Every year we like to look back at what worked and didn’t work for us over the past year. We usually do this when we have our new year planning meeting, which we haven’t had yet this year. Instead we went for a final walk of the year and reflected on the year almost past. Most of the things that we found to work or not work for us are small things, but we’ve often found it’s truly the small things that add up. This reflection is so helpful as it allows us time to consider what we want to bring with us into the new year and want what we want to leave behind.
What Worked (and didn’t work) For Us in 2020
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What worked for both of us:
1// Meal Prep and Planning
Meal prep and planning has always been a point of contention for us. Bassam has always wanted to do it and I always haven’t. We’ve tried it before, the traditional way you see with the Tupperware ready to go with perfectly balanced and portioned out meals. It never worked for us because we never wanted to eat it and we’d just get takeout!
When quarantine hit, we were eating all of our meals exclusively at home and both were were working long hours. In order to be able to eat and eat something we enjoyed, a little prep was needed. This is where we found our happy spot.
Once a week, we’d shop at the farmers market. We’d wash and cut everything immediately once arriving home. Nothing went in the fridge unless it was ready to use. This means lemons squeezed in a mason jar, lettuce washed and chopped, veggies chopped, etc. We couldn’t get over how organized our fridge was!
Based on what we bought that week, I’d create a menu for the week (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Meals every single day were different and exciting, but they reused enough similar components to keep things easy.
We LOVED this. We started looking forward to our meals and really enjoying them, as well as getting really creative in the kitchen.
This also lent itself to less waste (we’d use up everything we had), more efficiency (I didn’t have to think about what to make, I already knew and the components were ready for me), more health (we started challenging ourselves to see how many different veggies we could eat a week), and more fun (we love food and this made eating at home more exciting).
We’ve fallen off the ball with pregnancy because I’ve been so sick and haven’t been able to menu plan or meal prep, but I can’t wait to get back into it in the future.
Date nights and fun activities have felt a little more limited this year, especially during stay at home orders. Picnics have really worked for us this year! We started these at the very beginning of quarantine as a way to have a date night. It was also a way to have a French inspired day as we were missing France so much and had to cancel a France trip this year.
We’ve done all different kinds of picnics and all of them have been so fun! We’ve had picnics where we do a cheese and wine spread. We’ve had picnics where we just grab takeout. We’ve even had fancier picnics where we bring a table, chairs, tablecloth, and a full meal on fancy plates. Every single type has been so fun and we mix up our picnic spot so we don’t get bored.
Picnics have also been a great way to be able to see our friends! We’ve done a few double date picnics and just bring a blanket for each couple to sit distanced from each other.
3// Investing in our home
We moved back into our home after a year long displacement due to fire damage right before quarantine. I don’t think we’ve ever been so grateful for our home! We shared our kitchen reveal right when we moved back. We are still battling with our insurance company and haven’t been able to finish getting everything back in place as we haven’t received all of our insurance payouts yet. We did the essentials to be able to move back in, but we were still waiting on the non essentials.
We spent a lot of time in our backyard, but kept putting off getting cushions for our outdoor furniture and putting up the string lights. We would just sit on our outdoor furniture without any cushions, which was really uncomfortable! If we had anyone over, we would bring our dining chairs outside. We finally decided to start fixing up our backyard and not wait for our insurance issue to be resolved and I wish we did it so much sooner!
Our backyard is such a nicer space now with the cushions and the string lights. It’s so comfortable, cozy, and we love spending time out there! During a time when we’re spending so much time at home, we are really enjoying having a nice space!
4// Regular coaching sessions
This year we enrolled in a mentorship program together and have been doing monthly coaching sessions together. This has been the #1 best thing we’ve ever done and has been such a game changer for us. We see three different coaches and rotate who we see monthly. Each coach approaches things from a different perspective, but it all works so cohesively together.
Regular coaching has helped our relationship so much and also helped each of us improve as individuals, which in turn helps our relationship. I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to do this prior to having kids. It has made such a difference in our communication and also self awareness. We’ve faced our triggers head on and are working through them. It’s impossible not to be triggered in life and I believe coping strategies only go so far. When you can work on the underlying trauma surrounding the trigger, then less things in life can be triggers. I think about it like walking around a space with land mines. It’s so restricting to have to walk around the land mines, versus if we can get rid of them or minimize them, then we have more freedom. I know this is not the approach that works for everyone, but this is what has been working for us.
I’m not sure in what capacity we will continue coaching next year. It was a big financial investment and not one we can make in 2021 with everything we have coming up. I do know we will want to continue it in some format, so we’ll need to figure out what that is.
5// Exploring new neighborhoods
We didn’t travel at all in 2020 which was a huge bummer for us both. It was especially hard for me as I’m the more wanderlusty one. To satisfy our craving of exploring new places, we’d go for walks in new neighborhoods. We loved getting to know different parts of our city better, see new things, and “window shop” for houses. We found so many cute neighborhoods and this kept things a little more exciting during an otherwise pretty routine time.
What worked for Bassam:
1// Honest communication
I’ve been inspired by the radical transparency Lena and I have implemented together to be honest in all my relationships. I’ve seen a positive difference in how it has helped me to get closer to my loved ones and also helped them to open up to me in return. It’s not always easy, but it has been so worth it.
2// Being true to myself
I’ve always struggled with being true to myself and what I want. Through the coaching work we’ve done this year, I’ve learn to own every part of who I am. This includes, being honest about what I want and not just focusing on what others want from me. It also means being honest with myself about the areas in my life I can improve in, rather than being defensive about shortcomings.
During quarantine this year, a friend of mine and I decided to go on early morning walks together 3 times a week. I didn’t think we’d stick to it, but we have! We aren’t always consistent with it, but it’s still going and it’s something I look forward to very much. It helps me wake up early and get my day started on a positive note. It also helps me reach my step goal for the day!
4// Audio books
Last year I got into reading, thanks to this series. This year, audio books really worked for me! For the first time, I set a reading goal – 12 books. I actually exceeded my goal – 14 books! 10 of these were actually audio books that I listened to in just 2 months. Lena made fun of me because I constantly had earbuds in my ears, but she’s the one who wanted this. Here’s the series that got me hooked on audio.
What worked for Lena:
1// At home workouts
I’ve always loved the setting of a group exercises class. I love to feed off the energy in the room and find it so motivating, but during quarantine I found that I love at home work outs! I found so many great online classes that were so much fun. I loved being able to pick an exercise for the day that fit my mood, whether that was a dance class or kickboxing class. I also loved that I didn’t have to waste time in driving anywhere, could wear whatever I wanted, easily fit it into my day, and do it at any time that was most convenient for me. This has been especially helpful in pregnancy as I’ve been so tired and leaving the house just makes it more likely I won’t do it.
2// Owning my feelings
I’ve come to learn the importance of feeling your feelings and duality with feelings over the past few years, but this year really taught me how much I still suppress. Bassam and I practice radical transparency together and through the coaching we did, I learned I wasn’t always being fully honest with him or myself because I didn’t always allow myself to truly feel how I felt. This is still a work in progress, but I’m really learning how to feel whatever it is I feel rather than just feel like I have to have everything under control at all times. This is also leading me to ask for what I truly need and let Bassam in, rather than feel like I have to just handle it all on my own or be okay all the time, especially if he’s struggling too.
3// Walking outdoors
Walking outdoors has always been my favorite form of self care and it really saved my sanity this year. No matter what mood I’m in, walking outdoors leaves me feeling inspired and calmer. I love walking alone and getting to listen to a great audio book or just be alone with my thoughts. I also love walking with Bassam, my sister, or a friend. I had a goal to walk 1000 this year, but I didn’t quite make it (950 miles). I was really upset about it but ultimately had to give myself grace because my body has been through a lot this year with two difficult pregnancies and a pregnancy loss.
4// Getting involved
I used be involved heavily in activism work in high school and college, but I burnt out. The BLM movement this year reinvigorated that spark for me and made me remember how much social justice work matters to me. I got involved in a lot of anti racism learning and activism. I thought I was ‘woke’ but I learned so much and also learned learned about my own intersectionality, hidden biases, and privilege as a non black person of color.
I also realized I’ve really dropped the ball in social justice work for my own communities. I’ve stopped being as vocal when I see discrimination towards Middle Easterners and Muslims. A lot of it was fear based, which I don’t feel comfortable getting into quite yet. I’ve started to speak up again when I see it happening and look for ways that I can make a difference. I firmly believe that all of us can make a difference in the world. Even if it’s small ways, those small ways add up.
5// Taking charge of my health
I grew up in a very health conscious household. Obscure super foods were a common thing in our house and we all worked out regularly. After my mom was diagnosed with ALS, I rebelled against health. I felt like if someone like her could do everything right and still get sick, what was the point? I started emotional eating as a way to cope with my grief. I stopped working out because I felt too guilty to be able to move my body when my mom couldn’t for so long. In the process, I gained 40 pounds and also just felt terrible mentally and physically.
Last year, my aunt who is like my second mom struggled with some major health issues. While we will never know for sure, it’s very possible that her lifestyle choices played a role. As I watched her and our loved ones struggle, I knew I needed to do everything I could to enhance my health. Taking care of our health is not a guarantee against illness, but not taking care of our health is a surefire way to diminish quality of life.
I started researching health and found functional MDs, nutritionists, and heath coaches who I trusted. I slowly started to reintroduce healthy habits back into my life. After our pregnancy loss this year, I made health my number 1 priority. Quarantine was also helpful in this as we stopped eating out. Over the course of a few months, I lost 30 pounds and felt more energized than ever.
Here are a few things that really worked for me in this area:
- Having just a few trusted sources. There’s so much noise in the wellness world and a lot of it is conflicting. Having a few trusted sources made things so much easier. I love Kelly Leveque (book here, Instagram here) and Mark Hyman (book here, Instagram here). I took Kelly’s courses, read her books, and listened to her podcast. I learned SO much. We also signed up for Parsley Health Group which is more in alignment with preventative medicine than just treatment. For the first time ever, I didn’t dread going to the doctor and felt I had someone on my team who I could ask questions and trust their answers.
- Making it fun. If it’s not fun, I won’t do it. I don’t exercise for health, I exercise because I’ve found activities that I love and they feel great.
- Honoring my foodie self. I LOVE food. “Diets” have always failed for me because I love food too much. This book helped me realize that as a foodie I should prioritize eating foods I love and that it’s okay to spend time and energy on food if you love it. Kelly’s books helped me teach me what my body truly needs to thrive. From there, I created meal plans that were delicious for our taste buds (see above with what worked for both of us this year) while also fueling our bodies well.
- Nothing is off limits. I’m the kind of person if I tell myself I can’t have something, I’ll binge it. I’ve had to tell myself I can have anything I want and Kelly’s tips have really taught me how that balance is possible.
- Having a strong why. It’s hard to be motivated every day, but having a strong why helps. I want to be able to live as long as possible with as much vitality as possible. I want to have energy for my kids and hopefully future grandkids. I want to be able to go on adventures and enjoy life. I want to feel great mentally and physically so I can live my best life.
Things have gone out the window this pregnancy with my health as it’s been difficult to maintain my healthy habits with how I’ve been feeling. This has been really hard for me and I’ll discuss more in what didn’t work.
What didn’t work for Lena:
I had terrible work/life balance this year. This is something I’ve always struggled with, but have really worked on the last few years. With all the changes that happened this year, my work load drastically increased. Add to that working from home, when you can work literally all hours, and it was a recipe for overworking disaster.
I’m so grateful I have a job during these uncertain times. It’s also a job I enjoy and helps me feel I’m making a difference. I also LOVE working from home. None of those things mean I should work the hours that I have been and put the pressure on myself that I have been.
In 2021, I want to leave overworking behind. I will do this by setting a work schedule and sticking to it, saying “no” to things more often (this year I said “yes” to way too much), prioritizing what actually needs to be done, being okay with leaving things unfinished, and setting up an actual office space rather than working in the living room and kitchen.
2// Trying to control outcomes
I’ve learned a lot about myself this year through the coaching program we did and one of the things I learned is that the way I cope with the world is by having a belief that I need to “hold it all together”. This can often result in putting too much pressure on myself to make everything go well and feeling like if I’m not in charge of something, it will all fall apart. This plays out in my personal life quite a bit, including my relationship with Bassam. If he’s struggling, I feel like I have to fix it. In 2021, I’m working on letting that go and learning how to support, without fixing.
This has also been a huge challenge for me with my pregnancy. I have not been able to have the type of pregnancy I’ve wanted to with how I’ve been feeling. I’ve gained a lot more weight than I “should” and haven’t eaten, moved, or connected to my body or the baby the way I would’ve liked to. I’ve spent so much time struggling against that and wanting to find a way to fix it. I’m starting to learn that maybe this is a lesson pregnancy is trying to teach me. To give up control and just go with what is. I know this will be especially important when baby is here, which is why my word for 2021 is “flow”.
3// Pretty much every tip for pregnancy nausea
First trimester was really rough for me. I threw up 15 times a day and had incredibly severe nausea. I couldn’t drink water and couldn’t eat anything but simple carbs and sour candy. It’s much better now, but I’m still nauseous all day with some bouts of vomiting and major food aversions.
I’ve tried literally every nausea tip out there. Every. Single. One. Nothing worked.
That’s okay. This is part of my learning to give up control and just go with what is. No matter how uncomfortable that may be. And even when it doesn’t fit my ideal of how I’d like things to be.
What didn’t work for Bassam:
I had a really hard time with consistency this year. I found several things that might have worked for me, but I wasn’t consistent with them. Now that I’ve experimented with so many things, I want to try to be more consistent with them next year so I can see the impact they have.
2// Prioritizing time for myself
I struggle with taking time for myself, I always fall last on my list. Taking some time for self care is one of the biggest fights Lena and I get into. I tell her I don’t need it, but I see the impact it has on me. I’ve started to notice I’m more easily stressed and aggravated. In 2021, I want to do a better job of taking time for myself whether that’s to exercise or chill out with a Legos set.
3// Working in the garage
When I started working from home in 2020, I set up my office space in the garage. While I initially liked it, it really wasn’t working for me. The temperature control isn’t great – I’m freezing in the winter and super hot in the summer. I get easily distracted as I love chatting with the neighbors when they walk by. And the garage isn’t super organized which doesn’t feel like a good space to be in. At the end of the year, I moved my office inside the house and I’m already loving the set up much better. The only thing is – Lena and I will be sharing an office, so we’ll see how that goes!
Thanks for reading and following along with us this year! We have loved sharing our lives with you, chatting with you, and connecting this year. We’d love to know what worked and didn’t work for you in 2020!