What If I Told You 2020 Has Been a Great Year?

I know we won’t really look back at 2020 thinking “What a great year!” but if we look at how much we learnt from it, I would say it wasn’t such a bad year in the end. As today is (finally?) the last day of the year, I thought it was time to reflect and try a different outlook on what’s now almost behind us. When I started this blog, I was very frustrated by how much the pandemic impacted my plans. Today, I’m glad I managed to use the second part of the year the best way I could possibly have. Let me go through why I think 2020 has been a great year on reflection.

2020 started with awesome travels

It would be easy to focus on how the pandemic interrupted my travels and dwell on the fact I couldn’t finish my trip like initially planned. Because of it, I didn’t go to Japan this year. I’ve been before though, and I will definitely go back again – this is where my mum was born after all. Instead I’ll focus on what I was able to do: an amazing month spent road tripping along the east coast of Australia, from Sydney to Cairns. I even got the opportunity to finally go back to Brisbane, where I had so many fond memories from 2006. And after that, we were lucky enough to spend another 6 weeks in New Zealand, which is probably one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. With happy memories I will carry for the rest of my life, 2020 didn’t start too bad!

It opened my eyes on the urgency to save the planet

What would seem like bad timing may have actually been a great eye-opener for me: I was in Australia during the bushfires that caused a lot of damage on the planet and wildlife. It also reminded me that some sunny countries like Australia don’t get as much rain compared to what we’re used to in Europe, therefore they have no choice but to make constant efforts to save water (which we may take for granted elsewhere in the world…). I was already starting to question our impact on climate change when the pandemic happened. If anything, it confirmed how urgent it has become to take responsibility on our actions and their consequences on the planet. It is quite simple: if we don’t do anything and keep ignoring the facts, there will be nothing left to see for the next generations.

My health & wellbeing became a priority

Focus on mental health

I never got to know myself better than this year. I usually don’t panic easily, I know what I want and (maybe more importantly) what I don’t want in life, I have a strong temper and sometimes strong opinions on things I feel passionate about. I like to be organised and plan everything so I can keep my head on my shoulders. In short, I’m a control freak. That’s probably why the level of uncertainty caused by the pandemic hit me hard. I lost all sense of anticipation, torn between a naïve optimism and a desperate need to stay hopeful, struggling with the feeling of being completely helpless. But I learnt how to deal with this uncertainty, I overcame my new anxiety and faced my fears in a way that developed new strengths in me. I’ve found that my patience, resilience and courage have grown. Thanks 2020 for this life lesson.

… But also physical health

An invisible killer threatening the most vulnerable people was all it took for me to prioritise the right things. I knew I indulged myself too much during our travels, I needed to do something to avoid falling into the category of those who have “existing underlying health conditions”. It freaked me out so much that I gave myself 3 clear objectives:
1 – go back to a healthy weight by the end of the year (below 68 kg according to my BMI)
2 – eventually aim for 60 kg (I’m 165 cm tall so this is roughly what I need to be at)
3 – keep a sustainable and improved lifestyle that will guarantee I will never have to lose so much weight ever again.
But one thing at a time. I’ve been focussing on the first objective this year and these are today’s figures:

I use the app VeSyncFit to track progress
All data is now in “green” (= healthy)

I wouldn’t usually share publicly such information about me, but I’m hoping it would inspire someone else on the same journey. On Sunday 2nd August 2020, my weight was 84.80 kg and today, Thursday 31st December 2020, I’m at 67.55 kg, which means I lost 17.25 kg in only 5 months. My BMI came down from 31.1 (obese category) to 24.8 (healthy category). My body fat went down from 37.9% (way too high) to 28.2% (acceptable). I also lost almost 15 cm around the waist, where you store the most dangerous fat that can significantly increase the risk of chronic diseases. I’m happy to be starting 2021 on a healthy base, because 2020 put me back on track. That’s my first objective smashed! Now I’m ready to tackle the next two.

I identified who I really wanted to keep in my life

It’s either make or break

Being locked down with a special someone, even if you picked that someone to be your partner for the rest of your life, could be a challenging situation for many couples. No wonder why the divorce rate has increased drastically in 2020! It does make me wonder how long people stay married without really knowing each other. You only get to know someone fully when you travel with them, but our recent 6-month trip was never a test for us. We knew what our families and friends still needed to see: we were never meant to break. Being stranded abroad was a stressful experience but it only made our relationship (even) stronger, staying at home together was always going to be a piece of cake in comparison. If we couldn’t tie the knot in 2020, we’re determined to make 2021 our year.

I cut off ties with toxic people

It’s always easy to identify who you really want to keep in your life: some close family members, your partner, some of your best friends, kind people who make a difference, etc. But what about people who don’t deserve you / hurt your feelings / bring you down with their negativity and/or judgmental behaviour / don’t make any efforts to stay in touch? My tolerance level decreased because I realised I didn’t have to accept the unacceptable, I don’t have to forgive easily either. Raising your standards when it comes to relationships is an excellent thing, it’s so important to surround yourself with like-minded people. Of course there are always going to be people you’d rather detach yourself from but can’t: some family members or even colleagues… Just keep in mind kindness is contagious. Oh, and I also deleted my personal social media accounts. Freedom!

My conclusion on 2020

Looking back, I can’t really say it’s been a bad year… I used to blog between 2007 and 2017 but had to stop eventually, because I didn’t have enough time for it anymore. 2020 gave me the extra time I needed to start this new blog and it’s been a powerful form of therapy to help me heal from my wounds. Now I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. 2020 has changed me forever, in a very positive way. I’m ready for 2021, bring it on!

Have you turned the negatives into positives too? What learning(s) do you want to apply in 2021 and onwards?

Big Girl x

How to Look for a Job That Will Positively Impact Your Mental Health

How to Look for a Job That Will Positively Impact Your Mental Health

Last year I was working in a finance company where the culture was really bad: ignoring people’s work-life balance, asking employees to work during the weekend without any compensation, expecting us to arrive at the office as early as possible in the morning and leave as late as possible in the evening, not to mention taking a lunch break was frowned upon.

But maybe the worst was the fact that meetings (especially between heads of departments) were emotionally difficult, one of us would expect to be mentally beaten up and humiliated in front of everyone else without warnings. It resulted in an atmosphere where we were scared to speak up (in case we said something silly), always kept on our toes and desperate to impress the most influential people within the company. Staying in their good books was essential to survive and I hated witnessing “brown nose clubs” doing whatever it took to be on the “right” side.

This experience was a great school of life though, I stayed 2 years in this company until I realised I needed to reassess my priorities. I then decided to quit and go travelling for 6 months.

Why you should always prioritise your wellbeing

I think you can see where I’m going with it: it’s great to have a job that pays well… except if it impacts your mental health, which will also affect your overall health. In response to stress, I found comfort in food and gained more than 20 kg during these 2 years. I’ve never seen so many unhappy employees. The turnover rate was so high that most teams were completely different between when I joined the company and when I left 2 years later. I left with no other job lined up, nothing else than a travel plan and yet I know I made one of the best decisions of my life – even if I’m still unemployed today.

Define what values are the most important to you

Of course I didn’t think I would struggle to find a new job upon my return when I decided to do a short career break. I’ve never found it hard to find a new job in the past, I’ve never stayed in the same company for more than a few years. Things are different in 2020 though. The economic impact of COVID is real and the unemployment rate hit its highest level in 3 years. But at least now I know my priorities in life, I had a lot of time to reflect and think about how I need to pick my next work opportunity. Below a few values I overlooked in the past but won’t in the future:

  • strong leadership that empowers employees
  • fun and modern company culture
  • good employee retention
  • respect of work-life balance
  • flexibility on work schedule and possibility to work from home
  • healthy environment at the office

Get a better idea of what your dream job would be

Starting this blog also helped me narrow down the industry I ideally want to work in. As a marketing professional, I have worked in many different industries because it never really mattered to me what I had to sell, I liked the variety. Marketing is a tool and the techniques stay more or less the same between companies. But now I’m starting to realise how much it actually matters to personally have an interest in the company’s business. So I would love my next job to be in health, wellbeing and/or fitness industry. Have you ever noticed how much you could influence your future with a clear plan in mind and a positive attitude?

The new “normal”

Old fashioned companies like my previous one are thankfully less common nowadays. Mental health is an important topic, we spend way too much time at work to tolerate a toxic atmosphere. Even the worst companies had to adapt during lockdown, allowing employees to work from home (that would have been unthinkable for some in the past). Nowadays, more companies realise they can trust their employees to do their job, without having to micro-manage them. This pandemic definitely had some positive influence in some areas. But it’s too soon to tell if the change is going to last after it’s all over…

How did the pandemic impact your work life?

Big Girl x