This year sure has had far reaching consequences. Something unseen to the human eye, a virus, has caused devastation far and wide. There is debate as to the causal factor that started the initial spread of the virus, but whatever you are lead to believe on that count, I am sure most people would agree that it could have been caused by one small act.
Just as devastation and destruction can be far reaching and have consequences impacting the whole globe, let us have faith and believe that small acts of kindness and love can also have far reaching consequences. Whether or not they impact people across the world we may never know, but they could change the day or life of one person.
Has anyone ever shown you a kindness that you did not expect? Didn’t it make you feel more hopeful and like passing it forwards?
In these difficult days, let us be the people that hold forth hope with Acts of Random Kindness – ARKs that offer some shelter and respite from the storms and flood waters of life.
How can you take this thought and pass it on?
Let’s once again ‘brainstorm’ some ideas together and if you wish to share some kindness here, please comment below so that someone perhaps in another part of the world can take forward your idea and inspiration and touch the life of someone else.
What can you do?
– You could write an encouraging blog post of your own.
-You could get in touch with someone who is lonely.
-You could send a letterbox gift (if it is safe to do so) to someone who might need the encouragement.
-You could offer to pay for a friend’s grocery shopping.
-You could offer your skills and talents for free for example to a local business that is struggling by setting up a website for them.
-You could donate to a charity, foodbank or raise money yourself for a good cause.
-You could do so many things, many of which I can’t think of right now – but if you want to inspire me or others, then please comment below.
Let us shelter each other in our ARKs and help each other sail safely through the storms of this pandemic. x
This has been one of the strangest of years many of us have lived through in terms of world events. While many among us have faced our own challenging times previously in terms of our personal life journey, I’m too young to be able to remember anything quite like this pandemic that reached into every part of the globe. The older generation that lived through the second world war, will have many more stories to tell and the things they faced were probably far more frightening than what we are facing today, but nevertheless 2020 has been quite a year for us all in terms of the pandemic!
It’s been a year that has prompted us to make changes, slow down, speed up, take action and think more deeply. One of the things we may have been made to think more deeply about is our friendships, relationships and the company we keep.
As someone who is not white, and who has suffered from racism in my earlier years particularly as well as sporadically in adulthood, the issues that came to fore with some of the BLM movements opened my eyes to the sheer lack of awareness of racism among those brought up with privilege, as well as ongoing prejudices. I’m aware that some friends sought to become allies. Other people let go of former friendships or loosened ties with certain people whose opinions were brought to light as prejudicial and unacceptable.
All of that aside, 2020 may have also prompted us to look at the deeper things of life and whether our close connections are meaningful or detrimental or toxic in some way. I’m blessed to have many good friends, but even then I realised that some of them are wrapped up in their own lives and could not begin to understand what it was like to live alone in a pandemic for several months. I also realised that as an empathetic person some of my friends take advantage of me and use that side of my nature, perhaps not intentionally but they do it nonetheless, without asking if I’m ok but just taking advantage of my kind and caring nature.
Going forwards, I find myself asking where I should be spending my time and which people to focus on in terms of building relationships. Sometimes friendships just drift apart because of different life stages although this is not always the case. For several years I’ve been the friend showing up to my other friends’ occasions from engagements, weddings, baby showers, births, birthdays, children’s parties and so forth (and I’ve had none of these occasions myself, other than birthdays, and no one ever thinks of celebrating or acknowledging their single friends in such a way). I’ve been a very giving person but at times feeling like I’m on the sidelines of my own life it has caused hurt, emotional fatigue, pain and burnout. Not to say that my friends haven’t been there for me through ups and downs, they have, but in this pandemic, many of them shared with me that they were really enjoying their lives and times with their families and just didn’t stop to think or really care what I might have been going through alone. Being alone (with God) strengthened me, but it also awakened me to rethink some of the dynamics of my friendships. There have been probably three or four key people outside of my family where from a distance we have been able to support and encourage each other and that has been a great help. Yet, it does lead me to think and ask you whether it is a good time to consider our connections, going forward and as we approach 2021?
Friendship dynamics change:
Friendships, true friendships are a blessing. They also take work and commitment and effort on the part of both parties. Sometimes friendships change as life changes or as we change. Rarer still are those friendships that last a lifetime through different seasons of life and through the ups and downs.
So, how do we know whether to hold on or to let go?
I find myself considering whether a friendship is one in which I am able to encourage someone to think about or draw closer to Christ, one in which we are able to mutually encourage each other in our faith, or where we believe different things, one in which we can enjoy fun, share our thoughts and build each other up in some way and share life (even if socially distanced).
If a friendship is toxic, then am I able to provide a good influence, or is that person simply dragging me down? Am I being taken for granted or made to feel miserable? We may not always be meant to let go of people, but perhaps we should be lessening the time we spend with certain people, and reconsidering our boundaries. Even when a friend is not a toxic person, perhaps something in their life triggers something in ours. Maybe they are always talking about or sharing something good in their life that makes us feel sidelined, overshadowed or alone – maybe they share their struggles and overburden us just because they can and we are good listeners.
As we approach 2021 we need to find a healthy or healthier balance between nurturing our friendships and relationships and taking care of our own wellbeing.
Sometimes this will mean considering whether to reassess our boundaries, let certain toxic people go, or move on. It may involve putting in more effort to strengthen bonds, to exercise forgiveness, commitment, love and compassion or to open up conversations to the ‘blind spots’ they or we may have and to seek to make things better. It may even mean taking a bold step to reconnect with or apologise to someone we have lost touch with or hurt or to forgive someone who has hurt us.
Where do you find yourself at the end of this year?
Has the pandemic affected your relationships or highlighted a need for change, for forgiveness, reconciliation or for stronger boundaries?
I hope you take your time and act from the heart with love, forgiveness, and wisdom and take care not only of the people in your life, but of you as well.
It’s been a few days (or is it weeks, I’m not sure? It’s hard to keep up with things in a pandemic!) since I last wrote in this Self Care in a Pandemic series.
The world has changed a bit since the last instalment, that’s for sure! I imagine that no matter what country you’re reading this from, there will be something or other in 2020’s news that challenges you. Perhaps one of the most reported on news stories of the day is that of the American election results (you know, the episode in which Joe Biden won over Donald Trump).
Take a step back and examine your reaction to that, if you had one. And now, breathe a sigh of relief as I reassure you that that’s all I am going to say on the matter because I know that there are a lot of strong feelings on both sides, and that there will be various responses from people in different parts of the world as well as on different parts of the political spectrum in America. I’m writing this from the United Kingdom, by the way, but it’s still a big story here. But I’m drawing a line, or a box around the topic, and putting a full stop right here, and moving on to the topic of my blog post.
Why? Because the topic of my post is on boundaries and particularly how they can help us manage self care in a pandemic.
Boundaries can help you to guard your heart:
When we are able to practice the fine art (and it does take practice, perhaps with constant learning over a life time, depending on the people and circumstances and states of mind and emotions that we come in contact with and experience!) of setting healthy boundaries, we may be better able to navigate our way through stressful or uncertain situations.
2020 has definitely been a year of global stress, challenge and uncertainty on a number of fronts.
What we’re thinking about at the moment is how things affect you. These ‘things’ whatever they may be, may have something to do with the pandemic, the challenges of 2020, or may be things that you have been dealing with before all of this.
Without healthy boundary settings in our lives, it probably won’t be too long before we become undesirably familiar with some or all of the following words and realities in our lives:
Burnout; anxiety; depression; fatigue; stress; worry; ill health; compassion fatigue; feeling used; fear; loss of control; mental illness; resentment; trauma; overwhelm….and so the list goes on.
Can anyone relate to this? I certainly can, and it’s not just because I’ve experienced trauma and anxiety and depression and challenging circumstance in my life. Say for example, I had never encountered any such challenges, I would probably still be able to tick off a fair few of those words in my experience. One of the reasons for this is that I am a naturally compassionate and empathetic person, and there have been times in my life where I have put other people first in many different situations to the detriment of my own wellbeing. For example, always showing up for friends, or being the shoulder to cry on, or being there to cheer them on and support them while they celebrated great things happening in their life that weren’t happening for me. I was the friend who was always there, and I was that friend even during times of severe depression, complex PTSD, anxiety, weakness and so forth. On top of that, sometimes life circumstances may challenge us even if they are not hitting us ‘hard’. Maybe you’ve had a terrible job or family situation, but even if you have not, the daily stressors of life can all add up and the drip, drip, drip of a life lived without stepping back and examining our boundaries can lead to burnout too.
So let me ask you a few questions for you to take a bit of time to ponder. It may be difficult for you to work through these but sometimes that’s where the path to wellbeing starts – with challenging things we’ve simply accepted or things that have been heaped upon us by others.
Healthy boundaries, especially in a time of a global pandemic can relate to a variety of aspects of our lives, and if I miss any out that are particularly important to you, feel free to share in the comments.
Boundaries within the structure of your day:
Do you have a sense of structure in your day to day living through this pandemic? There is so much outwith our control, but there are things we can do for ourselves that will promote our wellbeing. With flexibility built in, do you have at least a loose idea of what your day may look like in terms of sleep patterns, healthy eating, exercise, how you spend your time, connections with work, friends, family and rest and time by yourself? These can change day to day and that’s fine, but if you feel that any or all of these are in a ‘free fall’ and are causing you great stress and anxiety, then perhaps it is time to think about setting yourself some fundamental self care boundaries.
Mental boundaries / information boundaries:
We are not machines. We can’t take in endless feeds of information and not be impacted by it. We don’t process all of this information in under a second, we need time, space and emotional energy to be able to take in, and process the information we are consuming day by day.
So my second question for you is are you allowing yourself mental boundaries in your daily living? Are you finding yourself so stressed out by the news and other information that you are consuming that it is impacting negatively upon your wellbeing? Of course, so much of what is going on in 2020 is overwhelming. But are you allowing things to encroach too much into your mind and life? Are you making any unhealthy choices for yourself? Do you watch, read, listen to or discuss the news more than you are able to properly handle? If so, can you decide to make more structured and healthy choices such as limiting your exposure to what is necessary and helpful and also making sure that you are filling your mind with positive things throughout the day? Are you giving yourself time and space to process your thoughts, feelings and emotions?
Do you have creative or other helpful outlets in your life that can help you maintain a better sense of wellbeing?
Connected to the above, a lot of the information we may be consuming may relate to the fact that while physical boundaries may be more apparent in our lives in a year in which physical distancing, lockdowns, restrictions and so forth have increasingly featured and served to separate us from each other in different ways, we are also faced with a perhaps at times ‘encroaching’ sense of so-called ‘connectedness’ with others. This can lead to a different kind of emotional and informational overload if we are not careful to set healthy boundaries.
For example, while technology can be a good servant, it can be a tough master, as some have said before. Are you finding it hard to keep up with commitments online whether for work, family or leisure? Are people more and more in your own space even though they are not physically there? Is it time for you to reassess what is healthy in this regard and to take a considered and thoughtful step back, even if for a time?
Do you have more emails, text messages, video calls and expectations than you can personally cope with? Do you feel stressed, guilty or overwhelmed by any of these?
As an empathetic person, I sometimes find that friends who I’ve known for ten or fifteen years may at times choose to contact me only when it suits them and then off load all their problems onto me, because I do care and want to be a good friend, but they don’t use the resources already available in their life. Do you ever find that yourself? Do emails appear in your inbox that are very one sided and that stress you out and as a ‘good friend’ you feel you need to be supportive? When someone is in crisis, then sure, do what you can, but try to help them in a way that is empowering for them and for you and that does not foster a detrimental dependence for either of you. If you are metaphorically drowning, then don’t allow someone to jump on your back and try to save them, or both of you will drown! I love to help and encourage people, and I’ve had times when I’ve been in ‘crisis’ and need, and been the weak one in a sense, but think carefully about the dynamics that are helping you and your friends move forward in your lives and those that might just be detrimental. Mutual respect and being brave enough to ask the right questions or voice our concerns can lead to stronger and longer lasting and more empowering friendships, so if there is something that is just ‘too much’ for you just now, try to figure out why and what more healthy choices and responses you can make for the good of yourself and for other people.
Sometimes the people in our lives aren’t in crisis, but they just get habituated into venting to us, and sharing only the negatives with us, even when they do have good things happening in their lives. They may not stop to ask how we’re doing, and don’t hesitate to pour out their ‘stuff’ onto us, when they may not need to. I have experienced this with friends in my life, who email just because they want to offload. I understand that it’s a hard time for people, but sometimes setting those healthy boundaries can be far better in the long run.
Do you relate to any of this? Do you need to set some boundaries in your relationships and friendships with people? Do you need to take a step back and think of a kind way of communicating, even if that is as simple as spacing out the time in which you respond to other people’s unhealthy or detrimental expectations of you, so that you can guard your own wellbeing and in the long run empower both yourself and others?
Think about the things you are physically consuming in your life: this might be, as discussed above, in terms of news, other people’s problems and other information sources, but it may also be to do with what you are eating, drinking, buying, spending your energy and time on, and so forth.
Feed your soul with Love, Grace and Truth and it will grow that little bit stronger even in the midst of adversity. Feed yourself with junk and your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing will suffer.
Do you need to think more about establishing healthy boundaries in your life?
Boundary setting can sometimes feel like a scary or negative thing. We don’t want to hurt other people, we feel we need to keep up with the news, we worry about the ‘what if’s’. But when we are able to take a considered approach to setting boundaries we can move in the direction of improved mental, physical, emotional and relational health.
When we feel better in ourselves because of healthy boundaries with ourselves and others and information, then we feel more energised and positive in our lives, even in challenging times. When we take care of our wellbeing, we are better able to take care of those we love, and be better friends in the long run to the people who matter to us. When we don’t overload ourselves, we can do our jobs better, or if we are in a tough situation job-wise, we can have clearer heads and hearts to begin to seek solutions.
Boundary setting is not a be all or end all to living well in this pandemic or in life. I believe we all need The LORD Jesus’ help and that’s another choice we have to make for ourselves, but when it comes to these accessible and practical things I’ve mentioned in this post, then we can move towards coping better, living better, and who knows even beginning to thrive in adversity.
There is so much out of our control, but let’s take a bit of time to think about what is in our control, to be graceful towards ourselves and our friends, family and loved ones, knowing that we’re all going through a year unlike most of us have experienced before on a global scale, and everyone has issues, some of which only they know about. Try to set healthy boundaries that will empower you to move through your days in a way that is good for you and that will also in the long run be good for those around you.
This is a lot to think about, so take your time over it if you are inclined to do so, ponder things in your heart, and be gentle with yourself as you make the necessary changes little by little, day by day.
Take care of yourselves, and sending you so much love, and prayers for brighter days ahead. Peace. ❤
On a much more light-hearted note from our previous self-reflection prompt, prompt number five will have you thinking about the good times.
5. What has made you laugh, smile, or find little pockets of happiness during quarantine / lockdown?
As difficult as this time may be for you (or you may not be finding it difficult, in which case that is great), we don’t want to go through 2020 with only or mainly negative thoughts about our experiences.
Which is why it is important to take time to think about and even note down the good times. Maybe you have found laughter to be therapeutic and a part and parcel of how you’ve got through these times, or perhaps you can’t initially think of any happy times.
If you can think of a lot of things, that is wonderful – take a moment to note them down so that you can look back on them positively in the future and remember the things that brought happiness to you in otherwise difficult times for the world.
If you are struggling to think of anything, start small.
Did you watch a video clip that made you smile or laugh?
Did a friend or family member say or do something to cheer you up?
Did you find solace in hobbies or creative pursuits or projects that helped refocus your mind on more positive things?
Did you see a bird in flight, a beautiful flower, a rainbow or a sunrise that touched your heart?
Did you feel the cool breeze on your skin when you went out for a walk?
Did you wake up in the morning without being in pain and looking forward to the day ahead?
Did you enjoy simple pleasures such as a phone call with a friend, helping someone else, some tasty food or a good film?
However negative you might initially feel when you think of 2020 so far, there is bound to be at least some small moment of happiness or hope in your life. It might not even directly be from your own life, but something you can appreciate as having observed such as community spirit, colourful pictures that children have drawn and put up in their windows to encourage other people, the applause people have shown for front line and key workers.
Can you think of anything? If you can, take a few moments to write it down. Sometimes the very act of documenting these seemingly ‘small’ moments can do wonders for our mental and emotional health as we acknowledge, remember, engage with them and treasure them as things we can be grateful for.
This in turn will help you to help other people to find the happiness and hope in their day to day experiences, and to move forwards with increasing strength.
It’s not too late to start. The year is not over yet and even if you still feel very negatively about how things have been so far, it is not too late to reframe your thoughts and choose gratitude and appreciation as you move forwards.
If you’d like to encourage other people, please comment below with some of the positive things this year that might also uplift others.
Slowly but surely, we are beginning to emerge from what in some places around the world has been a complete lockdown due to the coronavirus.
Hopefully we are seeing some ‘green shoots’ of recovery, although the recovery process may well be far from linear, and a global journey of learning that needs to be taken carefully, wisely and cautiously for the sake of public health and wellbeing.
However, as certain restrictions are being relaxed in various places, and we begin to embark upon this ‘new normal’ that everyone keeps talking about (while none of us know exactly what this means or what it will look like), many people are beginning to reflect upon what they have learned during lockdown.
Perhaps this is something you have been thinking about too. The coronavirus, changes in society, and in our personal lives have all served to highlight that when striving towards what is good, we are better together.
That is why, as I embark upon considering some of the lessons I have learned, I’d like to bring you on the journey with me with prompts to help you reflect upon your own experiences and learning curves. Maybe you could grab a notebook or journal or even keep a note on your electronic device so that you can look back over these lessons as you move forwards, and get the most out of this reflective exercise.
To begin with, my first prompt is to pose the question:
What has been the most unchanging, steadfast and dependable aspect of your life that you have been able to cling to throughout these changing times? Conversely, if you don’t have an answer to that, then what had you been depending on before that turned out not to be so reliable, and what have you learned from that realisation?
My answer to this question is the Reality of God in my life has been the most unchanging, steadfast and dependable thing. I’ve had lots of ups and downs in my life before this, and found both then and now that when I couldn’t see a way forward, or when I didn’t have the strength to make it through, Jesus Christ Has never left me nor forsaken me and Is Faithful and Good and Loving and Powerful in any and all circumstances.
Now it’s your turn – take a few moments to reflect upon this question for yourself, and consider what you have learned and what you might need to change in your life going forwards. Write it down in your notebook, or in a document, or maybe do something creative so that you have a ‘look-back-book’ (I think I just coined a new phrase, lol) for what you have learned during this unique time in world history. Also, I’d be delighted if you wanted to share you answer or answers in the comments below so that I and others can learn from you too.
Feel free to follow my blog so that you can see when I post the next prompts in this interactive series. 🙂
We’ve all been living through a time of change and of readjustments. For some, such changes have been drastic and even life changing, for others the changes have been adapting to new routines and day to day restrictions.
And here we all are, once again, facing change as societies across the world venture into adapting to a ‘new normal’ and gradually or perhaps in some places more dramatically, moving forwards.
So, how do you feel about all of these major and minor adjustments in your own life? Has lockdown helped you to learn more about yourself and how you cope with and adapt to changes? Does the prospect of a ‘new normal’ feel daunting to you? Have you spent your time in a kind of hiatus and now are looking to re-engage with your life in more meaningful ways, yet don’t quite know how to go about it?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people have varying degrees of anxiety specifically about moving forwards with all of the societal changes we’ve been facing particularly around the coronavirus.
You might be facing challenges around your employment, you might have to physically leave your home and commute to get to your work and all these things can be quite daunting.
But those things aside, what about finding ways to keep moving forwards in your personal growth? Perhaps you have had more time to focus on such matters during lockdown, or perhaps things have been too busy that you have had to let such things take a back seat.
As you look to moving forwards, think of those small and simple steps that you can take to get back into things.
Maybe, like me, you had more pressing priorities during lockdown and you haven’t been able to blog for a while. Try taking the small step forwards of dipping your toe back into the water and writing a short post. And then keep going as and when you can.
Maybe you need to look after your body better after spending a long spell of time indoors. Start today with something manageable, a bit of exercise, even if 5 minutes is all you can manage, and build it up from there.
Do you feel like you’ve been disconnected from people and don’t know how to re-engage with society? Think about reaching out to a trusted friend, take that first step, ask how someone else is doing, and allow things to take shape in their own way and time, even if that means facing silence or rejection. At least you will have tried, and you can take some confidence from that to keep trying to take new steps.
Does going outside seem daunting? Start small. Plan a short walk, be prepared with all your health and safety measures and gradually ease yourself back into the outside world.
Do you feel like you’ve been overly preoccupied or worried with certain aspects of your life? Try to do something that will help your mind move in a more positive direction. Perhaps you could read a book, do a crossword, have a conversation with someone positive, do something you enjoy.
Do you find the thought of doing certain things daunting? Can you reach out to a friend and share those thoughts with them? Maybe they feel the same, and maybe you can mutually help each other face those changes together.
Wherever you are at, there is no doubt that things always feel more overwhelming when we try to tackle them all in one go. Instead of seeing the mountain before you as a challenge to conquer, see the mountain and just take that one next step. We each can only live one moment at a time, yet all of these little moments add up and shape our choices and the direction of our lives.
Has it been a while since you have prayed? Start now. Have you forgotten gratitude? Write down three things you are grateful for today. Have you found it difficult to blog and are struggling to know how to come back to things? Write a paragraph, post a picture, share the little that is in your hand today, knowing and believing that someone else may benefit from it. Life is full, but we have to participate. We have to reach up in faith to find what we are meant to do and be on this earth while we have the chance. I look up to Jesus everyday, for all the Fulness of Life, Love, Goodness and Truth Is found in Him. And He Who holds all things together, also cares about the tiniest of details. So start small, start in faith and see where those small beginnings might lead you. Perhaps on the adventure of your lifetime! x