The pandemic blew us all out of the water this year and what a rollercoaster it has been! We’ve been challenged and beaten down in ways that we never thought were possible. And yet, despite all of that, I try to stay positive and think about all the valuable lessons learned in life this year from quarantine.
As a quick side note, I have been one of the lucky ones. My husband and I both still have our jobs. We both have managed to stay relatively sane and healthy. Our close friends and family have been healthy. So, really no complaints, thankfully! If you or someone close to you has struggled significantly this year, my heart goes out to you and I’m sending good vibes and virtual hugs your way.
Now, here are my top 11 life lessons that I’ve learned during quarantine and I hope that they help you going forward in the new year.
1. I SHOULDN’T STRESS OVER THINGS I CAN’T CONTROL
As women, it is easy to jump in and help wherever and whenever we can. We are multitasking experts and have no problem shouldering the burden of 10 different things all at once. But sometimes, there are things that we just cannot change. There are things that we cannot make better no matter how much we want to or how much we try. This causes a lot of stress and anxiety and we need to learn how to let that go.
I have been stressing out about family a lot this year, when I’d be able to see them, hoping that they stay healthy.
My parents live 3,000 miles away and are older. My mother still works at the hospital. My sister is just across the border but I cannot visit her. It’s been very frustrating but I know that there is nothing in my power that I can do to change this situation. While it has been difficult, the first thing I learned this year was to not stress over things that I cannot control. It’s not worth my time, energy, or myriad of emotions and I should look for helpful ways to reduce unnecessary stress and focus on the things that I can actually change.
2. A SENSE A COMMUNITY
As a result of the first lesson, another one of the lessons learned in life this year has been the importance of community. This one has also been particularly difficult for me because I am a naturally shy person and I am scared to meet new people. I am also terrible about sitting down for 30 minutes or an hour talking on the phone (or Zoom). But, because of equal parts worry and loneliness, I put in more effort to connect and reconnect with friends and family. Facetime, Zoom, and WhatsApp have all been my saviors this year.
3. TIME ALONE IS OKAY
If you were lucky to be quarantined with other people, you may have actually felt a greater need to be alone than with a community. For those of you with children, you may be feeling this the most and that’s okay! Time alone is not only okay but it is also NECESSARY.
Granted, I don’t have children but I have a very needy furbaby and noises from work often berate me at all hours. So, even if it’s just 10 minutes of quiet, I have an opportunity to recharge and refocus. Never feel guilty or ashamed. We all deserve a break, a real moment to ourselves to relax so that we can jump back into action at 100%. Without these moments, I would be a zombie or, even worse, more susceptible to becoming sick. Yikes!
4. KEEP NATURE CLOSE
Another one of the lessons learned this year is to keep nature close. What does this mean exactly? It means having plants at home and taking the time to be outside surrounded by nature. Growing evidence suggests that exposure to greener and more natural environments improves mental health and I am in complete agreement with this.
I live right in front of a main street so it can be pretty loud at times when the stores are bustling and cars are passing by. When quarantine rolled around, I really missed the weekend adventures to national forests and scenic drives along the St-Lawrence river.
Finally, during the summer, I caved in and picked up two plants. Mind you, I have ZERO skills in caring for plants or gardening. But, I needed to try for my sanity and I am happy to say that they are still alive. With my little plants, along with regular walks through the neighborhood park, I feel a greater sense of peace.
5. I CAN BE MORE PRODUCTIVE
First off, I’d like to say that I am excellent at doing nothing. While I work hard and finish any task by the deadline, I am fully capable of staring at the wall and thinking about nothing. At the beginning of quarantine, I lived my best couch potato life and then after a few months, suddenly, I had enough.
I had no idea it was even possible but I actually became bored! I watched my husband, always the productive one, tinkering away at his projects and I felt this strong desire to find a project of my own. I made time to get rid of old clutter, to plan out and start working towards short-term and long term goals, and to play with new recipes in the kitchen. These projects energized and motivated me to get out of bed each morning and filled each day with purpose. Most importantly, I’ve been having a lot of fun! Who knew! Being more productive has been one of my best lessons in life this year!
6. HAVE A DAILY ROUTINE
Thankfully, through all of this, I still have my job and my department was remote before stay-at-home orders were implemented. In the beginning, I just rolled out of bed, still in my pajamas, and went straight to my laptop. After a few days, I quickly learned that I didn’t feel quite myself. I felt sluggish, less motivated, and less focused. So, I decided to try my usual routine as if I needed to leave the house and catch the bus and I ended up feeling so much better!
I wake up about an hour before I begin the workday. I get dressed. I put my makeup on and I drink my smoothie. I eat lunch around 12:30pm. Once work is finished around 5:30pm, I exercise with my husband and then we make dinner.
I have found that having these habits and this structure throughout the day has helped me to boost my productivity. It also gives me something to look forward to throughout the day. I love makeup so I get excited to paint my face in the morning. Once that’s over, I get to drink my delicious smoothie and so on. It may sound silly but my little routine keeps me on track.
7. IT’S TIME TO TAKE CONTROL OF MY FINANCES
Now, the money section. Yes, this was a big one for me! After seeing many of my colleagues laid off at the beginning of the pandemic, I became scared. I didn’t know if I would have a job by the end of the year. While I had always saved a little money here and there and paid the minimum amount on my debts, I never took it seriously until this chaos hit.
I laid out financial goals for myself, started a budget, added a little more into savings and made debt payoff a priority. It’s definitely depressing to say that the majority of my income goes to paying debt but I truly feel relieved and stronger knowing that I’m in charge of my financial situation.
8. DIVERSIFY SOURCES OF INCOME
Roaring full steam ahead with my finances, I knew that it was important to diversify my sources of income. I’ve also made attempts at doing this in previous year but gave up due to laziness. But, again, the pandemic gave me just the shove that I needed.
With all of this extra time sitting at home, I decided to take full advantage of it and look for side hustles. I started this blog, which I’ve dreamt of doing for a very long time. For quicker cash, I looked for items to declutter and sold them on Poshmark, Facebook Marketplace, and Kijiji (Craigslist for the Americans). I get cashback for purchases using Rakuten and I participate in short surveys and device testing with Appen. From these side hustles, I earn on average around $70 per month. Every little bit helps!
9. IT DOESN’T COST A LOT TO STAY HEALTHY
I’ve always been quite set in my ways when it came to exercise and I like my routines if you hadn’t guessed by now. Pilates and barre fitness classes were my JAM. I loved the motivation of being in a group and I loved seeing my body get stronger. It cost about $100 a month but I thought it was worth it. My previous experiences working out at home just never cut it. Naturally, I had to change that outlook when all of the fitness centers closed.
I noticed the waistline starting to grow so I turned to YouTube. To my surprise, there were TONS of free full-body workouts that were longer than 15 minutes. I could get in a great sweat sesh right from the comfort of my own home and I saved a nice chunk of money! I’ve also learned to slowly decrease my intake of meat in favor of beans, tofu, and tempeh. I still get my healthy protein in while being way easier on the budget.
10. EXPRESS GRATITUDE EVERY SINGLE DAY
With everything that has happened, I have found myself expressing gratitude more and more for the amazing things in my life. No matter what, there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for whether it is big or small.
I give thanks every single day for my job and my health. I give thanks every single day for the health of my friends and family. I am so thankful for my life in Canada, which has opened me up to new and exciting experiences. I thank my cat for giving me cuddles (even if it’s at 5am) and I often thank the sun for greeting me on snowy winter’s morning. Expressing gratitude makes the day a little brighter and we all need more of that positivity right now.
11. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Okay, so this might actually be one of the most important lessons learned in life this year. Expect the unexpected. Boy, did it rear its ugly head with fury! While worrying about the unexpected is not necessarily a good thing, this phrase allowed me to put two things into perspective.
This first is that I am going to be as prepared as I can be by putting more money into my emergency fund and looking for other sources of income. I also stocked up on emergency items for the home – first aid, flashlights, candles, toilet paper like the rest of the world, etc. But, I know that I shouldn’t stress over things that I cannot control. So, the second piece of expect the unexpected is to just go with the flow. If something unexpected comes my way and I’m not prepared for it, I’ll see it as an exciting challenge to learn, to grow, and to be better.
These are just a few of the lessons life taught me in quarantine during this unbelievable year. I wish you love and safety. Remember to take care of yourself. Life will get better and we will all be better people having lived through it.