Self Care In A Pandemic (44): Manage Your Expectations…

I think this is one of those times when we really need to manage our expectations, especially those we might have of other people.

I’m learning that in terms of expectations I would do really well to increase my expectations of God, and exercise Faith, knowing that with Him all Good things are possible, even when human beings mess things up. This might be a time when people feel their faith is tested, and I understand that, but I continue to Hope in my unchanging God, The Living God.

I think in tandem with that I need to lower my expectations of other people and increase my expectations of myself, so far as it is healthy to do so. I get a picture in my mind of a ‘see-saw’ and on one side, high up is expectations of myself, and low down on the ground is my expectations of others.

Apart from those nearest and dearest to us, our close family and friends, if we are blessed with people who care about us, I think it may be wise to expect less from others, to avoid the hurt and disappointment that can ensue.

I wonder if you disagree with me? I after all am learning on this journey and would be happy to gain wisdom and insight from you as well. Maybe we have some people we can trust and they can trust us, but as the circumference of our friendships widen then the expectations perhaps need to decrease particularly in the pandemic. At least it leaves room for pleasant surprises if people are there for us or do ‘show up’ with kindness in some way.

I’ve had to renegotiate such things in my own mind, even with people who I would formerly have thought of as close friends. It’s been a hard learning curve, but I think it helps me mentally and emotionally to know that it’s ok if I give to others and expect less or nothing back from them. It is also ok if I need to take a step back for my own well being too. It might seem like some people are doing better in this pandemic than others, some of my friends have been doing really well, and it can be hurtful if we realise they just don’t think about others if they are absorbed in the happy goings on in their own lives. It can come across as insensitive, or self indulgent at times and that can be hard in any friendship especially ones we had thought of as close.

However, if we rethink things to say to ourselves, this is a pandemic after all, and maybe some people are absorbed in their own happiness and are insensitive to others, but also perhaps other people may have their own struggles behind the scenes that we know nothing about, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

Who knows what other people are dealing with in this pandemic? Only God really knows. As we expect less of others, we can become more resilient in ourselves and we can also exercise sacrificial love in giving to others, helping them and being a good friend with little or no expectation of anything in return. It’s not always wise to do so if it encourages a dependency for we want to encourage people to be empowered and we also want to live as empowered people. But sometimes friendship dynamics change, and this can be highlighted all the more in the pandemic when everyone experiences this in a different way.

Some of your friends who are doing well may have no insight into the struggles you are going through, especially if you are living alone, have job worries, are anxious about your future, or your health or have experienced loss in some way this year.

Perhaps if we were to let go of expecting anything from others, whether that be kindness, understanding or reciprocity then we might be able to live freer lives to be able to give without needing anything in return.

We also can think about, as I explored in a previous post, about how to build healthier boundaries, and build closer connections with perhaps a few trusted people.

We don’t know what other people are going through all the time, and the same applies to them with us. So let’s all give each other a lot of kindness, and expect more from God, less from others, and more from ourselves.

That way, we may just be pleasantly surprised, and more appreciative if or when our friends or acquaintances do reciprocate our kindess ! What do you think? 🙂 x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (43): If Things Went Back To ‘Normal’ Tomorrow, What Would You Miss? …

It is understandable that many people struggle with the changes that 2020 and the pandemic has brought, and longing for things to return to the way they were even as we press through this ‘new normal’ whatever that means.

However, with the human tendency to be to notice things that aren’t the way we would like them to be, it can be all too easy to miss out on the things that are actually going well and to neglect to notice and give thanks for our blessings.

One way of finding’ a more positive way through this pandemic could be to ask yourself, ‘If things went back to ‘normal’ tomorrow, what would I miss?’

It’s hard really to know what ‘normal’ means, but if things were to change then you might have to let go of some of the benefits of this season that you may be taking for granted. By thinking of it this way you might be more inclined and motivated to make the most of the time that you do have in this season.

For some of you, life might be full on and so difficult, especially if you work on the frontline in the hospitals for example. Please know that you are valued and many people are so grateful and thankful for the hard work you are doing.

For most of us, however, things that might change if there was more ‘normality’ could include the following:

– A daily commute to work, for example in an office, when we’re currently used to working from home.

-Appointments and meetings dictating the way we use our time, rather than greater flexibility that we might have at the moment.

– Having to spend time with toxic people, for example in the work place or in other realms of life.

– Losing touch with the people we may have kept in touch with more during lockdowns and restrictions with the use of technology.

-Less time with our families.

-Less time alone.

-Less time for our hobbies, or to pursue our own interests.

-A faster pace of life, and less chance to slow down and take notice of the simple joys of every day living.

-More demands from other people.

-More ‘external noise’ from the world, from society, from other people, from bosses, from commitments.

-Being forced back into the timetable and mould that the world sets for us, rather than having more freedom to do things at our own pace and in our own way.

I wonder if you can think of other things that I haven’t listed that you might like to share in the comments?

Of course, there are things that we are all missing right now in the pandemic. We miss the freedom to go out without risk of infection, we miss our friends and loved ones, we miss doing fun things, we miss human connection and interaction and travel. Oh, how so many of us miss travel! We may miss our jobs, or we may be missing having a job at all, we may miss health and some people (not myself) may even miss the hustle and bustle of crowds and shopping and noisy places filled with people.

While you may be yearning for the things you miss from the life we once knew or were more familiar with, take a moment to really think about the things that you enjoy right now that you might miss if things returned to ‘normal’ tomorrow. Will you miss your own sleep pattern and no early morning alarm clock, will you miss not having to go on a long commute to work, the time you have to do the things you enjoy, to spend by yourself or with family, or the slower pace of living?

If so, you may just be taking things for granted if you are focusing on the way things used to be or the way you wish they were. There may be so much, right now, even in the midst of the pandemic that are blessings to you. Take time to recognise them, acknowledge them, be grateful for them, and make the most of them, because as seasons change, things may just get far more busier than you would like them to be.

Take time. Enjoy now. Be thankful.

x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (42): What Are Your Mentors And Role Models Doing?

I don’t know who you look up to in life, or what you aspire your life to be more like. Many people when they are younger have role models that they look up to in terms of their career / occupation, fame, beauty, fortune or lifestyle.

As we gain in maturity, however, and as we realise more of ourselves in this world, and experience more of the harsh realities of life, our ideals and aspirations can change.

A ‘phenomenon’ of the past decade has been the rise of You Tube ‘vloggers’, personalities and influencers. While it is commendable that many young people have been quite entrepreneurial in building up these platforms and working hard to do so in what was once a new media form, I do feel disheartened that so many of them never seem to move past ‘influencing’ in terms of brands, beauty, health and fashion.

I think with maturity (not necessarily age) comes the desire to use our platforms, our voice for a greater good and to speak up on issues regarding social justice, helping others, raising awareness of key issues in society rather than just fun, games, and self focussed content. That’s not to say that these people aren’t putting something positive and hopeful into the world, it’s just not something after a certain age many of us want to aspire to or stop at.

In terms of role models and ‘mentors’ or people who I look up to, it is those who have faced and overcome adversity and who are seeking to help other people with what they have been through and what they have learned. I think this is because this is a journey I am on myself, having overcome many hurdles, and being on the cusp of being able to do more to help others as I continue to recover myself. I also look to people who are more focused on the inner content of their characters rather than only the outward appearance of things, although I do think there is a place for aesthetics and outward beauty, we only need to look to the creation and beauty of nature to see this and to think about how images and pictures and art can boost our mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Whoever it is you look to, perhaps this is a good season to think about what they are doing and how they are finding positive ways forwards in the pandemic.

Are there people, whether known personally to you or not, who are doing something to help other people in this pandemic?

Are there those who are advocating for mental health, social justice, fairness, and humanity?

Are there others who are reaching out to the most downtrodden of society and seeking to lift them up and give them the chances that they never had?

Do you have role models who are overcoming or who have overcome adversity and who can provide a pattern for you to follow, or at least some ideas for you to implement in your own life?

While we may sometimes feel at a loss in this pandemic for what to do, how to use our time, or how even to make it through our days ‘in once piece’ if we are really struggling, it can be helpful to look to the lives of others who have found or are finding the strength to persevere and to make the most of what they have got, live out lives of faith and put kindness back into the world as they help others.

Who inspires you today? What lessons can you take from their example to apply to your life this week? x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (41): Encourage A Frontline Worker…

You could say that self care and caring for others go hand in hand, in a way. I find that the source of self care is in being Loved, and that comes from the ‘Up’ connection with God caring for us, enabling us to be good stewards over the life He has given us. As we are ‘filled up’ in being the fullest people we can be, by His Grace, and in taking time to take care of ourselves, to rest, to be refreshed and built up in the Truth of who we are, then we are better able to ‘give out’ to other people too.

Whether or not you believe that, most people would agree quite simply that ‘it’s nice to be nice’ and that we can all benefit from being kinder to each other and encouraging one another.

A group of people that definitely are worthy of our kindness, respect, encouragement, gratitude and love are the front line workers who tirelessly day after day put their own safety on the line to protect ours.

Do you know any such people? Are there any frontline workers in your life? Can you show your appreciation or encouragement to them?

Perhaps you could be a supportive friend that they can turn to when times are tough and they need to ‘vent’ or courage to keep going.

Maybe your role is more from a distance – could you send them a text, a card, an email or a gift to let them know you are thinking of them, or to simply say ‘well done’?

If you don’t know anyone personally, can you be part of a bigger movement within our communities that are doing things to show our support or appreciation for frontline workers?

Is there someone in your family in the frontline of the pandemic who would be grateful for some encouragement?

Perhaps today is the day to show our support for the people who are doing so much to keep our communities safe. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (40): Be Inspired, But Don’t Compare…

In the UK, there are a couple of well known insurance companies with catchy ‘theme tunes’ (or ‘jingles’ if you use Americanised English) as part of their adverts.

One is called ‘Go Compare’ with a caricatured opera singer singing ‘Go Compare, Go Compare…!’ Some might find it a little annoying, but it certainly sticks in the mind, and as far as advertising is concerned, I suppose that’s the point – to be memorable, and to ‘stick’.

Another cute advert that you might be aware of is one with animated / toy Meerkats that deliver the lines. Their slogan lets us know that it’s not ‘Compare the Meerkat’ but ‘Compare the Market dot com’ in an Eastern European accent. Almost everyone over here will know these characters because they’ve become so memorable. I even know that the original Compare the Market meerkat is called Sergei! Another is Oleg, the baby meerkat. They offer discounts, cinema vouchers and added extras as part of their low cost insurance. Let me just say that I’m not sponsored by anyone, but it just proves my point that these things can be catchy and stick with us.

Our culture teaches us to compare:

So what does that have to do with anything, and with self care in the pandemic in particular? I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that our culture, particularly western culture or cultures that use a lot of advertising and / or social media encourage us to compare our lives with others or with a ‘dream like’ life.

We are prompted to compare our skin with the skin of airbrushed models so that we will buy that next beauty product that will make us more like the ‘ideal’. We are compelled to compare our bodies, our lifestyles, our health and fitness, our belongings with other people’s and to fill up that ‘lack’ in our lives by buying that next product or paying money to make our lives better in some way.

Sometimes we are prompted to compare our lives with those who are poor or suffering in some way so that we will realise just how much we have, how much they need, and give towards fulfilling the need of others through charitable acts. Such comparison can be good, when we are giving towards causes that are just and fair and above board and that actually do help other people. While comparison can be ‘the thief of joy’, it can also be a humbling force that causes us to be more grateful and to give to other people out of love, duty or kindness, and in that case it can help us to live more thankful and giving lives.

Aside from the world of advertising, social media also can be a source of comparison with our peers. This can prompt a variety of reactions within us if we are part of those worlds. I imagine that people who constantly scroll through social media may do so to keep in touch with others, but they may also find ways to celebrate their friends blessings and achievements. However, as the news stories often highlight, there is a darker side to this psychologically. I’ve read quotes that say that the pictures other people share of their lives are often the ‘highlight reels’ of what is going on with them. We may never know that, but what we do know is that studies show that constant comparison can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and wellbeing.

Is this something you need to think about in the pandemic when issues such as loneliness, poor health, illness and low self esteem may be more at the fore than usual? Do you need to take a step back?

Of course we don’t need to be part of the worlds of social media to experience the comparison trap. We might experience it through the updates of a friend through text, email, letter or face to face. Even though we are separated by the pandemic restrictions, we are in many ways more ‘connected’ than ever. We need to forge out mutually healthy and beneficial connections, but this is not always the case when people are part of worlds when they gain insight into the lives of people they are not necessarily close to.

It is good when we face comparison to take a step back and be grateful for what we have, for our own lives, and to seek to be inspired. Comparison isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s what we do with it that matters and how we process our thoughts, emotions and reactions.

There is a verse in the Bible that says: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”. What a verse to hold to in 2020 and going forwards, with so many ups and downs and contrasts! Christianity prompts us to lift our eyes away from ourselves to Jesus Christ and to love and serve Him and other people.

If you are struggling with the comparison trap, know that you are human, everyone experiences it to some extent, and don’t beat yourself up for it. Perhaps you need to take a step back, work on a change of attitude, or think about whether something is ‘triggering you’.

I don’t experience much of this on Word Press blogging. Actually, until recently I have enjoyed the variety of things coming up in my news feed on the bloggosphere. Unfortunately, however, I felt the need to unfollow someone whose blog I enjoyed reading because of the contrast that wasn’t good for my mental health – something good is happening in their life and while I don’t personally know them, I am pleased for them from a distance. But at the same time, it feels like they are sharing a lot about this good thing and it is in a way a stumbling block for me, and so to protect my mental health I’ve had to consider not seeing those posts so much. I can choose to go to their blog and read it when I like, but I’ve also chosen not to have those posts randomly pop up in my feed when I’m not mentally ready to see them, because the contrasts are difficult for me. That’s ok. We all need to consider each other, but sometimes we’re not so good at doing that, so we learn as we grow.

I try to write posts that will encourage all of you, but please do let me know if there is anything that you find challenging or want me to consider in how I can better support you through my writing.

In the meantime, remember that your life is unique, beautiful, one of a kind and incomparable. As you live it, seek to uplift other people and don’t let your successes cause anyone else to stumble as far as you are able or it is in your power to do so.

Your life is precious. Live it well. Today. Be blessed. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (39): A Thoughtful Start To The Day…

Whatever time you get up in the morning, whether you are an early bird or a night owl, it can be helpful to start the morning in quietude and contemplation before the day begins.

I personally like that bit of extra time in bed when I can pray to my Creator God and think, but I also like to read Scripture in the morning. Sometimes I’m not as disciplined with doing this and read more later in the day, but when I do have that time set aside with God spending time with Him and in His Word I do feel strengthened and ‘fed’ spiritually.

I don’t stick rigidly to a particular practice in the mornings as some people do, and we are all different and respond better to different things in line with our unique characters and personalities.

It can be beautiful just to take a few moments to look out the window at the start of the day, especially if you have a bit of sunshine or in this season some frost. As I write I notice what looks like a tiny little bird huddled amid the bare branches at the top of a tree. The sky is a light gradating blue, darker higher up and fading into the palest of blues, almost white, at the horizon. It is good to pause and notice and reflect at the start of your day, or at any time of the day for that matter, when you are able to carve out that time for yourself.

I often enjoy gaining an insight into what other people are doing with their time. On You Tube there are so many morning and evening ‘routines’ that people share that can inspire. I like to approach each day afresh but even the most spontaneous among us have certain key ‘building blocks’ that they include in their day to day lives.

Some people find the benefit from writing ‘morning pages’ of free flowing thought, of writing out goals or lists at the start of the day to give them focus, or of journaling or reading.

Perhaps you use your time for blogging as a form of reflection instead or as well.

2020 has taught us in many ways to slow down. It’s important to allow our lives to progress as we renew our minds. I don’t recommend starting the day with the noise of the world (as in the news of what’s going on in the world) but to strengthen you own mind and heart in some way.

We pay attention to our bodies as we eat breakfast, exercise or go outside, but it is important to also pay attention to our spiritual health and our mental wellbeing and for me that means taking in the Truth and spending time with God, even if for a few moments until I’m fully awake and ready for the day and can ponder more of those ideas later on as the day progresses.

What do you like to do to incorporate contemplation and reflection times into your day? Perhaps it is something you can write about in your blog and make sense of the many thoughts going on in your head through this pandemic? x

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