Winter Survival Guide (40) ~ Your Mind Matters.

And if a ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series wasn’t enough, delve into my archives for a variety of Winer Survival Guides! ๐Ÿ™‚ x

Self Care In A Pandemic (28): To Plan, Or Not To Plan…..

Many of you will be looking at 2020 as a year of cancelled plans. Some of you may have benefited from staying indoors, especially if like me, the world around you has a tendency to give you panic attacks on a day to day basis! I’ve certainly found a blessing in being able to slow down and not contend with the world at large so much, and it’s ok to recognise and appreciate things like that.

For some people, it has been hard or inconvenient. People have had to cancel weddings, travel plans, children’s birthdays, postpone graduations or do things online. I’ve missed seeing friends, and for four months of total isolation missed being with my family.

Perhaps surprisingly, 2020 has been a year of celebration for some people too. I have friends who have had new additions to their family, some friends have had babies, others are pregnant with their first or second children and there are yet other people I know of who have also got married this year, or embarked upon a new relationship. Some people have done well in their careers or in some kind of personal project.

Maybe for most of us we’ve either been ‘hanging on’ or persevering and trying our best to ‘keep the faith’, stay positive and help and encourage other people.

So for the most of us who have had our ‘plans on hold’ (at the start of the year, I thought, pre-Brexit, let me travel to as many European countries as I can that I haven’t yet visited – ha! what did I know!), do we dare to dream, to plan?

While our lives may all look very different from one another, I feel like it is important for me to set goals. These may not be ‘new’ goals, but I really feel it is important to have something to work towards. I will have all sorts of tasks to do when I resume ‘work work’ in January, new projects to do, new deadlines to meet. Yet, I also feel that it is important to plan and set incremental goals of continuous improvement and development for myself that aren’t specifically work related.

Some of these relate to my faith and relationship with God, and my consistency in doing my bit, in prayer and handling Scripture better, and in keeping in touch with other Christians. Others may relate to being accountable in terms of staying in touch with friends and family.

I have goals and plans to do with writing consistently with my blog, my novel and other creative pursuits, musical interests and hobbies, health and fitness.

And something else I feel is important is progressing with my mental health journey and part of that I guess is working out a ‘structure’ or plan for myself for moving forwards and being able to tackle the challenges of life and of my mind.

There is so much I can’t plan for right now, so much you can’t either. We don’t know all the ‘ins and outs’ of how this pandemic will pan out (no pun intended!) especially as there have been recent reports of a new strain of the virus. In January 2020 I couldn’t have predicted how ludicrous my plans to see more of Europe would turn out to be, so who knows what we will or won’t be able to do going forwards. Yet, life doesn’t stop, and to stay mentally healthy, we need to keep a forward focus.

Maybe you are planning for an online wedding. (Congrats!). Maybe you are planning for a new arrival. Maybe you, like me, are planning to persevere with your own personal goals.

There are many unknowns, but we can still have faith and vision. We can rise up and meet the challenges of each new day with hope. We can choose faith over fear, and while we don’t know the plan we can set a small goal, and then another, and another, and see where that might take us….

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Self Care In A Pandemic (27): List The Positives…

Here’s one we can take a few minutes to do, ‘together’. Ok, so obviously, this one will be mine to get us started, but perhaps you can take inspiration from this and keep it going and share with someone else in your life.

While 2020 has been at the very least a challenging year on the global scale, and possibly for many an utterly miserable and heart-breaking year for those who have lost loved ones, it is important to allow our minds space for the positives too.

I realise this may be very hard for some of you. For others it might come more easily depending on where you are in life, especially this year. In these dark days, we need to learn to look for and look to the Light.

One way of beginning to train our minds to do this is to practice gratitude. I’m going to give it a go right now, unrehearsed, in real time, by making a list of some of the positives I’ve gleaned from this year. I’ll try to keep it as inclusive as possible to where you hopefully will also be able to relate:

Positives from 2020:

You and I are still alive, still breathing, hopefully you are also healthy.

We hopefully have a deeper appreciation of the gift of life and both how fragile and how precious it is.

2020 has given us insights into the dedication of many people in society, especially ‘frontline’ workers from those in the medical professions, health and social care, public health, cleaners, bin removal people, shop staff and so many more. If you feel like I’ve missed anyone please comment below so we can share our gratitude for them.

We have had the perhaps unwanted or unrequested opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate certain things in our lives, something that we might otherwise not have been able to do.

Some of us have grown in resilience through solitude, others have grown closer to family members, and others still may have discovered which people are not good for us and made a change in our lives moving forwards.

We realise more that we are part of something bigger than any or each of us individually, and yet we also realise that small actions can have huge consequences. While the virus has been a negative in our year, perhaps we can all start believing that our small positive actions can have a far reaching effect too, and decide to live out our lives in Truth and Love.

We have seen courage and fortitude in people who go the ‘extra mile’ for others, from community efforts to individuals, even in their 80s raising money for charity.

We perhaps have become more aware of the needs of different people in our societies and been motivated to learn more and to do something to help where we can.

We may have gained new skills or rekindled an old hobby.

We have gained insight into the scientific communities of men and women working hard to develop vaccines and to keep us safe.

We have learned to adapt.

There have been some positive environmental changes.

We have perhaps had more time to read, to write, to pray, to think, to connect online, to do some soul searching, to get creative, to learn, to cook, to home school, to….

We value those around us more, and we try to use the time we have to make a difference….

Over to you….please feel free to comment below with the positives you personally have discovered this year….with so many difficult things in 2020, let’s keep each other going and keep building each other up…..

Peace. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (26): Be Kind To Your Mind…

Hi everyone, glad to be with you on this journey.

Do you ever find that you tend to write about the things that are challenging you? If so, you’re in good company ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ve titled this post ‘Be Kind to Your Mind’ precisely because this is the advice and help I need myself right now.

You know those times when outwardly things seem to be ‘fine’. Someone asks you how you are, and you reply ‘I’m fine’ as that generic and perhaps helpfully deflective catch-all phrase that barely touches the surface of how you actually are. A handy phrase for those social situations when you’re not entirely convinced that the person asking how you are actually wants to know, or is just offering you a pleasantry by way of an added extra to ‘hello’.

Well, in that case, ‘I’m fine’. Psychologically, my mind is going over various things (ah….I’ve become one of those people who then proceeds to tell you a little of how I actually am, even though you didn’t ask ๐Ÿ™‚ lol. I guess that’s permissible in the blog-o-sphere where you can subtly tune out or close the page and I’d be none the wiser! I hope you don’t though ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Yes, as I was saying, I’ve been having ‘stuck thoughts’. Memories that made me feel bad at the time, things that seem to ‘trip me up’ from time to time. My mood has also been a bit of a struggle as I fend off depression. I’ve come a LONG way. I need to acknowledge that. A few years ago I was getting treatment for severe clinical depression, severe and debilitating generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks and complex (‘severe and repeated’) PTSD. You’d think a few ‘sticky thoughts’ wouldn’t be such a big deal, but when it comes to the mind, you can never be too kind to yourself.

You see, our minds don’t store all information in a linear, chronological or systematic way. Where events are tied to strong emotion or trauma or feelings such as shame, fear, fight and flight, freeze, disgust, self hatred, humiliation, rejection, abuse, even if looking back as an adult logically those things may not in the grand scheme of things seem all ‘that’ bad (for example the wounds of verbal abuse when growing up in front of peers) those events become memories that are stored haphazardly, chaotically and often tied to intense emotion. Now, if like me, you experienced a stream of such events over time, building up, and consequently knocking you down, wearing down your self-esteem, sense of identity, selfhood, worth as a human being, the result can be trauma, dissociation, body dysmorphia, depression, anxiety, and all that kind of stuff.

We can move from season to season, stage to stage, putting one step in front of another in life, but the ways our brains store information don’t always add up to a nice neat ‘film’ of events in our minds. Flashbacks occur when those intensely emotional ‘memories’ haven’t been processed and stored properly in our minds and they often recur again and again intensely until we get help to deal with them. It’s like a scene from a scary movie flashing on the scene of your mind and bringing forth an intense emotion.

Well, that’s a lot to deal with in one post….but I want this to be helpful for you and I both. Our minds are fragile things, yet they are also powerful. Maybe you’re going through a lot right now. Maybe you’re struggling to process things. Maybe your mental health is really beginning to suffer. Maybe you just need to know you’re not alone and you’re not going crazy.

So, here are a few pointers if you are struggling.

  1. Know that you’re not alone, and it is ok to ask for help. In fact, it’s more than ok, it’s heroic and brave in many ways. Find out what professional help is on offer if you need it. Please don’t wait and suffer as I did by placing a stigma on yourself. You’ve probably been through a lot, and minds need to be cared for just as much as bodies do. There is no shame in getting help. If you don’t need to go down that route maybe it’s worth calling a helpline, speaking to a trusted friend or family member, or joining a group of people who can help motivate you from where you are to where you want to be.
  2. Please don’t suffer in silence. Externalise things. Ok, so maybe point 1 is a bit too much for you at the moment, but there may be other ways of getting things out of your head, so to speak. Try writing things down, expressing things creatively or letting someone know maybe not in detail if you don’t want to yet, but just let someone know you’re going through a bit of a difficult time.
  3. Read to be inspired. Sometimes we can find great help and direction from others who have ‘been there’ before us, or who are going through something similar right now. I find that while in my peer group there may not be many people I can relate to about such issues, although there are one or two for whom I am grateful, I can find my ‘peer group’ from people’s lives stories, their blogs, books or videos online. There is so much out there to help, encourage and inspire, and if anything you will see that you are not alone. There will be someone out there who while not having an identical experience to you will have gone through something you can relate to and find strength from.
  4. Positivity. Try to fill your mind with things that will build it up and make it a safe and happy place to be. Get creative, look at beautiful pictures, watch an uplifting film, talk to people who are positive, read blogs and books that inspire and give you hope. With so much ‘doom-scrolling’ going on in 2020, your mind deserves a break!
  5. Share your positivity. Grow in those mental positivity ‘muscles’ by sharing your positivity by externalising it whether by telling someone something encouraging or writing it in a blog post and passing it on.
  6. Share what you have learned from your struggles. Similarly, there is much to be gained by sharing your lessons with someone who may be struggling in a way that you used to. Let’s all keep encouraging and helping each other up and using our words for kindness.
  7. Light relief. I guess this could refer to a couple of things – light levels and laughter. We all need to laugh and it can be so good for the mind, even in trying times. Also, in winter, try to get a bit of sunlight if you can or try not to wallow away in dark rooms in your home – turn on the light. Spiritually, I can always encourage you, particularly in this season, to Seek the True Light of Jesus Christ to light your life path and lead you safely on. ๐Ÿ™‚
  8. It will pass. Know that whatever mental health or other struggle you are going through just now, it will pass. Try to think of your tricky thoughts as leaves upon a stream and allow the waters of your mind to take them gently away. If this is constantly difficult, you may need to get some extra help, and I hope you will find the right resources for you where you are, and if not in person, hopefully on the internet.
  9. Be Kind. It’s hard being a human. We often have to deal with a lot and it can impact our mental health. Be kind, kind, kind to your mind. Water it like a little flower, nurture it like a beloved friend, be kind.
  10. Keep learning, and keep up with your hobbies, and set small achievable goals. Ongoing learning and hobbies or creativity in general can work wonders for mental health, as can setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound) goals for ourselves. Routines are also good for giving our minds a predictable structure, which can also make spontaneity all the more fun when we break free from the patterns from time to time. But we do need a dose of structure, and predictability even if that is as simple as making your morning cup of coffee and then seeing where the day takes you from there if that is your personality type. But keep learning, play games that will help with your mental agility, ‘stay in training’ mentally, and you will build up that resilience.

And even if all of that is too much to take in at the moment, simply know that you are not alone, you are Loved, you are worthy, you are important simply because you are a human being and you are you. You are unique, you have so much potential, and even right now as you are if you are feeling broken, worthless, downcast or bad in someway, you are still valuable, a treasure, and I value you and know that you can do great things with that remarkable mind of yours.

So be kind, be kind to your mind. x

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