Today I am in my own flat again having had to come back here for work reasons. I am blessed to know that soon enough I’ll be back with my family, God-willing.
The sun is shining and I have a beautiful view. I’ve eaten breakfast and have had a shower and a bath and have got ready and am cosy on my couch watching the world go by from my 10th floor window.
I know that I’m not alone in being among others for whom enjoying the things around us isn’t as straightforward as it might outwardly seem. Sometimes our minds and our subconscious can be a difficult place to contend with. We might be feeling constant anxiety and unease and be battling with difficult thoughts as we try to make it through the day.
If that’s how you feel, know that you’re not alone. It can sometimes seem that the people around us are doing just fine but truth be told we all go through different phases of mental wellbeing or otherwise and some have a more challenging time than others.
I just want you to know that you’re not alone. Sometimes we just have to accept the process that we’re in and take the next steps to make progress. Being in a pandemic might be highlighting issues that are already there or it might be creating new issues in some of our brains and minds. It’s important for you to know that you’re not the only one facing mental health challenges if you are going through something.
You are not alone. Other people are experiencing things just like you are in your mind, only you can’t see it. That’s ok.
There is help out there so please look for it or ask someone.
Get sleep, eat well, keep in contact, distract yourself and have a routine.
Be aware of your waking thoughts and reframe them.
Look for the positives in today and be gentle with yourself. This too will pass.
I hope and pray that things go well with you my friends.
I am learning more about Trust in this season. As we continue to venture through this pandemic and through life, we face uncertainties within and without. I am learning to trust more in The LORD Jesus Christ and Who He says He Is and that He hears and answers prayers. Sometimes we might be sitting in an answered prayer and barely recognise it. Perhaps we are experiencing restored relationships and times of togetherness that might not have seemed within our reach some time back. Maybe we are experiencing more of a quietness in our circumstances. Do we recognise that the Hand of The Almighty Jesus Christ could be in this? I pray day and night for those I love especially my closest family. I can see God’s Hand at work in our lives and yet I am still waiting on Him to answer certain prayers and so I continue to pray day and night. In times of trial and testing I felt for a while that I was trying to convince God to answer my prayers but He has been at work in my heart and mind and perhaps He Is at work in you too. I wonder if there are good reasons for delays in the answers to our prayers or those that we see and that we need to learn to more fully trust.
More recently I know and am convinced that The God I pray to The Father of our LORD Jesus Christ Is a Good, Good Father with Whom there is no shadow of turning. He Is Pure and His mercy and love endures forever. When we pray He hears but sometimes we have to persist in prayer and in trust.
What are you trusting in during these difficult days? Many people have a warped view of God because of the broken world we live in and because we are also in a spiritual battle and we have heard all sorts of wrong things about God. We also don’t like the gospel of Jesus Christ because it means that we have to come face to face with ourselves. We are not as we were meant to be.
What were we meant to be, and what are our lives being renewed by Him pointing towards? Maybe you can think of a time as a little child (and my heart goes out to you if you can’t) when a parent or loving role model embraced you and you enjoyed being held close to them and talking freely with them, nestling into their loving embrace. We are made to live freely with God, walking and talking with Him without fear. Our hearts and souls were made for Him.
It is the brokenness of our lives, marred by sin and by the brokenness of this world that keeps us from this perfect union and loving relationship. Maybe in this pandemic you are experiencing times of longing knowing that the things you are filling up your day with don’t really satisfy you deep down. The Bible talks of Jesus as the ‘Bread of Life’ and the ‘Water of Life’ the only one Who can quench the thirst of our souls. I have certainly found this to be true, but even though I am born again and indwelt by the Spirit supernaturally, I am still being renewed and set free and there are still broken parts to be healed but God Is with me as He Is with all of His born again children.
If you are a parent you can only begin to imagine the deep love of Father God for us, for you. It is hard for people to make sense of the Cross in their minds sometimes because it means admitting that we are broken and fallen and we are sinners in need of the amazing Grace of Christ’s forgiveness which He freely gives with arms wide open. That Is His Love for you. And it is a free gift. All we need to do is recognise we need forgiveness, and ask Him from the heart, believing in Who He Is and say ‘Lord Jesus, I recognise I am a sinner, and ask for your forgiveness and I trust myself to You’.
He took the punishment of all your wrongdoings so that you don’t have to. ‘Call upon The Name of The Lord and be saved’. You don’t have to fully understand it, you just need to trust. That The Cross is the only way to renewed relationship with God so that we can once again sit with Him in that loving embrace, knowing that His are the eyes that are always upon us, keeping us as the apple of His eye when we are longing for someone to notice us, to know that we are Loved and not alone.
Will you return to Him today? Will you trust Him? Life is short and God wants all to be safely with Him in this life and the life to come, but the Cross is The only way. Jesus faced judgement so that we can escape from that judgement but we must choose to turn back to Him and His grace reaches for us in deep, pure love every moment of every day.
This is why I pray for those I love and for you dear ones:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.
He sent His Son for you. He loves you. And no matter what your need He Is here right now listening for your call, waiting for you to turn back to the Loving embrace of The One True Living God Who cares for you and Whose Perfect Love casts out all fear.
Can you recognise His answers in your life today even if not everything is just as you wish, can you see how He has already been at work? Will you take a moment to thank Him, to trust Him, trust Him for today and trust Him by simply calling on the Name of The Lord Jesus for forgiveness and knowing that you will be eternally safe with Him and also know that if you do even in this life you will have His Love and Presence with you, helping you every step of the way.
Loving Father I entrust my dear readers with all their cares and concerns to You and in trust I entrust their salvation to you that they would by the Loving drawing of Your Holy Spirit turn back to you and trust you to forgive them, wipe them clean and give them a new life, a hope and a future and an eternity of love safe with you. In Jesus Holy Name I pray, Amen.
There’s no doubt about it, life can be tough sometimes. Perhaps you’re reading my blog series on self care in a pandemic precisely because you are finding things challenging and need some comfort, encouragement, advice and guidance.
When our thoughts, emotions and brokenness inside feel too much we can sometimes allow ourselves to give up on doing things that are actually good for us. Things such as eating well, taking exercise, getting fresh air, sleeping, getting showered and dressed in the morning and connecting with other people. For Christians it is essential that we stay ‘abiding’ in Christ as He teaches us, as He Is The True Source of Pure and Eternal Life, not just existence but radiant refreshing Love and Life that gives life to our souls, and a Love that holds us through the storms. Apart from Him we can do nothing (of true and lasting spiritual and eternal value) and we become like withered branches whereas by drinking from the Source of pure life we are able to bear spiritual fruit even in difficult seasons. We do this by spending time with Jesus and feeding on the Word of God and relying on the Holy Spirit to make us alive to The Living Word, and change us from the inside out (even if at times this means a difficult ‘pruning’ away of the bad bits so that He can fill us with His Spirit and heal us).
There are things we know are good for us whether on a physical and / or a spiritual level and sometimes we may allow these to slip when we are struggling or feeling burdened by life or by our own thoughts, feelings, inner wounds and traumas.
Maybe you know it is good to do a certain thing but it feels like you are sinking. If that’s where you are at, please just keep at it. Easier said than done, I know, but even if you just do a little bit at a time then you will be doing something good for yourself.
If you are struggling with your mental health just now, keep at it. Keep reading my blog, even if just a little at a time. Keep drinking water, even if a little at a time. Keep in touch with people, even if a little at a time. Keep feeding your mind on good things, and positive messages and affirming your worth as a human being, even if a little at a time. I know this isn’t easy. Even this morning I had traumatic images and words coming into my mind and I have to allow God to heal me bit by bit in His perfect way and timing. And I also have a part to play in renewing my mind. We may not be where we want to be just now but perhaps we have already come a long way. If damage was done to your mind and personhood over several years or even decades or even if just in an instant and that deeply affected you then it may take a bit of time and consistent effort to create new positive tracks of thought, neural pathways and physical reactions. I can rest in knowing God Is in control and can bring His Beauty from the ashes of this world and the things that happen to us in life. Sometimes things take time, recovery takes time, and just making it through the day well or making it through this pandemic season will take time.
Don’t despair, don’t lose heart, don’t feel that because you can’t do it all just now it’s not worth it. Keep at it friends. Little by little, bit by bit, moment by moment, day by day.
Do something kind for yourself or for someone else. Don’t stop taking those steps forwards, don’t stop believing, and even if you can’t make it all the way through a task, at least you tried and did a little bit. That’s important. One more step along the world I go….
With much love, and praying for you to have strength to keep moving forwards today. x
Happy 1st of March 2021, dear friends. It’s a new month and a chance to take stock once more and to dig deep and find some new resolve. To look up with faith and trust and to remind ourselves that we just need to live one moment at a time.
Whether today finds you rejoicing or struggling with life, know and be reminded that you are valuable and that you matter. That you have it in you to take that next step. Whether or not you’ve got through February in a way that you are pleased with or not, know that you have the chance to begin again, today.
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, go gently forwards and remember always that you are not alone.
I know of friends who are looking for new jobs in the pandemic. I know of people who have started new courses. I know of people whose marriages have sadly come to an end, not caused by the pandemic, but coinciding with it. I know of people who have been trying to have a baby for years and have at last become pregnant. I know of people, friends that are a few decades older than me, whose adult children are considering what to do next whether that is to do a college or university course, or are looking for a new job or their first job. I know of people who have embarked upon a new relationship, and are trying to figure out whether to continue or not. I know of people who are working on overcoming mental health challenges, and who are putting their minds to the day to day things of life. There are people, all of us, who are in a variety of situations in this pandemic, some good, some bad, some difficult, some easier. There are people who are starting things for the first time, there are people who are having to begin again. Some people have become homeless in this pandemic for a variety of reasons. Many people are in situations where they feel they are having to ‘start from scratch’.
Perhaps you are one of those people. Maybe you are not starting from scratch in such a way but maybe you’re not sure what’s next. Maybe you need a job or are wondering about whether to start a course. Be encouraged that that’s ok, even if you don’t know what’s next or haven’t made it to where you want to be. There are several areas of my life where I don’t know what’s next or have any idea of how to get there, but I remind myself that God has led me through so many unknowns and challenges already and I can start on my knees, with prayer to Him, Jesus Christ, The Living God.
I, like you, can also start from right where I am right now. You may not be rebuilding your life from some terrible tragedy, but be encouraged that there are people who have, and that you can take the next step of life, your life from where you are right now, even if it is the smallest of steps of faith. In her book, ‘Things Get Better’, Katie Piper talks about how she had to rebuild her life from rock bottom after rape and acid attacks and then being in a coma and being scarred and burned and disfigured. She faced fear, anxiety, PTSD and many, many medical operations. She was given the prognosis that she would be homebound and reliant on full time care. Now she is living independently, is a writer, a TV presenter, an activist, has a charity for burns survivors, is married and has two little daughters and helps so many other people. Initially after her attack she just wanted to die and it seemed there was no hope for her. She is also a Christian, having encountered The Living God in that hospital bed keeping her alive, and her faith has grown as she reaches out to others, and has podcasts on mental health and also shares her faith now as a presenter on the UK television programme ‘Songs of Praise’. You might look at that and listen to that story and think ‘wow’, ‘how did she do it?’. In her book she describes how she set the smallest of goals for herself on a day to day basis, such as ‘holding down a meal’. Things that most of us probably take for granted. She really was at rock bottom and needed help with surgeries, feeding tubes, psychological support and many other intensive care treatments. Maybe we’ve had something in our life that we can relate to in some way, but the chances are most of us haven’t gone through that extent of suffering. We’ve all overcome different things in our lives, some more than others, and perhaps some of you have gone through extremes yourself. We can’t compare, but we can be encouraged and inspired.
What is it you are facing today? You can start today. Do you need to find a job? Well, take what is in front of you, ask help from Above, and take the next step. You have a resourceful mind and you *can* take the next step. Is it getting to grips with homeschooling your child or children? You have it in you to learn to be more adaptable, to be more patient and to figure out a way forwards. Is it overcoming mental health or physical challenges? Maybe everything won’t suddenly get better, but you can make progress, you can keep going, you can take the next step and you can start from today.
Don’t be discouraged. Look up and look around at the examples of hope and courage and be reminded that making progress takes one small step at a time. You can take the initiative from where you are starting from today. Don’t compare, don’t be afraid, but take that next step of faith. x
We’re all dealing with different and unique circumstances in this pandemic, yet we all need little things to look forward to. It helps us to keep going.
You might be thinking, well what on earth can I look forward to when I’m ‘stuck inside’ day after day, or if I’m working on the front line day after day, night after night?!
If that’s how you’re feeling, it’s understandable, but it’s not unchangeable. Try to take a deep breath, take a step back from your circumstances and reframe your thoughts.
We can all plan little things to look forward to that will help to give us a bit of mental and emotional ‘space’ and relaxation. We can try to make the small things more special as we learn to savour our experience of them. Yes, it’s hard to live like that all the time, we all get stressed and anxious and wound up, but we can begin to build things into our day to day lives that can help to ease the emotional and mental pressure we might be feeling.
What little things can you and I look forward to? They can be simple and even seemingly mundane to other people, but they can be special moments in our day depending on how we look at things.
You could look forward to a freshly made bed, and tidying up your room a bit.
You could look forward to planning a new art or craft project.
You could look forward to a virtual summer holiday or spring break when you choose a place in the world that you are interested in and find out some facts about that place, read books, watch films and eat food or do activities at home that are linked to that country if you can.
You can plan a catch up with a friend online or on the phone.
You can look forward to making a nice meal.
You can look forward to a film night at home.
You can look forward to quiet times in which you can pray, meditate and read.
You can look forward to slowing down and making a cup of tea or coffee and finding a quiet spot in your home to enjoy it.
You can look forward to setting time aside to journal, or to talk to your loved ones.
You can look forward to finishing up work at the end of the day and planning something nice to do for yourself such as some self care activities, a nice warm bath, listening to relaxing music.
You can look forward to doing something for someone else whether that be giving to charity, making a gift for a loved one, or reaching out to a friend in need.
You can look forward to picking your outfit for the day and making an effort to get ready.
You can look forward to taking a shower, or going for a walk or doing something that will help you appreciate the moment.
You can look forward to curling up with a good book.
You can look forward to rearranging your room or some of your home decor.
You can look forward to times spent with a new (or old) hobby.
You can look forward to times when you are able to get fresh air.
You can look forward to writing down your thoughts, creative journaling, perhaps to going to online church on a Sunday if you are inclined to do so.
You can look forward to hugs if you have people around you, or to connecting virtually with someone if you don’t.
You can look forward to getting a grocery order and making a delicious meal or even enjoying something quick and easy that you can put in the microwave.
There are so many things that we can factor into our day to day lives that will lift our focus to help us to appreciate all of the little things that we tend to take for granted. We can also choose to make our living spaces more cosy if that is possible. Even some inexpensive ‘fairy lights’ / LED lights can make our atmosphere at home seem that little bit more cosy and special, despite whatever else might be going on. We don’t need to travel far and distant places or have a lot of people in our life, or spend a lot of money to have things to look forward to. We can take the time and make the effort to appreciate what we already have, to choose to look forward to these special things, and to enjoy them along the way, despite whatever other difficult circumstances we may be facing in this pandemic. And all the while we can choose to be grateful for the health and wellbeing and life that we do have today. x
Perhaps life, the pandemic, your experiences have put you in a psychological box and kept you ‘stuck’ within what you think is the realm of possibility.
However, as someone coming through on the other side of complex PTSD, I am living proof that there can be psychological crossing points in our life, where after we have suffered, and pressed through, we can come out stronger and wiser on the other side.
What challenges are you facing today? Particularly what psychological bridges do you need to cross? Will you take that journey? Will you believe that you can cross over to the other side? It may be tough going at times and it may be psychologically gruelling but you are strong enough and if you persevere you may find a brighter day ahead, new avenues of thought and freedom.
If you are at a psychological bridge in your mind, know that persevering, pushing through, keeping on going through the strain and the pain will lead you to somewhere new and you will not be the same. We can’t go through such psychological shifts and remain unchanged even if it takes time for us to see that change and even if on the surface it seems that nothing has changed at all.
If you are in lockdown, it may on the surface seem like you are repeating the same habitual patterns over and over again, day after day. You wake up, you go through whatever morning routine you go through, you eat, work, play, sleep and repeat and your days on the surface vary little from one day to the next. But what makes you different from other people who do the same or similar things and stay ‘stuck’ mentally? Maybe on the surface not much has changed, but are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind? Are you allowing your mindset change and in doing so you change the way you see, experience and appreciate the things around you, things that would otherwise seem ‘ordinary’, ‘mundane’ and ‘commonplace’?
A lot of life is spent in normal times in our fast paced societies running away from things, running to the next thing, filling up our minds with information, distractions, escapism. In lockdown perhaps we’ve spent time with escapism and distraction and while at times these can have a helpful place, such as if we need for our own mental health to distract ourselves, living like that is unsustainable. Moreover, we’ll get bored of it after a while. We can’t live life if we’re always running away from it, or from ourselves. Maybe you’ve been there pre-pandemic times. Maybe your and my constant ‘running’ or escapism has led to breakdowns or burnouts or psychological fatigue at various points.
What if we were to cross some psychological bridges as we make our way slowly and carefully through this pandemic? Perhaps in less time than we anticipate it our societies will be back to more of what we were used to as ‘normal’ and staying at home will seem like a distant memory in time. Maybe then we will long for the extended periods at home that we are having to go through now. So, will we use this time well? Will we take time instead of being dissatisfied to cultivate gratitude? Will we learn and train our minds to be thankful and to see the beauty and the life in the everyday?
Will we cross other psychological bridges that we have needed to for so long now? Don’t waste this time that you have right now, your mind may lead you to some new destinations where you can see your life with greater depth, clarity and gratitude. Cross that bridge. Begin today. 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
Hi friends, I must admit that the mornings here in Scotland are getting a bit challenging for me to deal with at the moment. I’m not sure if the sun is shining in your part of the world, but where I am the sky is a big grey sheet and it is drizzling with rain. Trees are bare branched and there is a bit of a wind whistling through them. I and many others are probably longing for spring and a bit of sunshine (when hopefully the general population won’t go crazy and be irresponsible with going outside or forgetting about social distancing…but that’s for another chapter!).
Whatever the weather is like where you are, it is part of the human condition to sometimes struggle with focusing on the things that our bodies, minds and hearts experience that might get us down. We need to have a plan in place for times like that and the more we can implement better thought habits the better we will be for it through the course of our lives.
My sleep was a bit unsettled, I woke up with unsettling feelings and thoughts inside, and then I woke up to grey skies and a ‘dreich’ day as the Scots say. I knew that I had to get out of my head a bit and so I opened the patio door and got some fresh air on my face. I could see and hear birds, and even saw a fox running behind our garden fence! I appreciate these things having lived the first part of lockdown 1.0 on my own in a tall flat with no garden space or balcony!
It did me good to get some fresh air, but I still felt unsettled. I had breakfast and did some exercise, all the while building up on the new and more helpful thought patterns and neural pathways. This can be effortful at times. We can forget to breathe. We can get lost in the tangle of unsettling thoughts and feelings. We can become overwhelmed and stay stuck focusing on the wrong things. Memories and impressions arose in my mind. Perhaps they do for you, and not particularly the ones you want to remember. Sometimes we want to ‘swat’ them away. Yet there is power in learning to sit with those difficult thoughts and feelings safe in the knowledge that we are not our thoughts, and they will not last.
If you are struggling with things today, be aware of what you are allowing yourself to focus on. As I said in an earlier post, it is normal to have ups and downs, but sometimes those difficult spells can feel really hard to us. That’s why we need Help from Above, and we also need practical tools and strategies.
So whatever it is you are finding yourself focusing on, if it is a negative thing that is, sit with it for a moment, take a deep breath and try to reframe your thought into focusing on something else more positive and productive. The fact that you have read this far in my somewhat rambling blog post is a positive thing in itself! 🙂
Keep moving, feel your feelings, externalise them in some safe way if that helps such as journaling or chatting to a friend, or praying through them to God. Remind yourself that you are not your thoughts and feelings, and that they will pass.
Think of something more positive to turn your attention to and do that for a while. It takes time. We can feel destabilised and discouraged when we feel these difficult things as if we are those things but we are not. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are valuable. And there is an important reason we are here today and we all have a purpose. If you don’t know your purpose, I have written a post about that and finding it in the very things that are right in front of us. You can find a purpose for the next five minutes, and the next, and the next and going on from that….so just focus on the next step on those difficult days.
Remind yourself also that it takes time and practice for all of us to make new neural connections, and trains of thought and patterns of behaviour as our brains readjust from negative thought patterns, experiences and beliefs that we may have been used to or conditioned by for many years. But we can make a change and each small step is important.
There are a couple of verses in Christian Scripture that help me and encourage me with this: ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2) and ‘You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make /set you Free’ (said by Jesus Christ Who also comforts us by showing us that He Is The Way, The Truth and The Life). John 8:32, John 14:6.
We can be free. And even with everything going on in your life today, you can make progress. If you are in a ‘slough of despond’, if you feel like you have fallen down a metaphorical well and don’t know how to get out, don’t let the darkness overtake you, don’t look down at the ground, don’t stay stuck in your difficult thoughts and feelings – instead, like an intrepid explorer find that spark within you that says ‘keep going’, ‘you can do this’ and like a curious child, look for the solution to a puzzle that can be solved. Look up to the light streaming in that otherwise darkened well, look for the foot and hand holds on the side and begin, one small effort at at time to climb up. You CAN do this.
We will speak again soon, friends. If you are doing well, keep going. If you are doing very well, reach a hand out to help someone else. If you are feeling stuck, you can make progress. Just do that next one thing, and be aware of what you choose to focus on. It’s ok to feel those tough feelings, to sit with them a while, to process them, to responsibly vent them without hurting anyone else, to be creative about it, but don’t stay in that place all day. Focus on something new. Do the next thing. And never give up. x
We’ve talked previously about turning our goals into habits to help us keep on track throughout this pandemic and especially in long and extended periods of lockdown like some of us are in just now.
But what about when all of that still seems too much? We’ve broken things down into small manageable parts so that we can persevere in doing what we want to rather than sinking into a ‘slough of despond’ but sometimes even that seems a bit too much.
It can be difficult to find our way forwards even with some kind of structure and plan, especially if we are feeling overwhelmed or we have pre-existing mental health conditions that might draw us to turning inwards and getting lost within our own thoughts and potentially difficult emotions.
So, try this when you’re feeling that way. Imagine drawing a box in front of you, or perhaps not a box as such but a rectangle like you might see in a children’s chalk outline of a game of ‘hop scotch’ on the pavement. Think of that rectangle as a neat contained space for the next five minutes. Doesn’t that make it a bit easier to take the next step (or ‘hop’ 🙂 )?
Think of something outside of your mind to do and know that you only need to deal with the next five minutes or the next step at any given time. Even when things seem overwhelming and thoughts of past or future depress or unsettle you, the next five minutes doesn’t seem so unsurmountable does it?
I know that it can be hard and I don’t deny you the difficult things you may be feeling or going through, I have struggles too, but I find that these little techniques can get me out of a slump or can help keep me from falling into one. And when you’ve taken that step in that contained five minutes, you can take the next one, and with a hop, skip and a jump, you might just find that you actually begin to enjoy the process!
Stay safe and well friends, and we’ll continue soon through this journey of encouragement and self care as we make progress through this pandemic. x