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The Heroes of 2020
It’s the time of year when people begin to reflect — the good, the bad and the ugly.
But looking back on this past year in Atlantic Canada, many people agree 2020 was one we will never forget.
“There’s no question, it was a tough year, and people are feeling cooped up...” St. John’s psychologist Janine Hubbard said. “But more than anything, they’re just tired.”
The tough times started early, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador, when the eastern part of the province was hit with one of the biggest blizzards in history on Jan. 17. Snowmageddon forced the closure of businesses and schools across the region for weeks as people had to dig out from up to 90 centimetres of snow.
St. John’s, along with other neighbouring municipalities, declared a state of emergency, and called the military in to help.
As the province struggled to recover, COVID-19 forced the closure of businesses and schools, with governments ordering people to stay home and away from others.
Combined with the loss of employment, reduction of income, increasing costs of food and other bills, and added social isolation, and 2020 will go down as one of the most difficult in recent years.
“It’s to a point where we’ve almost become a little bit numb to bad news …,” Hubbard said. “There have been people who have suffered significantly, whether it’s financially, health-wise, or losses of loved ones.”
So, after a year like 2020, how can people bounce back and feel optimistic about 2021?
Hubbard said it’s important to see the positives of what she and her friends have dubbed “the great pause.” People took up new hobbies, developed new skills, and got to spend quality time with family and close friends.
“We stopped to regain some perspective about what’s actually really important. We’ve gotten so busy, we had forgotten some of that,” Hubbard said.
“There are some things we don’t want to lose moving forward.”
It will be difficult living “a new normal,” but said there is plenty to look forward to and she encourages people to make lists of the things they want to do.
“But be realistic that it’s not all going to change Jan. 1st,” she cautions.
It’s also important to count our blessings. The East Coast has been fairly lucky, with low COVID-19 numbers compared to other parts of the country. And for those working from home and missing out on social gatherings, think about the advantages of working in pyjamas, skipping the commute, and taking a walk on your break.
“These are things people have started to embrace and realize what a nice balance that gives to their lives,” she said. “I hope, moving forward, employers are going to start appreciate that maybe some additional flexibility around that might help with both job satisfaction and productivity."
As for our physical health, Hubbard the key is to make small changes. Try adding vegetables to your daily routine instead of trying to lead an entirely new lifestyle.
“It’s got to be those small changes because anything large and radical is just not going to last.”
Brenda Barry O’Reilly — a certified life, health, and cognitive behaviour coach at Empowering You Lifestyle Centre in St. John’s — has seen more clients this year than ever.
People come to her feeling down and lacking energy. Many of her clients are emotional eaters who came to realize that overeating doesn’t solve problems.
O’Reilly believes much good came out of 2020 as we became more humanitarian — from helping shovel a neighbour’s driveway to picking up groceries for those who couldn’t get out.
“This year has really made people think,” said O’Reilly. “They’re thinking, 'What would be the repercussions if I didn’t stop what I was doing.'”
Besides eating right, O’Reilly said people should look into taking up a light activity, like virtual yoga, or just take a break from working in front of the computer.
An important part of finding optimism is feeling better and finding energy, which will come with a better physical lifestyle.
“When they start getting their energy back, I find they can face anything,” said O’Reilly.
Changing the way you think can be tough, she said, but it can be achieved with practice.
“You have two choices — you can be negative or positive,” she said. “You don’t just wake up one morning and say, ‘Hey, I think I’ll be positive’ — but it’s a good way to start.”
If you continue to struggle or feel depressed, it’s time to reach out for professional help.
“Not everyone can do it on their own,” she said. “Out of something bad can always come something good.”