Tag Archives: connection

Winter Survival Guide (7) ~ Don’t Face Loneliness Alone.

In this increasingly ‘connected’ world, loneliness can be an uncomfortable admission. When faced with images and stories of all the fun things other people are doing (or seem to be), particularly via online media, the ache that we are missing out can be all too acute especially as the winter season approaches.

For some who work in office based jobs, the end of the year may mean office closures over the festive season. Most of us welcome time off work to rest, relax, recuperate, and to spend time with family and friends, and maybe even to travel. However, for some people, this time of year is like a looming dark cloud, bringing with it a downpour of loneliness and isolation.

Maybe it is the case that you don’t have anyone to go home to, which is fine if at least you have other social contacts. But maybe you are far from home, or don’t even have friends or family, and the most social interaction you usually have is from colleagues at work.  But when you’re not at work, you’re on your own. I live alone, and personally I find time alone very refreshing – I’m the type of person who thrives from a lot of solitude, but perhaps I am able to do so because I know that my family is just a phone call away, and I have a wide network of close friends. For others, a lack of relationships or an abundance of shallow and surface relationships can leave them feeling very empty, isolated and alone, even in a room full of people.

Loneliness can come to anyone at any stage of life, and for a variety of different reasons, as unique as each individual is. However, some people in society, such as the elderly, or young office workers far from home in a busy and unfriendly city environment, or people working overseas, or those who are bereaved, struggle to make social connections or feel like outsiders in some way might be more vulnerable to loneliness. Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but when it becomes debilitating and consuming, that’s when it can be dangerous, therefore we all need to look out for each other, even for those who on the surface seem ‘gregarious’ but who underneath don’t have any real deep connections or relationships to turn to.  The season may also be particularly lonely for those who are perhaps single and longing for companionship while faced with lots of social invitations for couples, or for those facing family stresses, and maybe even separation or divorce.

There’s no easy or quick fix solution, but it’s important not to try to go through a period of loneliness alone, because when we are not in a good place, the isolation that would otherwise be a fruitful and enjoyable solitude can turn into a negative and unhealthy place to be.

Whether you are facing a deep loneliness that leaves you feeling vulnerable mentally and emotionally, or whether you are mostly fine but have the occasional ‘pang’ of loneliness during those dark wintery nights, you don’t have to face it alone.

What can you do?

  • Reach out to friends and family if you have them. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about how you feel, at least just reach out and talk – about anything – keep the lines of communication open, phone or meet up for a chat, and enjoy being in the company of people who know and love you, even if you are not yet ready or willing to share your deepest thoughts and feelings about what you are experiencing.

 

  • Perhaps you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to. In that case, it can be a good idea to reach out to charitable organisations that exist to help people in such situations. During times of my deepest depression and post traumatic stress, even though I have family and friends who I can phone to talk to, I didn’t always feel that I could. I carried the burden of not wanting to be a constant source of worry to the people who cared about me, and also being mindful of the sheer impracticalities of phoning or reaching out to someone while I was in distress in the middle of the night when they would be sleeping. So I found solace in calling helplines like Samaritans in the UK, and it did help to have someone to talk to in that time of distress. Thankfully I don’t feel the need to do that now, but I would encourage anyone and everyone to reach out to the people who have been trained to help those in need, and find some solace there. It may not be ideal, I know first hand how it feels when you’re in that position, but it can be such a life line, and even if you don’t need a life line as such, it can still be a source of comfort, solace and just the right thing at the right time to help you on your way.

 

  • Find ways of being in situations that don’t make you feel socially anxious, but in which you can have even a small degree of social interaction. You might like to visit a library, join a group, or go to a coffee shop or a museum, or volunteer to help other people. All of these provide opportunities to engage with other people, even if just on an initial and surface level. It may not take your loneliness away, but it will remind you that you are connected to people, to society and even those simple interactions can have a positive effect, even if only in the short term, on our mental health.

 

  • If you really can’t face any of the above, maybe you might find it worthwhile talking to your doctor. And for those times when you are just on your own and struggling with loneliness, you could perhaps seek out positive articles, videos and blog posts from people who share what has helped them in similar situations and life experiences. Be careful not to go down the route, however, of indulging in emotionally burdensome, negative or draining content – seek out those with messages of courage, hope, inspiration, and positivity who can point you towards positive changes and ways of coping. And remember although the winter is here for the time being, things will change, and spring will soon be on its way.

 

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“Travelling Teaches You” (8).

photo of smiling man taking a selfie with palm trees in the background
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Life as it happens to be

Travelling teaches you that ‘selfies’ aren’t always best 😉 That is to say, travelling teaches you to look out for others, and to discerningly allow others to look out for you. 

It might be a little ‘tongue in cheek’ to use the example of breaking away from the ‘selfie’ approach, and asking a kindly stranger or fellow traveller to take a photograph of you, and maybe even to return the favour for them, which will create an end result of a wider panorama and view of your surroundings, and a fuller picture of yourself as an individual. Of course, I am referring to more than just the potential picture that you may come away with, but to the experiences of life themselves. However, I have found on my travels that offering to help others, or accepting help (and obviously being wise and safe in who you approach or allow…

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Healthy Morning Tip #4 ~ Before the Day Begins…

Before the day begins, and by that I mean before you start ‘doing’ all the things you usually do in the day, before you get going and are off and on your way, stop. 

What is one of the first things many people do in the morning after settling in and beginning to get ready? People these days go online. It’s 7.38am and I’ve been up since 5.50am (this night owl’s attempts to become more of a morning person are beginning to bring forth some fruit, albeit gradually 🙂 ) and I spent the first hour and a half or so offline, in this beautiful little analogue world 🙂 

I encourage you to take some time before ‘switching on’ to the busy, noisy world around you and the online world, as inspiring as it can be, to wait, to breathe in this morning, your own morning, and connect with your own life. How did I spend my time? In prayer, in writing down my thoughts as they came to me, thanking God, gratitude, a little bit of colouring in my yearly planner and a picture I’m working on, drinking tea and eating breakfast without distraction. I feel all the better for it. To be  honest my mood wasn’t the best at the start but spending some time just connecting with my own life without comparison has lifted me. I now feel more motivated to continue with my day – prayer, Bible study, exercise, work, and all that the day holds for me. Even if you have just five or ten minutes to spare at first, just take that time, to switch on internally before you switch on any devices. It will help you embrace the day with greater authenticity and inspiration. Be blessed. x

Challenge: What would you do with that ‘analogue time’ in the morning? 

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Retreat Reflections ~ Day 2

I awoke naturally at around 5.30am, which is definitely not my usual time of day as I’m a night owl and not a morning person. I spent some time in a sort of ‘sleepy prayer’ state, committing my day to God, and listening to some gentle worship music. At 6.30am I started my early morning writing, and wrote for just under half an hour, and enjoyed a hot cup of tea and some breakfast snacks. I wrote again from around 7.30am to 8.30am, and after that I went back to sleep for a while. 

It’s now 10am, and I am writing my update here to avoid procrastination. I am curled up on my sofa, with a cosy blanket, and my laptop propped up on my armrest as I type. Day two has a gentler feel to it than yesterday. Yesterday I wrote quite a lot and I feel that I wrote well. Today, however, I decided not to set myself with a word count to ‘accomplish’ which has given me the freedom to linger and engage and connect more deeply with what I am sharing of myself, creatively, through the written word. 

The mind and heart have caverns that take a life time to explore, and healing comes not instantly for the most part, but over time, and with love. And we express much of ourselves through the characters we create, whether intentionally or not. For me, it is intentional, and therefore there is the opportunity for deep and genuine connection through writing this novel as well as it being an opportunity for me to learn more about myself.

I have spent an hour and a half this morning continuing on my journey through writing my novel, and have written 808 words. This may not seem much for the time spent, but there has been a richness in the connection, and quality of experience of slowing down, taking time to consider words, to experience the resonances with my heart, and understand a little better the tapestry of my mind. 

The world we live in is so rushed, and hurried. People ‘think faster’, but not necessarily deeper. Words are fired out over ‘Twitter’ ‘Instant messaging’ and text. We are being moulded to expect instant responses and constant information. And with all the interconnection, there lacks the depth of connection with our selves. 

So if you have the chance to write, to create, be intentional about it, and yes set yourself goals. However, enjoy the process. The world doesn’t give us time to savour the moments as deeply as our souls need to – we need to seek and find and carve out that time that God so freely gives. 

Slow down. Especially on retreat. The world of course will rush you once again, so take this time. Pause. Reflect. Connect. With your creativity, with yourself, with your Creator, and delve a bit deeper. 

When you travel to a new place, you may spend a day or two trying to accomplish as much as you can on your sight seeing ‘bucket list’. You want to make the most of your time and cover the most ground you can, especially if it’s unlikely that you will be travelling there again. Once you have seen all the sights, however, on day two or three or four, you will have gained a sense of what is most important and interesting to you, and also what is not as important. And so….you slow down, you linger, you stay a while. You don’t rush from one museum to the next, you don’t have to….you can pause and look….really look….at that one particular painting that catches your eye, stimulates your mind and captures your heart. Previously, you caught a glimpse of a variety of places you could perhaps eat at, but today….today you have chosen one place, and you slow, you enjoy the colour of food on your plate, the taste, the aroma, the textures and flavour. You listen, to the conversations around you in languages you don’t understand, and hear not just unfamiliar sounds but nuances that you hadn’t noticed before and similarities of words and phrases. You feel more connected, with yourself, with the company you are in, and the day you are inhabiting. Having taken a multitude of photos the previous day, you decide to put your camera away for a while, and soak in the experience of being present, being here, now. You know that tomorrow or quite soon you will have to attend to the business of tidying and packing up and leaving for home. So you pause, you linger, you soak it up. And maybe you don’t ‘tick as many boxes’, but that’s alright. You don’t cover as much ground, but the ground you do cover leaves an impression upon your soul, becomes part of you, and enriches your life….in this slow, authentic, savoured and connected moment of your life.

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Retreat Reflections

If you’ve been following along with me as I reflect upon my personal retreat as it happens, then you will most likely have noticed a change to the ‘series’ title from ‘Notes from a Writer on Retreat’ to ‘Retreat Reflections’. 

I suppose that part of the beauty of time set aside to be creative like this is that it often organically moves beyond definition. I have had personal retreats before, and as in my blog post from a few days ago about preparing your own personal retreat, these at times have varied in their central focus or purpose. Previously, I had a ‘staycation’ which was really about rest, relaxation, exploring my surroundings, taking care of myself, general creativity, and most importantly to me, my relationship with God. 

I also once had 9 days in total, including weekends, set aside specifically for writing my novel and I was able to make progress and inhabit that creative time and space for writing. I have taken time to be still in nature, and connect with God and to seek healing and meaning to certain life experiences, as well as for the purpose of rest and relaxation. Last year, I encouraged a friend to join me on retreat as we are both very creative people, both fairly quiet and reflective in nature, and also both sisters in Christ, so we had a lot of fun exploring a variety of arts, crafts, inspiring readings, picnics in the park, a musical event all of which was underpinned by the focus of exploring and strengthening our identity in Christ and as Christian women. 

For this retreat, I really wanted to set aside time specifically to write, to work on my novel, to work on a photography project I have started, and to have the chance to reflect, work through some things, rest, relax, be strengthened and more connected with what is important to me in life, so that when the time comes to ‘re-join the world’ in a couple of days, I will feel refreshed, satisfied creatively and with a better perspective going forwards. 

I am so pleased and thankful that I set a goal to write at least 3,500 words in the first day, and I feel that this discipline really enabled me to re-engage with my novel, press through to discover certain thought processes and meanings to me, and to gain some forward momentum. As I said previously, I exceeded this target and wrote 3,720 words today. And despite a bit of struggle mid-way through, I am so glad I did. 

There was a real sense of satisfaction and rest afterwards, and I was able to put the novel writing away for the evening, and enjoy a pleasant stroll by the riverside near my home. I felt reconnected by being in the gentle sun, and feeling a fresh breeze around me, and gaining a sense of God’s unfolding purpose in my life, which also came through the writing process in discovering new ways of looking at things. I enjoyed watching the sun glisten on the water, feeling the breeze upon my skin, and taking some photos, as well as admiring a swan that was nesting, in a bundle of twigs, awaiting the time for her ‘babies’ to come. A lovely older lady came to chat with me having noticed that I was admiring the swan, as she had come to feed it, and a male swan nearby, with some bread. We chatted, enjoyed the life before us, and then moved on and went our separate ways, and the gentle ebb and flow of life continued on. 

I have a sense of rest this evening, having worked hard earlier and accomplished what I set out to do for that day. I am growing in the sense of awareness of myself in this time, and the importance of letting me settle in and simply ‘be’ and inhabit the creative space as well as take time to process certain thoughts and emotions and to grow stronger and to heal. There is a line from Max Ehrman’s prose poem, ‘Desiderata’ that advises us to ‘enjoy our achievements as well as our plans’. This also reminds me of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, where we are told that ‘to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven’. Writing helps us to realise this, but so too does rest. 

As satisfied as I am to have given myself writing goals today, I think I am in the process of deciding not to apply the same approach tomorrow, for there is a time and a season to each day, and while today’s purpose was to work, to re-engage, to accomplish, to create, I think moving forwards, the ‘purpose’ is to slow down, to savour, to inhabit the creative moments organically as they happen and as I engage with my solitude, in the Presence of my Creator, to find them, and to really truly enjoy the process. I can tend to lose focus, so I will need some sort of accountability with myself, but I think that probably won’t be in terms of word count or time spent writing as much as to just sit and write, and to connect deeply with the process and the unfolding lessons I too am learning through the developing narrative, which are life lessons that have been forming within me for some time, that I am slowly beginning to reflect upon. 

When I think of going back to work, I am aware that there are different seasons, even between and within our days and short spans of time. Knowing that this time and space is sacred and limited before returning to my usual work schedule, which has many benefits to it in and of itself, just not so much creatively, gives me a desire to really inhabit this creative space, even if that means thinking and resting rather than producing something, for creativity is of the heart and soul and mind, and often our stories are being written within us as we journey through our lives, before we even write a word.

So tonight and tomorrow I will slow down, enjoy the solitude, and allow myself to connect, with God and with myself, within this quiet space and time, which in itself is a rare and precious gift and blessing, and will let tomorrow unfold organically and uniquely just as it should. I do want to accomplish certain things, so I will keep in mind a looser ‘goal’ simply to do and to engage with writing and with my photography project, but without any pressure, or particular expectations, and allow myself to live authentically and grow through it. 

One last thing I have reflected upon that I’d like to mention before I conclude this post is the beauty of time and space that we so often seem to have ‘snatched’ from us in the busy-ness of every day life, of other people’s expectations and demands, and of even simply being around people so much, whether that be from work, friends, family, or strangers. I have tried to work into my daily life ‘mini retreats’ whether that be a walk in the park at lunchtime, slowly enjoying a hot cup of tea, or reading one of your blog posts during my lunchbreak at work. Unfortunately, however, I am only afforded ‘snippets’ of time to do such things in the ordinary busy day to day of my life, ‘as it happens to be’. Tonight, however, I am going to take my time, to savour one or more of your blog posts, to listen and hear from the person writing, who I have never met, but for some reason who I have come in contact with through this medium, and have been granted the privilege of a glimpse and an insight into your unique world, mind and life. I apologise that I rarely have the time and space to truly savour and engage my mind and heart with from other people’s blog posts – probably like a lot of us, I am able to ponder things for a few moments before having to ‘snap back’ into the real world, most likely the office work I have to do, or the tasks I have to do at home after a day at work. Perhaps today, it will be one of your blog posts I will read…and if so, I’d like to thank you for it. I will take the time to honour and engage with the insights you have allowed to traverse through space and time and come into my world. Goodnight for now, I hope that you find stillness to enjoy the space and moments you are living in right now. 

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Hug deficiency…

I just read an article shared by a friend about the importance of hugs (whether from a parent, partner, spouse, child, friend or pet) for our physical, chemical, mental, emotional and psychological health. 

It was a very interesting piece, explaining how the hormones and chemicals in our body and brain produce stress relieving or producing effects that are directly impacted by positive, reassuring, physical contact. such as hugs, or lack thereof. Hugs for maximum wellbeing should be around 20seconds long, but on average they are much less. 

I won’t go into the science, but you get the point, and I’m sure you can relate to the sense of wellbeing you have had when holding someone or a pet, or being held by a loved one. 

Perhaps you are blessed to have an abundance of hugs so that your general wellbeing is boosted and in stressful times your stress response is lessened. I am very blessed to have a particularly huggable mum who is also an incredibly enthusiastic ‘giver of hugs’! I think my mum probably goes a long way in making up for my ‘hug deficiency’ if it is possible to ‘store up’ the effects of hugs, I’m not sure 😉 Ok, so I’m being a bit tongue I cheek, but the article mentioned a piece of research on the number of hugs required for wellbeing and different levels of wellbeing. And despite facts and figures being what they are, and clearly you have to take this with a pinch of salt, the number of hugs required for ‘survival’ is 4 a day. It sounds a bit like your fruit and veg intake of ‘5 a day’.

Perhaps ‘survival’ can be interpreted in terms of wellbeing and quality of life. As a single young woman who lives alone, and works a full time job, and sees my parents around once a month, my general ‘intake of hugs’ on an average day is….oh, let me count…..um…..’ZERO’. 

However, I am still alive….survival rate is 100% so far….yet, quality of life and wellbeing? I do suffer from depression, anxiety and complex PTSD…..however, I am an overcomer, not merely a survivor. I have grown from feeling broken and needy and alone, to growing into somewhat of a ‘girl boss’….and as I stand alone, I am learning to stand tall. But, yes we all need hugs, not that we always want them….I have grown used to my solitary space, it’s what I know. Unless I truly loved someone and felt loved by them, a 20 second long hug would just feel….AWKWARD to me….and I don’t have a pet, so I guess writing is maybe a bit of a ‘wellbeing intake’ for me in a way 🙂 

The point of this rambling post is that if you are also ‘hug deficient’ it is important to think about how this might be affecting your wellbeing, and how you can take care of yourself in other ways. Yes, physical contact and connection helps us grow and enjoy life and promotes wellbeing, however connection and contact can come in different forms, and a variety of friendships, relationships and even in solitude we can boost our wellbeing by taking extra care of our bodies, our minds, and making time for ourselves….so you might be lacking in hugs, but you are an amazing human being, capable of experiencing the blessings and gifts of Peace, stillness and wellbeing….even if in solitude….let ‘self care, self kindness and compassion’ (and most importantly to me, connection with God in His Love for me) be your own hug to you! 🙂 That way, you will have more to give to others from a place of strength and not neediness, whenever those hugs do come your way! xx

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Travelling Teaches You (14).

Travelling teaches you (if you have the luxury to travel on your own), to take time out from the people you love so that you can connect on a deeper level with your own life, centre yourself and most importantly connect with your Creator, rediscover your life purpose, all of which in turn will ultimately help you be a better version of you and better care for the people you love when you return to them. 

It may be glaringly obvious from the above statement that I am writing as a single person. I am aware that for many travel, holidays, vacation or whatever form seeing the world takes for you may involve spouses, family, children and even extended family and friends. Maybe you are able to carve out some time to yourselves if that is what you need, maybe that seems impossible for you at present. However, a word out for the singletons or solo travellers among us to really make the most of this time in your life, whether it is a temporary season or one that might stretch indefinitely ahead, learn in all seasons of life to view things positively. As humans we need ‘re-wiring’ as by default we seem to be wired to look at (or complain about) what we lack rather than being grateful for what we do have, even if what we have is a lesson or challenge. Perhaps we dwell upon aspects of loneliness or dreams of company rather than seeing the opportunity for spiritual growth, connection and self reflection and nurturing so that we can be better to the people in our lives. I am sure that there are many who would cherish a few precious moments to themselves that they just can’t seem to find in the busyness of their lives. So if you are able to take time out and reconnect with the deeper things in life, see it as an opportunity, one which so many others would love to have….alone doesn’t have to mean lonely, so find a way to thrive in your solitude if you are a solo traveller, or single through the journey of life just now. xx

(c).

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“Travelling Teaches You” (5)

Travelling teaches you  the importance of connection, and of non-verbal communication. 

On a basic level, when you’re in a country in which you are unfamiliar with the language, a phrase-book and basic preparation can only take you so far. Many of us take it for granted that someone we meet will speak English, however, even if they do, that doesn’t mean that they will understand your accent, meaning or dialect and vice versa. 

Somehow we find a way, and practically speaking, we find other ways of communicating in order to realise our basic needs ~ perhaps one may point, gesture, use facial expressions and / or other non-verbal cues. (As a side note, I am aware, and admit that I speak with a lack of knowledge of how people with sensory impairments manage such challenges, and I apologise for that fact, and welcome any of your insights). 

However, communication as a human being goes beyond getting basic needs and wants met. Integral to our humanity is the need for connection with other people, on a deeper level than that of the content of our conversations. And sometimes travelling teaches us this in a way that is unique to any other experience. Travelling teaches us, that as important as language is, we share the ability to connect and communicate as human beings even when words are not spoken or understood. We find a depth and a richness to things that we may have previously taken for granted, such as eye contact, a gentle touch, a gesture of kindness, or even silently enjoying a shared experience (such as watching a beautiful sunset) with a stranger, with whom there is no other means to communicate, other than with the heart.

Travelling teaches you the innate communication of humanity, of shared existence and that we all are Created by the same Hand, and can share the deepest communication by simply being, and ‘speaking’ with the heart. (c). 

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