Self Care In A Pandemic (75): Start Where You Are…

I know of friends who are looking for new jobs in the pandemic. I know of people who have started new courses. I know of people whose marriages have sadly come to an end, not caused by the pandemic, but coinciding with it. I know of people who have been trying to have a baby for years and have at last become pregnant. I know of people, friends that are a few decades older than me, whose adult children are considering what to do next whether that is to do a college or university course, or are looking for a new job or their first job. I know of people who have embarked upon a new relationship, and are trying to figure out whether to continue or not. I know of people who are working on overcoming mental health challenges, and who are putting their minds to the day to day things of life. There are people, all of us, who are in a variety of situations in this pandemic, some good, some bad, some difficult, some easier. There are people who are starting things for the first time, there are people who are having to begin again. Some people have become homeless in this pandemic for a variety of reasons. Many people are in situations where they feel they are having to ‘start from scratch’.

Perhaps you are one of those people. Maybe you are not starting from scratch in such a way but maybe you’re not sure what’s next. Maybe you need a job or are wondering about whether to start a course. Be encouraged that that’s ok, even if you don’t know what’s next or haven’t made it to where you want to be. There are several areas of my life where I don’t know what’s next or have any idea of how to get there, but I remind myself that God has led me through so many unknowns and challenges already and I can start on my knees, with prayer to Him, Jesus Christ, The Living God.

I, like you, can also start from right where I am right now. You may not be rebuilding your life from some terrible tragedy, but be encouraged that there are people who have, and that you can take the next step of life, your life from where you are right now, even if it is the smallest of steps of faith. In her book, ‘Things Get Better’, Katie Piper talks about how she had to rebuild her life from rock bottom after rape and acid attacks and then being in a coma and being scarred and burned and disfigured. She faced fear, anxiety, PTSD and many, many medical operations. She was given the prognosis that she would be homebound and reliant on full time care. Now she is living independently, is a writer, a TV presenter, an activist, has a charity for burns survivors, is married and has two little daughters and helps so many other people. Initially after her attack she just wanted to die and it seemed there was no hope for her. She is also a Christian, having encountered The Living God in that hospital bed keeping her alive, and her faith has grown as she reaches out to others, and has podcasts on mental health and also shares her faith now as a presenter on the UK television programme ‘Songs of Praise’. You might look at that and listen to that story and think ‘wow’, ‘how did she do it?’. In her book she describes how she set the smallest of goals for herself on a day to day basis, such as ‘holding down a meal’. Things that most of us probably take for granted. She really was at rock bottom and needed help with surgeries, feeding tubes, psychological support and many other intensive care treatments. Maybe we’ve had something in our life that we can relate to in some way, but the chances are most of us haven’t gone through that extent of suffering. We’ve all overcome different things in our lives, some more than others, and perhaps some of you have gone through extremes yourself. We can’t compare, but we can be encouraged and inspired.

What is it you are facing today? You can start today. Do you need to find a job? Well, take what is in front of you, ask help from Above, and take the next step. You have a resourceful mind and you *can* take the next step. Is it getting to grips with homeschooling your child or children? You have it in you to learn to be more adaptable, to be more patient and to figure out a way forwards. Is it overcoming mental health or physical challenges? Maybe everything won’t suddenly get better, but you can make progress, you can keep going, you can take the next step and you can start from today.

Don’t be discouraged. Look up and look around at the examples of hope and courage and be reminded that making progress takes one small step at a time. You can take the initiative from where you are starting from today. Don’t compare, don’t be afraid, but take that next step of faith. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (74): Give Your Brain Some Direction…

Have you ever watched the film ‘Castaway’ with Tom Hanks when his character is stranded on a desert island, after a plane crash and being washed up on shore?

It’s a psychologically intriguing film and I think on some level we can all find some sense of human connection with various themes in the film. Like all good plots, from my point of view, there is a transformation story within it and as viewers we can see the physical and psychological changes that take place, firstly in the shock of the situation to someone who is totally out of their element, then to their resourcefulness and resilience in survival and then after being rescued and coming back to ‘civilization’ the strange disconnect and having to relearn what it is to be part of a community and in a totally different environment from that desert island.

I’m not saying that we’re in a situation similar to that by any means, but many of us have had to go through things in our lives that have tested or continue to test our mental, emotional and psychological resilience and adaptability. Some among us, myself included have had to overcome and are still overcoming remnants of complex PTSD pre-pandemic time. I know that some of my readers also are overcoming different challenges that may involve mental health and recovery from something or other. The thing is, living in this world will at some point challenge our mental and emotional resilience, and where we find we haven’t established it yet (say for example if we go through something as a child or young person) then we are put to the test as to discover and build that resilience from perhaps a very low point. But we can do it.

In the pandemic we have a variety of psychological challenges, and I’ve explored some of these in previous posts. There is a lot going on and I don’t want to trigger anyone reading this by going into details repeating some of the many things that we’ve collectively been faced with the past year particularly because there are some among you for whom that might feel too close to home.

But what about the situation of being in an extended lockdown (as we are in the UK)? That in itself has mental challenges for us. I’ve explored the importance of some semblance of routines and habits to give ourselves structure to our days even if we like to break free from those structures at times. Perhaps we can relate to some of the emotions that Tom Hanks’s character faced such as shock, loneliness, isolation, even delusional or troubled thinking from lack of human connection (when his closest companion was a blood stained basketball named ‘Wilson’ with a bloodstained handprint that he connected to as being Wilson’s face).

Our brains need somewhere to go, and when we physically can’t go anywhere, we need to keep adapting and finding ways to become increasingly resilient so that we don’t sink under the pressure of mental health challenges.

Think of the ways you have so far adapted to and grown from your experiences of an extended lockdown if you have faced or are facing one. Are there things that were overwhelming to you at the start that you now take in your stride? One aspect of this, whether for good or bad I don’t know, may be a sense of not being so affected by the daily case numbers that we are presented with. Initially we were all, or most of us were, shocked and worried by these but now we can almost ‘tune out’. We focus on our own situations and adapt and some among us are able to reach out beyond our situations to help others and we can’t forget to be grateful for the many front line workers who continue to do this through all sorts of tests and trials and pressures.

Thank you frontline workers.

So, in an extended period of lockdown, your brain needs somewhere to go. We have the small steps that we can all be taking, but what about a bigger direction? Is there a project that you can get stuck into, something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time that you didn’t seem to have the time for? Maybe something you wanted to do when you finally retired if you’re not there already? I know a lot of people at work who would be of the mindset pre-pandemic that ‘if only they had the time’ to do such and such. Well folks, now we do have the time.

Give yourself a bigger challenge to steadily work away at bit by bit. Maybe you’re not into that and it’s fine, but do you have a novel you want to be working on, a model to build, a business to set up? Do you want to become a mentor to someone but need to learn the skills? Perhaps now is the time to set yourself a slightly bigger challenge and give your brain somewhere a bit more ambitious to go. Maybe you want to set up a charity to help those less fortunate, or to advocate for others with mental health issues, or to be a supportive voice and presence to others who are suffering even if that presence is online and via technology.

Maybe your blog has places to go and you need to put your mind to it. I started this blog when I was in a tough spot mentally myself and I both wanted to do something to help myself and to help others. I find some solace and strength in knowing that my words can be used to help and encourage other people who might need help with mental health issues generally and over and above that to reach out to more people through this pandemic.

It’s a small blog, I haven’t earned any money from it, although if you want to help me with getting more people viewing my blog and finding help from it and thereby encouraging and helping me, please do share it. It’s a small beginning but it gives my mind a purpose bigger than myself to focus on and is also an avenue for me to gently share my faith for those who will read even if we walk different paths.

If we are simply getting up one day at a time to try to manage that bit at a time well, that’s ok and it’s also good and commendable, but it is just one phase of this journey. We can’t stay in a state of shock or disbelief, and we haven’t. We’ve all collectively moved on from that in many resourceful ways. But sometimes our courage can wax and wane and we can lose momentum and feel like we don’t know how to keep on going. We can keep on going. We will.

I also still have mental health challenges. Things come and go in my mind and I need to remind myself of Who my God Is, and also that He has equipped me with a resilient brain and that I can handle many things and not get discouraged by them. But our minds do need somewhere to go so that they don’t simply ruminate, go inwards or become negative and so that we don’t get lost in ourselves. We need vision.

That’s a big statement because I believe the biggest vision for our lives should be our Creator. However, on a lesser scale we also need vision to help us get through our days and to do so purposefully and that’s why having a long term or bigger project can be helpful.

I understand and agree that this is not for everyone and that’s fine, but I do feel that we need to look beyond where we’re currently at if we want to move forwards, make progress and not get lost inside our heads.

What do you all think? How can we encourage each other? Do you have any goals that you are pursuing over and above the tasks you have been focusing on to help get you through each day? The small tasks are crucial so don’t ever think that they’re not enough or not important enough. But for some of us our minds need to go further so that they don’t go inwards and perhaps like me you are also one of those people.

Are you giving your brain some direction and purpose in this pandemic and if so would you be so gracious as to share some of your inspiration with us so that as a community we can help and encourage each other to keep going on stronger?

Take care friends, stay safe, be curious, be inspired and seek to inspire. x

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