2020 – My Unpredictable Year

2020 My Unpredictable Year

2020: The Year That Changed Everything

Who could have predicted how 2020 would pan out?  This has been my most unpredictable year to date, and that’s saying something.  It feels like the rug’s been pulled out from under me, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. It has been an unpredictable year for many reasons, both personal and external. Change and uncertainty can add to the emotional burden of the other world events such as the pandemic.

“Life is What Happens To Us When We’re Making Other Plans”

Allen Saunders, 1957

At the dawn of the New Year I wrote a post Don’t Hold Back.  Full of optimism and excitement for the year ahead, I planned to learn new skills and apply for positions that would take my career into a new direction.  My older son, inspired by my enthusiasm, planned to travel and push his music career to new levels.  We often talk about how our year has not panned out in the way we planned it.

My son had to put his music on hold while we were in lockdown – he couldn’t drive to Brisbane to practice with his band, and gigs were cancelled for months while venues were closed.  He was extremely frustrated – musicians need to perform.  When their creativity is put on hold a major part of themselves is affected.  Travel is also out of the question.

"Life is What Happens to Us When We're Making Other Plans" Allen Saunders.  Fits with this article on how unpredictable 2020 has been.
“Life is What Happens to Us When We’re Making Other Plans” Allen Saunders. Fits with this article on how unpredictable 2020 has been.

Changes in the Family Home

The first shock of the year came when my other son decided to move out.  The Half Empty Nest is the post I wrote at the time when I was going through a grieving process as I came to terms with it.  As it turns out, I’ve coped very well with my son moving out and very soon my other son is leaving too, then I’ll be an empty nester for the first time in 28 years!  It’s wonderful to see my sons “adulting” – they need to move out for their own personal growth.

BRCA2 and its Impact on my Health

The next shock, in February, was my diagnosis of a genetic mutation, BRCA2, which increases my risk of cancer.  At the beginning of this year I would not have believed that I would have four operations, two of them to fix complications from the other two, and that I would have most of this year off work.  My recovery has been prolonged, and at this stage I’m looking at even more time off work. 

 As a Registered Nurse in a busy surgical ward, I am unable to return until I can complete my role 100%, including performing CPR and patient handling.  The loss of that role has been extremely upsetting to me.  I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years and it’s part of my identity.  It’s taking me a while to come to terms with that.  The impact of the surgeries and complications has also taken a toll.  My body is different now, and I have new issues to deal with that will remain with me for life.

Pandemic Pandemonium

March saw the Pandemic drive us all into lockdown.  I doubt if anyone in the world has not been affected in some way from Covid-19.  I’ve been isolated from some of my family since then, and unable to spend time with some of my closest loved ones.  Not being able to travel to be with family during life-changing events like a death in the family, has taken its toll on many of us.  

I’ve now been at home recovering since mid-May, and had time off prior to that for my first operation.  The only positive is that I’ve been able to spend time on my blog, and work on my website to get it the way I want.  I really don’t know how I would have coped without this to do.  I would have gone crazy with boredom!

New Home for Midlifestylist

In the last two weeks I have moved my website from WordPress.com to a different platform.  I’ve been busy trying to get my website back up and functioning.  In the transfer process the last seven blog posts did not migrate to the new host, so I’ve been republishing them.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.  

I am so glad I took the plunge and transferred my website.  The potential is amazing – I have lots of ideas on which direction I want to take Midlifestylist, so watch this space!

Ongoing Health Issues and the Emotional Toll 

In order to cope with massive life changing events and my health issues, my ability to cope emotionally has been under strain.  I’m not coping as well as I was a few weeks ago when I thought that my life would be back to normal by now.  I reached out and I’m going to talk to a counselor to help me to adjust.

I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that you need counseling.  When your sleep is getting affected, and you’re crying at the drop of a hat, it’s time.  I’ll be looking into other ways to assist as well, like meditation and mindfulness.  Being proactive with your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness.

I hope this resonates with some of my readers, and they find comfort in the fact that they are not alone in feeling stressed by the unpredictable events of this year.  Our ability to cope with all that 2020 has given us has been pushed to the limit.  Seek help if you’re not coping.  Don’t struggle through on your own.

I need to follow my own advice and take time for self care.  Read my two articles If you’re feeling stressed – Prioritising Self Care and Journalling as a Self Care Activity.

Please share – someone may need to read this today.

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Journalling as a Self Care Activity

Journalling as a Self Care Activity

How Journalling can help you deal with emotions

Journalling may be used as part of your daily self care routine. I have always found journalling to be a very positive way of channeling my emotions into something positive. Writing has always been my preferred form of self expression, ever since I was a teenager. I read my journal from when I was a 17 year old and that was an eye-opener! So much teen-aged angst.

My most productive period of journalling was when I was going through my divorce. I filled whole journals because the emotions I was feeling were often so extreme, and changing day to day, that I didn’t feel like I could share them with other people. A divorce is similar to losing a loved one – it is a type of grieving and it is a type of loss. My journalling helped during my times of loss of my mother, sister and father as well. My confidantes weren’t always available, and therapists weren’t much good at 11pm when I needed them!

I suffer extreme insomnia and can lie awake for hours with my anxious mind working overtime. Journalling is the best way I have of stopping those constant cogs rotating in my brain. As a self care activity, it has obvious advantages – it’s free, it’s easy to do, and you can do it almost anywhere. There are even apps for your phone to record your thoughts.

Self Care Journal Prompts
Journal Prompts to be used as a self care activity

Journalling as a self care activity is a constructive way to deal with your emotions. Just writing them down can clarify those emotions for you and help you to understand how you really feel. Often our emotions are so confusing that it’s hard to put a finger on what it actually is that we’re experiencing. Journalling can help you to frame those thoughts and make sense out of them.

Journal prompts are a great way to start you off when you are journalling. You may just need one journal prompt, or you may want to write something about all of them. I have put together a list of the journal prompts that I find most helpful.

What didn’t go well today?

Start with this if you have had a bad day. Journalling can help to identify the emotion and channel it into a positive activity. Bottling up feelings or using vices like alcohol and drugs to cope, are not positive ways to deal with emotions. They may offer a temporary fix, but the feelings will still be there

What emotion am I feeling? Anger, sadness, guilt, grief, disappointment

Feel the emotion. Write down everything you are feeling. It may help to write a letter to the person you are angry at – not to give to them of course. Some people burn the letter as a way of symbolic release of those emotions, and coming to terms with feelings about that person.

If you still are struggling to cope with extreme emotions after a few weeks, seek help. If you are feeling like self harm or suicide is the only answer, please seek immediate help

What am I Grateful For?

Writing a gratitude list can help us to become more optimistic over time. There is always something to be grateful for, even when things seem really grim. Some suggestions may be:

  • Having a nice meal
  • My job
  • My home
  • My family
  • Something I am good at
  • The sunshine
  • Rain for my garden
  • My health
  • I am safe and secure

What Have I done for Myself Today?

My recent blog, Prioritising Self Care had some suggestions on self care activities. Self care activities can be small things we do for ourselves like take a walk, have a bath, listen to some uplifting music, read a book or get a professional massage. If you realise you’ve gone the whole day without doing a self care activity, can you finish the day off by doing something? If not, can you start tomorrow off by doing something for yourself?

What were the Good Things I Noticed Today?

This is similar to What am I Grateful For, but it’s all the little things that made you smile. Think of simple things like coffee, sunshine, nice perfume, your pet doing something funny, an uplifting conversation, an enjoyable movie. Today while I was walking my dog I smelt an exquisite perfume – there must have been a tree in bloom because it was very strong but the tree was hidden from view. It’s moments like this that make you smile. The first whiff of coffee brewing always makes my morning routine go well.

When I first had a smart phone I loved the fact that I had a portable camera with me all the time. I loved taking photos of everyday things like birds on a wire, a lovely flower or cloud formations. I had a new appreciation for the beauty around me in the everyday things we take for granted. Try doing this as a simple exercise in boosting your morale.

What Am I Most Looking Forward To?

This year has shown us that life is not about superficial things like prestige and possessions. With restrictions to our activities and losing the freedoms we once took for granted, society has realised that the most important things are our loved ones and our health. Not being able to move around freely has taken its toll. Without a doubt, we are all looking forward to something, and hoping this pandemic gets under control soon so that we can go back to normal life.

Write down what you are most looking forward to.

  • When do I think it will happen?
  • What can I do to aim towards that?
  • If I can’t do it now, is there an alternative thing I can do? (for example, if it’s seeing my family interstate, can I organise a Zoom meeting? If it’s going to the gym, can I do a class online?

Journal Prompts Printable List

I have created a printable list of the journal prompts that you may use to record your journalling. Feel free to use it.

Instructions:

  • Click “Download”
  • Either download to your computer files, or print (top right hand corner)
  • Print as many copies as you like
Self Care Journal Prompts - this free printable may be used as part of your daily self care routine. Journalling can help you to cope with life's stressors by increasing your wellbeing.
this free printable may be used as part of your daily self care routine. Journalling can help you to cope with life’s stressors by increasing your wellbeing.

I hope you find these journal prompts useful. Please comment and let me know of any other journal prompts that you use.

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Please note: I am not a registered mental health practitioner. The information provided in this article is for general informational and educational purposes only and should not replace information provided by your own mental health practitioner. Please refer to my Disclaimer

Australian Mental Health Services
Phone and web contact details for Australian Mental Health Services

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