Surviving the pandemic together: Words of Encouragement (10): *Get strong, and have vision*.

Words of Encouragement (10):
*Get strong, and have vision*.


In the UK we are more than half way through week one (at the time of writing, last week) of a type of ‘lockdown’ although we still have certain limited freedoms outside of our homes. I personally hope that our time at home will be longer than three weeks (retrospectively the update since writing is that it is likely to be several months), because we are almost a third of the way through and this pandemic is not abating, at least not yet. I think it would be a risk to life to reintegrate into society or try to establish some kind of ‘normality’ before the medical and scientific communities really get on top of this virus. 


I have a couple of points for us to think about today.

Firstly, our time at home isn’t the same as our time at home say during the Christmas holidays. While I encourage people to relax and enjoy what you can, I would discourage you from spending most of your time in escapism or binge watching box sets (although, I’m not saying don’t do that at all….you do need time to destress and sometimes that can help in moderation). This isn’t a holiday. Because if we all make it to the other side of this, there will be a lot of ‘picking up of pieces’ in our societies for those who don’t come through as unscathed as we might. So during this ‘down time’ we are making the choice whether we will become stronger and more resilient in ourselves so that either we can cope better on the other side, or so that we are able to help others in need…because without any doubt there *will* be a *lot* of need after this.


If you are in need of help yourself, that’s ok, don’t worry. I’ve been there, and we all oscillate between how well we are doing, so be kind to yourself. But as you have this time, be purposeful in growing in your resilience. Get strong.


Onto my second point, about having vision. Right now we are in the midst of a rescue mission. All around us groups and efforts are cropping up, and people are coming together to strategize and figure out practical ways of helping others through this collective crisis. However, I would urge you to lift your eyes and look a bit further than this. God willing, for all of us, there will be life on the other side of this in our societies and communities. And we will all have to get used to a new ‘afterwards’. There have been thousands of deaths, and there will continue to be casualties. Casualties of various kinds, for example the physically, emotionally, mentally and psychologically wounded. People will be traumatised. People will be out of pocket. People will have financial difficulties, and perhaps even family breakdowns, children may suffer. Please take care of yourself, help others, relax and enjoy during this hiatus, continue to work from home and volunteer where you can while keeping yourself and family safe, but remember that there will be an afterwards, and hopefully we will all still be here and all be part of that. Society will be deeply wounded. People will be grieving. NHS and other health care workers across the world, bin collectors, frontline staff of various types will be utterly exhausted. Some of these may be your colleagues, friends, family, neighbours. It might be you (and if you are one of these frontline workers, THANK YOU ❤ ❤ ❤ ).


Get strong and have vision. Get strong for yourself and family, but also think about what skills you have that we will collectively need in the aftermath of this. Don’t fritter away all of your time with useless things. People are making a great collective effort to help each other *through* this, but we also need to be thinking about how to build ourselves and each other up for the continued efforts that will need to be made *after* this time away from the world.


Get strong, and have vision, help others and build each other up….try not to be afraid, but remind yourself that this is far from over…think about how you will endure and how you will contribute, and how you will use your time, today.

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (9): *Know when to take time out*.

Words of Encouragement (9):
*Know when to take time out*.
As I explored previously in the post about ‘How much news is too much news?’, this one comes having just watched the news, and feeling that restless unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach, and the sense of stress in thinking about and acknowledging what our fellow human beings are going through in this window of history. Even safely tucked away from it all in my quiet flat, the news can still get right to us….and for those who are particularly empathetic it can touch us to the core.
We need to learn how to process things through this experience, this season. And we need to know when to take a step back, to take time out. This is especially true if we are in any position of responsibility or supporting or caring for other people. This might be on many levels or on one or two, but the principle holds true regardless. Your responsibilities might be your work, your volunteering roles, your parents, your spouse, your friends, your children. It could be the role you find yourself in in supporting and encouraging other people, in putting food on the table, in supporting colleagues and others, and you therefore need to know what your ‘triggers’ are in terms of when that feeling inside begins to get too much. When anxiety, stress or fear begins to overtake you.
At such times, step back.
Take some time out and rebuild yourself, nurture yourself, do something perhaps creative, artistic, musical, relaxing to take your mind and attention and emotions off this terrible situation we find ourselves in.
Take time out and take a break so that when you come back you can come back stronger, you can be there for yourself as well as those around you who are depending on you, and so that you can be purposeful in how you use your days so that you can and do make a difference for the better in the lives of those closest to you, and even in the lives of those you don’t know, by doing the right thing.

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (8): *Can I feel happy and sad?*

Words of Encouragement (8):
*Can I feel happy and sad?*
In short, yes. This is a confusing, strange and distressing time. We are alive, we are surrounded by life, but also by continuous news of death and suffering on a mass scale, on a global scale, yet also right in our own towns and cities. We are all learning how to be happy with those who are happy, and to also mourn with those who grieve. We are surrounded by contradictions that we are all learning to hold in balance. We are trying to find ways to encourage and support each other, to enjoy the gift of life and be grateful for those in our lives, to make the most of ‘isolation’ and keep our spirits up, and encourage our friends and families and especially children, while at the same time living through wave upon wave of tragedy crashing in upon humanity. You might feel guilty for the times you smile, laugh and enjoy life in this strange season, and you also might feel a burden of grief at times as the world around you wails. It can be confusing, it can be tough, but there is no right or wrong way for you to feel, and your experience of this situation and your feelings are valid. Take time to just sit and be with your thoughts and feelings for a moment if it is all a bit much. Breathe deeply and try to find ways to be calm and relax. This is affecting people in different ways, and that’s ok.
Take care to try to maintain a balance. To know that even while it is a very dark time for many people across the world, it is ok for you to smile, and to share something positive, because those around you may just need that joy and that hope to be able to keep going.

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (7): *What do we do when we hear news of tragedies?*

Words of Encouragement (7):
*What do we do when we hear news of tragedies?*


I pray that each of you, your friends, families and those in your life will never personally experience the tragedies of this Coronavirus. Many of you have faced enough heartache in your own lives already ❤
Yet, we are hearing more and more of things that are just awful, and we may be able to hold things at a bit of a distance, but the terrible reality is that ordinary people are experiencing things first hand in their lives, that of their family members, colleagues and others. I don’t think we will see this abating any time soon, so what do we do?
Friends, I don’t have the answer to that. I can turn to Christ for comfort, as some others also can, but not everyone does. I think the important thing for all of us is that we take particular care to take care of each other and to make sure we inform other people who are being careless or reckless in these days that this is a serious situation. A young nurse treating patients who died of the virus took her life today. A 21 year old girl died. We want to pause for each one and for their families and not let them become just numbers. But this is unlike any of us have ever experienced.
There are no easy answers, but it goes to show how important it is that we ‘put our shields together’ in these days. Shields of faith, shields of hope, of truth, of courage, of kindness….we need to shelter and protect one another because this reality is taking its toll on people’s mental health and we need to become a strong community that can hold each other up in these times no matter what our differences are. We need to take care of ourselves, but we also need to know that we can mutually support each other, so let’s keep drawing close, lending a helping hand, a listening ear….and make sure that we as a community don’t allow this to get too much for any of us mentally or emotionally….and a word for my younger friends…..you can always talk to me, message me, these are tough things to hear about, it can be scary, but I and other adults are on your side, we’ll be there for you and you’re not alone. ‘Grown ups’….you’re not alone either.
Shields up, everyone! ❤ x

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (6): *A Happy Community and an Inspiring Place for your Mind to go to*.

Words of Encouragement (6):
*A Happy Community and an Inspiring Place for your Mind to go to*.
Create a positive and inspiring space online, one with no bad news, for example, one that helps us appreciate the places we have travelled to before and perhaps dream about the future adventures we may have. Somewhere inspiring, fun and hopeful,  a positive little community, safe and set apart from everything else going on.

Think about creating one yourself, or even if that’s not for you, do something whether on or offline that is purely uplifting, a place you can look forward to going, because we all need something positive in these days, something we can look forward to everyday and a place that feels peaceful, restful, happy and encouraging.

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (5): *How much news is too much news?*

Words of Encouragement (5):
*How much news is too much news?*


These are scary times, aren’t they friends? We feel compelled to keep up to date with everything going on, but then sometimes we get ‘sucked in’ to a constant stream of input and information that we get stressed and feel unable to process it all. At other times we seek to ‘escape’, to hide away and to just do the things that we enjoy, but it is important for our own safety and that of others that we stay informed and up to date. I encourage you to do your best to find a healthy balance, just as we are all figuring this out one day at a time. Keep informed, but also look after your mind. Limit how much news you watch, or have a predictable time or routine maybe in the morning and evening. Put your mind to something positive first thing in the morning and last thing at night so that you’re not caught up and overwhelmed with the tragedy of the situation going on around the world. It is real and it is happening, but sometimes we need to take a step back and just look after our own minds. Take care. I hope some of this is helping someone out there. Stay safe.

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (4.2): *When home doesn’t feel like home* (or when the people you live with are driving you crazy! ;) ).

Words of Encouragement (4.2):
*When home doesn’t feel like home* (or when the people you live with are driving you crazy! 😉 ).


With reference to my earlier post about finding order in the midst of chaos, I provided the image of your home being like a lighthouse in the midst of a global storm. We considered the idea of things that are within our realm of control in contrast to those things going on in the outside world that we can’t do a great deal about in the grand scheme of things. But what if your home is actually like waves crashing upon the rocks? Could *you* still be like a lighthouse in the midst of not only what is happening right now in our communities and in the world, but also more specifically in your own home?
This is worth exploring because we’re all going to be at home in this hiatus for an unknown length of time. Who knows how this is all going to pan out?
If you find that you are struggling with the daily stresses of home or family life, whether or not the people you are living with at the moment are your family, then it is important for your wellbeing and for theirs that you all consider strategies that could help.


1. Routine: This is a stressful time for everyone. People have various concerns from the obvious life and death reality of Coronavirus, fears for family and friends, worries about jobs and work and managing childcare, food supplies and finances. Regardless of your situation, it is important that you have at least some kind of basic structure that will help you to manage and juggle these various cares and responsibilities, and to keep things from becoming overwhelming. Be flexible with these, but try to establish some kind of new household ‘norms’ in these challenging times.


2. Physical boundaries and psychological space: No one said this is going to be easy. Perhaps you are blessed to live in a happy family where for the most part you all get on well and are loving and caring towards each other. This is wonderful if you do, and take time to appreciate your blessings, the people in your life, but also remember that this is sometimes far from the case for everyone around you, and think about how you can be a source of support to friends or family who may be struggling at home. We need to all be thinking of each other, especially in such challenging times.
If you are in a stressful situation at home, it is important that you create some kind of physical and psychological space for yourself, and allow the same for those you live with. Maybe you feel like you’re not getting a moment to yourself if children are competing for your attention, or maybe tensions are running high with your partner or housemate, and you are beginning to lose perspective.
Even if you feel trapped, you *do* have options. It might mean getting up earlier than everyone else or taking some time after others have gone to bed to decompress and think and process.
If you can, try to create a space at home that is just for you where you can get away to. Even if it is just a small area, if you need boundaries, try to establish them and listen to the needs of the other people you’re living with too – this is a challenge for everyone.


3. Be understanding: Communication is really important, and sometimes we all do it quite badly, but this is a time to learn. The people you live with may be stressing you out, but try to remember that this is a new and stressful situation for everyone, and they may be struggling too. Find ways of being mutually supportive, and give extra grace to those who may not be doing things the way you think they should. You can’t stop the waves crashing, their attitudes and responses may be out of the realm of your control, but yours aren’t. So be that light in the midst of the storm, in the world, and in your own household. Be gracious, be kind, be forgiving, and supportive, and take time to work on your own character rather than getting annoyed about the things you can’t change in someone else – I know it’s not easy but it is important. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Help, love and support each other.


4. Take responsibility: It can be easy to fall into negative patterns of blame rather than working together when things get stressful. You need to take responsibility and be concerned about what you can change in yourself and your own attitude rather than trying to ‘fix’ someone else. They are imperfect, but so are you. They need compassion, support and understanding, and so do you. Look for solutions, together if you can, so that you aren’t weighted down by the problems.


5. Create a new family / household ‘tradition’ for this time:  Maybe it could be a new activity you do regularly at home with your children so that the Coronavirus pandemic seems a little less scary to them, and isn’t always the focus of attention or conversation. Maybe with the adults you live with you can create an activity to accomplish during this time inside, something after you’ve done your ‘working from home’ bit, and something that has nothing to do with watching the news or TV or tidying the house, etc. Read a play or a novel aloud to each other each evening even for a few minutes, do a puzzle, a jigsaw or something else that will activate the parts of your brain that help you to focus, to concentrate and to relax, rather than just constantly absorbing information from external sources. A few minutes of time in your daily routine that you can look forwards to together, and even if you have to stay isolated in a separate room, you can also pick up the phone for a chat 🙂


6. Set goals: When things feel like they are getting a bit crazy around you, it helps to have some small and manageable goals each day. You might have bigger things you want to use your time to work on while you have a bit of extra time away from the outside world, but also be realistic and set small goals too, as during times of stress and change it can be hard to concentrate. Some of these goals can be working alongside your family members to establish a sense of teamwork to overcome conflict. If this seems like it can’t be done then do what you are able to do on your own. Set short time limits, and break down tasks into tiny ‘bitesized’ chunks that you can do for a while and come back to if you are getting overwhelmed. Try to keep your space tidy and clean as this will help you to have a calmer state of mind. If this is difficult, then have one small area that is ordered and that you can go to to rest, even if it is the corner of a sofa!


7. Be *intentionally* grateful everyday: gratitude doesn’t just happen. It takes a choice on your part to recognise and appreciate the specific things in your life that you can be grateful for, even if those things are challenges. Be intentionally grateful at the start and the end of each day, and allow this to change you. You can put pen to paper or just take time to think on these things. If you are feeling stressed out or annoyed with your living situation and the people around you, take time to be intentionally grateful for them everyday. It might not be easy for you, but when you think of the sobering reality that so many people are losing loved ones, and how many frontline workers would wish to be at home with their people even if it is stressful, then it will definitely change your attitude, your perspective, and hopefully the atmosphere in your home for the better.
Take care, love, stay safe, be kind.

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (4.1): *When home doesn’t feel like home*

Words of Encouragement (4.1):
*When home doesn’t feel like home*


In the last post we looked at the idea of creating a sense of order in the midst of chaos…exploring the idea of our homes being like a lighthouse in the midst of a storm.
I want to continue to think about the idea of establishing safety, this time acknowledging that being at home, whether alone or with other people, doesn’t always feel safe.
This touches very lightly the surface of some very deep and potentially dark issues, many of which are beyond the scope of this short post. There are all types of issues that could press upon your sense of safety within the home from feelings of depression and anxiety, loneliness, to domestic abuse, child abuse, and also even the stress of living in a space with other people with little sense of freedom, which overtime can lead to feelings of entrapment, fear and depression.
In a unique situation like the one we find ourselves in, in the case of this pandemic, we may not have access to the sources of support that would normally be available and this can be particularly tough for some people who are experiencing any of the things I’ve mentioned above. Devastatingly, some people can and perhaps will slip through the net, and my heart goes out to them.
Knowing this makes it difficult to write this post, however, I’d like to offer a glimmer of hope that there are helplines, support groups and other online resources that can help you through this difficult time. A quick ‘Google’ search shows me that there is a variety of resources in local areas, and perhaps with the many support groups springing up around the Covid-19 situation this may mean more opportunities to get some kind of help, even in the interim. In the UK you can phone the Samaritans, access online resources on mental health such as ‘Mind’, reach out to a friend by telephone if possible. Perhaps if you are concerned about a child’s safety at home, you could report this. If anyone reading this has particular knowledge of what to do and how to help people in such circumstances or who fall under other vulnerable categories, and who need a lifeline right now, please comment below with resources and contact details for organisations that can help, where possible. Thank you ❤ Let’s pray that as few people as possible slip through the net.
I will follow this up with a post 4.2 for managing the stresses of being at home where your safety isn’t actually at risk, but when things sometimes just feel too much. Take care, stay safe and well.

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (3): *Order in the midst of chaos*

Words of Encouragement (3):
*Order in the midst of chaos*

There is so much going on in the world around us that is beyond the realm of our physical control. It has always been that way, but we are experiencing things on a different scale and from threats that we are not so used to hearing about, the devastation of which is reaching far and wide across the world.
We all need an anchor, and even those of us who resist rules, who take pride in rebellion or non-conformity, also on some deep level crave order, security, safety and stability, no matter what we might tell ourselves to the contrary, and especially at a time like this. We are designed for order, for structure, for peace and a life well lived, but sometimes we can feel like we are tossed like a tempest, drowning, unable to control what’s going on around us.
And to be honest, there is a great deal that we just cannot control in the world around us right now.
But what can you control? What *is* within the sphere of your influence right now? What kind of structure can you incorporate into your day to day while we are in this hiatus as this pandemic crashes around us, buffeting many, and pulling others under?
Think about how you can be like a lighthouse in the midst of a storm. Many of us are fortunate enough to have homes and shelter when others do not, and we can remain tucked safely away indoors while the storm rages on around us.
Imagine that being indoors is like being hidden within a lighthouse, offering at least temporal safety for the time being.
Think of ways you can bring a sense of structure, of order, of pattern into your days hidden away from the world, whether you are going through this hiatus physically on your own, or as part of a family that also needs order and structure, especially where younger children are concerned.
You personally cannot calm this raging storm, but you can create an atmosphere of calm and of order within your own home on a physical level. Can you think of any ways you could begin to approach this today? ❤ Also, if things at home are chaotic in their own way, is there some way you can reach out for help? I know that this is not an easy time for some to be inside in an environment that you also might feel the need to escape from. If so, sending you much love and hugs.

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (2): *Home alone and feeling helpless*.

Words of Encouragement (2):
*Home alone and feeling helpless*.


I want to address this to those of you who feel like you ought to be doing more to help, and perhaps are feeling frustrated with being stuck at home during some form of isolation. I’m writing to friends in different parts of the world, so our various governments and health services may be addressing this pandemic differently. However, many of us have been told to stay at home.
Whether or not you are home alone, or at home with others, you may be struggling with feeling frustrated and helpless when others on the frontline are out there and doing something.
For each and all of us, please don’t underestimate the power of this action. It is not inaction, but a deliberate and purposeful way of protecting human life, and you are part of that – a very big part of things. As contrary to our instincts as it may feel, by not doing something in this instance, you are actually doing something very powerful. Rosa Parks made a stand by remaining seated. In a very different but also significant and powerful way, by staying at home, your choice, your action, is helping to save lives. Please don’t feel disempowered in this situation, you *are* making a difference, and many people who are staying safe and well, and alive because of you, would thank you for it.

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