When the country was put under quarantine, we were caught off-guard and unsure of what the future holds. From staying indoors and working-from-home, to adjusting routines and recalibrating our mindsets – we’ve been through so many changes and rising above each, is considered a victory. As the year draws to a close, we can only look back and cherish how far we’ve come. Thriving in the new normal isn’t a walk in the park, but despite the odds, we know that life has to go on.
2020 proved to be nerve-wracking, but we cannot disregard the fact that one way or another, it has taught us precious life lessons we can always carry with us. Things may never go back to how they were before, but we can prepare and hope for a better year ahead. Whether it’s being kinder to ourselves or spending wisely – these nuggets of wisdom can get us through hard times and inspire us to look forward to brighter days:
- Practice proper self-care and own your feelings
While staying home kept us safe from getting sick, that doesn’t mean we’re immune to bad days. The fear of the unknown and when the pandemic will end brought about anxiety and many sleepless nights. Gab, a marketing communications specialist, has been working remotely for almost two years but she had to adjust to staying in, too. “Like everyone else, the quarantine hit me with strong cabin fever – I’m either hyperproductive or in a depressive state, depending on the week. It’s not that I want to go out, it’s that I can’t go out when I need personal space that’s challenging,” Gab says.
Instead of sulking and letting restlessness get the best of her, Gab learned how to navigate her bad mental health days better with proper self-care. “I think one of the good things that has come out of this situation is everyone has become kinder to themselves. We all experience bad days. Self-care should always include your mental health and emotional well-being. Taking care of your mental health should be a priority – always and not just during trying times. We should practice self-love all the time,” she shares.
Aside from practicing self-love and self-care, it’s equally important to learn how to embrace your feelings and own them. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling sad and unproductive. In these trying times, we’re all trying to stay afloat and it’s okay to not be okay. You don’t always have to be strong and put a brave face on. Give yourself room to breathe and adjust to changes.
- Be frugal when you can
Not being able to go out meant exploring online shopping options – whether you need to buy groceries, fresh produce, and other essentials. Aside from allotting money for supplies, we’ve all rewarded ourselves with a happy purchase – whether it’s a new appliance for the home, a work-from-home must-have, or a little gift-to-self.
While there’s nothing wrong with buying these things, especially if you have the budget, now is the time to spend wisely. Rachelle, a content editor for different websites, learned that it’s a must to scrimp where you can. “Let go of all these supposed ‘necessities’ which were actually useless luxuries,” she explains. Being frugal doesn’t mean depriving yourself of making purchases for the home or yourself. It means making smart purchasing decisions so you can make the most of your money. Prioritize items that can be useful for a long time and always choose quality over quantity. Instead of buying inexpensive items that might get broken easily, invest in a high-quality product that you can use for a long time.
- Find joy in old hobbies and new discoveries
If there’s one thing we have in abundance these past months – it’s time. From revisiting to-watch lists and tackling a towering book pile – many have rediscovered old hobbies this quarantine. Finding joy in these things and taking comfort in them can help us get through difficult days. “We don’t go anywhere anymore so I have all the time to get lost in stories again. I’m so happy I rediscovered my love for reading,” shares Gab.
Aside from going back to activities that make us happy, the quarantine also led many to have new hobbies that keep them preoccupied and inspired. On your social media feed alone, how many have started a small business, or have taken up baking, or caring for plants? “I learned to grow vegetables on a condo ledge, bake with a tiny toaster oven, and cook with whatever is left in the pantry,” Rachelle muses. Without a doubt, being on lockdown has brought out our creative and entrepreneurial sides.
- Have a support group
Rachelle, who also oversees the distance learning of her son, values the importance of having a support group that can hold you up – especially when things get difficult. “It has been challenging to work-from-home and help in my son’s schoolwork which takes up half of my day. The work starts after lunch, and more often than not, continues late into night. Thankfully, I get help from my mother and household help,” she shares.
Not being able to spend time with friends and relatives is one of the pandemic’s toughest blows. Back then, it was easy to schedule a meet-up with friends to unwind or have a gathering with the family to celebrate milestones. Thanks to technology, we can still be there for each other to lend support especially in these uncertain times. Now more than ever, a short message, a quick video call, or the simple act of asking how one is doing can go a long way.
- Build a nest egg
Many business and industries were likewise affected by the pandemic. Some stores were forced to close up shop and companies had to make adjustments on operations. The pandemic has taught us the importance of having enough savings and a nest egg that can tide us over until situations improve. Sunshine, the co-founder, senior partner, and operations and marketing manager of Pushpins, an engineering consulting company, can relate to the effects of COVID-19 on businesses.
“Since we’re still a small company, we have not been badly affected as other businesses, nevertheless, we were dumbfounded when the pandemic hit. All of a sudden, some of our projects were put on hold,” she shares. To rise above the situation, Sunshine and her husband went back to the drawing board to see what they can tweak and improve. “It pays to be financially literate and to really know your business inside out. You need to have at least three-months’ worth of cash flow to help you. You can never go wrong when you save up for a rainy day, in this case, pandemic times,” Sunshine adds.
Gab echoes the importance of saving up. “Regardless of the amount or frequency of doing it, save! You shouldn’t set a specific amount. If you can save it for the future, be it Php 200 or Php50, then do it,” she shares.
- Set boundaries
Working-from-home came as relief to many – especially those who were exhausted from beating the morning rush. While it was fun during the first few weeks, especially when you don’t have to squeeze into packed trains and buses, working in the comfort of home has its ups and downs. Since we don’t clock in and out physically – some find it difficult to call it a day and work late into the night frequently. Doing this not only causes burnout, you can end up more tired compared to working in the office.
Remember to set boundaries – know when to call it a day so you can take the break you deserve. Separate your work nook from your place of rest so the two doesn’t get mixed up. Take quick breaks in between tasks, avoid answering emails at night, and don’t work on weekends.
- Keep believing
We may be living in uncertain times, but we shouldn’t lose hope that things will get better. “Staying open minded is key to be able to adjust to changes,” says Gab. “Let’s hope 2021 will be a kinder year,” she adds. In the same breath, Sunshine values the lessons of 2020. “The lessons we gleaned from these trying times will definitely help us become better equipped to handle challenges. As with any hurdle, the important thing is to get back up and plod on. I hope that all these lessons we’ve learned have made us better decision-makers. I’d like to believe that the worst is over and that all of us will come out of 2020 stronger, wiser, and kinder,” she relates.
As we reflect on the past year, let’s not forget that there are many Filipinos who suffered bigger blows due to the pandemic. Some lost their jobs, others had to live on depleted resources, and our frontliners continue to work day, day out to be of service to others. If you have budget to spare, support small businesses or donate to causes that support those who need assistance the most. There are no big nor small amount – a little help can go a long way.
Like a memorable book we’ve finished reading and returning to the shelf, 2020 will be imprinted on our minds for years to come. It may have been a rollercoaster of a ride, but it’s a story of strength and perseverance. Knowing what to value, being kinder to ourselves and others, and holding out hope will not only help us get through the toughest of times, it can also invigorate us to begin again.