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Reflecting on 2020? Don’t rush your revelations

Dr. Anna Roth tells her clients to "give yourself room to unfold" to slowly integrate the traumas, experiences, and emotions of this past year.

MINNEAPOLIS — It's easy to reduce 2020 to a narrative of everything that’s been lost. How many times have you heard it’s the "worst year ever?" For a good majority of us, it’s a hard truth in this battered calendar year as you grieve or miss something or someone from your pre-pandemic life. 

In the usual year-end reflections, you might be feeling pressured to arrive at some grand conclusion at the end of 2020, searching for some sort of wisdom or meaning in all the strife. But Dr. Anna Roth, a holistic psychologist, believes you don’t have to have some big revelation as we approach 2021.

“I think that's totally okay. I’m not there yet. I'm still taking it day by day,” said Dr. Anna, as she’s known to her clients and on Instagram. “I have not met anybody who hasn't struggled in at least one way during this time.”

She’s been sharing these year-end writings and teachings on her Instagram, determined to take her own advice and carve out intentional space. She tells her clients to "give yourself room to unfold" to slowly integrate the traumas, experiences, and emotions of this past year.

“My biggest piece of advice with this is to not put an expectation on your process or processing. We don't often or typically feel the impact of things until it's safe to, until we're through it. And so, you know, for many Minnesotans and for many Americans, it's not quite safe to let your guard down and really let the impact of this last year hit you. That timing is going to be different for everyone based on the resources they have both inside of themselves and in their life,” Dr. Anna said.

The people she counsels are experiencing both collective and individual trauma from COVID-19, George Floyd, racial unrest, working from home, distance-learning, a polarizing election, you name it. All this stress piling high can also bring about unresolved trauma, pre-existing mental health conditions or other vulnerabilities to light.

It’s important to be aware of your own trauma response, and to know when you need some extra support, or simply allow all that change to catch up to us, Dr. Anna advises. She says it doesn’t even have to be something active, like journaling. Sometimes the space you need could be when you are baking, walking or cleaning, anything that offers breathing room.

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While the coast isn't clear with the turn of a calendar, that doesn't mean you have to put away dreams either as 2021 approaches, or that you can't embrace what has emerged from this year, like new priorities, more resilience, or a personal awakening. Dr. Anna believes that one tool to help move through hard times is an "honest appraisal" where we look within at what's been gained during this time, and also what didn't happen.

“I think that one of the gems of this last year is that it has been a forced lesson in surrender. It has always has been true that we can make all of these plans and have all of these intentions for our life and for our year, and that doesn't mean that they happen,” said Dr. Anna. “It just means to kind of change our relationship to those expectations. It doesn't mean that it's a failure if it doesn't happen, or that we're not even going to dream at all. Why not have some hopes, but also just hold them lightly?”

Above all, as 2021 approaches and you are still holding your breath, Dr. Anna hopes you will give yourself credit for getting to this moment and be gentle with yourself going forward, knowing that growth always comes from hardship.

“Unfortunately, we don't always grow the most from positive things. We kind of take those things for granted, but we often do notice the biggest shifts and kind of elevations in ourselves, and expansions in ourselves when things are hard. That gives me a lot of hope knowing that there's going to be something fruitful that comes from it,” she concluded.

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