Goodbye 2020. Hello 2021!
Well, it’s that time of year again. Every January, I like to take a look in my rear-view mirror and reflect on the last 12-months, and crikey – what a year it’s been. I, like many others, thought that COVID-19 would never reach the UK. But when it did, I thought it would soon blow over. As it quickly started spreading throughout the country, I realised it wasn’t that simple and the seriousness of the pandemic soon became apparent.
So, here we are, January 2021. The UK is into its third lockdown, coronavirus is still a worldwide issue, and personally, I think this will continue for the rest of the year. Although, with vaccines now being rolled out, I’d love to be proved wrong. The last year has been challenging, emotional, and completely overwhelming. Because even when there’s a pandemic going on, life continues to throw us curveballs, and 2020 just kept on giving.
It would be easy to look back on 2020 and remember the hard times, and challenging moments, seeing the whole year in a negative light, and describing it as shit. And yes, there were some really shitty moments where I was completely consumed by anxiety. There were also dark soul-destroying days, where I shed plenty of tears. But with challenges come strength and resilience. So, if 2020 reminded me of anything, it’s that I’m a hell of a lot stronger than I sometimes give myself credit for. As I look back on 2020, I don’t want to see it all as negative. I’d also like to acknowledge the small wins, positive moments, and pockets of calm that gave me hope, proving that even in the darkest hours, there comes a sliver of light.
I passed my Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Skills (CPCAB)
Like thousands of other students, I muddled through the final months of my course, adjusting to online learning with Zoom as my classroom. Crikey, talk about a learning curve. To be honest, I quite enjoyed it. Training to become a counsellor is not for the feint hearted. It involves cracking yourself wide open, getting totally out of your comfort zone, and being vulnerable, time and time again. So, as an introvert, I found staring at 16 tiny faces on my screen much less intimidating than sitting round in a circle with them in a classroom. I started to find my voice and found myself more willing to speak up. In September 2020 I started Level 3, and I’m currently half-way through the second year of my training.
A huge win – passing my first year of training to become a counsellor and being brave enough to continue onto the second.
I developed a regular running practice
I’ve been a runner for over 25-years, but it was only last year I became comfortable giving myself the label. I even wrote a blog post about it, which you can read here. Like many others during lockdown, I realised how running was helping my mental health. I ran to clear my head, to get me out of a funk, and to get outside in nature; to challenge my mental and physical strength, and to spend time with Ian. I stopped worrying about times, about how fast I could (or couldn’t) run, and I developed a mantra. It’s about completion, not time.
It’s about completion, not time.
I started running without any expectations. I stopped looking at my watch and obsessing over my pace. Taking the pressure off myself completely, I just ran. And running became fun again. It became more about the experience, rather than how fast I could run my route. Even though speed wasn’t the goal, by moving into this mindset I found my pace naturally increasing on its own.
I headed out into the wind, rain, ice, and snow, and actually increased my running as winter approached, rather than decreasing it like I normally do. My daily distance also increased, and my regular runs went from 5k, to 5-miles. I also embraced running in the dark. Normally during the winter months, I swap my early morning run for a mid-morning run instead, but not this year. I put on my big girl pants, grabbed my chest light, and found comfort exploring the streets under the cover of darkness.
I also joined Run Things for their annual run up to Christmas challenge. December was a tough month for me, and I needed something to focus on. It was for a good cause, supporting the mental health charity Mind, and having something to work towards on the cold, dark, mornings kept me going. A regular running practice – another positive win to come out of lockdown.
I left my job
In March 2020, when the pandemic really took hold and the UK first went into lockdown, I was working as a fitness instructor and personal trainer. In the gym where I worked, the staff had been on a constant cleaning rotation for over a week, sanitising every touch point, and piece of equipment. The equipment had been spaced apart as best we could, and as soon as we’d finished cleaning, it was time to start again. Members and staff were nervous about this new virus that was sweeping the country, and the whole of the health club were on tenterhooks, waiting for Bojo to announce if gyms were going to be shut down.
On March 21st, at 9pm I closed the gym down indefinitely, and it was one of the eeriest feelings ever. Standing in the silence, little did I know it would be my last shift, because 6-months later I decided to take voluntary redundancy. There were many reasons behind this decision, one of them being my own safety due to my underlying medical conditions. I’d also been unhappy there for a while, so when the chance presented itself – I knew I had to take it. It was the push I needed to finally leave. I continued with my handmade printing business and started pushing my sewing business. I was lucky enough to find a local florist to stock my face-coverings and tote bags, and for me, leaving my job was a huge win.
We went out hiking
During the first lockdown, we started going out for morning walks, which were really nice. But when rules started to lift, we decided we needed to explore further afield. So, even in the middle of a pandemic, we managed to get out for a few hikes. When restrictions eased, we tentatively decided to immerse ourselves in nature, trying to choose quieter routes, and turning up early (ish), to avoid as many people as possible. But even with the best laid plans, our hikes were still a little hit and miss. Stocks Reservoir, Settle Caves and Waterfalls, Bowscale Fell and Derwent Water, were the places we walked.
We’ve been to Stocks Reservoir in the Forest of Bowland several times, so we knew it wouldn’t be overly busy. I think we saw a total of six people along the route: 3 other walkers and 3 runners. Although, when we returned to the car park just before lunchtime, it was completely full, so our intention to leave as everyone else was arriving had worked!
Bowscale Fell and Derwent Water are both in the Lake District and originally, we’d made the decision to avoid the Lakes, because of its popularity. Bowscale Fell is in the northern part of the lakes, and we’ve always found the further north we head, the quieter it is. Bingo. Another, quiet walk where we only saw a handful of other walkers and one trail runner at the summit.
Derwent Water was a mistake, and I think we’d taken leave of our senses when we made this decision. It’s one of the most popular walks in the Lake District, but also one of our favourites. We deliberated for ages on whether we should go or not – or not, was the correct answer. The plan was to arrive early so we could avoid as many people as possible. Unfortunately, it was still ridiculously busy, and it made me feel uneasy. We took less popular paths where possible and decided that in the future, if we’re feeling unsure of going somewhere, it’s for a reason, so it’s best to follow our intuition.
Settle Caves and Waterfalls was another questionable decision. We don’t know the Yorkshire Dales very well, so it was a bit of a punt really. Again, we arrived early and it was fairly quiet, with some people traffic in the more popular sections.
I even managed to grab some time with my bestie at Dunham Massey in October, and Rivington in December. Although, Rivington turned out to be one of my worst ideas EVER, because it was SO busy! It was an absolute nightmare, but so good to catch up with him, after not seeing him for so long.
Overall, getting out into nature in the middle of a pandemic, was a win. Nature feeds my soul, and the countryside is my church. A big, fat, positive.
I developed a regular self-care routine
I realised last year just how important it is for me to have a self-care routine. My daily workouts are nailed down and have been for over 20-years. They’re non-negotiable, and naturally part of my day – just like cleaning my teeth. I’m an early bird and work out first thing in the morning, because I know it sets me up for the day.
Other things I do include reading, journaling, and meditating. Just like working out, reading has naturally been part of my day for several years. Before my work out, I normally have a cup of coffee and at least a 20-minute read. I sometimes read before bed as well.
Meditation and journaling are things I’ve found myself dipping in and out of, but last year, I realised how beneficial they were for me. It also helped that Ian bought me a meditation cushion for Christmas the year before. It sounds silly that something so simple could have such an impact. But having a dedicated cushion to sit on during meditation, was a game changer. As for journaling, I realised I’d been putting too much pressure on myself, thinking I should be journaling everyday – when I didn’t need to. Now, I just journal when I feel I need to work through something or empty my head. But having my self-care routine in place, helps keep me afloat when things get tough.
Eating healthily is also important to me. I hate feeling sluggish and unhealthy, so I follow the 80/20 rule. For me, leading an active lifestyle and eating well, have always gone hand-in-hand.
You can read a previous post I’ve written about self-care, here.
Overall, 2020 was a difficult year, there’s no denying that. Last year affected everyone – some more than others. And I’m not saying we should ignore the challenges by any means, because it’s the challenges that make us stronger. While I had some super shit events to deal with, I also had some positive ones that ran alongside. I didn’t do everything I wanted to do in 2020, but it certainly made me realise what’s important. Like not taking anyone or anything for granted, and being grateful for family and friends. I became more appreciative for the smaller things in life – because you never know what’s around the corner. I questioned every non-essential purchase. Before parting with my money, I asked myself if I really needed it and what value it would add to my life. 2020 was a real eye-opener but it taught me some valuable life lessons.
Aside from the pandemic, how did your 2020 go? Are there any small wins you’d like to acknowledge? If so, leave me a comment below.