How to Process Your Experiences During 2020

As we all know, 2020 was filled with many unexpected struggles and turmoils. Between the pandemic, political tension, and social struggles, every person has been affected somehow. While it is true that every person has had new struggles due to the events of 2020, those struggling with substance abuse or mental health may have suffered greatly.

This profound change in everyday life also brought about many potential triggers for those trying to gain or maintain recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there has been a significant increase in substance use since the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020. For many, this drastic change in everyday life may have taken a toll on their recovery in various ways.

Honor Your Experiences

One of the worst things people can do to cope is to suppress the experiences they had during the past year. By stifling these memories and intense emotions, continuing recovery can become even more difficult. 

Many people experienced varying degrees of trauma last year. Some people lost loved ones, others developed depression or social anxiety, and others struggled to stay sober. For those that found themselves struggling to maintain their sobriety, memories from 2020 can feel especially scary and traumatic. However, this does not mean that carrying shame is needed to move forward. Admitting to and acknowledging essential changes along the way is necessary to serve as a reminder that no one needs to carry feelings of shame and guilt for their experiences continuously. 

Rather than dwelling in shame and guilt, those struggling can offer themselves acceptance and compassion. Everyone went through a series of traumatic, life-changing situations. These moments have lasting effects, and that is completely normal and okay. Navigating these difficult memories and feelings can be challenging, but necessary healing can occur through radical self-acceptance and compassion. Those in recovery can be reminded that, despite any potential shortcomings or struggles, it is okay to let go of any feelings of shame and replace them with compassion for enduring such a difficult, unforeseen time of life. 

Express Yourself

Even though feelings can be intense and unnerving, this does not mean processing through them has to be daunting. There are ways in which those processing the emotions and memories from last year can do so in a safe, peaceful way that feels authentic to themselves. Here are a few examples of activities that can help work through these thoughts and feelings:

  • Creative Writing: Through creative writing, the writer can create a story using their emotions, experiences, and passions. Perhaps the writer consumed alcohol during the pandemic after having been seven years sober. To creatively process this, the writer could create a character who experiences struggles, lets themselves (and others, perhaps) down, feels difficult feelings, overcomes them, and accomplishes their dreams and goals. This can be a fun and motivating way to process your own story.
  • Dancing: Even though the art of dance is not popular amongst most Americans, it is truly a hidden gem when it comes to healing. Not only is this an activity that also serves as a fun sort of exercise, but it also can help you to express and process through various difficulties. Sometimes people do not have the words to describe their thoughts and feelings. In this case, dancing to process these things may be a perfect option. A person can use their body to acknowledge how those emotions feel within their body, then express and release them through movement that feels authentic to them.
  • Painting, Coloring, etc.: Using mediums that allow one to incorporate different colors can be beneficial for various reasons. Not only can one create shapes with colored paints, but even more expression can be added by choosing colors as well. Creating with colors can help someone identify how they feel even before recognizing the specific emotion. After creating a piece, the artist can go back and analyze what they think it meant to them and reflect upon those ideas and emotions.

Reach Out to a Professional

Another considerable difficulty during 2020 was the inaccessibility of mental health services. Practically no one could meet in person, making it easy to succumb to isolation. However, it is now 2021, and many mental health professionals provide in-person appointments, programs, and meetings. 

For many people, assistance from a mental health professional may be necessary. There currently are many available resources to help guide you through your troubling thoughts and emotions surrounding 2020. Some of these include:

  • Group psychodrama
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • Family behavior therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

Everyone, no matter what their life situation, struggled in some way during 2020. With so much chaos that occurred, it is no wonder why so many struggled, especially those in recovery. Despite potential mishaps in sobriety, try to remain accepting and self-compassionate to ensure further healing. Even though the memories and feelings may be uncomfortable to acknowledge, engaging in creative activities can help process these times in a fun, helpful way. If needed, now there are treatment facilities available to help guide you through your difficulties post-COVID times, including us here at Rickard Elmore Treatment Strategies. Our diverse, in-person services are equipped to help you continue on your journey of recovery without the weight of shame and guilt bearing you down. Call Rickard Elmore today at (877) 387-7197 to get more information about the ways in which we can help you find the right kind of care for your needs.