Wow, it's been a while since I drafted a post. Sorry about that!
My radio silence in December was intentional. My girlfriend (now fiancée 🙌) and I spent most of it travelling. We headed to the Maldives to get some rest and relaxation after an unprecedented year.
But as for January, that's my fault... I've been humming and hawing about what I should write about in my first post of 2021.
Of course I'd love to have published a perfectly crafted note reflecting on lessons learned in 2020, as well as what I hope to achieve in 2021. But I didn't want to prolong this hiatus anymore than I have already. So let's get into it.
I've always loved the start of a new year
And this year probably a bit more than usual. For pretty much all of us, 2020 was stressful. Dominated by the pandemic. We've had our lives upended, new norms forced upon us, and next to no social interaction.
And while there's still a lot of uncertainty and unease about what's to come (we're not quite out of the woods yet) it does feel like we're making progress.
Not letting COVID stand in the way, I will do what I typically do and use this natural reset point to take stock, reflect and reinforce what's gone well over the past year.
Soothing anxiety and stress
The past twelve months have been crazy. You wouldn't be telling the truth if at some point you didn't feel some uncertainty, anxiety or stress about what was happening in the world.
To combat this, I set about adopting new habits and worked toward strengtening my resilience. Constantly being bombarded with disheartening news, as well as not actually being able to plan for all outcomes can and does take it out of us. Mentally and physically.
Without a clear mind and an able body, nothing much can get accomplished. This meant exercise, new news habits, mindfulness, healthy eating, drinking water, and reducing bad habits.
For me, running kept me sane. With gyms closed, I took to the streets. Discovering a 5km circuit around the apartment. I'd end up doing ~440km from April to December. I saw measurable improvements in my time, moving from 29 minutes down to 23 minutes at my peak.
Stress resets also helped me. Breathing exercises, LoFi chillout music, and anchoring were my pillars. While we can get stuck in specific thoughts, stepping back to more generally decide if those thoughts are helpful can get us out of rumination mode.
With regard to news – I tried to limit my exposure and discussions about COVID-19 to one hour a day. Upon reflection, getting off the news cycle (and the perpetual anxiety inducing headlines) did help. Also, the source and quality of publication helped too. Think DailyMail versus BBC.
Looking forward, 2021 is going to continue to be filled with uncertainy and anxiety (for now), but we can't just take pause and let COVID take two years of our lives. We need to be smart and opportunistic. I've set myself some goals across a few dimensions of wellness (physical, emotional, intellectual, social, environmental, and occupational).
Managing 2021 expectations
I think 2021 is going to be more similar to 2020 than most poeple expect, it could even be worse. I've set this as my base expectation.
I'm going to continue to use the stress to improve my health and well-being.
Over a decade of research suggsts that it's not the type or amount of stress that determines its impact. Instead it's our mindset about stress that matters most.
I've also adjusted my goals to be in line with the constraints that I currently face. Each year I usually set myself quite a few audacious stretch goals. This year, I'm toning it down a bit – I want to give myself some easy wins that are focused on what I mentioned above: mind and body. That being said, with the time won back from not having to commute – I am using it to make plans for what I want to do next in my career.
So put simply: I want to improve my focus, diversify my income, make time to read, write and draw. I want to continue to build upon my exercises adopted in 2020 for both mind and body. I want to retain the balance I've found, and adopt better technology habits.
Wishing you the very best for 2021
Phew! I can now breathe a sigh of relief. My hiatus has now ended. I should also note that my newsletter will be kicking off again this week.
All that's left for me to do is to take a moment and wish you and your family a healthy, happy and proposerous 2021. Let's crush it.
Every Sunday I send out a newsletter. My aim is to inspire you, make you smile and leave you having learned something.