One of the lovely things about moving away from the city for a while, at least during the pandemic, is that I have a view of trees and my parents’ garden (in the city, it was a bit of a rigmarole leaving my 10th floor flat simply to step outside – you know the drill: facemask, hand sanitiser, stress of being around people, etc! I can’t tell you how much I missed just going for a walk in the park and seeing squirrels – now I can watch a little squirrel at play among the leaves most days, and it makes my heart happy to see, rather than to feel that bit ‘cut off’ from nature while I was in my flat).
It is a very blustery day today, the autumn leaves have changed from vibrant oranges and yellows to dry and crumpled (still somewhat golden) browns. The trees are daily being stripped of their leaves now by the wind and rain.
However, one source of delight, especially for my mum has been a vibrant red acer tree in the front garden. Knowing that the season of autumnal fullness is passing, she has been enjoying gathering its fallen leaves to press at home.
I took the opportunity to capture their natural beauty, so I hope in these dark and difficult days of 2020 they bring at least a glimpse of colour and happiness into your day.
And mum, this is especially for you, with Love ❤ x
This week I have two special occasions; a birthday, and reaching the milestone of 500 + blog followers. I know this might seem a humble number for some of you, but for me, my blog started at a point where things were very difficult for me personally and I thought that if I can write to help myself and even just one other person then it would be worth it. The thought that I might be able to encourage each of you is a real gift and blessing to me ❤
So, I want to Give Thanks for this journey, and to thank each of you for being part of it, so here is a celebratory picture of a mini cupcake from my recent birthday, and also a celebratory Word Press badge 🙂
Thanks friends. x
How many sheep do you need to count before you can fall asleep? I’m not sure if an answer has been found to that conundrum, but I am sure that we have all heard time and time again about the benefits and importance of sleep.
Sometimes, however, we just need a gentle reminder. At the start of lockdown in March (in UK) I was in good company among many others who were having vivid and sometimes disruptive dreams. It wasn’t altogether out of the ordinary for me as I went through a time for a few years when almost every night was a battle to get through sleep-wise. Thank God for His Peace in my life now, and more ‘normal’ sleep than before. However, conversations opened up among friends that they were having vivid, unsettling dreams and were struggling with their sleep too. I started noticing articles online from psychologists and medical professionals regarding this phenomenon in the pandemic. Perhaps it has been an issue for you too?
It is hardly surprising with all the new and at times overwhelming information we were having to process at the start of the pandemic. Have we grown somewhat ‘used to’ hearing these things on the news and have they become part of that oh so unpopular ‘new normal’? Our vocabulary has changed in 2020, and we are using words and phrases in common parlance that would have seemed strange to us a mere twelve months earlier. Maybe we’ve found ways to adapt, cope and be positive as time goes on? Maybe for our own mental and emotional wellbeing we’ve distanced ourselves from the facts and figures and human toll of the pandemic for the most part in order to get from one day to the next.
However, things keep changing, and with winter approaching, people are facing new concerns and having to process a whole host of new information. For example, in the UK, we have varying restrictions due to the pandemic in different nations (Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales), and even within the 4 nations, there are differing regional rules and protocols. Some regions and cities have re-entered lockdown or a form of lockdown, there are different rules with regards to the closing times of certain premises and such like. On top of that, there have been restrictions on visiting other households and a ban on this in Scotland apart from a few notable exemptions. And with winter approaching, people have concerns regarding how they will survive on their own, whether they will be able to see friends and family, whether they will have enough money to make ends meet, whether their family members will be ok in care homes, or whether supermarkets will once more run low on certain essential items.
All this can make for restless nights and troubled sleep. We know that we need to take care of our sleep and I for one do tend to struggle with this, but it is worth reminding ourselves that it may well be time for a self care ‘check in’ in this regard.
When was the last time you got a full 7 or 8 hours sleep?
Are you giving your body the chance to process, restore and repair itself as is needful, with a good sleep routine, as far as is possible?
Are you regularly staying awake through the night or avoiding going to sleep?
Do you give yourself the chance to nap during the day if you need to?
Are you oversleeping, which in itself can be detrimental?
We really need to focus on this aspect of self care, especially if like myself you struggle in this area. Even if all you can do is make small changes for the time being, please seek to do so and keep taking positive steps forwards because in order to stay as fit and healthy as you can, maintain a healthy immune system, and look after your mental, emotional and physical health and be there for others if needful especially as winter approaches, then moving towards better sleep needs to be a priority for us all.
Check in with yourself today. Think about what your personal challenges are in this area and what you can do to overcome them. Is there anything by way of a calming evening routine that you can implement in your life? Do you need to stop watching, reading or listening to the news earlier in the day? Are you giving yourself enough time and opportunity to process what is going on in your mind, and to allow your body and brain to do this at a subconscious level through the restorative blessings of sleep?
I’m sure we are all in need of at least a little (if not a lot) of improvement in this area, and I wish you all the very best with it. Perhaps this can be the gentle nudge in the right direction that you need.
Take care, and I pray that you will sleep well. x
Feeling overwhelmed in life is not unusual considering the generally busy lifestyles that many people lead. There are so many things ‘to do’, so many tasks to tick off, so many people and plans and projects to keep up with.
Yet even in the pandemic, and perhaps especially more so, with a change in the pace of our lives, there is still a likelihood that some of you reading this will be feeling overwhelmed.
There are different issues to think of in new and developing contexts whether these contexts involve public health risks, political unrest, a change to our daily routine, isolation, job and financial instability, and so forth.
Even if these things haven’t impacted you too much, there is still the chance that you put pressure on yourself to use the ‘extra time’ to achieve so many goals, do more things, or become better at others. Another common concern that seems to be cropping up is around body image and weight gain (or loss), which is unsurprising given the way many of us respond in times of stress by either comfort eating or forgetting to eat! You may want to make a change in this area of your life.
Which leads me to the point of this post on self care in a pandemic, namely whatever positive or productive changes you need or want to make in your life, don’t forget that you can only (and only need to) live out one day at a time on this journey.
I like to plan, there’s something reassuring about the creative processes I use in putting pen to paper and bringing clarity to my thoughts as I make sense of my day, and the weeks and months ahead. Yet, we all know, and have learned especially this year, that we cannot put all of our hopes or trust in our plans. A year ago, none of us would have known, expected or thought about a year like 2020, we don’t know what the next day or week will bring, and therefore as you move towards making changes in your life, be they to take better care of your body or mind, to use your time wisely, to learn something new, to maintain your home, to do your job well, to move towards greater financial ‘stability’, to invest time and attention in your relationships, to have a better balance in your day to day life, to be less stressed, to give up bad habits, to encourage others, to read more, pray more, live well, whatever it may be, give yourself the permission to do things incrementally, with care and thought.
When we feel overwhelmed, it is important to maintain a healthy balance between our visions of the ‘bigger picture’ and the small, time bound manageable ‘chunks’ of tasks that we need to do, bit by bit, step by step, little by little to get there.
It’s ok to make incremental changes….after all, isn’t that how most change starts to be made?
Don’t compare yourself with other people, and don’t add pressure to your life and mind with negative self talk over how far you have to go.
Take this moment, look up with faith, have an idea of what you want or need to do that will be beneficial, and simply take that one small next step, make an incremental change, and keep going….
Be kind to yourself. x
It’s autumn / fall season once again, and right now I have a beautiful view of auburn, orange, red, gold and green leafy trees. I am delighted, now that I am out of the city once more, to be able to watch squirrels scamper in my parents’ garden, to see magpies and a garden fox and to hear birdsong. In the city where I usually live, there are plenty of parks and green spaces, but in order to get to them I have to walk through the city, cross traffic and share the space once there with other people. In this pandemic year, it is a welcome relief to have some quiet space, to simply be able to look out the window and see trees and birds without having to go anywhere to enjoy such a peaceful autumnal scene. I find that watching the leaves gently shiver and the branches sway in the breeze calms my mind somewhat.
Yet, we may face seasons in our lives when our surroundings are not conducive to rest, whether because of other people, circumstances, stressors or events. Further still, we may also experience times where regardless of whether our external environments are peaceful or problematic, our own psychological processes cause us pain.
I am well versed with such struggles. I know that a troubled mind is not necessarily calmed by peaceful surroundings, and I also know that in difficult circumstances we may find a resilience to overcome the odds and challenges that we may not have realised, despite the suffering that may bring us to such a realisation.
Whatever situation you find yourself in presently, it is important to consider your thoughts. I have written many articles on this previously so if you are interested please browse my blog if you need encouragement with your thoughts, mental health and well being.
This year has been a lot to process. If like me you’ve ever experienced times of ‘burn out’, you’ll know the awful feelings of stress, anxiety and heightened fight-flight-freeze responses that living in a reactive state to your circumstances can bring.
When we’re always on the go, always wound up, battling racing thoughts and constantly on survival mode, then our bodies react with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and this can take a toll on our long term physical, mental, psychological and emotional health if left unchecked.
That’s why it is so important to have a way to process your thoughts and experiences in a healthy way.
To do this, you need to try to carve out time and space for yourself where you are not simply absorbing information (as we explored in my previous post), and where you can be still and allow your mind to try to make sense of whatever is going on with you.
It can be hard to know where to start, which is why I will explore this topic further in subsequent posts, but a good starting point is to begin with an awareness of the importance to give your mind space and time away from the noise in order to rest, reflect, process and organise as well as to heal from stress, traumas and such like.
Maybe you can start by thinking about whether this is important to you, and if not, why not? If you are not taking care of your mind, then perhaps you should be because your mind matters – you matter.
Set aside some time today, even if just a minute to begin with, to quieten your thoughts, focus on your breathing, and to become aware of what is bothering you or causing you stress or anxiety, or to simply enjoy the peace of the moment you are in.
I will follow this post up with one on the benefits of journaling as a way of processing your thoughts, so for the meantime, remind yourself of the importance of looking after your mind and your mental health as a crucial part of self care in the pandemic, and together we will explore more practical steps as to how to take this forwards.
Stay safe, friends, and be kind to yourself. x
Hands up, or nod knowingly to yourself, if today you turned on the TV and watched the news, scrolled through your phone, listened to, read or watched something about the pandemic today that made you feel even a little lower in your mood than before you absorbed that information.
If we could somehow see each other in our respective little parts of the world, I’m pretty sure there would be a lot of nods and hand-raises happening right now, am I right?
If not, well done, we applaud you.
I remember at the start of the year when the Coronavirus had not yet reached pandemic status, and gradually news stories were gaining attention, first about the outbreaks where they originated. Sadly, slowly but surely, it wasn’t just something impacting one part of the world, but with the free flow of people, began to send shock waves from one country to the next. I remember in January or February I met up with a couple of friends for coffee / tea (as we do in the UK, lol), and I asked my friends if they were still thinking of going on the holidays that they had planned later in the year to France and Italy in April and May respectively. I was concerned for them traveling when cases had started moving across Europe, but they were still in the mindset of going ahead, or waiting to see what would transpire. Needless to say, travel plans were cancelled as a hard lockdown was imposed in the UK from 23rd March 2020.
From then, almost everybody was glued to their screens or devices to try to figure out what was going on, how things would impact our lives, and what was to happen next. I remember when the first case hit our country, and it was still commonly thought that only older people or those with underlying health conditions would be particularly affected by the Coronavirus. One case. It is hard to believe how that has sky rocketed into tens of thousands here, and hundreds of thousands across the world.
It is understandable that when everything was so new, we were absorbing news and information about the pandemic almost constantly. At this moment in time, in the UK at least, restrictions seem to constantly be changing and developing with changing circumstances and therefore a regular diet of news and information about the pandemic seems to be a must.
It’s probably not too dissimilar for you, wherever in the world you might be. Added to this, 2020 has bombarded us with a whole host of troubling insights into the world we are living in, on what perhaps seems like a more intense scale than a few months previously, even though the terrible things happening in the world have been going on for centuries. Is it just me, or does it feel like we keep hearing bad news on the news in 2020? Aren’t we all hopeful for change? Or trying to be hopeful?
With the constant stream of bad news, of mind blowing facts and figures about the Coronavirus and many other issues of the day, it can be very easy to lose sight of the fact that there are good things happening in the world, and in our own lives.
As such, self care in the pandemic includes moderating our intake of news so that we can maintain a healthy and necessary balance. While it is important to stay informed of the rules, regulations, and even new legislation in our countries and regions regarding the pandemic and the accompanying public health restrictions, it is also important to not soak up so much information that it paralyzes us from positivity.
It’s so important to try to set yourself some healthy boundaries with watching, listening to and reading the news, especially this year, especially if you already struggle with mental health issues. It’s a learning curve for all of us on how to keep informed, maintain a compassionate and wise outlook, avoid personal triggers and stay positive and productive with everything that has been going on. But it is so necessary for our wellbeing and for our ability to be there not only for ourselves but for other people too.
Do you recognise yourself in any of this? Do you feel like you have been soaking in too much of the bad news and not giving yourself adequate means or time to process it, and is it all dragging you down? If so, be mindful and practical in how you are going to set boundaries for the information you allow into your life on a day to day basis. Maybe instead of looking at the news throughout the day, choose a set time to stay informed so that you have the rest of the day and night to make sense of it, process the information and do other more productive and positive things that have nothing to do with the pandemic.
Seek and pursue other types of information too, that you will find positive, uplifting, encouraging, inspiring, or simply entertaining (we can’t get enough of those cute puppy videos, can we? 🙂 ). Maybe you could become a source of good news stories for other people. Seek out positive vibes and news and share them with your ‘tribe’ of friends and family and maybe even co-workers. We all need a break from the clouds and rain and negativity of this pandemic.
As well as news, consider including other sources of information into your life, whether that be reading for leisure, spending time learning something new, taking in the sights and sounds of nature and being quiet as you soak in and absorb the beauty of this autumn season and the seasons to follow. Make, create, encourage, write, and look for positive things to fill your mind with too.
In addition to this, know that you are ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. There are so many people who have gone before us, and so many contemporaries in our midst that can be those ‘role models’ that our hearts and minds crave right now. People who have overcome the odds whether that be difficult circumstances, prejudice, lack of opportunity, trauma, abuse, or people who have made a change for the better in society for which we enjoy the benefits today, people who have discovered the seemingly undiscoverable for humanity, who have invented, who have thought beyond the perceived limitations of circumstances and shone in their lifetimes.
Think of the people around you who perhaps quietly, humbly and with good humour and a positive attitude make a change for the better in their day to day lives, or who do the simplest of tasks that most of us would look down upon, without grumbling or complaining.
There are so many people we can look up to as role models, people who can inspire, encourage, help us to think positively even in the darkest of times, who remind us of the power and love that is greater than this world, the resilience of the human spirit, the Grace of God, the tenacity to overcome the odds. Perhaps you and I are or can be role models ourselves to someone, whether intentionally or not, as we pursue these positive habits, seeking to maintain a healthy balance of the input we allow into our minds and lives, and seeking to believe beyond the limits of our present circumstances.
Be brave, friends, stay strong, be blessed. x
Do you remember the start of your year, in 2020? What were your personal thoughts about the well rounded, almost ‘perfect’ 20-20 year that stretched ahead? Did you have any goals or plans that you wished to pursue, or that seemed likely, that because of the pandemic have been interrupted or cancelled?
As someone living and working in the UK, at the start of the year much of the talk in the news centred around ‘Brexit’ – Britain’s formal exit from the European Union. Regardless of the politics and whether or not you have any particular feelings towards this (which I understand many of you living in other parts of the world may not), there was a feeling that there would be implications for our personal lives on some level.
As such, I optimistically started 2020 thankful for my steady job, and beginning to brainstorm European countries that I have not yet been to that I would like to visit in 2020, before any potential future travel restrictions that might be caused by Brexit! Ah, how little did I know back then!
Needless to say, none of those travel plans materialised in 2020, and not because of Brexit, but because of Covid! Wherever in the world you may be, I am certain you’ve heard of that. I am thankful that I have travelled quite a lot and enjoyed traveling on my own as well, so although my plans never materialised for travel in 2020, it is no great disappointment or inconvenience.
However, I’m not the only one who had plans at the start of the year that did not come to pass. Perhaps you did too. Maybe you planned to get married this year and that had to be called off or at least postponed to less uncertain times. Maybe you considered relocating or buying your first home, changing job, or taking a risk, visiting friends or family or doing something that due to the pandemic has had to be put on hold or cancelled altogether.
Some of you may be in a place of real turmoil, or may know others whose lives have been shaken in 2020. It is heart-breaking to hear stories of people who are mourning loved ones because of Covid, who have lost their jobs or face uncertainty with their income, who are struggling with mental health, loneliness and depression on a more intense scale than they might have been before because of isolation, uncertainty and anxiety.
The bad news hasn’t stopped some people from experiencing joys in life, but sadly this has not been the case for everyone. I know of people who are expecting babies this year, who have got engaged, and even couples at church who managed to get married as planned this year, albeit with a few less people in attendance. Some have still managed to get away on short holidays or breaks, or explored the world of ‘staycations’. Others have enjoyed working from home, time with family, or time to enjoy hobbies that they previously had little space in their calendars for.
We have all come through this year differently, with shades of light and dark along the way, but it is unlikely that you have not been touched or impacted by the pandemic in some way, even if that is inadvertently.
And because of this, I write to reach you and encourage you, as a small offering of hope.
What are some of the ways that many of us here may have been impacted? One thing that I know many people face is a change of routine. Routines have changed in terms of where we work, whether we are able to work at all, being able to socialise, see friends or family, where we can eat, where we can go, and what we need to be ‘on guard’ for.
No longer is our routine when leaving home characterised by a final check of whether we have money, keys and phone with us; instead, we have the additional ‘check-list’ of whether we have our facemask, hand sanitiser, maybe even gloves with us. We have to be even more mindful of our interactions, our distancing, our shopping and disinfecting habits than we were before as we realise how much of the day to day things we took for granted in seemingly more ‘care free’ days.
Whether your life and routine has been slightly or significantly impacted, there is no doubt that you have had changes to adapt to this year.
It’s a word of solidarity to say that you’re not alone. We’re all facing change in some way.
So what do routines and self-care have to do with each other? So much. If any of you have also suffered with times of mental health challenges, then perhaps you also know the importance of routines to help get you through those tough days. Routines do not save us (as you will know if you have read my blogs on faith before, I believe that only Christ can save us to the uttermost that we need), but they can provide a sense of stability in uncertain times.
If your routine has been changed this year, and you are facing unexpected changes due to the pandemic, try to establish new routines that provide you with a sense of comfort, predictability and even joy.
There may be things from your previous routine that you miss, and others that you are glad to see the back of. I personally do not miss the daily commute to work, and instead enjoy lingering unhurriedly over my morning cup of coffee.
Think of some of the things you are thankful are no longer part of your routine in this season, and take a moment to write them down, to be grateful or simply ponder them, however small they may seem to be.
Things such as no longer having to face rush hour traffic if that is the case for you. Of no longer missing out on time with your children, perhaps. Whatever it is, take a moment and appreciate that even in unsettling times of change, some changes have been a blessing to you.
Next think of the positive changes to your routines that you may not have even noticed before. Think of ways in which you can establish and build upon these to bring in a greater sense of wellbeing into your life as you persevere through this ‘pandemic year’. You may have lost a lot this year, or may feel unsettled and disrupted, but are there any things you can incorporate into your day that will help you?
A friend of mine has been incorporating regular walks into her new routine, and enjoying the peace of nature, something she wouldn’t have had so much time for before. Maybe you’re stuck at home in a high rise flat in the city and can’t enjoy such things on a regular basis, or at all in this season of your life, but perhaps the routine ritual of your morning breakfast / work out / coffee / crossword or whatever it may be is something you can look forward to.
Routines help take some of the mental pressure away from our minds. With fewer decisions to make, we can be more present in the moment, more able to enjoy the gifts of the day, and routines can help to ‘free up’ certain areas of our lives to do this.
I know that many people deeply dislike the term ‘the new normal’, so I won’t use that here, but in what ways have you adapted and brought in positive changes into your daily life?
Routines don’t have to be rigid, but having something predictable to look forward to in our day to day lives can help ease the burden and promote self care in these changing times.