If you’re like most people, you might not want to revisit the painful events of 2020 as we close out the year. Understandable. The pandemic has left an indelible mark on every aspect of our lives. We have lost loved ones, friends and colleagues to the coronavirus. And it has altered how we live, entertain ourselves, shop and work. We have faced the worst economic crisis in history. Food banks, self-quarantines, face coverings and threats to front line workers have become part of the new normal. Remote working and Zoom fatigue have become part of our vernacular. As the pandemic spikes at alarming rates, it has created a mental health crisis of unbelievable proportions nationwide.
A recent poll conducted by LHH found that 92% of respondents felt burned out in the month of November, and a recent Gallup poll reported that mental health and emotional well-being have taken a nose dive, dropping to their lowest since 2001. According to Mary-Clare Race, chief innovation officer at LHH, “With offices now fully virtual for the foreseeable future, most companies, managers and senior leadership are tasked with the new challenge of prioritizing mental health remotely.”
Grass Grows Through Concrete
So let’s leave 2020 behind and look at the positives on the horizon of 2021. First of all, we have two new vaccines with vaccinations on the way to everyone. So hopefully in the coming year we will have more protection against the pandemic and the misery it brings. Of course, all the hardships and heartache won’t automatically disappear at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve. One cruel fact is the pandemic will still be here, and that can feel like an uphill battle. Obstacles will be thrown at us every step of the way, but there’s good news, too: grass grows through concrete. We are more powerful than we realize. If we face pandemic opposition in 2021 with a positive attitude and emotional stamina, we can keep going no matter how frequent and difficult the obstacles.
You’ve heard the old—some might even say trite—adages of “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” or “Look at the glass as half full instead of half empty,” or “Every cloud has a silver lining.” If these sayings seem worn-out to you, it’s because they’ve been overused for a reason: they work. These proverbs carried people through rough times in the past because they are backed by scientific underpinnings.
10 Tips To Stack Your 2021 Positivity Deck
Neuroscientists have discovered that Mother Nature hardwired us with a negativity bias for survival. It’s a fact. As psychologist Rick Hanson said, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” And because our negativity bias has a longer shelf life than positivity, we tend to overestimate threats and underestimate our ability to overcome them. When negativity like the pandemic strikes, our power comes in the way we respond to it. This isn’t easy. It’s hard, but these 10 tips can stack 2021 in your favor and help you bounce back from pandemic threats and aftereffects.
1. Focus on the upside of a downside situation. When there are so many incidences of devastation, fear and heartbreak, it’s natural to focus on the downside of the pandemic. But we can balance that out with how it’s brought people together, volunteering and helping one another and strengthening the whole idea of collective selflessness. What upsides can you name?
2. Pinpoint the opportunity in the difficulty. Ask, “How can I make this situation work to my advantage? Can I find something positive in it? What can I manage or overcome in this instance?” During the pandemic, for example, we can use times of self-isolation for self-reflection and think about the direction we want to take in the new year. What opportunities do you see?
3. Frame 2020 as a lesson to learn, not misery to endure. Ask what you can learn from the difficulties of 2020 and use them as stepping-stones, instead of roadblocks. Think of the adversities of 2020 as happening for you instead of to you. If you consider this perspective less taken, what has 2020 taught you that you can take into 2021?
4. Practice gratitude. Look beyond the fear, loss and disappointment at the big picture. Take an inventory of your life and include all the things the pandemic prevented you from doing that you once took for granted. And consider all the people and things in your life that you’re grateful for, letting gratitude steer you beyond the gloom and doom. What are you grateful for?
5. Be chancy. Take small risks in new situations instead of predicting negative outcomes before giving them a try. “If I ask for a shot at the promotion, my boss might laugh in my face” becomes “If I ask for a shot at the promotion, my boss might think I have guts and ambition.” How can you stick your neck out at work in the new year?
6. Avoid blowing a situation out of proportion. Don’t let one negative experience rule your whole outlook: “I was supposed to get a promotion until the pandemic; now that everything’s on hold, I’ll never advance in my career” becomes “Things are on hold for a while, but nothing lasts forever and there will be other pathways to success.” What limiting situations can you minimize and overcome in 2021?
7. Focus on the solution, not the problem. You’ll feel more empowered to cope with pandemic curve balls when you step back from the problem and brainstorm a wide range of possibilities. Your negativity bias will direct you to zoom in and focus on the problem. But when you broaden your perspective, your wide-angle lens will help you see potential in the big picture. What possibilities do you see for 2021?
8. Practice positive self-talk. During tough times, be as kind to yourself as you would your best friend. Underscore your triumphs. Replace bludgeoning yourself and using put-downs and criticisms with the practice of self-compassion. Affirm positive feedback instead of letting it roll over your head. Give yourself “atta-boys” or “atta-girls.” Throw modesty out the window, and remind yourself of all your personal resources. What are your strengths?
9. Practice Solitude. Solitude is good for the soul. It takes you out of the rat race for a while, gives you a bird’s-eye view of your daily life and replaces chaos with serenity. Spend a minimum of five minutes a day alone. Meditate, pray, practice yoga or contemplate nature and connect with something larger than yourself for inspiration and peace of mind. What type of solitude can you practice?
10. See a fresh start contained in loss. Every loss contains a gain but you have to look for it. Every time you get up just one more time than you fall, you increase the likelihood of scaling hard times. Baseball great Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” What endings in 2020 contain new beginnings in 2021?
A Final Word
Choosing a positive attitude is one of the most powerful things we can take into 2021. Don’t forget that grass grows through concrete. Think of yourself as an elastic band that bends and stretches to a certain point before you spring back higher than you fall. And you will have the physical and mental stamina to come back with a vengeance in 2021.