The pandemic has been hard on all of us.

For some, it is especially hard. I’ve been privileged enough to have a roof over my head, a job to pay bills and buy groceries and someone to talk to at my lowest.

A lot of people don’t have those privileges. They still don’t. And for that, among other reasons, I’m privileged and grateful.

For a lot of us, social interaction with friends and family is a fantastic coping mechanism to get through numerous hurdles in life.

But that’s just it. The pandemic prevents us from physically interacting with many we care about. We’ve been ripped from our support systems and largely have had to deal with the hurdles on our own. And that’s because we have to keep ourselves and the ones we love safe.

Mental health and how we care for ourselves during a historically low point in life is essential.

In 2020, I gained almost 30 pounds.

It got to a point where I almost didn’t recognize myself anymore.

When gyms started to reopen, I eventually found the courage to start working on myself again.

Going to the gym helps me manage my mental health because I can set attainable weekly goals and achieve them through tough workouts.

Three months ago, I could barely hold onto the pull-up bar and it was aggravating.

I felt weak and overweight. I felt like people judged me at the gym.

But I kept going every day. Now, I can do five pull-ups in a set. Getting over the bar for the first time felt like climbing Mt. Everest.

I eventually even lost 20 pounds.

Granted, performing five pull-ups itself may not seem impressive, but it’s the moments leading up to that point that are impressive.

And anyone who sees me will never mistake me for Liam Hemsworth, but it’s the personal achievement that I set for myself that holds the real value.

I learned it’s okay to be sad.

I lost a close family member in 2020 and dealt with inner demons.

But I also learned it’s okay to have moments of happiness even during hard times.

It’s hard to get over the pull-up bar. And when I finally saw results after consistently working hard, I was happy in that moment.

I’ve shown videos of my progress to close friends and received affirmation. For some, it’s important to receive positive feedback from others. I’m an extrovert. So I can understand how receiving words of support from others is important to mental health. It’s positively infectious towards challenging yourself to new personal heights.

If 2020 reminded us of anything beneficial, and I know I’m finding a needle in a haystack here, it’s that kindness helps keep us sane.

And that starts with yourself.

It is important to find things that make yourself feel good. Whether you run for 20 minutes or write in a journal 10 reasons why you matter, that’s important to your mental health.

As we approach Random Acts of Kindness Week this month, perhaps this year it’s necessary to view self-care as an unplanned act of kindness itself. When was the last time you told yourself what you do or who you are matters?

Whatever you do or wherever you are, I hope you find moments that make you feel good about yourself. You are worth it, and you matter.