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My top 3 lessons from 2020

It's the last day of the year, and if you're reading this, I want to give you a virtual hug. I'm happy that you made it through the mess that is 2020. It has been a bumpy ride, but you're here, and that's remarkable.

One thing we all tried to do this year is to survive. Our lives have been turned upside down, and the pandemic has caused varying degrees of distress. It is during a time like this that we must pay more close attention to our mental health, even if it seems a second priority next to maintaining a source of income and putting food on the table.

Music kept me going this year. It gave me comfort and joy. Aside from this, all the lessons that I have learned in therapy came in handy during the pandemic. Without these, I probably would have spiraled again and sunk into a deep and dark depressive episode. It's not that the triggers have disappeared (heck, this whole year IS a trigger), but because I have learned how to manage my response to things, I somehow have a defense system built in place. Let me share with you what I do to protect my mental well-being.

1. Prioritize yourself.

This is different from being selfish. Prioritizing yourself means looking inward and finding out what you really need. Do you need to disconnect from social media? Do you need more quiet time? Listen to what your mind and body tell you and do this first. Once you've done this, you'll most likely feel better; therefore, you'll be more productive in attending to the things you have to do, like household chores, tasks at work, or errands.

2. Build mental barriers.

This is crucial in maintaining your mental well-being. We cannot control what people do to us, no matter how hard we wish for them to change, but if we have a mental barrier, we're able to put them in their proper place in our minds.

This year, I finally learned how to build this barrier. I interact with different people every day (virtually, of course, since I work from home), and there are a few who are toxic. I often find myself drained and demoralized after talking to these people, but with my mental barrier in place, I can bounce back after a toxic virtual call or email. Sure, sometimes, their words affect me so much that I cannot concentrate the whole day. I may need to vent and express how I feel, but with my mental barrier, my self-worth remains unshattered.

Repeat after me: My self-worth does not depend on what (insert name of toxic person) says.


3. Cut ties, if you must.

It's liberating. We may have been taught by our parents or by our teachers in school that it's bad to burn bridges. But for me, it is perfectly okay to do so, especially if that bridge leads to people or situations that are bad for you. Prioritize your mental health over preserving ties—may these be with friends or relatives. Your future self will thank you, and your mind will be more at peace knowing that you don't have to put up with their sh*t anymore.

We may be facing the new year with anxiety, but I hope we still get to soldier on and survive. It's okay if we pause, take breaks, or even dial down our energy. We don't always have to be 2021's best students. We just need to make it through.


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