2022 – the year it gets better

Molly PereiraFeatured News

By Molly Pereira, CDA Associate Executive Director
From the Winter 2022 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

There are three types of people during the holidays:

  1. Those who proudly watch Hallmark movies,
  2. Those who watch Hallmark movies but won’t admit it and
  3. Those who judge people for watching Hallmark movies.

Years ago, I was a solid number three on that list. In 2020, I moved up to number two. In 2021, I was without question, number one.

If 2020 challenged me, 2021 broke me. I know I’m not alone saying that. I would joke all year that if anyone needed me, they would find me on my couch watching Hallmark movies as anxiety therapy. But it wasn’t really a joke.

For those of you who identify as a number three on the scale above, here’s how a Hallmark movie works: In the first hour you get to know the characters and their human flaws. In the next 30-40 minutes, the characters make a connection. Around the hour and 40-minute mark, there’s “life changing” conflict or a communication “disaster” that leaves everyone feeling uncertain. And at the one hour and 50-minute mark, all conflict is magically resolved, and everyone lives happily ever after. It’s two hours of self-care—even less if you fast forward through commercials. 

These movies won’t be your Oscar winners, but Hallmark wouldn’t have multiple channels with literally millions of loyal viewers if they weren’t on to something. A Nov. 20, 2021 article in Forbes even reported that more people watched the Hallmark Channel than CNN on election night.

People feel less anxious and more in control when they know what’s coming next. Having a pattern or habit decreases worry and stress. Even if you’re a number three on my scale, there’s probably a movie that you love to watch or watch annually where you say, “I love this part” or “this part is so funny.” When you watch that movie (even if it’s a serious drama), you know the storyline, you know what will happen and you watch it to take a break from reality.

2020 and 2021 were hard years. Uncertainty, surprise, hardship, and unexpected turns cause us to be more anxious, tired, cautious, depressed, and indifferent. On top of that, these past two years were divisive to the point where I found typically even-keeled people to react to the actions of others with immediate anger and criticism, rather than consideration of a different point of view before judgement.

2022 will be better, because it has to be. We can’t sustainably continue on this same path. We need to start this year with a fresh perspective, taking into consideration what it’s been like to walk in another person’s shoes for the past 20+ months. We might not know what’s coming next but we can control how we react to it.

I was at an event last year where someone made a criticism about another person for walking right past them in an empty hallway and not returning the greeting of “hello.” The criticizing person found the other to be rude, standoffish, and uncaring. The flipside of the story is that the person walking by was very introverted and quiet and was working through a family tragedy. I can say with certainty, that this person who was overcome with grief was so preoccupied in his own thoughts that day that he didn’t even realize there was another human in the hallway. The criticizing person, of course, had no idea of this backstory and perhaps would have reacted differently otherwise.

It’s these little actions (and reactions) that we need to recognize. Did the person who cut you off in traffic today do it as an accident? Did she sneeze and spill her coffee, causing her to swerve? Was she rushing to someone who needed help? Or was she just being a jerk?  You’ll never know and, honestly, does it even matter? Is it worth getting worked up and angry over a story with so many uncertain possibilities? Control your actions and reactions and don’t dwell on uncertainty.

At my kids’ pediatric dental office, one of the questions on the intake form asks: “Has there been any significant events in the past year or anything else we should know before treating your child?” When I read that at each visit, I always think that it is such an insightful thing to ask because habits and behaviors can easily change due to life stressors. Nutrition choices, hygiene, clenching/grinding and more could easily be a result of worry, a change in lifestyle or a traumatic event. That information changes how the dentist may treat my children.

While we can ask those questions of patients, sometimes we can’t ask or don’t know how to ask that of colleagues, friends and acquaintances. That said, I think it’s safe to assume that everybody is going through something that is making an impact on their actions, mood and reactions. Think about that next time you’re talking to a person who isn’t as friendly as usual or isn’t quite themselves. Uncertainty, anxiety and unexpected stress are really hard to manage. Give yourself a break, give other people a break and watch a Hallmark movie.