Don't Feel Like You've Wasted 2020 – Focus On What You've Gained

Wondering where the year has disappeared? Here's how to reframe the loss of time.

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When Boris Johnson issued the lockdown order on March 23, we’d barely packed away our winter jumpers. We lost spring – a whole season – to the peak of the pandemic, when time itself seemed to dismantle and nothing felt quite real. Now, we’re at the summer solstice. It doesn’t seem possible.

Individual days may have dragged, yet somehow, the past three months have also passed in a blink. As we hurtle towards autumn, with our personal and professional goals left in the dust, 2020 can start to feel like a wasted year. It’s hardly the dawn of a new decade we’d imagined.

“For many people 2020 was going to be the year,” says life coach Jessica Rogers, a member of Life Coach Directory. “The start of a new decade always feels significant and many people [will have] set long term goals that they want to accomplish this decade, with some key actions and intentions for this year.”

It’s unlikely life has progressed in the way you expected, but that doesn’t mean time has been wasted. Instead, reframe your mindset by focussing on what you’ve gained during lockdown. “Even if it has been a challenging year, there will be some important learnings that will serve you going forward,” she says.

If nothing else, for those of us who have had more spare time in lockdown, it has “held us in suspension and given us time to think”, says counsellor and psychotherapist Lucy Fuller.

“One of the main positives of this is that we’ve been forced to step back from our busy lives and think about the things that bring us joy and the things that don’t,” she says. “I don’t know anyone who has not come away from lockdown with something that they will do differently going forward.”

This could be anything – from deciding you’re going to spend more time with family from now on, to reprioritising your work-life balance.

“Even those who’ve been working flat out as a key workers during lockdown have had a different experience to their ‘normal’ life,” Fuller adds, “so there is always something to take away from it, whether it’s something you feel positive about or a difficult, life-changing decision that lockdown has helped to sharpen your mind about.”

Mina Sipetic via Getty Images

No one would’ve wanted a global pandemic to be the catalyst for this introspection, but hard times help build resilience. If we pause to consider how much our mindset has changed during lockdown, we may begin to see the growth, adds life coach Denise Bosque.

“The lockdown forced everyone into a retreat, free of charge,” she says. “We had to go inwards, facing ourselves, assessing our lives, our relationships and what ultimately matters. In many ways, it was a gift.”

There are plenty of external factors to be grateful for too, she adds, from the reduction in pollution to the discovery of new loves, like running or baking.

But even if you’ve spent the the majority of lockdown slumped in front of Netflix, instead of baking sourdough, time has not been wasted. Fuller recommends being kind to yourself and letting go of the idea that you “should have” been more productive.

“What most people have found, is that although they wanted to use this ‘extra’ time to get stuff done, the house is still untidy, the bedroom still undecorated, learning a new skill has barely started and life plans are still in the air,” she says.

“The world hasn’t been normal, so it is unsurprising we’ve been held back within ourselves to get on and achieve. We haven’t found the energy for creative thoughts and deeds as we hoped – basically because our hearts have been heavy.”

“The world hasn’t been normal, so it’s unsurprising we’ve been held back within ourselves to get on and achieve.”

- Counsellor and psychotherapist Lucy Fuller

So how can we focus on the gains, rather than the perceived losses? Practising gratitude can help, says Rogers. “Relax, take in your surroundings and notice what you are grateful for, even if your gratitude is just that you can stop and breathe deeply,” she says. “In the same way you may have set goals for 2020, write down what you have accomplished in 2020 so far – even the little things.”

If you crave a sense of development, focus on the things you’ve learned and how you’ll use those lessons in autumn and beyond. Write down what you’d like to take forward from this time, how you’d like your work and life to look, and how you want to feel, suggests Rogers.

Of course, for those who’ve had milestone plans put on hold – be that getting married, changing jobs or starting fertility treatment – the loss of time will be felt more acutely, and potentially more painfully. If this applies to you, Fuller says try and be as patient as possible and make a plan for how you can best get things moving again.

“Missing out on one of the big milestones in life is difficult,” she says. “Find a way to let off steam by talking with a sympathetic friend or finding other people who are suffering in a similar way. You have a right to feel angry or frustrated and this emotion needs to be released in a safe and positive way to move things forward to where you want them to be.”

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