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Aqsa Malik in Unionville, Ont., on Dec. 15.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Some Canadians say they’ve found two silver linings during a global pandemic that has forced them to wipe activities off their calendars during lockdowns – a pregnant pause and the realization that quitting isn’t all that bad.

“Anybody who tells me I’m going to quit something, I will champion them all the way,” says Aqsa Malik, 28, from her home in Toronto.

“I quit because I wanted my life to be mine. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

Malik says she submitted her two-week notice last month in the Greater Toronto Area where she worked as a city planner.

“I understand that not everyone is in a position where they can do this [because] it’s not all sparkles and rainbows,” Malik said in a phone interview.

“But I was slowing down. I realized that my life was becoming about work and not necessarily about my life. I changed my environment. I changed my routine, but ultimately, the decision that felt right was quitting.”

Malik says she has been spending time staying fit, exploring coffee shops and giving more time to her family and friends.

“The endgame is I want to start a business. I want to travel more. I don’t have a timeline. I’m still managing the after-effects of quitting while trying to figure out what I want life to be.”

A report from human resources software company Ceridian says 84 per cent of 1,304 Canadian workers surveyed by Hanover Research felt burned out over the last two years. At least 20 per cent looked for new jobs for various reasons.

In Saskatchewan, Joanna Graves says she’s on Day 98 of being sober after she decided to quit drinking.

At the beginning of the pandemic, “I got a tiki bar off Kijiji and then I … put in furniture and a beaded curtain,” said the lab assistant, who added that she was drinking a couple of times a week casually with friends.

After a friend told her to quit, she thought why not try?

“It’s easier [during the pandemic] since I’m not going out as much. There’s a lot less social pressures,” Graves said.

Since then, she has experienced many of the physical side-effects she has heard people talk about after they quit drinking, including more energy and clearer skin.

“It’s also fun looking for different things to drink instead.”

Another thing people have been quitting is their marriages – in record numbers.

Statistics Canada says about 2.71 million people obtained a legal divorce in 2020.

“This figure has been steadily increasing since 2000, when there were about 1.88 million divorcees in Canada,” an agency report says.

Kathrine Brown, a health, spirituality and entrepreneurship coach in Victoria, says she is seeing more people who are quitting things in their life.

“COVID just amplified everything that was already there,” Brown says.

“People lost structure [and] whenever you’re letting go of something, you’re creating space for new activities and behaviour.

“They suddenly have downtime so they realize that, ‘hey, I can focus on me now.’”

Malik adds the biggest lesson she has learned is that there is no need to rush.

“There’s such an emphasis on getting things done by a specific time or achieving certain types of milestones, but it doesn’t mean your life has to follow that path.”

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled the last name of Joanna Graves.

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