To survive this winter season, and to thrive as you journey through it, I’d like to encourage you, and myself, to have regular mental health and self care ‘check ins’. Make an appointment with yourself to focus on taking care of you. It’s easy to get lost in the many things going on around us, to the detriment of our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. So along with all of the other tips in this season, let’s make our wellbeing and our mental health a priority. Once again I have loads of helpful tips and articles on these issues on my blog, and the many things I’ve learned over the years from personal experience, so I’m with you friend, I know it can be hard, but you’re important and your mind matters, so do what you can to take care of yourself, to regularly make some time just to be kind and look after your wellbeing so that you can be and feel your best this season. x
This time of year, as nostalgic, fun and relaxing as it is ‘supposed’ to be, can often bring with it stress and an ever lengthening ‘to do’ list.
It is so important to be aware of where you are at with your mental health, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts in this series, and in more in depth articles throughout my blog.
There are expectations that we place upon ourselves and that family, friends and society places upon us. Expectations that might be completely unrealistic and out of our grasp and that leave us feeling worn out, stressed, worried and even at ‘breaking point’ at times.
Look back over some of my previous posts, or search my blog for posts on ‘mental health’ related topics.
For this post, I’ll try to keep it simple: Break it down to avoid breaking down.
I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve got things organised for one week, I’m at the end of the week and needing to start all over again. Your tasks might be work oriented, or to do with keeping up with commitments, events and nurturing your friendships and relationships.
Today, ‘life as it happens to be’ sees me looking at a countertop of dishes needing washed and put away, recycling bags needing emptied, bins to be put out and clutter to be tidied away, food shopping to be done, and other household tasks to attend to, over and above all of the other things I want to do with my days and my life.
I often encourage myself and other people to break things down into smaller, more manageable ‘chunks’ to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed. At this time of year there may be more things popping up in our diaries and calendars, and it can be hard to get around at times and to keep up with it all, which can lead to stress and anxiety or the exacerbation of existing conditions.
Some people are natural organisers, but even if you are not, you can work at finding a system that works for you to enable you to do what needs to be done, and thereby feeling more relaxed to take the ‘time out’ that you also need.
I have a lot of blog posts on mental health, organising, strategizing, and the different tools, techniques, ‘games’ and systems I use to make the load a bit lighter for myself mentally and emotionally and to even find the fun in being productive.
I need to keep reminding myself of these things, and that includes in attending to my list of ‘to do’s’ today.
If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and ‘frazzled’ or don’t know where to start, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your health and wellbeing is far more important than living up to certain expectations that may be unrealistic, and to getting everything done a certain way. Take your time, break it down, put on some calming music and just take the next step. Don’t try to do things all at once and try to make it fun. Ask for help when you need it, and give yourself some kindness and encouragement. Search and browse through my other posts on mental health and getting and staying organised and hopefully you’ll feel less overwhelmed, find something that helps you and reminds you that you’re not alone.
And remember – break it down to avoid breaking down! 🙂
Your life is unique, wonderful and perhaps at times ‘kaleidoscopic’. Like a snowflake, each of our lives are intricate, distinct and although in many ways similar, each is completely original and incomparable. We see the design, the pattern, the variety if we would but look at the snowflake up close. Our fingerprints are one of a kind, and like no other, even those of identical twins are completely unique and distinct from one another. The design, the form, the pattern and uniqueness of our DNA is another stamp of our uniqueness. You are one of a kind, irreplaceable, incomparable, uniquely, wonderfully, beautifully you, not to be compared with any other, and not to be replicated. One of a kind. That’s you.
So why, friends, do we too often feel that our unique and incomparable selves have to lead ‘picture perfect lives’ according to someone else’s or society’s designs?
We see the greeting cards in the shops at certain times of the year, and we watch the films that tell us how things ‘ought to be’ if our lives were our own ideal replicas of those portrayed to us in the media, airbrushed as they are.
How many Christmas and holiday films begin with two lonely hearts each seeking their own ways in life, making it through the holiday season and muddling through somehow, facing heartache only to finally find each other, fall in love, be whisked off into the romance of the season and live ‘happily ever after’, or at least until the end of the film?
How many pictures, postcards and greeting cards have designs on the front showing happy families gathered together, eating Christmas dinner and enjoying the glow of a warm fire, under the dazzling beauty of twinkling lights adorning a picture perfect Christmas tree? Everyone is happy, no one has fallen out with anyone else, there are no family feuds, rifts, or even fights over the remote control and arguments over who gets to choose which film to watch.
There are no pictures of single mothers struggling to decide how to manage their finances while at the same time providing a special experience for their children so that they don’t feel like they are missing out.
Where are the greeting cards that feature you, and me, in our unique, incomparable, kaleidoscopic, often broken yet beautiful lives?
Maybe you do have somewhat of a picture perfect greeting card life at the moment. You know you will have happy family times together, you have your ‘true love’ by your side, you have enough money to enjoy the season without worry, you’ll see your friends and enjoy good times together, you may even have a beautiful Christmas tree, and enjoy some snowy scenes while you stay wrapped up warm, cosy and loved inside.
But even if you do, it’s likely that it has not always been that way for you, and even if it has, there are no guarantees that your life will be ‘picture perfect’ in the future. And even if it is ‘picture perfect’ on the outside, I can almost guarantee that you, as unique as you are, also share in the common human frailties of stress, worry, anxiety, and self doubt.
Truth be told, none of our lives fit any of the designs that society often airbrushes and presents to us. You are unique, and so too is your life. So don’t fall prey to the ‘comparison trap’. Don’t feel like you are missing out on life simply because it is so far from ‘perfect’ for you right now, this year, even if what you are going through is really, really tough. There are lessons for you in even the darkest of seasons, and I know that I have had to go through some dark seasons I rather would not have, but we sometimes make them harder for ourselves by not embracing the uniqueness of our lives, our circumstances, the opportunities to rise up against the challenges, get stronger, grow and not keep wishing that we had what someone else had, or that our lives looked different.
It’s great to aspire to better things, to be a kinder person, with the kind of character you would want your children to have. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your life circumstances either. But the thing is, the way your life is right now, is the way it is right now, and you have to start from a place of acceptance rather than wishing it away. Whether you are in a happy or sad season of life this winter time, live your life, not someone else’s idea of what your life should be, or your idea of what you wish it could be. You are here right now, and you have to make the most of what you are working with right now. Learn the lessons, embrace them, grow from them, and move forward. Be uniquely, wonderfully you, live your unique, wonderful and messy life, and don’t complain or grumble about where you find yourself, because you can’t make things better by dong that. Accept what is, and have faith in something Better, and do what you can as you take the next steps to live your best, unique, wonderful life – which is a gift, one of its kind, unique, and given to you. x
Are you a people pleaser, a perfectionist, or someone who regularly over commits? Do you often say yes to other people, even if doing so is detrimental to your own physical, mental and emotional health?
If you are any or all of the above, or you habitually say ‘yes’ to everyone and everything, even when the words you are hoping will come out of your mouth are ‘I would if I could, but no thank you…’, then this post is for you!
This time of the year can be a tricky balance between sharing peace and enjoyment with our nearest and dearest, and taking on the lion’s share of the burden of organising, planning, getting things done and keeping everyone happy.
There may be some commitments that you are obligated to fulfil, and can’t get out of. But what about the other things that you end up doing (and I wonder if this is more applicable to the ladies out there) to look after others, help people out, and make things run smoothly simply because everyone else knows you are good at it, have done it in the past, or just expects you to. And of course, you don’t want to disappoint anyone, do you? But what about yourself? Where does your wellbeing come into things if you end up saying yes and overcommitting yourself, leading to stress and anxiety, when what you really want and need to do is to say ‘no’. It’s not always easy to do, but setting boundaries and managing expectations is important in good communication and healthy relationships for ourselves and other people in the long run, as the other person or people may have no idea that you don’t want to do something, and may think you actually enjoy it or want to be the person to do it.
Ok, so maybe there are some family commitments that you know you have to take the lead on or contribute to. You’re looking after what is closest to you. But what about all of the other things that are more on the periphery of your duties and commitments?
- Someone asks you to go to an event, but you are feeling ‘stretched’ on all sides, and know that by going you won’t be able to manage your time and commitments in other areas, and it will leave you feeling stressed if you do go. But you don’t want to disappoint the person who asked you. What do you do? Could you try saying a polite ‘no’, thanking them for their offer, and explaining that you have a lot on at the moment, but you appreciate their invitation?
You need to make sure that you are looking after your own health and wellbeing, and that saying ‘yes’ to things is held in balance with what is wise to do. Just because you are an excellent cake maker it doesn’t mean that you need to say ‘yes’ to everyone who asks you to make something for a Christmas party or family event if you are ‘juggling’ other commitments and trying to manage your time and priorities in other ways. Saying ‘no’ might actually give someone else an opportunity to say ‘yes’ to something for a change. What can you think of in your life this season that you might have to pluck up the courage to say ‘no’ to for the sake of your own health and well being? If it is the source of stress and anxiety, consider how crucial it is, and if it is not that important in the grand scheme of things, then try saying ‘no’.
This time of year could be the perfect opportunity for you to experience personal growth, make new connections and step out of your comfort zone. It could also simply mean giving yourself the chance to do something that you enjoy but usually don’t make time for due to competing priorities, or just the ‘hum drum’ of letting daily life trundle along without being too aware of your choices and chances.
Maybe, like me, you’ve had to work hard at overcoming anxiety. Perhaps there is something you’d like to do, some event you’d like to attend, or some new people you’d like to connect with – BUT you are allowing anxious thoughts to talk you out of giving it a go.
Maybe you’re brimming with confidence but are used to doing the ‘same old, same old’ that you haven’t even thought of saying ‘yes’ to that new opportunity.
Perhaps there are people, causes or needs that you can give your time to, to alleviate someone else’s burden at this time of year.
Wherever you find yourself, think about some of the opportunities in your life coming up that you might automatically say ‘no’ to.
Think of whether it is a good and positive opportunity in your life, and if it doesn’t compete with other more important things, and if it ‘ticks these boxes’ and it is something you actually think you can benefit from doing, then try saying ‘yes’.
Who knows where that simple ‘yes’ might take you, and what further doors of opportunity and friendship it might open…..
Mind games, in a positive sense, of course! 🙂
Those long, cold, dark winter nights can be particularly challenging if we struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), depression and low mood. They also might just get us down generally, as with less opportunity to stay busy outside, we may find ourselves in a bit of a mental and emotional ‘slump’ or fugue, as we are sometimes forced to stay away from our regular activities, and as such the ‘winter blues’ might get a hold of us.
We all too easily can become passive consumers of information, spending hour upon hour in front of the TV for example, and our minds can suffer for it. Without positive distractions and mental stimulation where we are actively involved rather than passively consuming, we also may fall into a state of rumination which can negatively impact our mental health.
One thing we can do, especially if we find that we are spending those long, cold, dark winter nights on our own is to actively engage our minds, train our brains and keep mentally fit and active. You could read, study, engage in new or old hobbies, for example and I will come to these in turn later. However, a fun and relaxing way to keep mentally fit is to play ‘mind games’ – no, not the kind of negative mind games in relating to other people – but games that will challenge you mentally.
These could be, for example, card games on the computer, word challenges, puzzles, board games or chess if you have company, riddles and such like. Something which you actively need to think about and engage in. Never underestimate the importance of looking after your mental health, and remember that there are fun ways that you can do this too!
What about you? What would your ‘go to’ mental health activity be?
Take a moment to consider whether the thing you are allowing yourself to get stressed about will be significant to you in five years time, and whether it is worth so much of your mental energy right now.
Instead of letting the tough times and suffering in your life turn you inward, allow that pain to make you more compassionate towards other people who need that human kidness, even today.
Try not to jump to a negative conclusion – there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation, and it’s worth considering a person’s proven character before thinking the worst of a situation.
Take time today to be aware of how you ‘talk to yourself’ in your thoughts and self-talk, and whether you need to work on being kinder to yourself and forming healthier thought patterns.