Tag Archives: Faith

A Christmas (Blog) Story (1)

candle celebration christmas christmas decoration
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Well dear readers, friends, we’re finally here, and I’d like to wish you all a very happy December.

This is the time of the year when everyone seems to say “Can you believe it? December is here already, hasn’t this year gone by quickly?”. I personally don’t think it has, but it is a natural time of reflection when the seasons change and the calendar year comes to an end. We ask ourselves where the time has gone, and it is a chance to look back in reflection and also to look forwards in hope.

‘Blogmas’:

I’ve never done ‘Blogmas’ before, you know, posting a new blog post every day in the lead up to Christmas. I really like this idea and have often enjoyed stopping by different ‘vlogs’ on YouTube for ‘Vlogmas’.

It’s the 5th of December, so I’ve already missed the first few days, but it’s nice also to blog as we approach Christmas, without necessarily doing this every day. Just as I created my Winter Survival Guide series (my 50th and final post for that series will be coming soon!), I’d like to also blog regularly in December. I love the idea of reading your Christmas themed blog posts, and ‘blogmas’ posts, it is a cosy and comforting feeling.

However, as I contemplated using the term ‘blogmas’ in my title, I realised that it wasn’t really what my heart was going for. Which is why you can think of this as a Christmas blog story, as I like to focus on Christ being the centre of Christmas, rather than blogging or any other thing. It’s just a personal feeling I had for my own blog, but like I said I love all of your blogmas posts and will enjoy reading them. So, what instead….?

Advent:

Who doesn’t love an advent calendar? I have quite a fondness, even though I don’t have one myself, for those hand stitched patchwork style advent creations with hand stitched pockets. I think we all love the countdown to something special and exciting and worth celebrating.

For many of us, Advent signifies the first coming of Jesus Christ into the world, and the waiting and anticipation of those who lived during that time. Now as a Christian, I can approach Christmas reflecting back with gratitude for Christ’s first coming into the world, and looking forward in hope to His second coming for He will return again, and also celebrate the Christmas season knowing and experiencing personally that He Is Emmanuel – God with us – The One True and Living God, here, and now.

Advent is also a time of preparation, and I love this because as a Christian, preparing my heart for Christ is a daily thing, however at this time of the year it is a new and fresh opportunity to do this with other believers and also to know that the world around us is celebrating and anticipating and that this is an opportunity to share the Light, Love and Truth of Jesus Christ with all.

What are you waiting for?

As a Christian, I wait on God, and I live in the experience of His present love, forgiveness, peace, joy and truth. I wait, and yet I am also fulfilled.

What are you waiting for and preparing for at this time of year?

I look forward to sharing my journey, this year’s Christmas (blog) Story with you as I give you a glimpse into my thoughts, friendships, travels, holiday fun, faith, spirituality, home and lifestyle. I hope you will stay with me as we continue on to the next chapter, and as we hopefully approach what will be a “Merry Christmas for one and all”.

God bless. x

Use Your Voice…

Today I’m particularly thankful for Word Press as a blogging platform, where we can use our writing voice to connect with numerous people from across the world to share, inspire, encourage and motivate.

Why today in particular? Because following the onset of a sore throat, I have in fact ‘lost’ my voice. I’m hopeful I’ll get it back again, but it has prompted me to think of the ways in which we take for granted the things we can usually do. I have so many thoughts running through my head that I’d love to communicate with others in my life, or even to greet the people I meet in passing, and I didn’t even realise that I was ‘voiceless’ until I tried to express these thoughts verbally – and nothing came out.

Ah, the blessing of non-verbal communication! Smiles, hugs, gestures, facial expressions…and of course for all of us here on the ‘blogosphere’ – the written word!

I’ve always felt more able to express myself more persuasively through the written – rather than the spoken – word. I wonder if you can relate? Perhaps you’ve had experience of shyness, social anxiety, ‘brain fog’ when in company and conversation, or have had to overcome a stutter. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to find our voices elsewhere if we are limited in some other aspect of our lives in being able to communicate.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for people for whom all or most forms of communication are impaired or limited. Therefore, today I reflect upon my blessings of being able to communicate and share this gift of being able to connect with others and they with me.

I think of how powerful the written word is. But also of the potency of words spoken. How many of us have suffered from the wounds of words inflicted upon us in childhood? Even as adults they affect us, sometimes terribly. Scripture tells us that ‘life and death are in the power of the tongue’ and that although humanity has learned to steer ships and other vessels, to bridle horses, we cannot tame our own tongue! It steers the course of our life, and can have the power to set a forest on fire.

There are many ways in which we can use our voice. Perhaps blogging is your platform to share your ‘voice’ with the world – your thoughts, your ideas, your desire to advocate for change. Perhaps we can use our ‘voice’ to ‘speak up for’ the voiceless in society – for children, animals, for those who are oppressed and have no way to share their own thoughts and feelings about what is happening to them. We can use our voice, our words, written, spoken, and in other forms of expression to heal, to encourage, to help, to build up, to inspire, to comfort, to love, to share….

It’s good to be silent from time to time, and to take a moment to reflect upon how we are using the gifts we have to communicate with others. How will you use your ‘voice’ today?

alphabet close up communication conceptual
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Winter Survival Guide (45) ~ Reconnect.

It’s nearing the end of the year, and maybe we have let things slip in our friendships and relationships, and we didn’t even realise that it was happening.

Time just seems to have passed and somehow when thinking of the people we used to be closest to, we realise that we have lost touch, or lost a sense of that closeness.

Tried and True:

And while there are different seasons of closeness with different people, deep down we know that there are those ‘old faithfuls’, those ‘tried and true’ friendships haven’t so much grown cold as they have merely slipped by in the busy day to day dealings of our lives.

You know the friends I mean – those who you know will be delighted to hear from you and you from them, and that you will without fuss just pick up with each other once again. Those friendships are special, real gems in our lives, and we should nurture them as we are able.

So why not this wintertime, use the extra time you might have to get in contact with one of these old friends, or perhaps if there are a few of you, you could arrange a reunion and reconnect? Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to meet up face to face, perhaps because of commitments, distance and responsibilities, but wouldn’t it be nice to pick up the phone and talk to your old friend once again? Or maybe you could send them a thoughtful email or card, or gift, just to let them know that you are thinking of them and appreciate their friendship.

Forgiveness:

The ease and reassurance of such friendships is a joy in life. However, it is likely that as we go through life we have other meaningful, important and special friendships and relationships that are no less valued, but aren’t quite as easy to maintain for some reason or another. It could be that a valued friend is no longer as much a part of your life because of a fallout, disagreement, misunderstanding or a wrong on one or both of your sides. It could be ‘more complicated’ than that for a number of reasons only known to you and them.

Perhaps, in this season known for ‘Good will’ there may be an opportunity to reach out and extend the ‘olive branch’ of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace? Could this be the season where you are able to reconnect again rather than let another year go by regretting what you have lost with your friend, family member or loved one? Or maybe reconnecting isn’t an option in so far as it may not be good to keep in touch longer term, but maybe the right thing to do is to mend bridges, heal wounds, forgive and move on. Does anyone or anything come to mind for you as you read this? I know it may not be easy, but perhaps there is an opportunity there for you to think about so that you don’t live with the regret of not having reached out to them.

Depth:

Perhaps ‘reconnecting’ doesn’t so much mean getting in touch with someone you haven’t seen in a long time, as much as it means reconnecting and deepening existing relationships with people in your life right now. Maybe you have neglected an important relationship or the other person has neglected nurturing their relationship with you, and things have somehow just ‘drifted’ along through the ups and downs, highs and lows, and things needing done throughout the year.

Could this season be the opportunity for you to reconnect with someone on a deeper level? What would it take? Time, patience, love, communication, effort? Maybe there isn’t a brokenness or a breach in that the relationship is still intact, but could it be the case that there are wounds needing healed, or maybe you have just not been paying as much attention to each other, taking the friendship or relationship for granted? Having a little more time, which I hope you do this season, could be a really important step forward in nurturing those connections you already have to reconnect on a deeper level.

Yourself:

Maybe the person you need to reconnect with is yourself. Have you put yourself, your needs, values and wishes to one side as you’ve sought to please everyone else and get things done? I used to be this person to my friends, I always cheered them on, but oftentimes I felt like I was ‘on the outside’ of my own life, and this was painful, and left me feeling a brokenness inside. It is not healthy but sometimes we do get pushed aside even in our own lives because everyone else’s needs seem more pressing, more important, or more significant. If this is where you are right now, it’s important to make time for yourself, to take a step back, to reconnect and nurture yourself, because if you are not in a good place in yourself you will only feel drained and depleted when giving out to other people, however, as I have learned, the more we nurture ourselves, the more we can happily and more freely give to others from a place of love, joy, faith and peace.

Reconnect with yourself this season, because you matter.

God:

God has not moved away, changed, walked out on you, abandoned you or chosen to be distant from you. But what about you? Are you distancing yourself from Him? Are you avoiding thinking about Him altogether, refusing to open your heart and mind to His reality and truth? Have you been too preoccupied with lesser things that you haven’t been spending time with Him, in His loving care, listening as He leads you through life? His Arms are open wide, no matter who you are or what you have done. Reconnecting depends on your response and your choice so what will you do? He Is right here loving you now, and welcomes you to come to Him. Will you?

everything is connected neon light signage
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Winter Survival Guide (44) ~ Figuring it out.

I realise as I come to write my 44th post in my Winter Survival Guide, that I need to encourage you to dig a little deeper, because it is precisely that – my Winter Survival Guide to encourage you. What do I mean by this? What I mean is that I’m writing this guide to help both you and I and to encourage us to stay well, healthy, happy, hopeful, positive and to make the most of this Winter Season. And although many of my suggestions are really helpful for most people such as taking care of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, as I have elaborated upon these and various topics throughout my other 43 posts, they are based on my core values and reflections upon life, which I have spent years discovering, figuring out and seeking to live out.

And as much as many of them can be universally applied, maybe what would be more meaningful for you is for you to figure out what you want and need out of this season, and what you want to give to it too based on your life and circumstances.

Maybe some or many of the things that matter to me will also be reflected in your own ideas, or maybe you will have other things totally unique to you and can use my Guide as just that – a guide to prompt you into deeper self reflection and discovery. I also know from experience that what we want and the realities of what we are faced with don’t always line up so perhaps even though what you are seeking is a Peaceful season, you may have to prepare yourself differently to manage potential stresses and anxiety, which I also cover in earlier posts. So maybe you could ask yourself:

What do you want from this season, and what do you want to give, or what would you like to desire to give?

As you reflect upon these questions, think about where you are in your own life just now and what matters.

What could some of these things be? Here are some pointers to help you get started:

  • A time of rest and refreshing.
  • Time to deepen your faith and relationship with God.
  • A time to heal.
  • A time to focus on mental health and recovery, and on staying strong in your recovery.
  • Connections, time with family and friends.
  • Reconnecting with ‘auld acquaintances’.
  • Excitement.
  • Travel.
  • New friends.
  • New adventures and experiences.
  • The hustle and bustle of doing a lot of things.
  • Solitude.
  • Forgiveness.
  • Learning new skills.
  • Sharing your skills.
  • Productivity in a venture.
  • Charity, helping other people and encouraging others to do so.
  • Time to spend doing your hobbies.
  • Time for planning for 2020.
  • Time to play with your children (or pets 🙂 ).

What matters to you?

As I draw my Winter Survival Guide to a close (there will be 50 posts in total in this series, so don’t worry, there are still a few more to go 🙂 ), I hope you find each post encouraging, inspiring and helpful. However, I hope it also prompts you to take time to think about what matters to you as you approach the Season for yourself, and to discover ways to make the most of it as you also seek to stay healthy and happy and I pray also that we will all learn to walk in the Truth and Light as we go forwards from here. x

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-a

 

What will you do with what happened to you?

We all have a story. A story to live and a story to tell. And no matter who we are, we all have light and shade on our path. You have lived. You have experienced. You have done things. And you have had things happen to you. Good and bad. Light and dark.

For some blessed souls, their experience has been one with more light than darkness, more protection than distress or horror, more hope and joy than pain, despair, anguish and loss.

So, what will you do with what has happened to you, whether good or bad?

We all have a choice to make. A series of choices. A lifetime of choices.

What happened to you?

For some among us, that question will be poignant, it will resonate deep within, it will touch our soul. We have not lived on the surface of life. We have not been allowed to. We have been hurt, we have suffered, we have known the laceration of spirit and identity that we seek so desperately to be healed. Is this you? You are not alone.

If what has happened to you in life has been mostly good, then I rejoice with you, and encourage you that you can use that too. You can use your strength to help and comfort the weak and hurting. You can give the love that was lavished upon you to those whose wells are dry and empty, who have all but given up on life. You can use the good things that have happened to you too. Perhaps it is the easier path, but you are blessed in it.

What do you do next?

At some point in our lives we have to make a choice. No matter what has happened to us, we all have to make a choice. Life or death. In the physical real as well as in the spiritual realm. I know this road is strewn with complexities, with difficult issues and with choice seemingly taken away from some people at times. You only need to look at the news to see this. But we all have to make our own choice. Life or death. Light or darkness. To step into the light or to stay crippled in fear in the darkness.

As I often say, I write for anyone who will read, I write for believers and non-believers alike; in fact, one of my most interested readers is a friend who is an atheist. Nonetheless, I can only speak the Truth that Jesus Christ is the Light that has extinguished the darkness in my life. Once and for all. A new life, a new heart, a new spirit, a new hope, a new mind-set, a new future, a new Identity, a new kingdom, a new everything.

We all have to make a choice. And how we respond to Jesus Christ is the greatest and most eternally significant choice we will ever make.

What are the burdens that you carry? Shame. Guilt. Fear. Anger. Turmoil. Terror. Self-hatred. Loss. Grief. Pain. Oh the pain. Death? He has taken the sting out of Death. He can bring healing and peace, liquid love into all of our dark and broken and crushed places.

‘He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds’.

‘By His wounds, we are healed’.

He heals the broken hearted and crushed in spirit.

Don’t I know it? I certainly do. For some the healing comes in an instant. For others, like me, it is an unravelling, layer by layer, bit by bit, but the pain, it does ease, the chains, they do fall off, the heart that was defeated, crushed in despair, feeling completely hopeless, useless, weak, unwanted, unloved, despised, rejected…this heart…my heart….finds a home….a HOME, a dwelling place in Pure Perfect Selfless Love….in Him.

But what if you don’t believe?

Things have happened to you. You perhaps feel far from what I am saying. It’s where you are right now. Do I have a word for you?

Yes.

What will your story be?

Things have happened to you. You have done things. You have lived, experienced, survived. So far.

What do you do when the pain is so great and you’re in a fog? What do you do with what has happened to you? I understand how deep these wounds, these lacerations, this anguish can go. I understand that the darkness in the world can feel like it has all but wrecked us. But it hasn’t.

You can choose.

Will your story be to be defined by what has happened to you? Will you be crushed by it? Will you merely survive it? Perhaps that’s all we can do at times. But we can still choose. Choose to believe in the impossible, in something better, in a purpose from the pain, and choose to use it. Even today.

What will you do with what has happened to you? Will you hope, and will you push through and endure the darkest seasons of recovery so that in time you will break through to the other side? Or will you accept the lie that this is all there is for you, you’re not one of the so called “lucky ones” in life? This isn’t all there is for you. Believe me, there is so much more good things than the bad we leave behind.

Will you endure the hardships, will you allow them to refine you and not merely define you? Will you dream so much farther than the depths and heights of your pain? Will you dream of helping one person some day with what you know, know deep in your soul…what you have survived….what you one day can conquer?

We can work with the surface, but only Pure Love can heal the depths. Can transform.

So, what is your answer?

What will you do with what has happened to you? Will you push through, will you ask for help, will you seek advice, support, counsel, will you do the really tough hard work that will help you to get better, at least better than you are now, and will you pass that on to someone someday, even today?

That’s my choice. I’ve been broken hearted and crushed in spirit. Heavy laden. Giving up inside. In a way that people don’t see on the outside. But healing is Real, it is possible, and even though the journey still can be tough, it is leading somewhere, and it has purpose.

But it’s a choice, our choice, to keep taking that next step. Will you?

man standing near mountain
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What you mean to me…

I feel that God Is working on healing the deep things in me, an ongoing perhaps lifelong process, and that now His Love is gradually enlarging my heart.

Whenever I see a new ‘follower’, or one of you liking my posts, my heart is touched to know that He Is using the painful things in my life, and turning them around, to hopefully encourage, inspire or help other people.

His Love Is at work in my heart and I am seeing this less as a part in my healing journey and more so in feeling somewhat awed to know that there are people, real people, you in this same country, and you on the other side of the world who might have their burdens eased a bit in their day. And that means so much to me. Not just because of the significance of it in my personal journey, but because of God’s Pure Love at work in my heart.

Is it possible to love people I may never meet? Is it possible to care so much about your wellbeing from the other side of a computer? I think it is really beginning to mean much more to me. That’s what you mean to me. People precious to and loved by God, and so He Is pouring His Love for you into my heart.

It touches me to know that you might find some comfort from this little blog, and I will seek and pray for His will to show me how to be an encourager, how to care for those He loves, how to help you when you are down and how to be a friend, albeit behind a computer screen, when you feel alone or in need of some advice on moving forwards.

I write a lot about a lot of different things from creativity, lifestyle, mental health, depression, faith, anxiety, and encouragement to name a few things. I write a lot from experience, so it is authentic, raw and real. If there are any things you would like me to write more about that might help you, please do comment and let me know.

Everyone needs compassion, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.

My love and prayers go out to each and every one of you. x

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If you are facing a difficult festive and holiday season ahead…

“It’s beginning to look (a bit) like Christmas”:

It may only be the beginning of November, but soon we will be made more aware of the festive and holiday season approaching. If you live in America there is ‘Thanksgiving’ in November, and among other Western countries you may be approaching Christmas, New Year and / or other faith-based or holiday celebrations.

girl sitting on bed
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The most wonderful time of the year?

It certainly can be ‘The most wonderful time of the year’. But if we’re all honest with ourselves, we know that it isn’t always the case. Sometimes the most wonderful time of the year can serve to highlight the pain and difficulties of life all the more starkly because of the sharp contrast with how we feel things ought to be.

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair
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Reflections and moving forwards:

This year I’m looking forward to and trusting God for a happy, Peaceful and healthy Christmas with family and friends and as a Christian, celebrating my Wonderful Saviour. However, Christmases haven’t always been bright for me. I won’t go into details but there has been light and shade over the years, and it hasn’t always been easy. A few years ago, I was at the point where I just had to open up to my family about how bad I was feeling – and I faced the guilt of telling them, on Christmas day that I was having suicidal feelings. I felt like I had spoilt things, but they were so loving towards me and to cut a long story short it was the beginning of some very difficult steps for me to get professional help with severe clinical depression, and to be diagnosed with complex PTSD, and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. The joureny over the next few years proved to be very tough, but with perseverance I got help, support and am here feeling much better and more purposeful today. Without God moving in my life to hold me and support me and move me forward one painful step at a time, I wouldn’t have got to where I am, so I am very much looking forward to a blessed festive season after some not so good times.

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Where do you find yourself?

Perhaps you find yourself looking joyfully ahead. However, I know that many of you are probably having to just put on a brave face and you are feeling pretty low about things, or maybe you do have happy times ahead but you feel stressed about the effort and organisation that will fall to you in making them happen.

Take a moment to reflect upon how you feel and what your thoughts are knowing that this time of year is approaching once more. Give yourself time to feel and to think what you think and to ask yourself what changes you can make to make things better for yourself and for others.

Burdens come in many forms:

We can learn to look at our challenges as opportunities, however, for the most part hard times are just that – hard times, and we somehow have to struggle through them. You might be facing anxiety, family problems, depression, bereavement which may be particularly poignant at this time of year, separation, loneliness, ill-health, loss of some sort, poverty, homelessness, broken relationships and friendships, isolation or a whole host of other pressures and painful things.

Maybe you have more than one of these things weighing you down.

What can you do?

From what I have learned in my life, my encouragement to you would be to start getting into the mindset of preparing yourself to ‘cope’ if need be, right now. That way you will have some time before things get really ‘in your face’ about how happy you should be and before you are unable to avoid the constant stream of conversations, advertisements and shop window displays.

Have a plan:

  • Start now, in early November, with some set-aside times of self-reflection. While the month is still pretty quiet (in terms of societal pressures as I realise that you may have a lot going on in your own life right now), find a way to carve out some time for yourself to do some thinking. With the pressures in your life you may feel like you have ‘no time’, but you do – it’s all about finding something that will work for you. Perhaps if you only have five or ten minutes at a stretch you could get a notebook and over a few days or weeks whenever you get the chance begin to think and plan how you can look after yourself during these challenging and maybe painful holiday seasons.

Meditation, quiet time, journaling and knowing your triggers:

  • Ok, so now you have some time set aside, what do you do with it? Here are a few ideas to get you started.  Silent reflection / meditation and listening to how you feel. Journaling to express your thoughts and feelings and to externalise what is going on with you and maybe even to figure it out. And very importantly, learn about what your ‘triggers’ may be (things that can ‘set you off’ on a negative emotional or cognitive decline).

 

  • As to meditation, quiet times and journaling I think you can find what if any of these works best for you so I won’t go into more detail on those. Knowing your triggers is crucial and I encourage you to take some focused time to really think about what these may be and plan ‘safeguards’ around them. Spend time observing your own moods, thoughts, behaviours and make a note of what kind of things make you feel bad, brainstorm, write them down and come up with a list of the most prominent triggers that you foresee yourself having to deal with.

 

A list of triggers, noting how you ‘cope’ and creating a wellbeing plan:

Now that you have established the things that could trigger you into falling into a bad place, it is important for you to take time to reflect upon some of your unhealthy ‘coping mechanisms’. Be really honest with yourself and write down what these might be. For example, maybe you turn to alcohol, comfort eating or something more harmful to ‘numb the pain’. Maybe you isolate yourself, ruminate, allow yourself to sink further into depression, sleep a lot or self-harm or push people away. There could be a whole host of damaging and unproductive ways that we find to deal with the most painful things in our lives and it is important to know what these are. It is also so important to commit to choosing a healthier way of dealing with things and making a plan and a strategy of getting through.

Where do I start?

This may all sound well and good in theory, but maybe you feel overwhelmed by these suggestions in and of themselves. Therefore, I am going to use some real and hypothetical scenarios to illustrate how you may go about coping with things and you can use this as a template for your own self-care and wellbeing plan.

An example of a wellbeing plan.

Scenario:

Ok, so imagine that you are facing a difficult situation this year of having health challenges, facing loneliness, anxiety, depression, change of circumstances, and the breakdown of a friendship or relationship.

Self-reflection:

You’ve given yourself the kindness of time to think about what’s really going on with you and to process some of it, as well as to think about what might be your ‘triggers’.

Some of the triggers you face include the following:

  • Crowds and busy places make you feel anxious and unwell.
  • You don’t have anyone to talk to about how you feel and you feel like you ‘ought’ to be happy or you’ll ruin the mood for other people, and so you try to cope with the depression on your own.
  • Things have got worse for you health-wise and you feel overwhelmed and alone.
  • You are struggling with the breakdown of a close friendship or relationship and don’t know how to deal with it, you know that you’ll soon be surrounded by all of the ‘picture perfect’ scenes in films, advertising, social media and among your friend or acquaintance circles who are in a happy place in their lives.
  • You are having to deal with stressful family situations and don’t know how you’ll cope with the enforced times together that you have to be a part of.

Maladaptive ‘coping’:

You know some of the things you turn to that aren’t helpful for you. You know that you’ll want to escape and so you isolate yourself, you indulge in negative coping mechanisms and isolate yourself all the while these things make you feel worse.

A better way forward:

You know that you don’t want to fall into the slippery slope of negative emotions, thoughts and reactions, and so you plan some ‘self-care’ and contingency plans to keep you safe and even enable you to enjoy some of this season despite what you’re facing.

These contingency measures will be very specific and personal to you, but to help as many people as I can in a general way, use this ‘Checklist’ that I’ve come up with as a guide:

  • Health: Give yourself time to get the healthcare and professional medical advice that you need. Listen to your doctors and those who have your best interests at heart, and ask them for their help and advice in what you should do and how you might be able to cope better.

 

  • Isolation / Loneliness / No one to talk to: You may feel like there is no one to talk to, but try making a ‘contact list’ of people you can turn to for general support and in case of an emergency. You might feel bad being at the stage of having to do this, but believe me I had to do this for a long time, I’ve been there and eventually you will get stronger so don’t feel bad if you need to lean on people from time to time.

 

Think of the people in your life who care about you. Do you have a trusted friend, or a few good friends, a family member, pastor, colleague, relative that you can turn to and confide in? You may find that they in fact care a lot about you, your well being and will be there for you in whatever capacity they are able, so please reach out to such kind people of noble character if you are blessed to have them in your life. If you don’t have this, then please know that you are never alone. I have also had to turn to ‘crisis helplines’, phoning the Samaritans and talking to doctors during tough times – they may not have been ‘friends’ as such but they were a lifeline for me, and sometimes you need someone to talk to and those in the caring professions are often a good and safe source of support. Make a list of contact numbers you can call and reach out to, and also be aware that nowadays with technology there are a wide variety of ways you can contact professionals such as by text, email and video conferencing.

If you are a bit stronger in yourself maybe you can reach out to others in similar situations or even those who are in greater need such as through volunteering, meeting groups of likeminded people and seeing what’s going on in your community.

Be sure to plan in some ‘happy times’ even if you don’t necessarily feel happy inside, create opportunities for positive experiences as far as you can manage. This may be planning a lunch, dinner, cinema outing with friends or a friend. It could be going for walks in the park or getting away somewhere refreshing by yourself. There are so many possibilities but you may have to plan ahead before things get busy to ensure you have something in place.

  • Diet and exercise: Plan in ways that you can stay well and healthy as much as possible as what we eat and how we use our bodies has a big effect on our mood and mental and emotional wellbeing.

 

  • Know when to say ‘no’: You may have certain social and familial obligations to deal with. There may be commitments you need to uphold. But there is likely also to be a lot of things going on that will simply drain you, so you need to know what these might be and how to keep  yourself well – you don’t need to say yes to everything.

 

  • Practice gratitude: even in the hardest and most challenging of times you can find something to be thankful for, a lesson to be learned for the future, and a lesson that will someday help someone else if you choose to learn and grow from it. So try to find the silver linings rather than allowing yourself to be oppressed by the clouds.

 

  • Positive distractions: For when things begin to get on top of you, know what positive distractions you can turn to such as hobbies, a musical instrument, a favourite TV show, a walk in nature, painting, art, writing, blogging, journaling, exercise, chatting to a friend on the phone, model making, etc. Do something that will absorb your focus and help you move forward that one next step at a time.

 

  • Plan ahead: You may have a lot of practical things to consider, from organising festivities to managing finances, paperwork, and other ‘grown up stuff’. Plan for these so that they don’t get lost or forgotten when you are perhaps struggling emotionally and mentally. Break things down into smaller, clear, focused and manageable tasks and check them off as you go. Keep your list somewhere where you won’t lose or misplace it, and this will help you stay on track and not get into further challenging situations because of something you may have let slip or forgotten to do.

 

  • Next steps: Ok, so life isn’t quite how you hoped it to be. You’ve felt like giving up and giving in, but you’ve chosen the better way – you’ve chosen to keep on living and looking for a way to cope, to survive, to move forward and ultimately to get stronger, to thrive and to see good come out of these challenges.  One of the positives about this time of year is the opportunity to embark upon a ‘New Year’. You may look upon this as a flimsy human-made demarcation of time, but you will be in amongst a lot of other people seeking to improve their lives, their wellbeing and their circumstances. Try to thrive from the positive vibes that are encouraging this forward thinking and goal setting and look at the bigger picture of your life. Ok, so you’re not where you want to be but faith tells you that you can be in a better place, so spend some time figuring out what you want moving forwards, what you need to do and to change and what the next practical steps might be and take this forward with you to a hopefully better and stronger year ahead.

 

Be blessed, and stay strong friends. You are loved and you are never alone. xx

 

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