Appreciating the small wins during the pandemic
It is now over a year since the United Kingdom went into its first lockdown as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. WIth discussions of the "new normal" and "life as it is now" abounding, it feels significant for us to take a moment to appreciate our achievements - both big and small.
Teachers have faced the unprecedented challenges of remote learning and motivating their students from afar amidst the constantly changing landscape of restrictions. Parents and guardians have also had to adapt to the new reality of home learning in households with children of all ages and needs. Students have been forced to come to terms with the disappointment of not being able to attend school and university. And we have all had to reconcile ourselves to the difficulties of not being able to see our loved ones, our own experiences with COVID-19, anxiety, illness and loss, and having to quickly adapt to circumstances most of us would never have predicted.
In this period of adapting, worrying, surviving and coping, it has been difficult for many of us to take a moment to appreciate our achievements over the past year. Especially where we might be dealing with unfair expectations to carry on as normal, as though there were no global pandemic looming over our heads at all times - university students expected to produce the same amount and quality of work, parents and guardians expected to cope with home learning, and more - it is important that we pause for a moment (or longer) to value ourselves and acknowledge what we have managed to do and accomplish.
There are many things for which we should be grateful to ourselves at this time. These might include such things as: reaching out to loved ones for support and solidarity, because sometimes that is the hardest thing; remembering to eat even though time feels the furthest thing from linear right now; managing to think beyond the day-to-day, even momentarily, in order to apply for internships, jobs or other future opportunities; making some time for yourself; starting a project you have always wanted to accomplish; discovering something new about yourself and your identity; and more.
Life is so very busy, and it often feels that our purpose is to be more, do more, have more - and especially so in the age of social media, where we can endlessly compare ourselves to others and the achievements that they present to us. In light of this, we can find ourselves minimising our achievements. Perhaps they are "nothing special" or "not noteworthy".
However, it is crucial to stop and really, truly appreciate and savour our achievements. Particularly during the ongoing struggles we might be facing, enjoying the fruits of our labour and feeling satisfied, happy and fulfilled form important pockets of joy - which also provide some cushioning for when things are not so great.
As the UK starts to relax its restrictions, approaching an end which is in sight and following in the footsteps of other countries, we ought to take a moment to think about how well we have managed to cope with what will be for many of us the greatest historical and personal event of our lives. And be proud of ourselves for our resilience and strength in the face of this grandest of scales of change and disruption and disappointment and grief (and anger and fatigue and more...).
To end this piece, I want to leave you with one mindfulness exercise that is useful for appreciating our accomplishments, which is called the Savouring Breath.
Savouring Breath instructions:
Close your eyes and put your hand on your heart. Breathe in each and every one of your accomplishments as white light. This white light represents appreciation for these achievements and accomplishments. On the exhalation, allow this white light to settle deep inside of you. Keep breathing in this way until your entire body is full of white light. When you are full of white light, allow it to radiate out of you for a few minutes.
Written by Ella Dane-Liebesny