Happy (Pandemic) New Year?

“A year ago this was our last normal week and nobody knew it.” I saw this meme going around social media and had to pause for a minute and reflect. It is a strange feeling to know that almost a year ago, our entire world changed. I remember those first few weeks, how eerie it was to drive to work and even take a walk in our neighborhood. It was quiet and yet not altogether peaceful. The past couple weeks I have been reflecting with others on what we remember from when the shutdown first started. I imagine many others have as well if our social media feeds are any indication. It can be, for some, quite overwhelming and trigger feelings of anxiety the closer we come to that anniversary. Some might want to just ignore the day but I would like to suggest an alternative that would allow us to both acknowledge our uncomfortable feelings and tap into our hope; a sort of New Years Celebration. 

 

This year on December 31st, my husband and I with our kids scrolled through the photos we took in 2020, remembering all of the moments that are so easy to forget and watching videos that made us laugh until tears rolled down our cheeks. It was fun and yet had moments that were sobering as we talked about the things that changed so suddenly and as my husband and I reflected together on the more heartbreaking moments. There is something about this ritual that allows us to move forward into the next year. We make resolutions, set intentions, or choose a word. These bring us hope and something to look forward to. 

 

As we approach the pandemic year mark, which for those of us in Virginia is around March 13th, I would encourage you to consider how you can recognize it in an intentional way. You might spend some time with your family, friends, neighbors, community or faith group (virtually or in person, if comfortable) reflecting together on a few things. Or on your own you might set aside some time to journal, do some bullet journaling, make a photo book, or write a blog post if you have one. I have a few ideas to get you started.

 

  1. Take stock of your losses. If we have any hope of moving forward, we need to acknowledge what was lost and grieve. Some have lost loved ones in the last year and the pandemic made it very difficult to gather in our normal ways to collectively grieve. Others have lost relationships, jobs, or their home. High school seniors have lost the ritual of prom, graduation, homecoming and all of the rituals that they have come to look forward to. It is ok to grieve these losses, big or small.
  2. Express gratitude for the things that you gained. Maybe you enjoyed more time with family, a slower pace of life that you came to appreciate, time to enjoy a walk in the woods, a new hobby, or even friendships that you wouldn’t have cultivated were it not for the necessity of using video calling to stay socially connected. Once you start listing out the things you can be grateful for, you may find more than you expected.
  3. Acknowledge the lessons that you learned and the changes that you would like to carry on into the next year. I have heard from many people that when everything returns to normal, they would like to continue to work from home, enroll their kids in less activities than they did pre-pandemic, or continue the hobbies they started this year. Others have started business out of necessity that have flourished. Writing down the lessons we have learned or sharing them with a friend can give us renewed energy and hope.
  4. Set intentions for the next year. One of the things that I have noticed is that much of our anxiety this year comes from a place of uncertainty about the future. Those who may not have experienced much anxiety in their life were thrown off by what seemed to be the constant crisis and steady stream of unexpected traumatic events. It leaves many of us anxious for what the next year holds. But the truth is that we have never known what the future holds. The interesting thing is that even as anxiety is concerned with the future, it actually prevents us from feeling a sense of purpose about our future. Anxiety tells us that bad things may happen, which is actually true, but then tells us that when those bad things happen, we won’t be able to handle that. If the pandemic and 2020 have taught us anything, I think we can safely say that when bad things happen, we have an ability to deal with it. Sometimes it is messy, sometimes we may feel we have failed, and most of the time, if not all the time, we need each other to weather the storms. We can handle difficult things. As you look forward into the rest of 2021, reflecting on the past year, what do you want to bring with you? What do you want to learn? What do you want to share? A year from now when you look back, what do you want to see?

 

I hope you find creative ways to reflect on the last year. Pull out those photos, have coffee with a friend, make a family vision board, or journal. Share your ideas with us in the comments. We would love to hear your experiences.

Hannah Lindsay, MSW, LCSW-C, provides individual and family therapy in our Sterling, VA office and virtually to those located in the state of Virginia. Call or email today to set up your first appointment or a complimentary consultation with Hannah.