Self Care In A Pandemic (64): Create A Mental Road Map Forwards…

If the pandemic has left you feeling stuck, jaded, confused and anxious, then perhaps it will be helpful to create a mental road map forwards.

This is something that can be helpful in life generally. I think perhaps we are often if not always evaluating and re-evaluating our way forwards in life. Sometimes people get stuck and drift along in life, but even then there are certain things that keep them moving forwards, even if those are unconscious or not particularly helpful. Maybe their moving forwards is actually going backwards….?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to move forwards mentally, perhaps because I have been through years of complex PTSD where past and present are terrifyingly intermingled. Even after the worst of that passes and healing begins, my mind is still looking to re-establish reference points from the past, to make sense of things in order to move forwards, and a central part of that is developing and realising my true identity.

I’m learning to replace the lies that broke me with the Truth of Who God says I am that rebuilds, heals and sets me free. This is crucial to me for mental strength and for things making sense as I move forwards.

Throughout our lives we will face questions that we will need to answer for ourselves regarding our core values, our faith, our identity and what matters most to us in life. Many of the most important choices we go on to make will stem from our core values and these deep things in ourselves.

Yet at other times, we just need to try to keep moving ourselves forwards through life, even when nothing makes sense, even when traumatised, so as to survive.

How do we create a mental road map forwards when we don’t know what’s next?

Some of us have key building blocks that we have developed in the past. Building blocks such as faith, values, resilience. Some of the things that help us through uncertain times have been developed in previous ‘fiery trials’ in our lives. Those who have gone through tough times before may find that they are more resilient now.

In terms of a mental road map forwards, I think this is a very personal thing. Something you’ll probably need to figure out on your own in quiet, reflective moments, when you ask yourself those deep questions about your core beliefs and values and if you honestly seek for Truth as you move forwards.

But what kind of stepping stones can we put in place mentally as we move forwards?

There are things to do with our values, and things to do with our practical concerns and responsibilities.

We could list the main elements of our life, or we could choose to simply drift along and see what happens.

In an earlier post I talked about the idea of establishing new habits and discussed how we can effectively maintain these. Our choice of new habits are often underpinned by some core values that we have previously thought about or explored. The outworking of these deep values are in the things itself, the practical choices.

These can help us to continue with our road map forwards.

In creating a mental road map forwards, I’d like to encourage and challenge you and myself with a few key questions:

  1. What are my core values, do I need to re-evaluate these, and how do I define what is most important to me?
  2. Can I list some practical ways I can live these values out in my day to day life?
  3. Have I drifted away from these in the pandemic, and if so, do I need to seek a way back to The Truth and what matters to me?
  4. What kind of accountability can I seek that will help me live out what is most important in my life?

I think these questions can apply to many areas of our lives. We can consider each life area as a key stepping stone in our mental roadmap. And we can diligently apply and evaluate these on a regular basis so that we stay on track.

I’ve done this kind of self-reflective work for myself in the past, and established key life areas. From these I have distilled some actions that I can take to keep me living these out in practical ways in a day to day basis.

The following aren’t specifically the ones I have for myself, but to help you get started, some of the core things that we all may have as important aspects of life could be:

  1. Faith / belief / purpose / overall reason for being.
  2. Identity.
  3. Family, friends.
  4. Helping others.
  5. Wellbeing – mental and physical.
  6. Work.
  7. Finances.
  8. Goals / dreams.
  9. Learning / skills / hobbies.

What would be on your list and how can your reflections help you to establish a road map forwards through this pandemic, and through the next phase of your life?

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Self Care In A Pandemic (63): Build As You Heal…

Hi Friends,

For those of you who are more familiar with my blog, you’ll know that I have been overcoming complex PTSD, depression and anxiety from adverse childhood experiences particularly in school and among peers, and cumulative stress throughout the years into adulthood.

I’ve come a long way, and would consider myself not a victim, or survivor anymore but an overcomer. I am still working on this stage, but perhaps one day I will be able to think of myself as a ‘thriver’, that’s one of my goals. I’m not there yet, however, and there are still daily mental battles that I am overcoming. This could easily become a negative obsession were it not for the fact that having had some help I now have some tools to move forwards with to help me be present in my day to day life.

It got me thinking that we all have our ‘stuff’. We all have things that we have survived and need to overcome. Some among you may be familiar with this road, like myself, and others among you may have for the first time experienced something in this pandemic that has hit you hard and even traumatised you as well.

For a long time I had no idea how to heal. The answers are complex, and I rely on the grace of God. There are however things that I can share with you that I have learned. Sometimes we go over our stories again and again in order to try to make sense of them, to find meaning, to reprocess, to create a new narrative. This is hopeful. At other times we are so impacted by our inner pain that we go over and over it because trauma actually has us ‘stuck’ there. Stuck trying to get free, flailing as if drowning, trying desperately to come up for air. I was there internally for a very long time until I got outside help.

Now that I am working on things by myself again, I have made considerable progress with my inner mental road map as I look to the examples of others who have or are overcoming something difficult in their lives. I’ve written about this before, and you might like to look out my post on mentors for more insight.

As we heal, as we continue on our own recovery journeys of whatever type they may be, we can also seek to build. As we try to make sense of what happened to us and the sometimes devastating impact it had and continues to have, we can see opportunities to use these experiences for growth not only in our own lives but to help other people to – to build.

I’d like to encourage you (and myself) today to consider what thoughts are going on in your mind that you are grappling with as you try to recover, make sense of, heal or move on from something.

Many of us have experienced verbal abuse at some point in our lives. For those of us who are particularly sensitive this can be crushing and can destroy our sense of self worth. We may have to spend decades trying to survive these inner wounds until we can get to a place where we can start affirming our own worth and begin to believe it. That is why I say, ‘build as you heal’. While I am overcoming these effects in my own mind and life, I can remind myself that there are still children out there who are going through things like I went through. I can remind myself that there are adults still struggling with the things I did a few years ago at the peak of CPTSD. I can remind myself that there can be greater compassion for people who have suffered even if and when their suffering is different to mine. And as I seek to continue my own healing journey I can think of ways that I can use this for good, and to build up other people.

I may be able to show more compassion, understanding and care to the young people in my life. I may be able in some small way to encourage my friends who are parents, or to build up adult friends who have traumas of their own. I can write, and blog and encourage you. I can think of the examples of others who have gone before me who have used the most awful experiences in their lives to heal and build and build and build.

Can you think of any striking examples of people who have overcome their own struggles and sufferings to go on to help other people in notable ways?

The ways you and I heal and build don’t need to be so notable because the smallest most silent and seemingly invisible acts of kindness can transform destinies. A broken person might have their life course changed by a simple act of kindness that shows them their humanity and worth is recognised. You never know, you might just be the person to do it.

Let us not wait until we are fully whole in order to begin to build. Our families, friends, communities and our world needs kindness to be built up into their foundations. Kindness and love.

As you continue healing, think of the lessons you can learn that you can pass on to others. I personally believe that when we are struggling in our healing journeys that this perspective can actually help us personally as well. If I am so caught up in my own suffering then I may believe the lies that were said about me. But if I think of another little girl suffering the same thing, I can grow in strength and perspective by saying, it’s not her fault, she’s precious and valuable and beautiful and made in God’s image, and then I can more logically begin to apply the same reasoning to myself as a child.

The wounds of childhood can run deep. They can crush us. But they can also be transformative. They can teach us to overcome, and to be the helpers and healers of the future.

Maybe your wounds are from adulthood, maybe they came as fiery darts to you in this very pandemic. Don’t be defeated by them. It is The Truth that sets us free. The Truth of our dignity and inherent worth and value to our Creator God. There are other people languishing in the same kind of deep pain that I and perhaps you have languished in. As we heal, let’s build, not only for ourselves but to be the ones who can and will lend a helping hand …. when the time comes.

Stay safe. Be blessed. Heal….and build. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (62): Work On Your Character…

Initially all the changes we faced in 2020 when the pandemic really started to impact our lives and shape our day to day realities, left many of us in a ‘survival mode’.

We were compelled into thinking about the immediate practicalities and concerns we needed to get to grips with in order to keep our loved ones and ourselves safe.

I’m sure we all remember the news articles and ‘toilet paper-gate’ in those early days when people were struck with panic and started hoarding essentials for fear of shortages amid the lockdown.

I realise that for many people things are by no means easy now, but in general in a variety of countries we have now established ways and means of managing these new day to day realities of living life in a pandemic.

Working from home has become a default for many people, even if we are still not fully equipped and established quite yet. Home education is a ‘new norm’ for some, and it’s no longer a novelty or new inconvenience to be ordering groceries and then spending our time carefully disinfecting them. These are all part of the rhythm of our new lives, as is social distancing, delivery people leaving parcels on our door steps rather than handing them to us, and so forth.

Some people in society are really hard pressed, such as those working in the ICU, people facing abuse in other frontline settings such as shop staff, and those for whom Covid-19 has had a knock on effect upon their finances, family situation and living situations. Some have become homeless while others are going to food banks for the first time.

I suspect that for many of us with the time to read and write blogs, we may be in a more comfortable situation not living hand-to-mouth on a day to day basis and not having to worry about where we will live next month.

For those of us who are no longer in pandemic-survival-mode, and for those of us who still are, we all have the opportunity to dig deeper and work on our character.

We are being pressed into thinking about many things, some of which many of us prefer to avoid in the general day to day run of life. Death and what happens next is one that is key to think about. I personally believe that there will be a judgement, and the only way to be right with God is by seeking His forgiveness and new life through Jesus Christ. That’s the biggest eternal need of all. Yet we also have other issues that we need to consider such as how we think of and relate to others, how we use our time, and whether we are developing ourselves in a way that will bring kindness into the world around us. We may be humbled by our circumstances and this may open opportunities for us to realise more of our humanity, our need and to develop thankfulness, perseverance and resilience.

So wherever you find yourself today, think of the ways in which you can be developing your character in this pandemic. Think of the person you are and want to become, and how you can use all of your experiences for the greater good, even and perhaps especially those which have been difficult for you.

Take care, as always friends, stay safe and never give up. x

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