The thought of 2020 is usually followed by a long drawn out sign that sometimes (if you’re really feeling reminiscent) is followed by an exaggerated eye roll. The memory of 2020 is something that will eternally haunt us and can very easily bleed over into 2021. But that will not happen on our watch. As members of the human race (and the anti-2020 club) we must take hold of the lessons we learned in 2020, release the painful memories, and move forward into a new mindset of change. No one has ever lived through 2021, so it is completely up to us to make it a fantastic year.
Starting off, we must recognize that we cannot forget 2020 entirely, especially the fact that we are still in a pandemic. That is something from 2020 that is staying with us. While I want as much as the next guy to wake up on January 1 from the nightmare of 2020, that is not going to happen. We must know that the past year is not going away and we get no do over year. Something else to keep in mind is that wishing for a do over year of 2020 while living in 2021 will only cause us to want to be able to redo both years. Do not get stuck in the past. Allow yourself to move on with respect for what you have gone through.
Now understanding that wishing for a do over year is a form of grieving not living, we can find ways to make 2021 a good year despite still being in lockdown.
To be able to stop our dreading for another year in lockdown, I asked some of San Marcos students what was causing them the most stress within lockdown.
“Definitely trying to find motivation to do online school along with the fact that our country seems to be falling apart as we sit alone in our houses,” said freshman Dara Weibe.
The constant flow of bad news has got to be one of the most stress-inducing components of lockdown. If I were your mom, I would tell you to stop spending so much time on your phone, reloading news sites, but I instead will offer alternative news sites that share joyful news events. Websites like Good News Network and The Happy Newspaper share inspiring stories that are often overlooked because we are trained to read and absorb negative information. Create a habit this year of balancing your news intake of good and bad, as well as balancing your news intake with other activities.
Another activity that should absolutely, positively be on your list of 2021 habits to build is to read a book about race or a book from the perspective of a POC. With the Black Lives Matter protest we saw in 2020, it has been decided for us (and I’m not complaining) that we all need to be better educated ourselves on the true history of this world regarding racial issues and the daily struggles of POC because of systemic racism. Some books that discuss the accurate history are Me and White Supremacy by Lyla Saad, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Dear Matin by Nic Stone. Movies that address race that I highly recommend are Selma, 42, and Just Mercy. In 2021 we must continue fighting for justice and we must create a habit of appreciating other cultures and races though being better educated on their history and ways of life.
Many of the students I talked to said that not seeing friends was a big component of their increased stress and loneliness. For many it has been extremely difficult not seeing friends, and when you could see friends (safely) it was hard to not be constantly anxious that you were not being cautious enough and could potentially be spreading the virus. As a way to combat these fears and the loneliness that quarantine has familiarized us all with so well, try creating a habit of seeing friends in a familiar space where you can designate spots six feet apart for each person to stay in. Think of it as putting your friends in a time out area as a way to stay safe. This spot also needs to be outside.
Another activity that has made me feel closer to my friends even without seeing them is printing out pictures and making a scrapbook. Not a creepy, serial killer kind of photo wall, but a special book that you can look at. Write in memories of times you’ve spent with friends. You could even give them to your friends as ways to let them know you are thinking of them (once again not in a creepy way).
Another student said that having lots of homework has led to her overworking herself and not getting time to relax.
“If I am being truly honest, [it’s] probably homework. I feel the need to finish everything right away and choose not to look after myself and check on how I am holding up,” said freshman Claire Gamble.
The pressure of online school is so vast that students are putting aside their own mental and physical health to finish class assignments. This is not right, and not what school stands for. While the workload cannot always be spread out, talking to teachers for extra time or a heads up before big projects can be an easy solutions. Teachers need to sympathize with students and prioritize what gets done, or students can become little work monsters, heads full of to-do lists. In moments of having a racing mind full of endless to do lists, both teachers and students can turn to these activities that can recenter you and remind you that there are more important things than grades.
Practicing activities like meditation, mindfulness, and creativity can greatly alter what controls your thoughts. Breaking those three examples down, meditation can be very daunting and sometimes seems like a laughable activity, but it actually is extremely beneficial. It is proven that meditation can increase your ability to focus and ability to stay in the moment. Using meditation apps like Headspace can help you start guided meditation in a fun way.
Another antidote to having a racing mind is using your creativity. Everyone is creative, it is just a question of using your creativity. Taking up new hobbies during quarantine is something that everyone can talk about. Whether you learned to cook fish souffles or knit slightly lumpy sweaters, one of the activities that you tried during the beginning of quarantine might be an activity that you could bring back and possibly master. This might feel regressive and stress inducing to go back to doing things that you did in the beginning, but chances are during the 2020 lockdown you tried an activity that you actually really enjoyed but stopped doing because life got “too busy to do enjoyable things”. Once we stop doing things we enjoy because we are “too busy” it is no longer our life, it is simply a schedule of activities that keep us numb. For 2021 create the habit of participating in activities that you enjoy and ones that spark your creativity. Doing activities that bring joy instead of stress can greatly improve the lockdown experience and make us feel like we aren’t putting our lives on hold because it is a lockdown.
Olivia is a freshman at San Marcos High School…