How to deal with feelings of a ‘wasted’ year

It hasn’t quite been dawn of the new decade we hoped for, but has it been a complete waste if your goals have fallen by the wayside in 2020?

It’s easy to think so, especially if you’ve been in strict coronavirus lockdowns and your day-to-day life has changed substantially.

But Queensland psychologist Donna Cameron says we need to remember this year hasn’t been all bad.

“It’s important for your mental health to identify that even though this year may not have been what you expected, there still were times of joy and opportunities for growth,” says Donna.

Here’s how to find the silver linings of a challenging year:

Concentrate on the positives

Melbourne coaching psychologist Amelia Twiss points out that 2020 has presented us with a unique situation.

“There is a rare chance to focus on yourself and take time to create new habits or think about how you want to design your life going forward,” says Amelia.

“This year has also provided many wonderful opportunities to connect with loved ones and friends, as a community of support for one another has grown around the pandemic.”

Find happiness in the little things

While we’ve become used to scrolling through social media feeds of life’s highlights like fancy restaurants and exotic holiday destinations, Donna suggests appreciating the smaller things.

“Start taking photos of the simple joys you have, whether it’s a beautiful flower in your garden, your child’s smile or the best chocolate cookie you’ve ever made,” says Donna.

“These may feel like small things, but they’re all achievements and they all happened in 2020.”

Focus on what you can do

When the bushfires and coronavirus pandemic hit, it made Aussies realise just how much is out of our control.

Amelia says worrying too much about external events can create distress and disempowerment.

She advises people take time to evaluate their situation and identify things they can change and things they can’t.

“For example, you might not be able to control whether or not you can travel overseas, however you can control your outlook towards this.”

Revisit your time frames

So it might not have been the year you climbed the corporate ladder, travelled the world or improved your social life – but your goals won’t be impossible forever.

Continuing to set targets can help you stay motivated and feel hopeful for the future.

“You may not be able to set the time frame for your goals at this moment, but you can still investigate, research and think about future plans that you want to achieve,” says Donna.

“The world is still spinning, life is still happening – so do your best to keep moving with it.”

Written by Samantha Allemann.