If you’ve ever had an encounter with the Living God, with Jesus Christ, then you know what it is to be changed from within. When we are flooded with Life from His Spirit, we are made ‘new Creations’. This is so much more than words, and there are testimonies of staunch atheists who tried logically to defy the reality of the Living God, but who after being touched by the Reality of Him had to admit that He Is Real. There’s a whole lot to be said about that, and many might argue that unless you can test and prove things empirically then they can’t possibly be true, but if you have encountered the Living God then you’ll know that there is a reality that can be experienced and felt and that changes you from within. There is a tangible supernatural reality that goes beyond brain states that is real whether or not people choose to accept that reality.
If you’ve experienced the power of the Living God in your own life, then you will know something of the transformative Peace, Love, Joy and Power of His Spirit. Some people experience radical transformations over night, some people come to realise the reality of the spiritual battle that we are in, and some are flooded with His Love.
But there is a process here as well. Even after we are indwelt by His Spirit, set apart and given His Righteousness when we are made His, there is still a process of change that occurs from within, and sometimes this can be a slow process, for others you can see the changes more markedly, not as something they are doing, but the natural changes that God brings about, remaking someone from within so that they are marked more by His Love and Purity.
A lot of this would seem as ‘nonsense’ to someone who has never known the Reality of the Living God in their life, but for those of you who do, be encouraged that He Loves you and Is changing you, even if those changes seem to take a long time. That’s because even after we are forgiven and given His Righteousness, a supernatural state of being made right with God, and being indwelt by His Spirit, even after such an incredible Reality takes place, there are still deep things within us that need to be cleansed and put right.
I’ve been drawing closer to God, in prayer, experiencing more of the reality of the Love and Presence of His Spirit within me, but at the same time, God is ‘unearthing’ things in my heart that I need to bring to Him to allow Him to change and forgive and free me from. Yet the more we allow this sometimes difficult process (‘sanctification’) to take place, the more we will be able to let God’s Spirit make us new from within.
These are incredible truths, realities that that world does not accept or see, because a world that loves darkness prefers to deny the reality of our own sinfulness. But to humble ourselves and reach out in faith and accept His Forgiveness is the gateway to the Real experience of His tangible Pure and Perfect Love.
If you are on this road, and know from the reality of your own experience what I’m talking about, don’t be discouraged if you are made to face the things in yourself that need to be changed, forgiven and cleansed – bring it to Him and allow His Love to free and cleanse you from within. He Is Faithful, and there Is no Love like His, and if you know Him you know this Reality is far more than mere words. x
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
There is something beautiful about the festive season, despite everything else going on. We find comfort in the cosiness of fairy lights and warm colours during the long nights. We collectively get busy decorating and then hopefully carve out space in our ‘new’ surroundings to slow down, enjoy, rest and reflect.
I realise that sadly, not everyone has the chance to do so, and this year perhaps even more people are struggling during this season.
However, we have now passed the shortest day and the light levels for many of us are beginning to be just a bit brighter, for just a bit longer. Nature demarcates the changes of seasons. It was not so long ago that I wrote of the vibrancy of the autumn colours in my parents’ garden and posted pictures of bright red Japanese Acer leaves. Yesterday, here, we had a very brief snow shower that soon gave way to rain, and now today the day is dry once more.
We write as the seasons change, and something in our hearts tells us that we must change with them. There is no standing still for long in life even when we reach a season of ‘Pause’ as some of us may have done in the pandemic.
Christmas Day, the day celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ, has passed, but the reality of this significance is eternal. Boxing Day has passed, New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay in Scotland) is not yet upon us, nor is New Year’s day, ushering in the anticipated ‘new’ of 2021 that we wait upon with baited breath. What changes, good or bad, will this next year bring?
As many of us spend our time at home during the pandemic, with increasing restrictions post-Christmas day, at least in the UK, due to rising case numbers of coronavirus, and added pressure upon the NHS, some people find their days just merging into a ‘blur’ of time, especially during the Christmas and holiday season.
Yet, as the seasons change, how do we demarcate change for ourselves, in our day to day lives?
A mental shift, and an external change:
I personally like to leave the Christmas tree up for as long as possible, at least until after New Year’s day, even though I know some people like to take their tree down on 27th December or as soon as possible. Especially this year, when we are at home, and the world is an unsettled place, it is nice to have that sense of cosiness and homeliness if we can.
Yet, I find myself preparing mentally for the new, and perhaps you do too.
Small external changes:
Perhaps we begin making mental changes with the changes we make to our surroundings. It might be replacing Christmas decorations with new décor, or rearranging things a little. Maybe it is taking out a new notebook or using different stationery, or putting away Christmas jumpers and wearing something different if not new. Some of these small shifts externally, gradually if you like, or all at once if that’s your preferred style, can help us usher in a change of mindset as we approach the new, and unknown.
While things change, I take comfort in the Eternal God Who does not change, and His Word that stands firm forever.
One shift I am making is putting away my Christmas adult colouring books and taking out new ones that were gifted to me this Christmas, one which is meditative pictures of the Psalms with nature illustrations, and another of famous travel destinations to colour, while I can’t physically go anywhere far just now.
My mind is anticipating the new, and the new may be the learning, growing and thinking that I will do right where I am.
The pandemic marches on, as do efforts to combat it, to stand against it, while doctors, nurses, scientists, and public health workers, shop staff, frontline and council workers all do their bit, and as each of us in our jobs, our families, or personal lives and decisions do our bit.
Let’s not grow weary or discouraged, but let’s keep moving forwards together, with hope and seeking to make wise decisions so that we live our lives in the best way possible with what is available to us, and in a way that will uplift and help others.
Stay safe, and let’s keep moving forwards together, one small change at a time. x
Feeling overwhelmed in life is not unusual considering the generally busy lifestyles that many people lead. There are so many things ‘to do’, so many tasks to tick off, so many people and plans and projects to keep up with.
Yet even in the pandemic, and perhaps especially more so, with a change in the pace of our lives, there is still a likelihood that some of you reading this will be feeling overwhelmed.
There are different issues to think of in new and developing contexts whether these contexts involve public health risks, political unrest, a change to our daily routine, isolation, job and financial instability, and so forth.
Even if these things haven’t impacted you too much, there is still the chance that you put pressure on yourself to use the ‘extra time’ to achieve so many goals, do more things, or become better at others. Another common concern that seems to be cropping up is around body image and weight gain (or loss), which is unsurprising given the way many of us respond in times of stress by either comfort eating or forgetting to eat! You may want to make a change in this area of your life.
Which leads me to the point of this post on self care in a pandemic, namely whatever positive or productive changes you need or want to make in your life, don’t forget that you can only (and only need to) live out one day at a time on this journey.
I like to plan, there’s something reassuring about the creative processes I use in putting pen to paper and bringing clarity to my thoughts as I make sense of my day, and the weeks and months ahead. Yet, we all know, and have learned especially this year, that we cannot put all of our hopes or trust in our plans. A year ago, none of us would have known, expected or thought about a year like 2020, we don’t know what the next day or week will bring, and therefore as you move towards making changes in your life, be they to take better care of your body or mind, to use your time wisely, to learn something new, to maintain your home, to do your job well, to move towards greater financial ‘stability’, to invest time and attention in your relationships, to have a better balance in your day to day life, to be less stressed, to give up bad habits, to encourage others, to read more, pray more, live well, whatever it may be, give yourself the permission to do things incrementally, with care and thought.
When we feel overwhelmed, it is important to maintain a healthy balance between our visions of the ‘bigger picture’ and the small, time bound manageable ‘chunks’ of tasks that we need to do, bit by bit, step by step, little by little to get there.
It’s ok to make incremental changes….after all, isn’t that how most change starts to be made?
Don’t compare yourself with other people, and don’t add pressure to your life and mind with negative self talk over how far you have to go.
Take this moment, look up with faith, have an idea of what you want or need to do that will be beneficial, and simply take that one small next step, make an incremental change, and keep going….
Do you remember the start of your year, in 2020? What were your personal thoughts about the well rounded, almost ‘perfect’ 20-20 year that stretched ahead? Did you have any goals or plans that you wished to pursue, or that seemed likely, that because of the pandemic have been interrupted or cancelled?
As someone living and working in the UK, at the start of the year much of the talk in the news centred around ‘Brexit’ – Britain’s formal exit from the European Union. Regardless of the politics and whether or not you have any particular feelings towards this (which I understand many of you living in other parts of the world may not), there was a feeling that there would be implications for our personal lives on some level.
As such, I optimistically started 2020 thankful for my steady job, and beginning to brainstorm European countries that I have not yet been to that I would like to visit in 2020, before any potential future travel restrictions that might be caused by Brexit! Ah, how little did I know back then!
Needless to say, none of those travel plans materialised in 2020, and not because of Brexit, but because of Covid! Wherever in the world you may be, I am certain you’ve heard of that. I am thankful that I have travelled quite a lot and enjoyed traveling on my own as well, so although my plans never materialised for travel in 2020, it is no great disappointment or inconvenience.
However, I’m not the only one who had plans at the start of the year that did not come to pass. Perhaps you did too. Maybe you planned to get married this year and that had to be called off or at least postponed to less uncertain times. Maybe you considered relocating or buying your first home, changing job, or taking a risk, visiting friends or family or doing something that due to the pandemic has had to be put on hold or cancelled altogether.
Some of you may be in a place of real turmoil, or may know others whose lives have been shaken in 2020. It is heart-breaking to hear stories of people who are mourning loved ones because of Covid, who have lost their jobs or face uncertainty with their income, who are struggling with mental health, loneliness and depression on a more intense scale than they might have been before because of isolation, uncertainty and anxiety.
The bad news hasn’t stopped some people from experiencing joys in life, but sadly this has not been the case for everyone. I know of people who are expecting babies this year, who have got engaged, and even couples at church who managed to get married as planned this year, albeit with a few less people in attendance. Some have still managed to get away on short holidays or breaks, or explored the world of ‘staycations’. Others have enjoyed working from home, time with family, or time to enjoy hobbies that they previously had little space in their calendars for.
We have all come through this year differently, with shades of light and dark along the way, but it is unlikely that you have not been touched or impacted by the pandemic in some way, even if that is inadvertently.
And because of this, I write to reach you and encourage you, as a small offering of hope.
What are some of the ways that many of us here may have been impacted? One thing that I know many people face is a change of routine. Routines have changed in terms of where we work, whether we are able to work at all, being able to socialise, see friends or family, where we can eat, where we can go, and what we need to be ‘on guard’ for.
No longer is our routine when leaving home characterised by a final check of whether we have money, keys and phone with us; instead, we have the additional ‘check-list’ of whether we have our facemask, hand sanitiser, maybe even gloves with us. We have to be even more mindful of our interactions, our distancing, our shopping and disinfecting habits than we were before as we realise how much of the day to day things we took for granted in seemingly more ‘care free’ days.
Whether your life and routine has been slightly or significantly impacted, there is no doubt that you have had changes to adapt to this year.
It’s a word of solidarity to say that you’re not alone. We’re all facing change in some way.
So what do routines and self-care have to do with each other? So much. If any of you have also suffered with times of mental health challenges, then perhaps you also know the importance of routines to help get you through those tough days. Routines do not save us (as you will know if you have read my blogs on faith before, I believe that only Christ can save us to the uttermost that we need), but they can provide a sense of stability in uncertain times.
If your routine has been changed this year, and you are facing unexpected changes due to the pandemic, try to establish new routines that provide you with a sense of comfort, predictability and even joy.
There may be things from your previous routine that you miss, and others that you are glad to see the back of. I personally do not miss the daily commute to work, and instead enjoy lingering unhurriedly over my morning cup of coffee.
Think of some of the things you are thankful are no longer part of your routine in this season, and take a moment to write them down, to be grateful or simply ponder them, however small they may seem to be.
Things such as no longer having to face rush hour traffic if that is the case for you. Of no longer missing out on time with your children, perhaps. Whatever it is, take a moment and appreciate that even in unsettling times of change, some changes have been a blessing to you.
Next think of the positive changes to your routines that you may not have even noticed before. Think of ways in which you can establish and build upon these to bring in a greater sense of wellbeing into your life as you persevere through this ‘pandemic year’. You may have lost a lot this year, or may feel unsettled and disrupted, but are there any things you can incorporate into your day that will help you?
A friend of mine has been incorporating regular walks into her new routine, and enjoying the peace of nature, something she wouldn’t have had so much time for before. Maybe you’re stuck at home in a high rise flat in the city and can’t enjoy such things on a regular basis, or at all in this season of your life, but perhaps the routine ritual of your morning breakfast / work out / coffee / crossword or whatever it may be is something you can look forward to.
Routines help take some of the mental pressure away from our minds. With fewer decisions to make, we can be more present in the moment, more able to enjoy the gifts of the day, and routines can help to ‘free up’ certain areas of our lives to do this.
I know that many people deeply dislike the term ‘the new normal’, so I won’t use that here, but in what ways have you adapted and brought in positive changes into your daily life?
Routines don’t have to be rigid, but having something predictable to look forward to in our day to day lives can help ease the burden and promote self care in these changing times.
I talked about the way our busy, fast-paced lives can leave our minds racing, even when we physically stop at the end of the day, and the ways in which our use of technology can contribute to this mental and emotional overload, while also highlighting the personal benefits of blogging as a use of technology. I explored ways in which slowing down, creating more space and time to do things that benefit our wellbeing, creativity and taking time out of the usual busy lives we live, can be beneficial to us on so many levels.
And here we are, in 2020, and many if not most of us have found ourselves, by default of the pandemic, ushered out of our busy day to day lives and routines and into a slower, more ‘removed’ kind of a lifestyle.
Of course, there are so many of you who have not had the chance to slow down this year. Those of you to whom the rest of society owes a huge debt of gratitude. Those who are front line or key workers, whose lives have only got busier and perhaps more stressful as you care for the sick, the vulnerable, deliver essential supplies of food, medicine, and so forth.
So many of the rest of us, however, have found ourselves spending much more time at home, perhaps working from home, maybe isolated and living alone, or seeing only immediate family members as the restrictions that the Coronavirus pandemic have brought upon us, continue to refashion the ebb and flow of our daily lives.
Yet, how many of us have been able to embrace this as an opportunity to slow down and look after ourselves and those around us, as we may have wished to be able to do a year ago?
With various health issues, I have often ‘dreamed of’ being able to work from home in the past, but was never granted the permission to do so, yet this year, many other mainly office-based workers like myself have been able to benefit from working from home as the new default in this public health crisis. I have personally found this beneficial, yet I know of others who have really struggled with working from home, and am aware of others still for whom being at home is an unsafe or unsettling environment.
Isn’t is strange when the things we may have hoped for become reality but through very unexpected circumstances? In 2020 we’ve seen our world be turned upside down by the pandemic, and across the world despite us approaching October and the end of the year, countries are still trying to navigated these uncharted waters, and find a balance between protecting public health and keeping economies afloat, all in the midst of some key political and social events in certain parts of the world.
I wonder where you are from and how you have been managing the changes this past year, if any of the changes have been positive for you, or what has been particularly challenging. I wonder how your country has responded to the Coronavirus crisis, and what you think could be done better? What were your thoughts around this time last year?
I’d like to think that looking back in a year from now, we will see progress, on a global scale, and green shoots of recovery, yet there are many challenges ahead, and in many places across the world, it seems that governments, medical professionals, and scientists are at the moment ‘fire fighting’ to address the immediate damage while trying to plan and prepare for the longer term.
We may not have a great deal of control on what happens on a global scale, but as we approach the autumn and winter of this year, we are once again reminded by nature’s gentle changing of the seasons (and as I write I observe the beauty of the juxtaposition of green leafy trees with bright autumnal reds and oranges beginning to appear), that it is time to slow down, reflect and move from one season to the next.
Many of us may have physically slowed down, but as described in my post from this time last year, are our minds still racing and overloaded even when we stop? Have you been given a chance to take time out of the busy day to day of your previous life, and are you yet still overwhelmed by the constant stream of bad news that we’ve been hearing this year?
Do you have any stories of inspiration of how something positive has come out of this collectively difficult year, or how you and your community have responded to help others?
Have you embraced a slower pace of life? In this year where we are all in such need of encouragement and community even as we perhaps are physically isolated, do you have any words of hope to share here? It would be an honour to hear your stories, but in the meantime, try to remember to take every opportunity you can to seek Peace and pursue it, even in the midst of the storms. Be blessed. x
I’ve often written about how breaking down a task into its component parts can make it more manageable. This became an absolute necessity for me at a difficult time of my life where various health struggles meant that the smallest task was overwhelming to me and I couldn’t see a way out of the situation as my body and mind were at a point of burn out, exhaustion and in desperate need of repair and recovery.
However, I persevered with the small steps, and I can tell you it has been life changing to approach each day in this way.
I don’t know what you’re facing right now in this rather unexpected year of 2020, but perhaps now that we are in the final third of the year you may be feeling a little weary and wondering ‘what next?’.
No matter where you are at, don’t underestimate the power of small steps, for these can add up to be transformative. Whether the steps you take are in relation to your mental health and emotional wellbeing, physical health, recovery, creating a beautiful home environment, writing a book, accomplishing a task or persevering with your blog, small steps can cumulatively have a life changing effect.
When what you are facing seems insurmountable, and the bigger picture unachievable, create goals and forward steps that are small and manageable and focus on that one thing at a time, and seek enjoyment in it. Little by little, day by day, you will see the improvements.
How do you feel at this point of the year? It’s often a reflective time as the seasons begin to change, as I have written about before, however perhaps all the more so this year with having lived through a pandemic. Are there changes you need to make, or things you need to slow down and take the time to appreciate more or people you need to connect or reconnect with? Have you taken a resigned attitude to the rest of this year or are you willing to take the next small step of setting a new goal for yourself, of giving yourself the permission to take it one small step at a time and enjoy the process and the journey that it takes you on?
Setting a goal is in a way an expression of hope, and perhaps for some of us even of Faith. It means we have more to live for, more to aspire towards, and more to appreciate and give thanks for as we choose to live rather than merely exist.
Maybe today is the day for you to look around you, at your life, and however big or modest your vision is, take that next one small step, keep going, and see where the journey leads as you keep moving forwards. x
Like a trusty friend during isolation, You Tube has given me insights into and inspiration from other people’s lives, that have helped me build upon the positives in my own life, during a time with no face to face company. From bullet journaling, to crafts and creativity, prayer and faith, exercise, cooking, morning and evening routines, to simple entertainment, I’ve had plenty to think about and be inspired by. While pondering what possible analogy I could use to try to express the psychological and emotional shift that happens during times of change and readjustment, and the mixed emotions that some of us may be beginning to feel, it was in fact some videos from You Tube that came to mind!
There’s a lovely and entertaining family that vlogs about their life, and in recent videos, the parents were working on a surprise for their young twin girls to upgrade / redo their shared bedroom. When the girls finally saw the surprise they were so happy. They were excited about the new floor space to do cartwheels that their new bunkbeds gave them and were ‘over the moon’ with all the new things that they had and were able to do in their space. Well done parents ! 🙂 . However….. after a few nights the girls started shouting for help and saying they felt scared and ended up explaining that they loved their room but they were ‘going through an adjustment’. Pretty articulate for six year olds to express and explain that emotion, I thought.
I don’t know about you, but in the past few days I’ve experienced feelings of excitement, hope, apprehension and tiredness. It’s been a long four months, with many things to be grateful for, but despite the restrictions, the ‘cabin fever’ and so on, there has been, at least for me, a growing sense of comfort and stability in the predictable nature of day to day life. There’s been a sense of security and even of growth, and I’ve certainly benefited from a slower pace of life. Now, however, it’s like we’ve been given more ‘floor space’, and while at times we may feel like doing cartwheels and handstands, we may also be faced with unsettled or sleepless nights.
I think it’s worth recognising that there will be a degree of psychological and emotional shift for all of us. We’ve braved our first (and hopefully last) pandemic (but it’s not over yet!), we’ve made it through to the other side of our first ‘lockdown’, and restrictions have been significantly lifted in recent days. Yet what we’re moving into isn’t quite the same as what we had before. We have new freedoms, but they’ve changed. The excitement of meeting with friends may be slightly dampened by not being able to embrace them just yet. We might feel a sudden thirst for adventure again with the renewed prospect of being able to do more things, go places, see things for the first time or after a long time, having had the same surroundings day after day for one third of a year. But things have changed. We’re not out of the woods quite yet, there is that underlying risk of a ‘second wave’, and we still need to be aware of all the public health measures that we need to stick with, and maybe some of us are not quite ready to take the next step.
I think the mental realisation that this is a time of adjustment, of processing and reprocessing change is a shared reality in differing ways and to different degrees depending on our experience and circumstances.
I find it helpful though to be able to tell myself that the mixed emotions and figuring out of thoughts is a normal part of adjustment and readjustment to change, and the ‘new normal’ that we are still not yet all that familiar with.
It’s ok to feel unsettled at this stage. It’s ok to feel excited one moment and apprehensive the next. It’s ‘normal’ (or ‘new normal’, or something!).
One of the ways I began to process my experience of lockdown to enable me to have a productive time rather than days drifting into days into days, was to create for myself a ‘vision board’ (online) for my time in quarantine. While grappling with change and uncertainty, my first point of reference will always be the Unchanging Truth that I build my life and faith upon, however, for the day to day practicalities and making sense of what to do, I find I need to ‘reorient’ my brain, my mind, to figuring out how to look forwards and take the next productive steps as I walk through and navigate the changes ahead.
So, I guess for me it’s time to draw up a ‘post-quarantine vision board’ to help make sense of the next few weeks at least, and the adjustment phase we all find ourselves in. It works for me to a certain extent, or at least it did before.
Maybe you can inspire me, if you feel like it with how you are adapting to, managing and making sense of these changing days.
On a much more light-hearted note from our previous self-reflection prompt, prompt number five will have you thinking about the good times.
5. What has made you laugh, smile, or find little pockets of happiness during quarantine / lockdown?
As difficult as this time may be for you (or you may not be finding it difficult, in which case that is great), we don’t want to go through 2020 with only or mainly negative thoughts about our experiences.
Which is why it is important to take time to think about and even note down the good times. Maybe you have found laughter to be therapeutic and a part and parcel of how you’ve got through these times, or perhaps you can’t initially think of any happy times.
If you can think of a lot of things, that is wonderful – take a moment to note them down so that you can look back on them positively in the future and remember the things that brought happiness to you in otherwise difficult times for the world.
If you are struggling to think of anything, start small.
Did you watch a video clip that made you smile or laugh?
Did a friend or family member say or do something to cheer you up?
Did you find solace in hobbies or creative pursuits or projects that helped refocus your mind on more positive things?
Did you see a bird in flight, a beautiful flower, a rainbow or a sunrise that touched your heart?
Did you feel the cool breeze on your skin when you went out for a walk?
Did you wake up in the morning without being in pain and looking forward to the day ahead?
Did you enjoy simple pleasures such as a phone call with a friend, helping someone else, some tasty food or a good film?
However negative you might initially feel when you think of 2020 so far, there is bound to be at least some small moment of happiness or hope in your life. It might not even directly be from your own life, but something you can appreciate as having observed such as community spirit, colourful pictures that children have drawn and put up in their windows to encourage other people, the applause people have shown for front line and key workers.
Can you think of anything? If you can, take a few moments to write it down. Sometimes the very act of documenting these seemingly ‘small’ moments can do wonders for our mental and emotional health as we acknowledge, remember, engage with them and treasure them as things we can be grateful for.
This in turn will help you to help other people to find the happiness and hope in their day to day experiences, and to move forwards with increasing strength.
It’s not too late to start. The year is not over yet and even if you still feel very negatively about how things have been so far, it is not too late to reframe your thoughts and choose gratitude and appreciation as you move forwards.
If you’d like to encourage other people, please comment below with some of the positive things this year that might also uplift others.
Continuing on our series on lockdown life lessons, I feel it’s important not to gloss over the challenges even while we are looking for the positives and growth opportunities through 2020 so far.
Why might that be? Because without addressing or at least acknowledging some of the more difficult parts of our experience we won’t be as well equipped to deal with patterns of struggle or challenge in our lives in order to change them for the better in the future.
So, with that being said, prompt number four is as follows (try to be honest with yourself, and compassionate towards yourself too):
4. What has been the hardest thing for you during lockdown / quarantine, and why? What or how can you change, learn or grow to make things better in the future?
This one might be difficult for you to answer, and may involve expressing personal issues, weaknesses or pain. However, by acknowledging the challenges as well as the positives, we will be more likely to seek the help we need, or respond in better ways in the future. Perhaps whatever you’ve experienced won’t be resolved quickly, but take time to acknowledge what you’re struggling with or feeling challenged by and then ask yourself the following questions:
-If you are a person of faith – ‘Have I prayed about it?’
– Is there anything within my power to change?
–What lessons have I learned or am I learning about this?
–Is there anyone I can share this with for help, mutual support, encouragement, etc?
–Do I know other people who might be going through similar things who I can reach out to and encourage or show support, understanding or love?
–Do I need help from people professionally with this?
–Is there something within myself I need to work on to change? How can I start going about making those changes?
–Will I choose not to worry about this all the time?
–What is needed to make things better?
–What a I using as a ‘crutch’ to cope with this situation, and what should I change to deal with it in a more positive manner?
Perhaps you don’t want to or don’t feel the need to go through these additional self-reflection questions. But take a moment to think about the original question as to what was most difficult for you and how things can be better moving forwards.
In subsequent posts, the focus will once more be more positive, however, it is important to also acknowledge the issues explored in this post if we are to move forwards with greater self-awareness, strength and ability to make positive changes in our lives.