Looking ahead …

Ten weeks from now, we will have celebrated the end of 2020 and welcomed the arrival of 2021. Some of us will look at that last page and mark an X across Dec. 31. Goodbye and good riddance to the Year of the Plague.

Image shows a white rectangle on which is printed the calendar page for January 2020. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.

And yet…

I almost always start looking at the first quarter of the new year around this time. New Year’s is preceded by a number of holidays with the result that, unless you are in retail, pretty much everything starts slowing down mid month.

I figure I have eight weeks between Halloween and mid-December to finish up my year and start thinking about what’s coming on the work front, the home front, and the weather front.

I live in Newfoundland and Labrador so it’s not unusual for me to have five coats for six different kinds of weather and an almost equivalent number of boots. Rain boots, almost hip deep snow boots, walking on icy surfaces boots, shoeboots for dry, hard snow days, and sneaker boots for running to and from the car.

I realized in this plague year, I will need just as many metaphorical boots with which to stomp through whatever surprises 2021 chooses to fling at us. Perhaps rather than boots, what we need are mental shields to support our steadfast resilience, to deflect the metaphysical blows winter and the constantly evolving pandemic can bring, and to mirror good things like kindness, community building and love.

Image shows small grey Lego figure holding a shield against a descending sneaker heel. Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

While I might be more than ready to give 2020 the boot, I know these five things will matter more than ever.

I take time for myself and my priorities. I was discussing a work project with a colleague and they mentioned wanting it wrapped up by Dec. 31. I asked how wedded they were to that date. They said they could be flexible and suggested mid January. In past years, I would have worked myself ragged to get everything done by the 20th. This year I want to be sure I have the time I need to enjoy the holidays and the space to spend time with people in my bubble.

I make time to connect. In seven months, we’ve spent a lot of time apart because keeping to our bubble meant we kept the community safe. But being apart doesn’t mean we are out of touch. I’ve had my share of frustrations with social media and the Internet, but it has made it easier to keep in touch with and on top of what’s happening with others. Keeping those threads strong and tightly woven means feeling less alone, less untethered as we are buffeted by the things we cannot control.

I make time to notice what is around me. I hadn’t realized how important this was until I read this article earlier in the week. Written by Rick Hanson, the author of The Anxiety First Aid Kit, the article offers a list of useful suggestions on noticing the good things, the okay things, the all right things. rather then zeroing in on the bits that aren’t working, Hanson suggests focusing on what’s going right. He offers this mantra — I am all right, right now — as a way to focus and calm the anxious state in which we can find ourselves. Hanson concludes his excerpt with this: “Settling into this basic sense of okayness is a powerful way to build well-being and resources in your brain and being, and it’s a way of taking a stand for the truth.”

Image shows a patterned white wall with a pink pegboard rectangle with letters spelling out Kindness Matters. Photo by Dee @ Copper and Wild on Unsplash

I look for opportunities to make things better. There’s a dearth of kindness, of patience, of sharing humanity with others. People’s fuses are short and getting shorter by the day. It’s hard to smile when you are always wearing a mask. But there is still stuff you can do. This past fall, I’ve been having some problems with my car. I went to buy some oil, but forgot what kind I was supposed to get. The young fellow serving me said let’s go take a look and see what is written on the cap. He could have suggested I google it; he could have said he didn’t know. Instead he took time to explain in a kind way how I could find the information in the future should I forget again. Being kind takes little effort and makes such a difference.

I will always stand up. When I approach the squat bar, I know it is my training and committment that will ensure I will get back up, not just those words my trainer has stencilled there. I look at our world and I wonder how we manage to always get back up.

Sometimes I feel our kindness or humanity is like a muscle that has been supplanted — maybe by fear, anger, anxiety, an injury — who knows. But like any muscle, you can make it stronger by working it gently and consistently; you can repair it by training it carefully and thoughtfully.

Whether you call it practicing, training, coaching, or learning, making kindness a purposeful habit is really useful. Couple that with standing up for your values and your community. When I look back at 2020, it will be these insights I will focus on. What will you take from 2020 to keep you well in 2021?

MarthaFitat55 enjoys powerlifting, swimming and yoga. A longtime mental health advocate, Martha has spent considerable time this year thinking about how we can work on our mental fitness and maintain our mental wellness.

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