window and feel sorry for myself.
That is the thing about the victim mindset. It doesn’t matter how many lifelines that person has, how many blessings or opportunities. They only see and focus on the negative. They do not appreciate all they have because they are too busy focusing on what they lost or how things could be better. I could have sat at home these past few months crying and feeling bad for myself, think about all the money I was supposed to make and how COVID took that from me, I could focus on how much I miss my old apartment and lifestyle, or I can make the best of what I have now. You have to take control over the way you view your life and handle stressful situations. This whole year I thought I would be super prosperous and pay off significant amounts of debt, and instead, it has been a difficult year of cutting expenses and trying to stay afloat. It is not ideal, and it does suck, but I’m aware that it’s when we struggle, we learn and grow the most. I know that this is just temporary and it won't last forever. I do believe I will be prosperous financially in the future and that this is only a setback.
This way of thinking didn’t always come naturally to me, it took time and practice. I’m going to list some techniques that can help change and alter your mindset when you feel the negativity taking control of your mind.
Meditation- this is such a great tool to have under your belt when you’re stressed and going through a difficult time. It’s said that, on average, we have around 70,000 thoughts in a day. When times are tough, it’s easy for many of those thoughts to be anxious ones. It’s easy for those thoughts to repeat themselves, keeping you in a negative feedback loop of your own making. When things are going wrong in our lives, it's easy to be hard on ourselves, to think that maybe if we had done better, we would never be in this situation to begin with. While accountability is important, we need to learn to be gracious with ourselves. We’re all human. We need to forgive our past failures, and focus on what we can do now, not dwell on what we should have done in the past. Like the saying from one of my favorite books, “your past is a place to be learned from, not a home to be lived in.” Meditation is a fantastic way to bring yourself into the present moment. It teaches you to calm your mind and focus solely on your breath, and releasing the tension in your body. It teaches you to be aware of where your thoughts are wandering without judgment and then to focus on trying to clear your mind again. This is an amazing way to get your body back to homeostasis and neutrality.
Gratitude- Often, we focus on what we don’t have and forget all that we do. When you feel yourself focusing on lack and loss, make it a point to list 5 things you are grateful for. I’m a true believer in the law of attraction, and when you focus on the negative, you attract that into your life. When you stay positive and focus on the abundance, you attract that instead. Life is all about perspective and mindset. Pay attention to your thoughts. There are likely many people out there who have it far worse or harder than you. Many of us have so many blessings we take for granted, like our health, homes, families, friends and careers.
Accountability- “if it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim” – Richard Bach
It’s ea Forgive the people who have wronged you. Holding onto resentment, anger, betrayal is just extra emotional baggage you choose to hold on to. I once read that hate is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. So if in your mind, the other person doesn’t deserve to be “forgiven,” then forgive for yourself because until you do, that person still has control over you. My ex never understood why when peTake responsibility for the way you handle your life and your problems. We all go through trials and tribulations, but if you constantly behave in a way that goes against your needs, you'll continue to feel melancholy. Don't spend time around people who make you feel insecure, don't stay working at a job that makes you miserable, or linger in a marriage that you’ve been unsatisfied in for years because you're just making life harder on yourself. We all have options in life, not saying that they are easy, but if you continue to make the same decisions over and over again, it’s not a mistake; it’s a choice. You are choosing unhappiness. Figure out what needs to change in your life to feel happy and then pursue those things.
Forgive- Forgive the people who have wronged you. Holding onto resentment, anger, betrayal is just extra emotional baggage you choose to hold on to. I once read that hate is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. So if in your mind, the other person doesn’t deserve to be “forgiven,” then forgive for yourself because until you do, that person still has control over you. My ex never understood why when people from my past come around, I give them the time of day. I’ve always said “I forgive everyone, I don’t hold bitterness in my heart, it only weighs me down” now that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily let those people close to me again, I just don’t hold onto the past
At the end of the day, 2020 was rough for all of us, some more than others. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t value and lessons we can take from it. Don’t let this difficult time make you into a victim. Remember that this too shall pass, and you’ll come out stronger at the other end. However, let’s hope 2021 is way better. I’m optimistic it will be.