Dr Jo Ward nearly died from Covid, Katie Brindle became an unexpected influencer at 50 and Ruby Hammer discovered she'd still got a long way to go when it came to banana bread. 10 experts share the highs and lows of their year
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times – 2020 has been a year like no other. While our diaries may have emptied, our heads certainly haven't. It's been a time for introspection and finding out our strengths and weaknesses when we don't have access to our usual support systems. Taking time to look back on what we've learned (not just that we don't like wearing a bra) can help give us some perspective rather than just writing off 2020 as the year we all want to forget, says Dr Radha Modgil, NHS GP and BBC Radio 1 medical expert. “Asking ourselves how we’ve changed and how we want to move forward can help us all manage to get something good and positive out of a really tough and challenging year,” she explains
We asked our trusted, Get The Gloss experts, what they have taken away from 2020, and how they want to show up in 2021.
Ruby Hammer MBE, makeup artist
"I have realised I am actually quite mature, I don’t need lots of other people to validate who I am. Although I am a social creature, I like to take time for myself without any guilt. It’s good to be able to chat with people who are newly learning this and make them realise how important it is. I have always known that, but it’s just been a gentle reassuring feeling. I've also learned that I still can’t make banana bread."
"What this year has shown us is that you used to have to look super busy and successful, it’s not the case anymore. I have also had to become a bit more tech-savvy by default this year and I have become much better with technology; obviously, all meetings moved online and I partook in a fair few Instagram Lives too, which I hadn't done a lot of before."
"I just want to be the best form of me that I can be, flaws and all. I want to be supportive, kind, and good at what I do. I want my business to succeed and do everything I can to uphold those life standards and values that I think are important."
Dr Johanna Ward, GP and author
"This year took me to a very dark place. In March I had an eight week battle with Covid pneumonia. It was the worst experience of my life and tested my physical and emotional resilience to the max. In the midst of my illness (and feeling close to death) I made a pact with myself. If I survived I promised myself to simplify my life and to be more grateful. To slow the pace down. To be with my family more, to work less, and most importantly to be more present and to live in the moment.
"I think 2020 has reminded me about the fragility of life and the importance of living for now. There has been so much suffering and sadness this year. I have felt that sadness enormously as a doctor, as someone hugely invested in preventing illness and maintaining health. I worry that the world our children are inheriting is a very different one now. I am going to be more green, consume less, recycle more, eat plant-based, buy vintage and do everything in my power to help prevent the slow decline of our beautiful planet."
What I've let go
"I have unlearned my daily work/workaholic habits. I have learned to be more 'boundaried' with work and to say no sometimes. I have learned to prioritise my own health and not always that of others. I have learned that I cannot give the best of myself until I practise self-care and self-love. I have learned that you don't need social media or the validation of others to be content. I have embraced a much simpler but infinitely more satisfying way of life."
Tally Rye, personal trainer, author and podcaster
"I’ve learned that it’s OK to need help and I can't and shouldn’t try and do it all alone. This has led me to therapy, which was transferred to Skype and despite going from in-person to online, have been hugely beneficial. I've also been making changes in my work set up, asking for help with and guidance, setting boundaries with time and finding a work-at-home groove. I've also become more open with loved ones when I’m struggling.
"Like many people I have slowed down this year and have embraced the opportunity to rest and listen to my body. This has meant becoming more intuitive with the way I choose to move and at times enjoying sleep and just ‘being’. Something I haven’t really done for the last ten years WHY NOT?"
What I've 'unlearned'
"I’d say I’m still in the process of unlearning that my level of productivity does not determine my worth. And that comparing my level of productivity to others is never helpful. I turned 30 recently, so going forward I want to set the tone and start building the foundations of what I want the next decade of my life to be personally and professionally. I want to continue to get to know myself better, and encourage others to do the same."
Katie Brindle, Chinese medicine practitioner and founder of the Hayou method and Hayou Fit Qi Gong platform
"This year, I have truly learned the importance of community and the value of the tribe, the value of compassion, the importance of high virtue. During the pandemic, we offered a lot of self-care content for free, such as my daily qigong practice, and the community really responded.
I genuinely never realised that lockdown qigong would spawn this remarkable movement which came from led me from simply sharing my practice every morning live on Instagram to setting up a dedicated platform Hayou Fit with six qigong trainers. We’ve basically started a trend!
"I never planned on becoming a qigong teacher and an influencer at the ripe old age of almost 50! This year brought about the necessity to broaden my horizons and gave me a place in the world to do these things.
"Lives were a small part of what I did before this year, now they are a major part with online masterclasses covering topics such as stress, anxiety, immunity, best body.
"I’ve also learned that I am actually quite funny! I make people laugh – they may be laughing at me, but I’ll take it! We spend a lot of time laughing (with laughter qigong) and genuinely it makes you so much happier. I’ve realised the value of finding the humour in the little things when there isn’t much to laugh about.
"The unprecedented workload was a whole new level of commitment for me. But whenever I’ve felt tired I just get powered back up by the hundreds of emails a day from people saying how practising these self-care techniques has transformed their lives."
"Lack of physical movement does not need to limit your progress. The Taoist masters would confirm that as your physical movement becomes restricted your spiritual growth is accelerated and you have time to get on with it. I will continue to move forward with my spiritual development because I believe that continues until the day you die!
"I just want to be the best version of myself. Qigong and traditional Chinese medicine is a spiritual practice - every day is an opportunity to develop yourself and become a better version."
Lynette Ong, founder of ethical jewellery brand Edge of Ember
"I’ve learned that I crave creativity and energy! I work with a fabulous bunch of women and when we didn’t see each other for months on end I missed the camaraderie, joy and positivity we all bring when we are together. I also learned that you can get a lot done over Zoom! We managed to launch a sell-out collection with fashion influencer In The Frow over Zoom, from concept designs to launch. That experience taught me a great deal and I’ll never underestimate what a group of inspiring, passionate women can do! I should also mention here that I can now make mean banana bread, because you didn’t experience lockdown if you didn’t bake banana bread on a daily basis, right?
"We have all had to learn to adapt to a quieter pace of life and that in turn has had a positive impact on my family lifestyle. Before the pandemic, it would get to the weekend and we would be rushing out the door to get the kids to various clubs, swimming lessons, parties etc and actually it was all too much! A much slower paced life especially at the weekends has given us time to catch our breath and is something we are really enjoying as a family."
What I've let go
"I don't need to fill my kids' schedule with activities for them to be happy - they are equally happy staying home playing with their toys and with attention from me and my husband, as they are being out and about on playdates and going to places.
"Moving forward, I'd like to make sure that I carve out enough quality time for my family – both for my kids and for my parents who live in Singapore. This period has been exceptionally difficult as borders have closed and I have been unable to travel back home, and I used to take the ease of travel across the world for granted - and never will I do that again!"
Dr Radha Modgil, NHS GP and BBC Radio 1 medical expert
“I’ve learned that I am more resilient than I knew and that I can trust myself to make good moment-to-moment choices to help myself feel better when I am having a tough day. I know to pick up the phone to talk to someone rather than keeping it to myself or to go out for fresh air when I'm feeling under pressure.
This year, my ability to recognise what I can control and what I can't has become stronger and has meant that I have learned to focus more on the present moment or the day in front of me rather than projecting into the future. I try to bring my mind back to the present moment rather than allowing my mind to project into the future which can lead to more worries."
Habits I've 'unlearned'
“Useful life lessons don't just some from moving forward and external expansion, but just as importantly from stopping, reflecting, consolidating and going inwards. This year has been a period of self-reflection and working on ourselves rather than expanding out into the world.
“Going forward, I want to be someone who prioritises balance, reflection and remembering that the small things are just as important as the big. And to never, ever forget the lessons I have learned this year.”
Carly Rowena, personal trainer and fitness influencer
“I finally learned (or should I say was forced) to slow down and that came with huge mental and physical and relationship changes. I’ve always worked at a million miles an hour, multitasking to the max and only stopping to eat, sleep, pee or take care of my daughter but when the world slowed down, so did my diary and beneficially for me, so did my mind. I’m present with those I am around and I can actually take the time to pat myself on the back and acknowledge when I've completed something instead of rushing into the next project.”
What I've 'unlearned'
“I’ve unlearned that I need to spend time with people that drain my energy and that actually, I’d rather dance on FaceTime with the same two friends every night. I want a better balance, be present in all situations and to do so, I need to get a team to help me!”
Anna Jones, chef and author
"I've learned this year that I like having an empty diary. I have always filled my life with a lot of good things, busy work, friends and dinners, family time and holidays and trips away. But something in me (probably my nervous system) took a huge sigh of relief when in early March my dairy was cleared. I think after so many years of a hectic life it’s been surprising how enjoyable slowing down and simplifying has been. I have been fortunate enough to navigate 2020 in a warm home, with family I love, with food on the table and lots of time outdoors and without illness. This year has made me thankful for these things on a whole new level. But I do miss dancing and friends and I have noticed how much energy I get from seeing other people.
"As someone who has always put my work very high on my priority list, this year having my son at home all summer and a slowing of shoots and events meant that I have given myself more space for downtime, for thinking and creating and for family. My constant drive to be productive and to be working on lots of projects at once has dissipated and it feels nice."
What I've 'unlearned'
"How to dress up! I have a working from home/school run uniform of relaxed fit corduroy joggers and a cosy jumper which I rarely deviate from. I put makeup on about every three weeks. I hardly recognise myself when I do.
"I feel pretty happy with where I am. I think I have spent a lot of my life looking forward and striving for the next thing without time to stop and take stock and celebrate my successes. Planning a move out of London to the country or my next book or business idea. This year has taught me to stay still, to be grateful for where I am, as who knows what's around the corner."
Pre-oder Anna Jones' new book, One: Pot, Pan, Planet , out March 2021
Louisa Drake, personal trainer, founder of the Louisa Drake Method
"Pre-pandemic I was all systems go rushing around London six or seven days a week and so the initial lockdown was a huge change of pace for me. It was quite novel to begin with, as being based from home meant I could be on my laptop ready to teach for 7am which was a real treat as I normally travel for those early sessions which means a 5.30am wakeup call most weekdays, so it was like having a lie-in!
"I've learned that I'm workaholic because I genuinely love what I do and that self-care is something I need but don't necessarily do. This year. I’ve been able to make it more of a priority, taking downtime to enjoy a bath, cook from scratch and spend time with my boyfriend.
"This year has taught me to accept that you can't always be in control and that sometimes when things are out of your control you discover new things about yourself and your business that you perhaps might not have normally. The pandemic meant that we had quickly to adapt, to offer new approaches and now we've have created a whole new online training service, as a result, I wouldn't have tried these if it wasn't for losing control... important lessons learned!"
What have I 'unlearned'?
"I have unlearned to see saying no is a bad thing. I am really passionate about what I do and always want to work with as many people as I possibly can. Living in the digital world this means you are contactable 24/7 and there is an expectation that because you are home you are always available, especially when you work across different time zones. I have had to set myself curfews and say 'no' more often. Although I worry that saying no might mean I miss out on a brilliant opportunity, but I've learned that in order to do my job well I need to factor in boundaries to work smarter, not harder."
Roxie Nafousi, wellness podcaster
“I’ve learned that I love being at home; I love baths and I love cooking! I have generally just discovered how much I love living simply and that has made me feel so much more fulfilled. Life used to be full of ‘plans’ and having plans was almost a marker of feeling busy or successful, but now I realise that a lot of it was a really inefficient use of time (aka meetings for the sake of meetings).
“This year, I’ve developed much more confidence in my work and myself. I used constantly to seek to please and impress people and was always wondering what people would think of everything I did or posted. In many ways, that limited me and stopped me from taking risks. Now I just do things that I believe in and I feel confident in my decisions, which is the best feeling! It’s made me step outside my comfort zone more and because of that, I’ve achieved so much more than I ever would have otherwise.”
What I've 'unlearned'
“I’ve unlearned weighing myself. This year I threw away my weighing scales and it was the best thing I ever did! I can’t believe I spent so long trapped in the cycle of seeing a number on the scale every morning.”
"Moving forward, I want to be kind, passionate and inspiring wherever and whenever I can. I hope I can continue to help people to find value in their pain and to unlock their fullest potential."