It’s new year’s eve again. It’s been another ‘pandemic year’. Perhaps you have started hearing highlights of the year gone by, or people’s reflections, or plans for celebrations to ring in 2022, however ‘muted’ they may be compared to non-pandemic times. But what might be helpful for you to hear?
*You’ve probably learned more in the past two years than you realise, including how to adapt to your changing circumstances. We’ll continue to have to learn to live in a challenging world, but you have made it this far, you can take the next step, don’t give up, and don’t let fear of the unknown future overwhelm you. One day at a time. Encourage yourself and someone else today.
*There are people around you right now, today, whether in person or at the other end of a phone or screen that you can be really grateful for. You may have faced some real losses, or challenges, but even in the pain or struggle, there may still be people you value who are still in your life (even if they are the source of some of your challenges!). It’s worth remembering that and letting it brighten your heart a bit, and maybe even letting them know, especially knowing that not everyone has made it. There are people who are really grateful that you have stayed in touch with them during the pandemic too, and others who you’ve lost touch with that may actually be really pleased to hear from you again. Life is short, don’t be afraid to reach out – now is a good time, and a new year’s greeting a good enough ‘reason’.*
It’s not worth comparing our lives with other people’s, but while things might not be ideal, there are so many things to be thankful for, today. If you have more than enough, think of how you can share that with someone else who might not, whether kindness, love, friendship, encouragement or material things.
*Someone will really benefit from hearing from *you* , perhaps particularly today. There are a lot of people going through some heavy stuff just now, and you never know what difference you might make. Think about maybe not just sticking to your own circle, and reaching a little further beyond, you might just find some common ground, and you might be the reason for a changed or a saved life!.
*It’s a new year, but while it’s a good time to consider goals and plans, don’t pile on the pressure to do so. Learn your lessons at your pace. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
*You are not your achievements, you are not the sum total of your relationships or connections, your appearance, or your possessions; your life has worth and value regardless of how well or badly you think you are doing, so be kind to your mind, and be kind to other people, and don’t judge them for where they are at. It’s a new year, but it’s ok just to take that one next step.
*Life on earth is fleeting, consider the big questions while you can, and don’t leave regrets. If you have been fortunate enough to come to the realisation of some of life’s big ‘answers’, live them out with all that you’ve got.
*Choose to enjoy the simple things today. If you’re on your own, remember that you’re not alone, the whole world isn’t having a great party that you’re not part of, so find some joy in your own little corner of life and be happy, even if for a moment. If you’re not on your own, reach out to someone who is .
*It’s ok to be going through what you’re going through. Even as we ring in a ‘new year’.
*At least no one is panic buying loo roll this year
*While the pandemic sucks, we still have this gift of life, and it does sometimes help to look around and take notice of all the little and big things we can be grateful for in this moment. Sometimes a bit of perspective helps – there may well be someone out there wishing their life was a bit more like yours or mine. We just need to look at the news to realise that.
*Speaking of which, maybe turn off the news for a while.
*1st Jan 2022 might be a brand new year for you, or ‘just another day’ – whatever the case, I hope you find peace, love, health and a sure hope amidst all the ups and downs of your unknown tomorrows. x
When I started this blog in 2017 I never could have imagined that just a few years later I’d be writing blogs to encourage people through a global pandemic. I don’t think any of us could have imagined such a thing. If you look back through my ‘archives’ of posts to early 2020, you would see posts all about 2020 vision, hopeful posts and plans to perhaps travel. In the UK the big news story at the time was Brexit and I had in mind that I’d like if possible to travel to the European countries that I hadn’t yet got the chance to visit. In Australia I think the big story was about the bush fires. Oh my, friends, how much we have seen and heard of since then!
I don’t know which country you live in, but the whole world in 2020 was coming to grips with the coronavirus pandemic, after that there have been variations in how individual countries, and even states, deal with things. It has been a challenging time for many. Just as we were feeling that maybe if we can get through winter there might be more settled days ahead, we hear of a new variant, Omicron I believe it is called, that has taken hold in some countries and might possibly be the next variant of concern leading to another pandemic.
I won’t get into the ‘ins and outs’ of that as I realise my readers may have different opinions, but on a personal level I just want to reach out to you with some encouragement.
You’re not alone. I realise these are uncertain days, but try to lift up your minds and thoughts to what is Greater. Find hope in your everyday in some small way. I have written a whole series of blog posts, possibly nearing a hundred posts on surviving the pandemic, so no doubt there will be something that I wrote back then that will be applicable or helpful to you today.
Today, know that you’re not alone. You are loved. My hope is in Jesus Christ, the source of True Love. Even though in this world there is trouble, He has overcome the world. He will walk with us through it.
No matter what you think or believe right now, just know that if you are finding things challenging right now, you are not alone. Try to move slowly through your day. It’s easy to say, right? It’s easy to say try not to worry when as human beings we are prone to worry, but just think of all the tools and techniques you have learned over the past year or two in the pandemic (or more, through your life) and remind yourself of how far you have come, and keep going. If you are doing well right now, remind yourself that there are many others who aren’t and seek in some small way each day to show kindness, encouragement and love.
Even on the blogging community we can do this, we can help and encourage one another with our words – words are so powerful, life and death are in the power of the tongue so think of how incredible it could be if we all speak life to each other and encourage each other in these days.
Talk to someone. Share your burdens, ask for help if need be.
Revisit your hobbies or try something new if you don’t have any. It is important to keep our minds occupied because we hear so much in the news that can affect us negatively. It’s important to be informed and wise about keeping ourselves and others safe, but it’s also important to be aware of how things affect us.
Take it one day at a time, one step at a time.
That’s my word of encouragement, because I know we all need it.
Happy 1st of March 2021, dear friends. It’s a new month and a chance to take stock once more and to dig deep and find some new resolve. To look up with faith and trust and to remind ourselves that we just need to live one moment at a time.
Whether today finds you rejoicing or struggling with life, know and be reminded that you are valuable and that you matter. That you have it in you to take that next step. Whether or not you’ve got through February in a way that you are pleased with or not, know that you have the chance to begin again, today.
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, go gently forwards and remember always that you are not alone.
Life comes to us with a variety of challenges. Sometimes these challenges can test and try aspects of our character, but at other times the things we face in life can come close to crushing and destroying us, and even when we do survive, we can be left with the feeling of being broken in spirit and crushed on the inside. When these experiences occur in childhood when we are still forming and becoming who we are, it can have a long lasting impact upon our sense of self. Once again, I speak from experience.
Having faced such hardships in childhood, I persevered through life with a lot of anxiety and symptoms of what had gone on deep within, but it wasn’t until later that all of this ‘exploded’ to the surface as the complex trauma that it was. I re-experienced and had to go through and process things that were trapped and stuck in parts of my brain and nervous system from years of fight-flight and freeze responses as a child and young person. After that I have been working solidly to first survive the crisis, and then to get strong and overcome the symptoms of trauma and the long lasting effects of childhood suffering.
By God’s grace and the strength I find in Christ Jesus, I can confidently say that I am an overcomer. Yet, I know that overcoming symptoms is not all that there is for me, even though I haven’t figured out the next step of life quite just yet.
Can you relate? Not too long ago I wrote about how I saw this recovery journey in terms of stages from victim to rescued to survivor to overcomer to thriver. Thriver is a stage I have not yet got to identifying with or living in.
Much more recently however, I have had another word come to my mind when thinking about moving forwards, an it is the word ‘Transformation’.
Many of us have seen that transformation is possible in our own lives and the lives of others. Most of you reading this blog have long passed adolescence and that stage in itself is testimony to many of the transformations that occur as we move from childhood to adulthood! If you’ve ever seen some of those ‘before and after’ pictures of people when they were age 12 or 13 to what they looked like age 17, 18, 19 or 20 then some of these will be astounding as to how much people can physically transform.
Yet, physical transformation is only one part of life, and it is not the most important part, because who we are and how we look does not determine our worth. It can take us a lifetime to learn this because of how many lessons and lies from the world we have to unlearn! People are valuable because we are human beings, made in the Image of God, Created on purpose, and no matter what words have pierced you through your life, whether from other people and / or yourself, the pain of those words and /or actions, those lies, can never detract from your inherent worth. It has taken me a long time to learn this, and perhaps I am only just beginning to come into more of that freedom of mind and thought.
Yes, transformation is not limited to the physical realm. If any of you out there are ‘Born again Christians’ then you will know that you’ve had a supernatural experience of forgiveness and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit that has changed your life, and that people who are not believers can’t quite relate to. Perhaps you can think back to a time when you didn’t believe in Jesus Christ or the Word of God and thought that ‘those religious people’ were all a bit crazy. I remember in my teenage years thinking that I was a spiritual person and believed in God as a Higher Power and Guiding force but the ‘Christians’ I encountered just seemed deluded and hypocritical and a bit crazy and simple minded in some ways. That’s until I met a Spirit-filled believer, a very different kind of human, then I encountered Jesus Christ, The Living God, and then I chose Him, came to know His Forgiveness, and had supernatural experience after supernatural experience. I was transformed spiritually as some of you have also been. Some of you may be reading this and think that I’m a bit crazy, and I can understand that because unless you have had an encounter with Jesus Christ and are transformed and translated into His Kingdom spiritually then of course it will make no sense.
Transformation can also occur in terms of our thought processes, our characters, our outlook on life. It can be in terms of how we view ourselves and other people and how we engage with the world. It can be all of the above, spiritual, physical, mental and emotional. Sometimes a transformation in a person’s life, especially a spiritual one, can occur suddenly, but in most cases I would surmise to think that it is gradual.
Some transformations we have no control over, such as going through adolescence as our bodies and minds develop in ways that bring us into adulthood with or without our choosing.
Yet, what of other aspects of transformation? Can we have a part in it? We can ask for God to change us, we can ask to be born again, to be Forgiven by Christ, and by allowing Him into our lives, we can experience an eternal transformation and we can see our lives continuing to change as we allow God to make those changes on us in the inside and as we cooperate with Him.
There are also other ways we can experience transformation, and we can be intentional about these. If someone wants to work on external things and experience a transformed body for example, they usually have to put in some work, effort and have somewhat of a plan of action as to steps that they will take gradually and consistently so that they can see changes. Surely when we want to see change and transformation in our emotional, mental and psychological development then we also have to put in some work?
This is something that I am embarking on thinking about more, especially as the idea of being a ‘Thriver’ in life at this moment in time seems and feels a bit unknown to me. Can I go from overcomer to thriver without transformation? When I think of a transformative process, it helps me to know that this can happen gradually. When I think of what life was like a few years ago at the height of my ‘crisis’ when I was suffering tremendously with C-PTSD, depression and anxiety, to where I am now, those two snapshots in time do show transformation, yet on a day to day basis the changes that have led to that transformation seem almost imperceptible.
I’m sure that you can think of areas of your life that when looking back you can see big changes in. Perhaps there was something you were suffering with or through that now is more of a memory or a learning experience. Perhaps your main transformation has been a physical one, and maybe you are ready to let go of some of the things you are trying to control and to go deeper on a spiritual, emotional and psychological journey.
Maybe today is a good day to start thinking about these things. Being in a lockdown and a pandemic is certainly an opportunity to think more, to reassess our lives and to begin taking steps towards a transformed life. When we don’t know how to get from one stage to the next, or if we don’t even know what that transformed stage would look like at all (and maybe some of you do know what you’d like it to look like), it is encouraging to look back at certain aspects of our lives and to realise that over the years transformation has happened, can happen, and will happen again – and that we can also have a part to play in it. There is something encouraging and exciting in that. And when we don’t know that next stage, we can still take encouragement from knowing that transformation can happen gradually and that we can make a step towards that today, even if we haven’t quite got it all figured out just yet.
Ask God, if you are inclined to do so, for help in the journey. He has good plans for us if we’d only turn to Him and trust in Him.
Let us begin to believe in positive transformation and take some small step towards it today.
What could that look like? Maybe it is in saying a prayer, in reading a book, in going for a walk, in allowing yourself to confront yourself with the lies that you have been believing for far too long, in helping, encouraging or mentoring someone else, in picking up a hobby, in showing kindness. Love is transformative, and the world needs a lot of love and kindness. How can we live lives that look to the needs of others? Is there any small step we can take today?
I feel on the brink of many ideas, and yet feel like I am stepping into somewhat unknown territory, yet I have faced many challenges in life and have overcome the unknowns that I was facing then, so surely this challenge towards transformation is another step of faith.
Have you experienced transformation in your life? What did this look like? Was it mainly physical, spiritual, mental, emotional or a lifestyle change or some other kind of change including a psychological shift or perhaps a combination of many of these? How did you find the process, what did you learn, and what can you share with us here as we continue our journey?
If you are feeling discouraged in this pandemic, take heart that transformation is possible, life comes in seasons, and a better change can happen. Don’t give up in this journey, keep going, look up with faith, look for Truth and live with the expectancy that you will find the Answers that you need. x
I hope you’ve all been keeping well and finding the courage to move forwards over the past few days since we last checked in.
If you’ve been following along with my ‘Self care in a pandemic’ series, you may remember that at the start of the year I wrote a post on how to create effective habits. If you need a recap, or missed it the first time round, here’s the link.
As it’s a new month, and the very first day of February 2021 what better time to start thinking about making a fresh new start to things, regardless of how the past month has been for you.
Did you maintain any new habits in January 2021, or did you start something and manage to stick with it for a little while at least? Don’t worry if you didn’t, if we are blessed to have another day, we’re blessed with another chance to try and persevere.
In January I set myself eight new habits to try to maintain everyday, and I’m pleased to say I did pretty well over all, and the only ‘sparse column’ was for continuous learning / studying which I did towards the start, middle and end of the month, but not everyday as with some other disciplines.
How tracking my habits helped me on rough days:
If you feel discouraged reading any of the above, for example, if you haven’t had a particularly good or productive month, then please don’t. You’ve made it to February – in an ongoing pandemic – and you should be proud of yourself with that. You may have had to dig deep and show all kinds of resilience just to survive, so please don’t feel discouraged by any comparisons.
I’m going to be honest because it is so important when discussing mental health and let you know that I’ve had some difficult days this month. I’m on an ongoing journey with my mental health and am still working out ways of coping, managing and overcoming my struggles related to depression, anxiety and c-PTSD. On those down days, having some ‘marker points’ in my days when looking at the habits I’ve been tracking have helped give me a sense of direction and the ability to keep taking small steps forwards, looking outside of my mind, and doing something practical, even if I’m not able to maintain those habits everyday.
They have provided that little bit of leverage needed to persevere from one moment to the next, one day to the next, and keep going, all the while knowing Christ as my True Source and Strength.
Have you had anything in your day to day that has helped you keep to a routine, even if not rigidly, and has this helped you to persevere through your difficult days?
Have you managed to keep or exceed your expectations and have you found any benefit to your mental health from tracking your habits?
Do you feel like you’ve not done very well and have drifted into February and want the chance to ‘begin again’?
Well, if the first of the month isn’t a great place to start, then what is? 🙂
A new month….new goals? …
I think as human beings, we all relish the idea of new starts, especially if there are things that we want to leave behind. However, it’s important to realise that one of the keys to making long lasting changes for the better in life is consistency. Small, meaningful, incremental steps taken daily or on some kind of regular basis, all add up and can make for a brighter future.
This can be especially true if like me you are overcoming some kind of psychological trauma, and trying to unpick the lies and hurts you experienced in childhood. We can wish for a ‘sudden transformation’ but this can be hard to come to terms with mentally if we have been so conditioned into thinking a certain way. For example, if you have experienced years of verbal abuse, it can make you wince if you receive a compliment, because, well, you just don’t know how to receive it in experience. It is alien and unknown to you and it can be really hard to think it’s not a mockery when your personhood and identity has been injured by lies for so long.
Perhaps there are issues in your own life that you can relate to when making a sudden drastic change can feel overwhelming. That’s ok. What we need to do is find a way of retraining our thinking bit by bit, day by day, little by little, and as the Bible says ‘be transformed by the renewing of (y)our mind(s)’. Romans 12:2.
Habits can help with this. Habits can help with moving past trauma. It’s not a ‘be all, end all’ answer, as we need to implement a variety of things into our life and I’m still learning and discovering what these might be, but they can help us move forward a little at a time when our minds and nervous systems threaten to keep us ‘stuck’ in a negative loop of trauma and past thinking. There are times to think about and process the past, but I’ve found that having concrete goals that are to do with the here and now can help me to move forwards in a healthy way in this what can be a very difficult journey.
Even if you’re not dealing with overcoming any particular mental health issues, you can benefit from tracking your habits and setting new goals.
I’ve decided to include the goals I had for January which I managed to track as habits on a daily basis, and include these in my February habit tracker. I have also included new ones so that I have a total of 20. They don’t need to be big things, and they don’t need to be as numerous. Start with one or two areas of your life that you want to make incremental changes to if that suits you better. I know that some people don’t like to track habits and goals and if so that’s fine, feel free to find another blog post in my series that helps you better, but for those who are inclined, this can help you with your mental health and help with that sense of purpose that we talked about in another post, as well as providing structure to your day. You can break free from that structure as and when you want, but if your mind is struggling with what feels like muddled days all merging one into the next, then this could be good for you.
If you feel like you’re back at square one, and don’t know where to start, then why not take a piece of paper and a pen, or type something up on your computer and just have a few minutes brainstorming session.
Write down anything and everything that comes to mind that you’d like to implement into your life that will help you to move forwards. Maybe it’s exactly the same as what you have been doing and you want to strengthen and persevere with the same goal / goals and that’s absolutely fine. Get strong in one area before moving on to another if that’s what will work for you.
Once you have brainstormed, then pick out a few key ideas. If they seem very big at first then break them down into smaller parts and set about doing a little bit everyday, or a few times a week, whatever works for you.
This can also be helpful if your goals seem attainable but a bit vague. Turning your goals into trackable habits can be extremely helpful in making progress. For example, maybe you want to ‘read more books’ for a number of reasons, perhaps also because you feel that this will benefit your mental health, especially in a lockdown! This is something I’ve been getting back into and making progress with. It’s not a small thing to be honest. All my childhood I was a voracious reader. I studied English Literature in my undergraduate degree with Politics and for most of my life have been a big reader, but this had not been the case for many years since after graduating. A few years ago I had a traumatic breakdown when childhood memories were ‘exploding’ out of my mind and were stopping me from living a normal day to day life -it was quite simply terrifying as my body and brain was processing the experiences of traumatic bullying in childhood, years of night terrors, and chronic adult stress from a variety of situations that I couldn’t process at the time. As someone who used to love the peace of solitude and thinking my thoughts, daydreaming, reflecting, reading and writing, it became a terrifying living nightmare to no longer be able to feel safe in my own company and mind. I’d try to sit down and read a book but the adrenaline and cortisol would be coursing through me, I’d be having flash backs of the bullying, and I’d feel like a terrified child shouting out for help and my mind felt so broken. It was heart-breaking for me to not be able to read a sentence of a fiction book properly because all around me was so scary in my mind and I could not process even a sentence. So getting back into reading now is a joy and something I need to continue to persevere with because those triggers can happen when I’m reading and I need to keep on strengthening new neural connections as I strengthen my mind.
My apologies that I digressed somewhat, but hopefully the above insights will help encourage someone else who might feel a bit defeated or discouraged with trying to persevere. Things can get better, please don’t give up.
Reading more books can seem quite vague in terms of goal setting. Even giving yourself a number of books to read can feel overwhelming and you may feel discouraged if you’re not able to meet that goal. Instead, if you change it into a habit, then you will be more likely to feel encouraged and make and maintain progress. I have the dates of the month written as rows down the side of my notebook, and I have corresponding columns for the goals I want to track as habits across the top of the page. Included in that is ‘reading’. I don’t specify how much to read, but I can tick off or make a note of progress as I go down through the days of the month. It’s ok if there are gaps, but I can come back to it and it is encouraging to me to see that I am reading often, even if some days that is little, because compared to where I was before, it is big progress. As I persevere, I find that I am enjoying it, I am more able to push through triggers, and it is good food for my mind.
So what about you? Do you have anything you’d like to persevere with, start afresh or embark upon for the first time as we head into this new month?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, but if it helps to add structure to your day, and give direction to your mind, then why not give it a go? And as ever, please feel free to share your thoughts and learning in the comments, I’d love to hear from you and you might just encourage someone else out there who needs to hear what you have to say.
Stay safe and never give up, keep taking small steps each day, and enjoy seeing the progress you make, even if you have some hurdles and difficulties along the way. x
There’s no doubt about it that the past year has exerted a lot of pressure on a lot of people and a lot of different industries.
Perhaps I’m in good company in being blessed to be able to work from home (albeit using my own devices at present) and have some job security. I am very thankful for this as I know that there are others who are having a hard time, and I know that my work is a gift.
If you are in a similar situation, perhaps you notice that there are certain expenses that you haven’t had this year that you might have previously. For example, in pre-pandemic times I would have a daily commute which meant buying a train ticket on a daily basis. I’d have to buy lunch if I hadn’t had enough time to meal prep in advance, and there were probably other things that I also ended up spending money on. Of course, some of these savings are offset by spending in other areas such as electricity bills if you are working from home. However, if you do have bit of disposable income, then perhaps you can think about supporting local businesses when you do make your purchases. This isn’t always possible, but I do like to be of the mindset that every little bit does help in some way or another.
For example, as it is still the first month of the new year you may find yourself in need of new stationery, diaries, planners and such like. Why don’t you support some local businesses such as those that you can find on Etsy? As a Christian, I also personally like the UK based Christian version called ‘Cheerfully Given’ where I sometimes buy Scripture inspired stationery and gifts.
This post is completely of my own heart and initiative and I’m not sponsored by anyone, but I do feel that perhaps in addition to buying local from time to time, spreading the word can also help people in sectors that might otherwise be struggling or finding it a bit harder than usual to make ends meet.
I’ll leave the links below, and maybe you too can ‘pay it forward’ by recommending some local businesses to friends. We can’t do everything to help everyone, but let’s have faith that the small gestures we make also matter.
And if you yourself are a local business then I hope you find some encouragement that there are still people out there who want to support you in these difficult times.
Perhaps my previous post of a few minutes ago was fairly profound, therefore I will juxtapose it with something more practical, but no less meaningful.
Friendship, true friendship is a gift, especially in these changing days. While I have posted previously about changing dynamics with some friendships, and the sadness of that and the need for changed boundaries, there is also something beautiful, uplifting and encouraging in connecting with those people who we can share this journey with. We all need encouragement in these days, and we need to surround ourselves with voices of encouragement, understanding, compassion, kindness, inspiration, and hope. We need to strive to be those kind of people too, and perhaps foremost before looking for those qualities in others.
As the saying goes, ‘birds of a feather flock together’. The more you are the kind of person you want in your life, the more you will be able to connect with others with those qualities and bring out those aspects in each other.
It’s important to understand that everyone is going through their own thing just now, even if we can’t see it on the surface. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt if they haven’t connected with us, and perhaps take the initiative in being a caring friend and reaching out to them to let them know we’re thinking about them.
When we do have friends that we connect with, it is important to take time and make the effort to nurture those friendships. Some people might say, ‘I wish I had such a friendship’, but these things don’t just happen, it takes something on our part, it takes love, patience, kindness, generosity, giving, understanding and reaching out for the good of the other person. When that is reciprocated, we can begin to see the blossoming of true friendship over time.
Think about the people in your life just now, whether friends, family or other connections. Try to nurture these connections that are mutually edifying. It is a real blessing to have people to share with in these trying times. Even if you feel alone, try to nurture your friendship with yourself as a starting point, perhaps connect with acquaintances, or neighbours in a safe and socially distanced way, or make new connections online.
It can be all too easy to get caught up in the day to day of ‘getting through’ in this pandemic. But remind yourself of how important the people around you actually are. While some families are having to face loss, let us think about the blessing of the people that we have in our lives right now. Take some time to make an effort to show that you care and are thinking of someone. Take time to nurture the good friendships and relationships you already have.
Take a step back:
For some, you may have to think about taking a step back from people who are pulling you down, being a toxic influence in your life or detrimental to your emotional and psychological wellbeing. While you may have to still have some people in your life (like a boss / manager) for example, you can still set your own internal boundaries so that you can continue to stay strong and positive for yourself and the people around you.
Appreciation and Gratitude:
With so much going wrong in the world, and with seeing so many unkind acts from troubled and troublesome people, it can do us much good to take time to appreciate and be grateful for the lovely people in our life, or if you feel you don’t have anyone, the lovely influences of people you don’t even know but that you have heard about, read of or seen in the media. Maybe you could show your appreciation in a practical way, even to someone you don’t know personally, by writing a letter, sending an email, a text or just checking in with someone.
Let’s take the time and care to appreciate those around us, to nurture and build those connections, and to help and encourage each other into better days.
I hope you’ve all been keeping as well as can be since my last post, last week. For a time I was writing a few posts a day, with a desire to keep up the momentum of encouragement. I feel that encouraging words are so important in these days, when words can and are being used for harm as we have seen in recent events across the world stage. However, although having the space of one week since my last encouraging post may not seem like a lot, I do want to be a consistent voice of hope and courage for those who need it.
The past week has had some challenges for me, however. Starting back at work saw some stressors, even with working from home. I had some difficult moments but various things got me through them. We have also had sad news recently of bereavements of friends of family in some tragic circumstances. I realise that some of you reading this may have faced or be facing quite overwhelming challenges in your lives. It can be hard to know what to say to comfort others or even ourselves during such times. It can be hard to know what to say in this pandemic where there is such loss. ‘This too shall pass’ is one of those old phrases that we often hear, sometimes passed down through the generations to give some kind of solace and comfort.
This moment won’t be as difficult as it is now, this too shall pass, things will change.
I find that only a small consolation, but what gives me True Hope is knowing that as things change and move on, my Unchanging God and Saviour Jesus Christ does not change, will not leave me, and holds me secure. It Is a Peace that goes beyond circumstances, but one I need to remind myself to focus on too.
When I was a child and was being bullied relentlessly in the first year of secondary school, I did not know that that season of life would ever pass. The following year I stepped away from the people who were destroying me, and I was all but completely alone, which was a significant challenge for a child in itself. Abuse, and then neglect, at school. In my third year I met nice, normal people who became friends, and although I didn’t entirely feel like I fit with the new group as much as they did with each other having knowing each other for years already, I didn’t feel scared for my life anymore. I could continue with life, with school, with getting by. Decades later, the impact of those two pivotal years is still felt. I’ve had major struggles with anxiety, complex PTSD, depression, disassociation and fear, low self esteem and even suicidal ideation when the PTSD resurfaced. And here I am today, with a home of my own, with a full time job, with the family I was born into, with friends, having travelled, and writing a blog to encourage other people. I’m still recovering from some of the mental and emotional scars but I’m able to see hope and a future in Christ, and I can use those difficult experiences for good.
Why am I sharing this again now? Because at the time, in that first year I felt crushed, broken, terrified, and in so much pain and agony internally that I didn’t want to live anymore. It’s a big burden for a child to bear. But I did bear it, and hear I am today. With wounds or not, that terribly dark season of my life that I didn’t see a way out of, not having any perspective as a child that things could or would change, has passed.
And this too will pass. Whatever it is you are going through, it will pass. This pandemic will pass. A while ago I started reading ‘The Murmur of Bees’, hardly knowing what it was about. It turns out that as I turn the pages I am reading about not only a revolution, but also about the Spanish Flu of 1918. Reading some of those pages feels like reading some of the news headlines and public health advice of today about quarantining, staying at home, keeping distance from people and sadly about bodies being sent to mass graves. I also read about the hope of finding a vaccine for the Spanish Flu. And guess what, it too did pass.
That’s not to diminish by any means the personal tragedies and losses that people felt along the way, but in terms of world events, things did change, they did move on, and perhaps there is a cyclical element to what happens in the world, but they didn’t stay the same, and in many ways they did get better.
Despite saying that I also believe that there will be a Judgement, when Christ returns to earth again, but we are being given time to repent, to seek His Forgiveness and to turn to Him for eternal life, new life in this world, and a Hope that cannot be denied. True Believers know of this Hope, of the Indwelling of The Holy Spirit, The tangible Peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding and the solid Hope of Eternal Life with Him, and a gradually transformed (or sometimes immediately transformed) life with Him on earth. Turn to Him for True Hope.
Perhaps there is a time in your own life that you can look back upon, a time that seemed like endless misery that you thought would never pass, but it in fact did and you are living new days. You may well bear the scars of those days, that season, you may still be in recovery from it, but you are no longer there. You have a chance.
Those days passed, and these will too. Look up, look to Jesus, and find True Hope. And even if you are not a believer, please try to hold on to hope that this too will pass.
I hope that you have had a safe, healthy and peaceful first week of 2021. I hope that if you have faced challenges along the way that you are digging deep and finding a resilience within yourself to persevere and a faith to look beyond yourself for greater strength.
Although this post title aims at those among us who are now or currently working from home in this pandemic, I think some of the main principles can apply to all of us. It can be easy when there is no physical boundary between work and home life to let the psychological boundaries blur a bit.
Have you ever heard people say, leave your work at work and don’t bring the burdens of the office (or other work place setting) home with you? That can be a huge challenge in and of itself, but what about when work and home are in one and the same setting?
Some of you may also be trying to juggle home working with daily routines and other aspects of family life such as child care, parental care, home schooling / education and the list is as endless and unique as the differences in our lives.
Whatever your scenario, it is important to have some emotional and mental boundaries even when you can’t have concrete physical boundaries. Just as we looked at in previous posts about the importance of having boundaries between ourselves and our news intake and also boundaries in relationships and in other things that might be emotionally or mentally demanding, we also need to establish healthy boundaries between the different aspects of our lives.
Some things at work this first week back have been bothering me, but I need to remind myself that the weekend is a time when I would normally be away from the office physically. Although with home working I could check my work emails when I couldn’t before after leaving the office, it is important not to allow the boundaries to blur too much.
If we are to care for ourselves we need to set aside time to nourish ourselves, to rest, to spend time with the people who we love and who love us whether in person or online or by telephone or some other means so that we can be recharged and ready for the week ahead.
During lockdown I’ve been so fortunate in that my church has had online services that have been broadcast on You Tube. This has helped to remind me of when it is Sunday and to purposefully set aside that time as I normally would. I’ve had more time to set aside during the days as well for time with God, prayer, worship and building myself up spiritually and sharing with others.
However, sometimes we can get caught up in things as the days and weeks go by. The past year has been a challenging one globally and the recent events of January 2021 for anyone who has been watching the news and seeing the …..(pause to try to think of an appropriate word)….indescribable events in America, we know that there may be challenging times ahead for the world in 2021.
We need to maintain our wellbeing and resilience, and we all have a variety of commitments, duties and tasks to attend to in our daily lives. Maintaining mental and emotional boundaries between these is so important.
As the days go by I will continue to share tips and ideas with you regarding what I find helpful that you may also find helpful. However, this post is more of a general reminder as we reach the close of week one of 2021 that this is an important point and aspect of your life to bear in mind.
People will try to encroach upon you even from a distance, even when working or studying from home. It is ok and it is good to give and take but don’t become depleted of your strength and resilience. Don’t let things blur together so that you are no longer demarcating time for yourself to rest, recharge and recover so that you can become stronger and stronger for the days ahead.
So on that note, I wish you all a happy weekend. Thankfully I don’t see blogging as work but as enjoyment, so you can expect to hear from me again very soon for more encouragement and reminders that it is important to care for yourself as well through this pandemic. x
Many of us will be going back to working from home this week, after a Christmas and New Year festive break. Others will be on the front line and have hardly had a break at all, and I am so thankful for the many people who are living and working sacrificially to help us all.
I’m not here to offer any sector or service specific advice, but I’m just writing as I encounter life, and want to share my insights, learning and encouragements with you.
In the UK, we are under Government Lockdown apart from certain ‘exemptions’. We should stay at home unless it’s absolutely essential to do otherwise. However, not all employers take this seriously or seriously enough. Some managers allow their pride to dictate how they are going to present things to their staff. And if you are finding yourself feeling stressed because your employer is asking you to do things you feel uncomfortable about, or that make you feel unsafe or that you are going against governmental advice or putting yourself or others at risk in this pandemic, then take a step back and remind yourself that your boss isn’t the ultimate authority in this situation, or in any situation.
It will be difficult for some of you where in the employment setting the buck does stop with your boss. I’ve been in those difficult situations in the past when I was a young, fresh graduate and didn’t know much about the world of work and found myself working in an organisation that didn’t have an HR team, or HR officer….. at all. It turned out the boss bent certain rules to his advantage, and being timid, shy, scared and not knowing my rights I was a bit of a walk over and I wasn’t treated or paid well. Said boss turned out to be a bit let’s just say ‘bossy’ towards the end, and with him being the head of the organisation that was a tough place to be. However, as an employee you do have rights and perhaps depending on the part of the world you are in and the sector you work for joining a union might help.
Since then, I’ve been blessed to work in an organisation that despite its faults does have a proper HR structure, therefore no boss can call all the shots. It took a good few years for me to realise this. My first couple of bosses in this organisation were lovely, kind women. My bosses changed due to changing structures in teams and so the second lovely boss with whom I’m still friends never caused me any issues. We got on great and she didn’t ‘lord it over’ other people. She was merely first among equals and treated us with respect.
After that she retired and my next boss was a bully, and someone I don’t want to spend many sentences writing about. It caused a lot of distress to myself and others and I thought I had no alternative but to just try to suffer through things myself. Everything went through her, even things she should have and said would go to HR through. I suffered and others around me suffered until one day I was having a coffee after work with my boss / friend who retired and she told me that what my new boss was doing was out of order, unethical and that I should join a union.
I realise that this is not for everyone, but it has been such a blessing in my working life, especially as I needed to get reasonable adjustments for health conditions, and was being made to suffer, jump through hoops and denied fair treatment until I did join a union. Even after joining a union the amount of bureaucracy with the employers was just plain sad. For people asking for the smallest, simplest of things, the bosses with their egos wanted to put up so many obstacles and make their employees miserable. I am thankful that my True Boss, My King of kings and Lord of lords Whose servant I am is Jesus Christ – The Servant King who Loves and cares for those who are His.
I found a couple of great advocates and representatives with my union and even this week I’ve been able to reach out to one of them to ask advice because of things I feel I’m being called upon to do in terms of work that I don’t feel comfortable with in light of the government stay at home order.
So whatever situation you find yourself in if you are employed externally, remind yourself that you deserve to be heard, treated with respect and that you have employee responsibilities, but you also have rights. Especially with everything going on with the coronavirus you may be more likely to find information and advocacy support as there will be others in the same boat as you. Know that you’re not alone, and that there are options, even if it takes a bit of hard work, perseverance and researching information for you to get to a better and safer place.
I think back to my coffee with my lovely retired boss and the chance conversation that actually was a game changer for me. Join the union, she advised, and I did and it has helped me so much.
Maybe that’s not the right route for you, but perhaps think of this blog post as a coffee and cake with a friend (me 🙂 ) who is telling you, reminding you that you have options, you have every right not to be bullied or to be made to go against government safety advice in the pandemic and that there are people out there who will advocate for you and support you.
Maybe there is a citizens advice bureau or similar that you can talk to if you don’t want to go down the union route, or if it’s not for you in your personal situation, your sector or industry.
Maybe there is a trusted friend or family member that you can bounce ideas off.
Maybe there are advice and information pages you can read up on online.
Just know that you are not trapped, and that there are options for you as you move forwards. It can be hard to stand up for ourselves sometimes, so don’t be afraid to ask for a bit of advocacy and support and help if you need to.