MENTAL HEALTH – QUICK TIPS (2) – Something for Now.

Anxiety and depression can often involve thoughts that draw us inwards to ruminate on past events or feelings, or away from ourselves to worry about an unknown future.

In a pandemic, this can be exacerbated in a way when we might not be able to connect so freely with other people. You might start worrying about the ‘what ifs’ – what if there is another lockdown, what if I catch covid, what if someone I care about gets sick, what if I can’t get a job, what if I have to go back to the office, what if I am single forever, what if my children struggle at school, what if I grow old alone, what if things don’t work out for me, what if I struggle with my uni course, what if, what if….?

Or you might be ruminating on the ‘why did’s’ or ‘why didn’t’ – why did that happen to me, why didn’t things work out, etc.

You’re not alone. I have written several posts on trauma and PTSD and working through things that have got ‘stuck’ in our body, brain and nervous system, so if you need to, feel free to do some key word searches on those topics. However, aside from the serious subject of traumas, and clinical depression, which I have also posted about, we can’t change the past by ruminating on it (although there are times when we need to ‘work through’ certain events to get free from them, and we may need professional help to do so, and that is ok, it is more than ok, it is brave). So if you’re not in those situations of trauma and depression, but you do find yourself going inwards into your own thoughts too much such as thoughts about the past, or worrying about the future, then it may be time to take a deep breath and focus on the NOW.

Slow down a bit, try to do something while being aware of all of your senses. It can be something as simple as making a cup of tea. What do you hear when you boil the kettle (or teapot), what do your eyes see when you observe the steam rising, what can you hear, see and smell when you pour hot water into your mug over the tea bag, how does it feel to hold that warm mug in your hands, what do you taste when you take a first sip?

Be aware of NOW. Bring your mind into the present, and seek to enjoy THIS moment. x

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Mental health – quick tips (1) – look up and out.

You will find so many different posts and articles throughout my blog regarding help for mental health. I realise that sometimes we need a fresh reminder, and on difficult days something ‘short and sweet’ can help when we don’t want to read too much.

So, I’ve decided to start a new series, with quick tips.

Tip number 1 is if you are struggling with your thoughts and feelings, take a few moments away from your computer, your phone, the news, etc, and if you can, step outside in nature. Look up, notice the textures of things around you like leaves or trees, sense the air on your skin, and immerse your senses in what is around you. If you can’t go anywhere, perhaps you can look out of a window, and take some time to observe what you can see or hear.

If you don’t have much of a view, then maybe there is some other way that you can find to ‘look up and out’….to look away from your difficult thoughts and feelings – can you look to help someone else, or to do something creative, or to pray, even if for a few moments at a time? It may not solve all of your problems at once, but it may give you those few minutes of ‘respite’ that your brain and heart need right now.

So, take it easy, step away from your worries, and look up and out. x

Take care. x

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Pandemic anxiety? You’re not alone…

These are strange days, for sure. I just want to remind anyone out there who is feeling anxious, that you’re not alone.

I’ve written a couple of series’ on the pandemic, with over 100 posts, so if you need encouragement, I hope you find it on this blog.

Yet, sometimes we need a fresh reminder. Even if we’ve heard it before, even if we ‘know it by heart’.

While it may seem that some people are ‘sailing through’ these days, not everyone is, and if you are struggling with anxiety, whether to do with the pandemic, or anything else, you’re certainly not alone.

Sometimes people in general like to keep busy to keep away from unsettling thoughts, to avoid their struggles, or to not think about death. Perhaps to not think about what comes after death. In the pandemic, this has changed, and while there may be positives in having more space and time to think about life more deeply, this can be unsettling for many people. Perhaps some good can come from thinking about things, and where we are putting our hope and trust.

I don’t know if today for you is a joyous one or a difficult one. But if you are struggling, you are not alone.

Try to find ways to move through your day with some structure and clarity. Take a moment to sit with your difficult thoughts and emotions. Pray. Reach out. Ask for help.

There are so many people going through many things just now, and you’re not alone, and you matter.

Take it a moment at a time for now if you have to. Know that you’re not alone, and don’t give up. ❤ x

Changes from within…

If you’ve ever had an encounter with the Living God, with Jesus Christ, then you know what it is to be changed from within. When we are flooded with Life from His Spirit, we are made ‘new Creations’. This is so much more than words, and there are testimonies of staunch atheists who tried logically to defy the reality of the Living God, but who after being touched by the Reality of Him had to admit that He Is Real. There’s a whole lot to be said about that, and many might argue that unless you can test and prove things empirically then they can’t possibly be true, but if you have encountered the Living God then you’ll know that there is a reality that can be experienced and felt and that changes you from within. There is a tangible supernatural reality that goes beyond brain states that is real whether or not people choose to accept that reality.

If you’ve experienced the power of the Living God in your own life, then you will know something of the transformative Peace, Love, Joy and Power of His Spirit. Some people experience radical transformations over night, some people come to realise the reality of the spiritual battle that we are in, and some are flooded with His Love.

But there is a process here as well. Even after we are indwelt by His Spirit, set apart and given His Righteousness when we are made His, there is still a process of change that occurs from within, and sometimes this can be a slow process, for others you can see the changes more markedly, not as something they are doing, but the natural changes that God brings about, remaking someone from within so that they are marked more by His Love and Purity.

A lot of this would seem as ‘nonsense’ to someone who has never known the Reality of the Living God in their life, but for those of you who do, be encouraged that He Loves you and Is changing you, even if those changes seem to take a long time. That’s because even after we are forgiven and given His Righteousness, a supernatural state of being made right with God, and being indwelt by His Spirit, even after such an incredible Reality takes place, there are still deep things within us that need to be cleansed and put right.

I’ve been drawing closer to God, in prayer, experiencing more of the reality of the Love and Presence of His Spirit within me, but at the same time, God is ‘unearthing’ things in my heart that I need to bring to Him to allow Him to change and forgive and free me from. Yet the more we allow this sometimes difficult process (‘sanctification’) to take place, the more we will be able to let God’s Spirit make us new from within.

These are incredible truths, realities that that world does not accept or see, because a world that loves darkness prefers to deny the reality of our own sinfulness. But to humble ourselves and reach out in faith and accept His Forgiveness is the gateway to the Real experience of His tangible Pure and Perfect Love.

If you are on this road, and know from the reality of your own experience what I’m talking about, don’t be discouraged if you are made to face the things in yourself that need to be changed, forgiven and cleansed – bring it to Him and allow His Love to free and cleanse you from within. He Is Faithful, and there Is no Love like His, and if you know Him you know this Reality is far more than mere words. x

Peace and Love beyond words…

I have a tendency at times to be a bit of a worrier. However, there is a Peace and a Love in Christ that is beyond words, and I have been experiencing it again, and I am so grateful for how Real and tangible and present His Love Is – with a purity and cleanness and joy like nothing else.

I used to think Christians were a bit strange, I used to think of myself as morally ‘pretty good’, and a spiritual person, a Truth seeker. An encounter with Jesus Christ showed me that He Is The Truth, and I was absolutely flooded with Love and Joy and the Pure Clean Presence of His Spirit. I realised that for years of my life I had actually been taking in lies, chained by darkness, and had missed the Living God, but He had mercy on me.

Light shows up darkness. We all think we’re ‘pretty good’ until Perfect Light shows that within us is a darkness and wretchedness and that we need forgiveness. Maybe that sounds a bit hard to take in, but if you can, if you do admit to yourself and to God that you are a sinner, Whom He Loved and gave His Life for at the Cross, and receive His Forgiveness then a transformation does take place within – when you repent, and believe in Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead and call upon his Name – things become supernaturally Real.

Even if the people around you do not see it, you will know. And even if you are a worrier, even though we are sinners, the Love and Peace and Purity that will flood your soul will Hold you.

I am experiencing the Pure Love and Peace of His Presence again. I am thankful that when we are called to stand before Him, I will be able to stand covered in His Light and Pure, exquisite, incomparable Love, and not ashamed by my own darkness.

x

When ‘FOMO’ can be deadly….especially in a pandemic.

Hi once again, dear friends.

I am so thankful that you are reading this. It means that you are alive, have breath in your lungs, and have another day to live.

This pandemic is a challenging time for many. However, the ‘narrative’ within the UK seems to have changed within the last few months and weeks.

At the start of the pandemic, everything was new and scary and we were all dealing with something that most had never dealt with within their lifetimes, unless they are golden oldies who had survived previous such events. For the world at large, it was, as we’ve heard time after time ‘unprecedented’.

We all were told to ‘lockdown’, to stay at home, to keep our distance, to stay safe. In the UK we were told to ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’. After some time we were advised to wear face masks, and thanks to the hard work of the scientific community and advancing technology within less than a year there were vaccines on the scene. Many countries around the world ‘clapped for carers’, or took time to applaud their health care workers, delivery drivers, frontline staff, cleaners, etc.

There was the sense that we all were in a global pandemic *together* and that we all had to do our bit to overcome it *together*.

Some countries were hit way harder than others, sadly politicians around the world took approaches some of which put their citizens at risk, but there was a sense despite the confusion at times, we were moving toward a common goal.

Within the UK, there were some confusing messages from leadership. However, there were daily covid briefings, we did hear regularly from government scientific advisors, and there was a sense of caution, of having to supress the virus, get the ‘R’ rate down, and look after each other. We were part of a global effort, despite the disparity which sadly is ongoing between richer and poorer nations across the world, where some people still haven’t had a first dose of vaccine or the option of having one.

Of course there have been debates, conspiracy theories and resistance along the way. There have been several other key issues of great importance to society such as in relation to racism, violence against women, poverty and climate change that we’ve also had to think about, process and work through. But up until recently in the UK, one thing we did have was a clear set of guidance, and we were given the message that this was being ‘led by the science’.

Now, however, both England and Scotland have ‘opened up’. Wales and Northern Ireland, well I’m not so up to date with their rules and approach, but one thing is for sure is that cases in the UK are among if not the highest in Europe. The daily death count is in triple figures, with I think 121 deaths or thereabouts today. A couple of days ago, Scotland had 34 deaths in one day.

The thing is, lockdowns do have an adverse impact on people, I realise that, but we could have sought some ‘middle ground’. Masks are discretionary in most places, although there are some weird and inconsistent ‘rules’ about mask wearing in certain indoor spaces such as night clubs. It’s beyond me why nightclubs need to be open in a pandemic in a country where cases are around 35,000 per day.

People are not required to socially distance in most places – that’s also up to individuals. Vaccine passports are being introduced for big indoor events or mass gatherings, but there is an inconsistency there and the system in Scotland is going through some glitches. I get the feeling that many people think that now the governments have said there are no or very few rules, that it’s ‘ok and safe’ to do whatever we want. Working from home is still advised so that’s a good thing.

I’ve been looking into other sources where epidemiologists advise that covid symptoms also now include ‘cold like’ symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, fever, etc…. but the UK government hasn’t updated its information on symptoms which still stick to the standard three of fever, new continuous cough and difficulty breathing. Which means as we head into cold / flu season, many people may actually be carrying and passing on covid without realising it, thinking it is just a common cold.

I know of many people who have been ‘out and about’ since restrictions lifted in the UK. I know of someone at work who went to Spain with their family on holiday. I know of many friends who have been out to coffee shops, pubs, restaurants, a couple even have gone to weddings (one of whom caught covid at one, thought they only had a cold, but turned out to be covid, and recovered fine), others are now going to music events, and outdoor gatherings, or short family holidays within the UK, etc. I have friends who are going back to church.

There are plenty of things I miss and would like to do, but I am a bit unsure of the ‘advice’ we’ve been given at the moment. Part of me really wants to start getting back into life again, whatever that means, at least in terms of doing things and seeing people. All of the people I know who have been doing things have been absolutely fine. But then, recently I’ve heard of friends who ‘know of people’ whether once, twice or thrice removed who have or are in ICU with covid, or that they know of someone who has died of covid. There was a news article today that a wee 15 year old girl in England died of covid the day she was meant to get her vaccination.

It is a reminder that just because our society in the UK has opened up it doesn’t mean the pandemic has ‘closed down’.

I wonder where you are with things in your own situation? Have you been going out and about and doing well? Have you felt nervous? Have any of you had or do you have covid? Do any of you have long covid?

For some people, in the UK especially, the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ may lead to taking up all or some of these ‘freedoms’ now that there are practically no rules which might result in ICU, long covid or death. People aren’t thinking of others so much anymore I feel. There isn’t the sense of community spirit anymore, and I think partly politics could be to blame for this. People are being left to their own devices, perhaps the UK public don’t like being ‘told what to do’ and other adverse effects of restrictions and lockdowns are rightly being taken into consideration. But at what cost? I don’t feel we’re doing things sensibly, which means if there is a ‘free for all’ even those who are being cautious will miss out.

I haven’t figured out how to navigate this yet, so I’ve just been staying at home. Perhaps none of us have. I do know a lot of people going out doing a lot of things and have been totally fine, but people are still dying from this, and I wonder if we’re partly being treated as a ‘herd immunity experiment’ by the government – especially when things aren’t exactly under control in the UK.

I think scientists are still urging caution, but politics and public opinion has pushed that to the side. It’s sad to think that because of a lack of guidelines people in UK may unnecessarily die in winter this year from covid, even with a strong vaccine rollout programme. I am amazed at New Zealand’s approach to eradicate covid. Each life matters but their total of 27 covid deaths since the start of the pandemic means that UK’s daily triple figure daily death rate is shocking.

I think it’s still time to be cautious, but I understand it is hard sometimes to know what to do.

Lately, in terms of my faith, I have felt led to humble myself before God, and I have been drawing closer to Jesus Christ after a season of some challenge, doubt and ‘drought’. God allowed that in order to deepen my faith, and I am so thankful that recently I have once again been experiencing the exquisite, pure, clean, Love, Joy and Peace of God’s Presence through the Holy Spirit within me, just as I did when I was first ‘saved’. This might sound strange to some people, but Jesus Is Real and God’s Love is like nothing else – the tangible Presence of His Love and Spirit to those who are born again is better than all that the world has to offer. Sometimes we go through seasons as Christians of not ‘feeling’ His Nearness, but He Is still here and still God. When we do once again encounter the Reality of His Presence and the tangible experience of His Pure and Clean, exquisite Love, it is a reminder that Life is found in Him, despite the ups and downs, despite the things going on in the natural, there is a reality and Peace in Christ like no other, and in Him we don’t have that ‘fear of missing out’. Those are just some personal thoughts I’m sharing, as I have been drawn to pray more during the pandemic, and if anyone of you has a relationship with Christ and is going through a ‘dry’ season, know that that’s normal and that He Is still with you, and once again you will feel His Love, that Presence like no other, filling you from within.

As to the pandemic again, I’m interested to know what’s been going on with all of you so please feel free to share your insights or thoughts in the comments. We all still need to look out for each other, it’s not over yet, but I understand that we don’t want it to ‘dominate’ our lives, don’t we all long for some kind of ‘normality’ again?

I’m not sure the UK approach is the ‘right’ one. Part of me feels it is a bit careless, but many other people will be feeling good that they can do whatever they want again, within reason. I want to do so many things, but I probably won’t right now. But in Jesus, I am never missing out.

I wonder if some people’s ‘fear of missing out’ will lead to other people missing out? If some less vulnerable people are unwittingly catching and spreading covid to those who are vulnerable, for example.

I don’t know, there’s a lot to think about, and perhaps this is a season for continued caution. Perhaps it is a time when we can also start revisiting our blogs and hobbies?! 🙂 I know, it’s been a while since I last wrote after my words of encouragement on surviving the pandemic series, and I apologise for that, but I’m back today, and hopefully will continue on a regular trend to try to share some encouragement with you.

Wherever you are at, I hope you are well, staying safe and finding true hope in this journey through life. x

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Comparison and What You Have To Offer…

Do you ever feel like you don’t have much to give or contribute? Maybe those around you are more talented, or seem to have a deeper and richer experience of life as a human being. And maybe you’re left feeling inadequate or empty.

This morning my online church service was on 1 Corinthians 12: 12 – 31 regarding those who are ‘in Christ’ by the Spirit of God. That is to say, those who are members of His spiritual body, the ‘church’ which is made up not of a building but of people who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This might sound a little strange if you’re not a Christian, however, the point was that Christians are all members of the Body of Christ, with Christ as the spiritual head. The body has many members and each part needs each other, and each part has different gifts. So that while others may be more obviously gifted, all parts are necessary and valuable as part of the whole.

In life more generally too we can sometimes feel like we’re not sure of our gifts or purpose and can be left feeling deflated.

If I’m to be honest with myself and others I have struggled with this during lockdown and the pandemic as well as at other times in life. At the start of lockdown I was on my own in March 2020 and I was being productive and was outwardly focussed and writing a lot to encourage other people. I did pieces of work to help with Covid issues in my workplace and did a bit of volunteering. I tried to encourage other people and kept myself busy and occupied.

However, more lately, I have spent my time mainly in relation to my immediate family which I am thankful for, and computer screens. I’ve felt inadequate in terms of not being able to ‘feel’ as much in terms of emotions and love and being single have realised that my life in some ways is a bit ‘flat’ and wondering whether I have the capacity I once had to love, which it doesn’t feel like it right now. At times things have felt a bit empty, other than the Grace of God that carries me through the challenges, and I’ve lost interest in my hobbies. I’ve not really been anywhere much and have perhaps got a bit ‘stuck’.

I’m sure I’m not the only one. However, regardless of how we feel – or don’t feel – we are valuable and have gifts to offer. We can start by gratitude and taking the time to appreciate them today. What small thing can you do today to reach out to someone else or what small thing can you do to appreciate what you have?

x

We’re Still In A Pandemic, Right? How Is Everyone Doing?

It’s been a while, friends, I know. It’s been a while. I’d written so much that perhaps some of you haven’t noticed that I haven’t posted for a while, since my ‘self care in a pandemic’ series has 84 posts.

I’ve been working from home, as have many other people, and I haven’t been out much at all. All around me it seems friends and people are doing different things, moving on with their lives, some people I’ve heard of are getting engaged, married, some people have had babies in lockdown. And at the same time, others are in similar situations staying at home and very gradually getting used to changes in society. In the UK, most things have opened up now, yet the awareness is there that the pandemic is far from over. Society has changed. Some people are raring to go and get back out there, others are nervous.

How have things been with you? Have you felt challenged in some ways, are you thriving? Have you lost touch with people? Do you feel numb, emotionless, stuck or are you overwhelmed by emotions? Are you doing well?

These are strange days. Let us think of what we can be thankful for today. Today I am thankful that I am alive. That I even have this computer to write on and a Word Press community to write to. I have health, I have family, and I have a job, and although I haven’t seen friends for over a year and a half I still have some connections with some people online. I have food, shelter, a bed to sleep in, and a Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who Is by my side through every challenge to my faith. We have today. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the life that we do have. x

Self Care In A Pandemic (84): Look To What Is True and Pure…

One way we can try to overcome anxious thoughts and feelings is to look away from them and focus on positive things whether that be in nature, a craft or hobby or watching something calming.

It is important to bear in mind that how we act and react to things can have an impact upon those around us. Sometimes we just have to learn to sit with difficult thoughts and emotions and let them pass and try to focus on something beneficial in that moment.

Our worries and anxieties can get the better of us until we don’t do anything at all, but even if you don’t know the big picture think of something positive you can do or give in this moment.

Maybe it is as small as a kind word, an encouragement, writing a blog post to help someone or distracting yourself with something that could benefit your mind. Try just one small thing in this one moment and see where it leads you as you focus upwards and outwards rather than holding on to your troubling thoughts.

x

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