Well, it’s almost Christmas, so why not if you feel so led, consider giving a child a gift by getting involved in Operation Christmas Child – you can even send a pre-packed shoebox by donating online if you can’t manage to do this in person.
Tag Archives: Christmas
Self Care In A Pandemic (32): Demarcating Change…
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
The Days After Christmas…
I hope this finds you as well as can be this year. I thought I’d interject my ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series with a few free flowing thoughts and musings. Don’t worry, I will continue on with the series, as I know we are not out of the woods yet, and we all need as much encouragement as we can get in these trying times.
As i write, I look out upon the bare tree branches. It rained earlier and the sun is gently shining and I can see rain droplets shimmering and shivering and catching the light. It is beautiful and simple and gently wondrous, and a reminder of the simple delights of childhood. A blackbird is perched near the top of a tree. I see branches upon branches, and these twinkling raindrops in the midst of the hard barrenness of the trees lifts my heart. The sky is a gentle blue which is a relief and joy after days of grey. It is cold here.
I’m writing, just writing for the moment because I hadn’t written to you in a few days, and there is so much that I could say. It has been a blessed time with family, yet we had news of bereavements of friends, and that is hard to process. I have had time to think more on the wonder of Christ coming into the world, and He Is revealing new things to me of His Humanity and His Nearness. How do we put these deep things of the tapestry of life into words? I don’t know and so I come simply to write and to reconnect with you after a few days and to wish you well.
I hope you have had a Peaceful Christmas. I read somewhere that Peace is not the absence of troubles but the Presence of Christ. How true in this world as we know it! It is something God reassured me of in the past when in times of trial – ‘In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world!’ Praise the Risen King, Jesus Christ, my LORD and GOD. I hope you come to know His transcendent Peace if you don’t know Him already, because in this world you will have trouble, as sad as that is.
There has been flooding in some parts of the UK, and sadly some people have had to leave their homes on Christmas. We now have a deal between the UK and the EU so Brexit is finally moving along. There is news of yet more strains of the Coronavirus. And across the country and the world people are experiencing joys, sorrows and many things in between. Some are safe and cosy at home with families, others had a day of respite on Christmas day in the UK, being able to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ to visit loved ones for the day. Others still are lonely, bereaved, confused and scared. Where are you among it all? Know that you are loved and not forgotten about and The Good Shepherd of your soul, Jesus, is right there to help if only you would humble yourself to know that you can’t do it alone, and ask Him.
It’s a time of year where many of us find ourselves asking ‘what’s next?’. Are you asking the same of yourself, of life? What’s next? Many want to usher out 2020, and usher in 2021, and I am encouraged to see that people are still exercising hope. Yet, others are deflated and frightened at what might be around the corner. While there is so much outwith our control, we can be grateful for today, for this moment and look up with faith, and hope and do what we can to make things better.
How are you feeling today, this season, as Christmas has passed and we await a New Year that we hope will be better? Know that Jesus Is for Life and not just for Christmas – the day of may have passed, but His Love has not, He Is here and He came for you. It is an extraordinary humble and all powerful love, that does not force itself upon you but gently asks you to invite Him in.
We stand at the brink of a new year, and many of us have much to process. Keep ‘chipping away’ at the positive things you have been doing, keep taking those small steps forward, keep looking for the simple wonders outside your window, and keep looking for a life of deeper, purer love and faith. In the meantime, take that next sip of tea, get cosy and comfortable, take time to be thankful, and we will chat again soon, and continue on this journey together.
Self Care In A Pandemic (31): make Time To Play…
As Christmas approaches, we may find that even in a pandemic, and even for some who are possibly going to be spending Christmas day alone, that we still have ‘to do’ lists.
It’s important that despite the things we want to try to ‘fit in’ to make the most of our time (or just to keep on top of our daily lives) that we also find some ‘down time’ to rest and play. For some of you who like that greater sense of control, perhaps it is actually something to include on your ‘to do’ list. lol 🙂
What I’m saying is that it’s important to rest, to play, to take time out and to not feel bad about it. The shortest day has passed and now, daylight hours for most of us will begin to lengthen. We will be looking forwards to Christmas in a few days, which may be a quieter or more solitary experience this year for many, and then we will approach new year 2021.
These collective events and experiences always intrigue me as there is something of the ‘collective consciousness’ about them. That is to say, unlike in times in our own personal life journey’s when there may be a significant event, date or change point, due to how much of the world lives according to the Gregorian calendar, we share these experiences, even if our individual lives differ significantly from one another.
Come the new year, like it or not, we will be out of ‘holiday mode’ and even if not much else changes, we will have to consider things like how to move forwards with jobs, living situations perhaps and other things related to our own change points and also to changing regulations related to the pandemic.
So use some of this time, without guilt, to relax, rest and play. It’s important for your wellbeing, as long as what you choose to do is actually good for you or restful, so choose wisely.
What do you like to do in your ‘down time’? Do you watch films, play games, go for a walk outside if possible, paint, draw, listen to music, chat to a friend, curl up and read a book or simply lounge about for a while?
I hope you find the chance to catch your breath, to rest, and to look forward in Advent to the True Light of Christmas.
Self Care In A Pandemic (30): Build Your Resilience….As Gradually As You Need To….But Keep Building….
I find that despite the pandemic, there is something quite calming and anticipatory about the Advent season. As a Christian, a follower and worshipper of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as strange as it sounds ‘I look forward in anticipatory remembrance’ of His first coming into the world as the Incarnate Christ, God humbling Himself in Human form to be Emmanuel, God with us, and Saviour of the World!
Other people look forward as well as Christmas approaches to a time of rest, perhaps, with a few days off work, and possibly even the chance to spend time relaxing with friends and family. This year certainly looks different to what we are all used to, what with the pandemic and all! Yet, there is something about this time of year that can for many be both a season of calm and of anxiety.
For those of us who will get some time off work and time to relax, and for those of us who enjoy Christmas, this is something to look forward to, even though there may be particular challenges this year.
However, in a ‘normal’ year, there is also a sense of anticipation in a way that might bring us unease. When Christmas passes, we know that soon to follow will be boxing day, perhaps some more days of rest, and then eventually we will take down the tree, the decorations, and before we know it we will be ushering in a ‘new year’ and many of us will be back to work.
I remember writing last year about how I was preparing for the start of the new working year as I finished up with work before the Christmas holidays 2019. Feel free to take a look through my posts from this season last year for inspiration.
At the close of a year, we tend to comfort ourselves with the anticipation of a new year. As 2019 was drawing to a close, many of us took inspiration from the thought of a ‘brand new year’ and a ‘brand new decade’, and I’m sure I’m not the only blogger who noticed and also wrote about the idea of 2020 vision being a concept that had been brought to the fore, and one which we could apply to our own lives.
Yet, 2020 has certainly not been something that any of us could have anticipated in our plans or vision for that year or the next decade.
Yet as we approach 2021, I would encourage all of us to have an attitude of ‘preparedness’. Let’s explore what this might mean, and what it could look like….
2020 and mental health:
If like me, you’re somewhat of a ‘veteran’ with mental health challenges (c-PTSD, clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks, etc), then you may already have had some ‘coping mechanisms’ under your belt which helped you and I to deal with many of the challenges of 2020.
I am inclined to believe that there will be a fair few people this year, and perhaps some among you reading this, who have experienced mental health challenges this year in the pandemic even if you hadn’t really experienced this before.
Perhaps many things have come as a shock to you, and like some of us before, you’ve experienced things mentally and in your body’s response to stress that ‘freaked you out’ a bit, I guess for want of a better phrase. Anxiety for example can be very scary when you don’t know what’s happening when you experience fight/flight/freeze, racing and intrusive thoughts and don’t have any idea if you’re going mad or about to faint or die, etc! It takes time, work and learning to understand what is happening to us and to find the right tools and techniques to get stronger and manage these unwanted experiences.
As we approach 2021, we may be faced with the uncertainty of what lies ahead, but we can begin to prepare ourselves and build upon our resilience even as the new year perhaps seems to ‘loom’ ahead of some of you. How can we do this? Let’s think about some options:
Tools for resilience:
- Begin to identify whether you have had any particular mental health or other health challenges, seek support and research ways in which you can make progress and build strength and resilience.
- Take a fresh look at your finances, and start thinking and planning ways in which you can better use your resources.
- Consider the opportunities that you may have to meet that at the moment seem like challenges – do you need to adapt the way in which you work, do you need to apply for a new job, do you need to change your day to day routine or consider your caring responsibilities?
- Build a network of contacts whether help from professionals or supportive friends so that you are not facing the new year alone.
- Re-evaluate how you have been spending your time, and what might be draining your energy, resources and mental wellbeing, and think of the small steps you can begin to take to make positive changes in your life.
- Think about self care as being part and parcel of day to day life, and build in nurturing activities every day. These can include looking at what you eat, your water intake, the information you are taking in or should leave out, whether you are getting time outside, time to reflect and be still, exercise, and whether you have time to do things that your mind can enjoy and grow from such as learning or hobbies.
- Find inspiration and mentors from the people around you or from what you read or watch online. There is no shortage of inspiring people if you just begin to look for them.
- Feed your faith and not your fear, and consider what you spend your time thinking about and how you can begin to change your thought patterns.
There are so many more things we can do to build resilience as we approach the unknown, and we can look at more of these later and in more detail. But for now, know that you are not alone, you are capable, you don’t need to sink under the pressure of the challenges we face, you have a safe and endlessly encouraging place here with my blog, and from someone who has lived through many real challenges, and there are ways and means for finding help, support and empowerment, even if you don’t know exactly the next step to take right now.
The fact that you are reading this and have read to this point shows that you are able to find a starting point for resilience building and seeking out positive and inspiring content and people, so keep taking those next small steps, know that I am right here with you, and never give up.
Ultimately, thought we need something far Greater than all our tools and techniques to get us through – we need deep, true and lasting PEACE which can come only from The Prince of Peace Himself, Jesus Christ, through Whom we can have real experiential Shalom – a Peace with God through reconciliation and forgiveness of our sins because of the Price Jesus paid in His flesh through His death on the cross and His Resurrection. Without Him, I could only have temporary fixes, but even in my darkest or most difficult moments in life, in His Hands I am always Secure and have an eternal and enduring Peace with God and a Love that strengthens me from within. I hope you know the true Shalom of Jesus too. Be blessed.
Christmas Colouring In…
A few pictures I have coloured from the wonderful adult colouring in book: ‘Johanna’s Christmas’ by Johanna Basford. I hope it brightens up your day a little. x
Self Care In A Pandemic (22): Caring For Others.
As we approach Christmas, and for those of us who Celebrate Jesus Christ, acknowledge the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind in the Gift God gave of His Only Son to be the Saviour of the world, perhaps we can see this as a perfect opportunity to care for others.
There is so much need in the world, and there are so many people suffering this year. It can be overwhelming, especially if we ourselves are struggling. Mother Teresa once said that ‘if you can’t help one hundred, help one’. You and I are not, and are not called to be the saviours of the world, but we can reach out to help our fellow human beings.
I wonder if you are going through a tough time right now. I send you a hug of friendship and encouragement, and hope that my words can reach you too. Has anyone done or said something that has helped lift you or shown kindness to you? Can you in any way pass this on, pay this kindness forwards?
I think it is good for us, not in a selfish way, but in living out more of our true humanity, in being able to care for others. Even when we are weak, we have something to give. We can give a prayer, even in our most broken times, for the benefit of others. We can give a smile, a kind word, a gift, some money, some food, or even share our talents with the world in some small way. We can give a hug, or make a phone call, we can care for others, and in doing so simultaneously care for ourselves in allowing us to express the kindness that we all so deeply need to share. x
Self Care In A Pandemic (21): Time To Think…
While we are all approaching the year’s end, no doubt this year we’ve had a lot of new thoughts going through our minds. Things that we never would have thought about in 2019, when the idea of a pandemic, for most of us at least, just wasn’t on our radar….at all.
This year may have given us all new and challenging things to think about as we’ve been living through and processing new experiences of the world, yet, perhaps in these challenges we can find space for an opportunity.
Here in Scotland, where I am living for the winter season, the first frost has arrived and the once green grass is speckled with white. The cloud laced skies are actually a bright blue which is beautiful for this time of year, and the vibrancy of autumn / fall has well passed and the branches and twigs of the trees have been stripped bare of life and of colour. We are approaching winter with a beauty of its own. Elsewhere, friends have told me, it has been snowing.
As the seasons change, we are presented with the opportunity to slow down. I give my gratitude to all of you who are front line workers and who will be working hard and steadfastly through the winter with little chance to pause, but for most of us, we will hopefully be safe and sheltered indoors.
With the slowing of the seasons, comes the opportunity to slow our minds and to think. I don’t know about you, but some of my thoughts this year haven’t been so much related to the pandemic as they have been to discovering more about myself and my friendships and connections with people through this experience.
For example, things that had been feeling ‘not quite right’ with certain friendships before the pandemic seem to have come more to the fore this year, especially as I spent four months living completely alone. I came to a deeper realisation that certain friends who have spouses and children and families of their own were oblivious to some of the fundamental lived realities of what it is to be me. Friends who shared that they were happy and doing well and who I tried to connect with but just didn’t have the need and didn’t contact me until after I had been locked down alone, only perhaps when they needed some diversion after Lockdown 1.0. Friendships are deep and complex things, but as an empath I sometimes suffer from how much I give to others, and I do acknowledge that friends are also there for me or have been, but I’ve had more time to think and to realise what I am or am not comfortable with this year, and being alone in lockdown for four months helped me to see who the people were that I could actually mutually connect with and the others who didn’t have the need for a single friend and only got in touch when it suited them. Beautiful, kind hearted people. But people with their own priorities, their own selfishness (and no doubt I will have my own that I’m unaware of even though I try to be a good friend) and their own blind spots and inability to think or relate to how a person completely isolated might have felt. Lifelong friends, but friends with whom I need to move on from the dynamic that was there before, and to consider my own wellbeing and sense of selfhood and I’m discovering this as I move forwards and as we all approach 2021. And I need to use this time to think things through.
Perhaps certain things in your life have been simmering in your mind against the backdrop of a pandemic year. Maybe the ‘other’ things you have had more time to think about or have needed to spend more time processing are completely different to mine. I am intrigued to know what these things might be, or if any of you can relate to what I have shared.
Perhaps an opportunity in the midst of the difficulties of 2020 that we have been presented with is the chance to do things differently, to not just continue with the way things have always been, or the way things have been for us for too long. Perhaps something within you has been stirred to make a change. Perhaps you are awakening to a realisation that you have been caring for the needs of others, which is a beautiful thing, but at the same time have been neglecting your own needs and suffering for it, which is something I can relate to.
Can we give ourselves that bit of self care in this pandemic by taking time to think things through, to pray things through, to seek wisdom and insight as to whether the way things have been aren’t right for us as we embark upon a new season, and consider that the way things are can be changed?
What have you been thinking about, or what do you need to make time for yourself to think through in this season? Are there any deep changes you need to make in your life as you move forwards, or are there any small day to day shifts that you feel are equally important for you to make?
I hope you are able to find new answers and fresh hope as you move forwards, as we all move forwards through the Light of Advent season, into the Hope of Christmas, and the potential of a New Year where we can face the future with greater resilience, courage, faith and determination, and a desire to lift each other up, but not to allow ourselves to be burnt out in the process.
Peace and Love. x
Self Care In A Pandemic (20): The Smallest of Goals…
How are you doing this week, friends?
The thing with being human is that we have ups and downs, good days and bad, and if we are recovering from or getting through some difficult or challenging experience, then that is not always linear.
Today I’ve had to take a bit of ‘time out’ for myself as I am re-experiencing some challenges with my health. We can sometimes be quite hard on ourselves when we are having those days when we feel the struggle a bit more than on others. If we’ve been making progress in an area of our life, and then feel like things are going ‘backwards’ then that can be tough too – but progress is not always linear, as I’m sure most of us well know.
In this pandemic year, perhaps you’ve experienced your fair share of contrasting days, ups and downs, good times and bad. I wonder how you are doing today? You know one way we can help stay in a more positive frame of mind on those particularly challenging days could be to set the smallest of goals.
We need to shift gears at times, and take things at a slower more moderate pace, focusing on self care, but at times when we’re struggling it can be hard to get going and some of us have the tendency to be overly critical of ourselves in such times.
How about setting the smallest of goals like making the bed, or having a healthy lunch, or doing a few stretches? Maybe that’s all you can manage, and that’s ok, but maybe you’ll find the momentum to do something else, leaving you in a better frame of mind for the rest of the day, or at least feeling like you have accomplished a goal, even if you feel like it is the smallest of goals.
Stay safe and well friends. x
Self Care In A Pandemic (19): Christmas Pudding Socks…
I hope this blog finds you well, or as well as can be. I guess you may be wondering why I’ve titled this blog post ‘Christmas Pudding Socks’! ? ! 🙂
Well, for one, it is getting very chilly in Scotland this winter. The days are still reasonably mild, and some days are very pleasant with hints of sunshine and no rain, but probably for most of you dotted about in warmer climes, it is very cold. It is definitely the season for warmer clothes, central heating and cosy socks.
I’m wearing a cute pair of festive socks with little Christmas puddings on them! 🙂 This blog post is not so much about my socks, or the cold weather in Scotland, but more so about finding little things amidst your day that bring you some cheer. With all the problems going on in the world, and perhaps in your life this pandemic year, a pair of Christmassy socks aren’t going to solve your problems, but they can cause you to smile, to feel that little bit cosier, and to take notice of the little things. I have a beautiful glass Christmas tree mug that I’m drinking my hot beverages in now that it is December, something I treated myself to a few weeks ago. Sometimes, it’s the little things that help us get through the day, or give us something to look forward to, like making a hot and comforting drink in your favourite mug.
With so much going on in the world, and perhaps your own life, try to find those small moments of joy in your day to day living. I’m not saying go and spend money and buy things that you think will make you happy, not that at all although sometimes there is a place for a wee self care treat every now and then – what I am saying is that you can practice self care in this pandemic by carving out little moments and experiences for yourself that feel special, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant they might be to other people.
There should be time to delve into the deep and meaningful elements of life, particularly as you consider or begin to consider how you might like to move forwards in 2021. Yet, there is also importance in taking the time to slow down, to notice the little things that make you smile throughout your day, and for doing something kind for yourself as well as others.
What is bringing you that little spark of happiness today? It may not be Christmas pudding socks, or a Christmas tree mug, but perhaps it is that phone call with a loved one, watching a cosy film, curling up with a good book, turning on those comforting ‘fairy lights’ and experiencing your little moments of ‘hygge’.
Whatever it is, try to find or create those special moments in your day to day life, even and perhaps especially with so many of the big things going on around us.
Please feel free to share some of the special moments that make your day that bit brighter if you want to encourage, uplift or inspire me or other people reading this. And if not, stay safe and cosy, and we will ‘catch up’ very soon. x