5 Mental Shifts That Made Me a Stronger Person in 2020

Here’s what you can learn from my toughest year to date.

Jessie van Breugel
Dec 14, 2020 · 8 min read

Keys, phone, wallet.

The standard procedure when you leave the house. Not in a million years I would have thought that a facemask would be part of that ritual.

2020 has been the year I adopted a bunch of indoor plants, from which, unfortunately, already a couple didn’t stand the test of time. Or better said, my incompetence to keep them alive. It has been the year I resigned from a secure job to follow my inner voice and finally join the entrepreneurial path.

2020 has been the year of my first anxiety attacks, something I didn’t think would ever happen to me. It has been a year of starting to uncover unhealed traumas of the past and laying the foundation for healing my wounds.

This year has been a real challenge on every level.

Yet, I’m grateful for every lesson learned. I’m still healthy, my family and loved ones are as well. Every day when I wake up, I have a choice and that’s something to be grateful for. In hindsight, there were a couple of major, pivotal moments over this year. Mental shifts that come forth of spiritual, physical, or emotional insights. All of them are powerful in their own unique way and form.

Anxiety is okay.

Nobody is immortal or made out of steel like Ironman. We’re all living in prosperous, abundant times. (tip: read Factfulness or The Rational Optimist if you don’t believe me)

As we’ve covered our most basic needs like food, shelter, safety, and water, we don’t have to spend our brainpower any longer on securing those. As a result, our prehistoric brains got a lot of spare time. One of its favorite habits is to think of scenarios that might happen in the future. The result? Anxiety?

Anxiety is the worry for future events — a big event or a buildup of smaller stressful life situations may trigger excessive anxiety.

I experience anxiety when I worry too much about all the things I have to do daily or the things that I didn’t do. Anxiety creeps up to me the moments I lose sight of the bigger picture. Yes, those moments are crazy and super uncomfortable. But, let me tell you this: anxiety is ok.

Image for post
Image for post
a gentle reminder, laying on my desk — personal picture

How to deal with it:

One of the main things that helped me with this is the knowledge and acceptance that it’s OK to be anxious — it’s a natural physiological response and it happens to every one of us.

Yes, the timing might be inconvenient, but I found that it’s nothing to fear. Embracing the fact that I feel anxious helps me deal with it in a better way. Anxiety in itself isn’t good or bad. It just is. How I feel about it and deal with it, is all that matters.

I don’t have an answer on how to battle anxiety, but returning to my breath works wonders — most of the time.

Money is everywhere.

The moment you make your first $ on the internet, a lightbulb will go off and you’ll realize that:

Time ≠ money
Location ≠ opportunity
Hard work ≠ smart work

Earlier this year I resigned from my job in the midst of a pandemic and looming recession. So far, it has been challenging but the feeling of being absolutely free and independent of my time is fantastic. I know I’m an ambitious, self-driven, individualistic person, but with the right mindset and drive, everybody can do it. I haven’t made a living from my entrepreneurial existence yet, but this will come.

The moment you start seeing time and money in a separate way, endless possibilities arise. Your mindset and thought process will change. You will value your time so much more and decide to spend it only on things that matter to you.

You start thinking in a different form of problem-solving:
Where can I provide value to people? How can I solve the problem they have?”

Image for post
Image for post
cc: Visualize Value on Twitter

How to deal with it:

The fact that I took a serious leap of faith and went all-in on my own business doesn’t mean that you have to quit your job as well. You can start small and look for possibilities on the side. And then, whenever you found a viable business model or secured a steady secondary income, you can decide to cut the cord and focus full-time on your own thing.

If you’re reading this, you’re blessed. It means you have 3 essential things at your disposal to make money:

  1. an internet connection
  2. time
  3. a drive to improve yourself

Whatever you decide to work on, pick something that’s uniquely you. The world doesn’t need another copycat. The following guide can help you get started:

You're not your job title.

You are so much more.

I always had a certain disposition against the usage of job titles to describe yourself. The fact you’re working as a manager doesn’t make you a manager. The same applies to every other profession out there. I’m a firm believer that you should do something because it fits your unique skills and personal traits and not clung your identity to your profession.

It was only till I consecutively quit my job 3 times in less than 3 years that I realized this. People now ask me: What do you do for a living? And my answer is this: “I write and I spend my time studying and trying to share my lessons and wisdom with the world”. I can comfortably say that they nod their heads confused.

It still strikes me that people clung to their identity so much to their profession.

The moment you say “I am [insert a fancy job title]”, you will trick your mind into believing this. Normally, this is a great way to initiate positive behavioral change. But not in this case, as attaching your identity to something as fluid as your job can be detrimental in the long term.

What if you suddenly lose your job, does your personality then degrade as well?

How to deal with it:

Separate yourself from your job title — as it’s not about your ‘title’ in life. It’s about your personal traits that make you you. Nourish them, bless them, develop them and you’ll be fine.

A good story always has a change.

Nobody likes a story that stays the same forever. In classical storytelling, plot twists and cliffhangers are used to cause suspense for the reader or viewer who wants to come back to learn what will happen.

I know for a fact that I don’t want my life to still be the same as it was at the beginning of this year. I’ve had my fair share of obstacles to overcome, but so has everyone. The excitement is what keeps it real.

The change affects us all and we each deal with change differently. It’s undeniable and something that will always happen.

“The only constant in life is change “— Heraclitus

How to deal with it:

Moments when I feel overwhelmed by change or the absence of change, it helps me a lot to scroll back-and-forth through old journals and notes. By reading through, I quickly realize that every phase in my life had its challenges — some of which I back then, didn’t see a way out for. Yet, the fact that I’m writing this story is a living testament to the fact that I succeeded in overcoming those odds.

I’ve come to realize it’s not the circumstances of the changes that dictate how my life will go, but rather how I handle those changes and disruptions. No matter the change we experience, how we embrace that change will forever impact how we are able to live with the change.

Practices as affirmations, visualization, journaling, and mindfulness help with accepting change in your life and putting it into perspective.

Another positive approach to change involves reaching out to your support network of family, friends, peers, and professionals.

Practice living life with an attitude of gratitude and remember that changes are a normal part of life. You don’t have to do it alone, you just need to ask for help every now and then.

Both a work in progress and a masterpiece

I sometimes find myself in a position of complacency. I’m making good progress currently, growing my personal brand day-by-day. Yet, I bash myself for the work I didn’t do.

Where I was previously satisfied with small goals, I’ve now set my eyes on a goal that’s from a different scale. I found myself only looking up to see how far I still had to go, instead of also looking down to see how far I’ve got already.

“The top of one mountain is always the bottom of another “ — Marianne Williamson

I shouldn’t forget that the journey is as much of a prize as the destination, maybe even more.

We’re here for the long term, so we have to be mindful. Spending time on mental health is evenly important as spending adequate time and effort on our physical health. The one can’t go without the other.

Mental health is as important as physical health, so let’s not forget to take life not so serious all the time. Let’s have some fun along the way.

How to deal with it:

It’s key to find the thin line that lies between ambition and gratitude. Be a thankful overachiever and your happiness will follow.

You can be blissfully happy with where you’re at in life, while at the same time you can be equally dissatisfied with wanting more or knowing you have more to give.

Finally, the common and often shared advice — practice self-love and self-care — helps you to stay grounded and mentally healthy. Everyone has his or her own preferences for self-love and practices, but allow yourself to make yourself a priority at least 1 time a day.

A great and simple acronym to take care of yourself is T.I.M.E — Thankfulness, Inspiration, Meditation, and Exercise. Create the space for yourself, make time in the morning. The morning hours are yours and no one else’s.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Daniel Chicchon on Unsplash

Thanks for reading.

- Jessie

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Jessie van Breugel

Written by

I write about mindfulness, mental models, entrepreneurship and personal branding 📝 | Follow me on my writer’s journey: https://jessie-work.ck.page/

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

Jessie van Breugel

Written by

I write about mindfulness, mental models, entrepreneurship and personal branding 📝 | Follow me on my writer’s journey: https://jessie-work.ck.page/

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store