Anxiety is not uncommon, especially, at the time of writing, in a global pandemic.
Sometimes our anxious thoughts and imaginings can render us immobile and ‘incapable’ of doing something useful or productive. We might even slump into a depressive state where we want to hide and retreat.
If you are struggling with your anxious thoughts and feelings, as well as the practical steps that I have highlighted in other blog posts (simply do a ‘search’ for ‘anxiety’ on my blog and you’ll find lots of helpful articles), you might feel the need to have an outlet for your thoughts.
Talk to Someone who cares about you:
A helpful thing to do to rationalise and untangle some of our difficult thoughts could be to talk to someone who knows you and cares about you and who will listen. If you feel like you don’t have such a person in your life, maybe you can phone a mental health helpline to talk through things with someone or even contact a doctor if you need to. Talking to a trusted friend or family member, even if it isn’t face to face, can help to alleviate your feelings of stress and anxiety and they may be able to help you make sense of some of your thoughts, or even offer a better or more helpful perspective on things. Talking things through can help get you out of your own head space, especially if you are not able at the current time to make sense of things or find a better perspective.
Write it down:
Writing can help externalise thoughts that you are keeping bottled up inside of yourself. As well as writing to make sense of things for your own well being, you could also try to think of ways in which you would help a friend who was struggling with the things you are just now. Imagine or think of what you would say to someone who needed help or encouragement with the problem you are facing, and try to apply that kind and encouraging advice to yourself. Perhaps you could even try blogging about your experience to share and find connection with others.
On a similar note, we can feel much less alone when we are able to read or hear about other people who are going through or have overcome things that we might be finding challenging. In a pandemic you are not alone in feeling anxious and uncertain, and you might be able to connect with others of a like mind and help each other through. As a note of caution, try not to focus too much on things that are problematic, but try to find solutions as you read and learn more about things you and others are experiencing in life.
Break things down:
When our thoughts get the better of us, it may be because we have too little distance from them. Try breaking things down. If you have a thought that distresses you, why not write it down, and analyse it to find a more helpful perspective, or ask a friend or family member to help you with this.
For example, if you have a thought ‘I just don’t know what’s going to happen or how I’ll handle the future’, take a step back from it, take a look at it and how it is making you feel, and find a better way of looking at it that will help you move forwards.
Know that many, many people right now have such thoughts and fears. Maybe we don’t know how we’ll handle a big, unknown future, but can we handle the next five minutes, the next day? If that seems more manageable start there and build on from that, write down some practical steps you may need to take in looking at future plans or decisions, and ask someone for help and advice so that you don’t need to go it alone.
Take a break:
It can be hard focusing on the negative cycle of thoughts all the time, so make sure you don’t do that. Easier said than done, right? Find something that will intercept your thoughts in a more productive way, for example, plan some small activities that will absorb your mental energy and focus. This could be something like cooking a meal, or making a simple sandwich or a cup of tea. It could be taking five or ten minutes to engage in a creative pursuit. It could be taking time to read a book, or a helpful blog, or to talk to a friend.
Following on from the above, planning little activities or ‘chunks of time’ can help add structure to your day and can help move you through the day in a less anxious way. Knowing what you have to do in the morning, afternoon and evening can help take you away from a whirlwind of thoughts and can help you find enjoyment and productivity along the way.
Look to the needs of others:
Sometimes looking away from our own thoughts to the needs of others can be a real help for ourselves too! Helping someone else, even in a small way, can take our thoughts outwards, so that we can focus on the needs of someone else. It will help us realise that we are able and capable and can do things that bring comfort to someone else as well as receiving help which is totally ok too.
Fresh air and outdoors:
As well as looking to the needs of others, we can look up into the beauty of the world around us. We face so much of the world that is negative through our computer screens and the constant stream of news that we receive. Looking at the natural world can really help to calm our minds and nervous systems, and even bring new thoughts to us.
As well as looking up and out at nature, we may find the benefit of reaching up in Faith. ❤
I hope some of these tips have been helpful for you. You’ve made it another day in this pandemic, and if you’re feeling anxious, know that you’re not alone. Take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and try to find something to enjoy today, even if in the smallest of moments.
I hope that you have had a safe, healthy and peaceful first week of 2021. I hope that if you have faced challenges along the way that you are digging deep and finding a resilience within yourself to persevere and a faith to look beyond yourself for greater strength.
Although this post title aims at those among us who are now or currently working from home in this pandemic, I think some of the main principles can apply to all of us. It can be easy when there is no physical boundary between work and home life to let the psychological boundaries blur a bit.
Have you ever heard people say, leave your work at work and don’t bring the burdens of the office (or other work place setting) home with you? That can be a huge challenge in and of itself, but what about when work and home are in one and the same setting?
Some of you may also be trying to juggle home working with daily routines and other aspects of family life such as child care, parental care, home schooling / education and the list is as endless and unique as the differences in our lives.
Whatever your scenario, it is important to have some emotional and mental boundaries even when you can’t have concrete physical boundaries. Just as we looked at in previous posts about the importance of having boundaries between ourselves and our news intake and also boundaries in relationships and in other things that might be emotionally or mentally demanding, we also need to establish healthy boundaries between the different aspects of our lives.
Some things at work this first week back have been bothering me, but I need to remind myself that the weekend is a time when I would normally be away from the office physically. Although with home working I could check my work emails when I couldn’t before after leaving the office, it is important not to allow the boundaries to blur too much.
If we are to care for ourselves we need to set aside time to nourish ourselves, to rest, to spend time with the people who we love and who love us whether in person or online or by telephone or some other means so that we can be recharged and ready for the week ahead.
During lockdown I’ve been so fortunate in that my church has had online services that have been broadcast on You Tube. This has helped to remind me of when it is Sunday and to purposefully set aside that time as I normally would. I’ve had more time to set aside during the days as well for time with God, prayer, worship and building myself up spiritually and sharing with others.
However, sometimes we can get caught up in things as the days and weeks go by. The past year has been a challenging one globally and the recent events of January 2021 for anyone who has been watching the news and seeing the …..(pause to try to think of an appropriate word)….indescribable events in America, we know that there may be challenging times ahead for the world in 2021.
We need to maintain our wellbeing and resilience, and we all have a variety of commitments, duties and tasks to attend to in our daily lives. Maintaining mental and emotional boundaries between these is so important.
As the days go by I will continue to share tips and ideas with you regarding what I find helpful that you may also find helpful. However, this post is more of a general reminder as we reach the close of week one of 2021 that this is an important point and aspect of your life to bear in mind.
People will try to encroach upon you even from a distance, even when working or studying from home. It is ok and it is good to give and take but don’t become depleted of your strength and resilience. Don’t let things blur together so that you are no longer demarcating time for yourself to rest, recharge and recover so that you can become stronger and stronger for the days ahead.
So on that note, I wish you all a happy weekend. Thankfully I don’t see blogging as work but as enjoyment, so you can expect to hear from me again very soon for more encouragement and reminders that it is important to care for yourself as well through this pandemic. x
Yesterday, we looked at how to effectively track habits, and I hope some of you got something helpful from my post.
Today, I thought we could take a step further and look at habits in terms of things we can do collectively with other people.
For example, there might be something you want to build into your daily life, or do more regularly but perhaps you lack a bit of motivation, or maybe your motivation dwindles from time to time. Or maybe you just would find the experience more enjoyable if you could share it with other people of a like mind.
In my own experience this has been helpful at certain times, although it also helps if I don’t feel too ‘tied down’ to any particular commitment with it.
For example, for a couple of years, I participated in an online Bible reading plan that was organised by someone in my church and it was on an ‘app’ called ‘You Version’. It’s something that I’ve used before on my own, but it turns out that you can also do reading plans along with other people. I didn’t actually know most of the other people doing it, but that was fine. There were a few daily readings and then the chance to share comments, reflections and thoughts about the passages. It was really helpful and insightful to do this and to also read about other people’s perspectives and learn together with other Christians. I did this in 2019, and completed it by playing ‘catch up’ towards the end of the year as I didn’t manage to do all of the readings on the particular day set, but I gained a lot from it as well as my own personal study of Scripture. I also started it last year in 2020 but only continued to about half the year as although it was helpful it no longer quite fit with where I was at and I felt a bit constrained by having to ‘keep up’. I have other studies on the go now but I do them at a pace that I am comfortable with and I feel like at the moment that works better for me even though the communal habit of reading daily Scriptures together online was a beneficial one.
Another hobby that I enjoy is adult colouring in. It’s beautiful in that because there are certain books that are quite well know it is easy to find images of what other people have done with the same pictures and to be inspired with them. There is so much to learn and be inspired by and there are colouring groups that connect people with like minded others. I personally love many of Johanna Basford’s books and on her website she has a ‘colouring gallery’ where people can upload their work – it’s lovely, even if from a distance and not knowing the people personally, to know you’re part of a community of sorts and that you can inspire and be inspired by others and develop your skills together in a way.
Since moving back with my family after lockdown alone for most of 2020, there have also been a few opportunities for us to turn the TV off and just sit and read quietly together. It’s only something we’ve done a few times, but I think it’s been an encouragement when we do.
There’s something about feeling ‘spurred on’ by other people on a similar journey or with similar interests to you.
I know people at work, who in the good old days pre-pandemic wanted to get fit and formed running groups. There are other people I know who used to go to weekly or fortnightly craft groups where they’d meet together, chat, have a cuppa and do whatever craft or hobby they were interested in such as knitting, crochet, etc. and share skills and tips with each other.
While we’re in the pandemic and isolated from one another a lot more, it may not be possible to have a ‘book club’ in the conventional way, especially if you are living alone. But there are other ways of cultivating community habits with other people online, or even by phone, or whatever way works best for you. A couple of young ladies in my church wrote each other letters during lockdown in a Jane Austenesque style and posted them to each other, giving that something special to their day to day goings on by putting it into an old fashioned style letter which can now be a keepsake.
If you feel like you don’t have friends or family you can do such things with, but would like to do something with other people, I’m sure there are plenty of online opportunities out there, you just need to start looking, but be discerning about this too. Maybe you want to feel like you have ‘company’ or an encourager with your habits, but you don’t actually want the stress that sometimes comes along with connecting with people, in which case there are plenty of people on You Tube with inspiring content that you can look to as a form of ‘mentoring’ or who can feel like they are spurring you on with your habits, even if it is just watching their videos and not interacting with them.
We all have different personalities and different things we want to glean from forming habits and from doing so collectively. Take a moment to think about whether this is something you are interested in and then get creative with ways to take it forwards with whatever interests you. Maybe you are learning a musical instrument and can find an online tutor? Maybe you want to connect with other bloggers, in which case you’re in a good place, and commenting on someone’s posts might be a good start or following a blog that inspires or encourages you to take your next steps forwards.
There are so many things we can do once we start thinking creatively about it. Just look at what some people have done during the pandemic and lockdown to be inspired!
Take care, stay safe, and keep taking those small yet productive steps forwards in 2021. God bless. x
I think this is one of those times when we really need to manage our expectations, especially those we might have of other people.
I’m learning that in terms of expectations I would do really well to increase my expectations of God, and exercise Faith, knowing that with Him all Good things are possible, even when human beings mess things up. This might be a time when people feel their faith is tested, and I understand that, but I continue to Hope in my unchanging God, The Living God.
I think in tandem with that I need to lower my expectations of other people and increase my expectations of myself, so far as it is healthy to do so. I get a picture in my mind of a ‘see-saw’ and on one side, high up is expectations of myself, and low down on the ground is my expectations of others.
Apart from those nearest and dearest to us, our close family and friends, if we are blessed with people who care about us, I think it may be wise to expect less from others, to avoid the hurt and disappointment that can ensue.
I wonder if you disagree with me? I after all am learning on this journey and would be happy to gain wisdom and insight from you as well. Maybe we have some people we can trust and they can trust us, but as the circumference of our friendships widen then the expectations perhaps need to decrease particularly in the pandemic. At least it leaves room for pleasant surprises if people are there for us or do ‘show up’ with kindness in some way.
I’ve had to renegotiate such things in my own mind, even with people who I would formerly have thought of as close friends. It’s been a hard learning curve, but I think it helps me mentally and emotionally to know that it’s ok if I give to others and expect less or nothing back from them. It is also ok if I need to take a step back for my own well being too. It might seem like some people are doing better in this pandemic than others, some of my friends have been doing really well, and it can be hurtful if we realise they just don’t think about others if they are absorbed in the happy goings on in their own lives. It can come across as insensitive, or self indulgent at times and that can be hard in any friendship especially ones we had thought of as close.
However, if we rethink things to say to ourselves, this is a pandemic after all, and maybe some people are absorbed in their own happiness and are insensitive to others, but also perhaps other people may have their own struggles behind the scenes that we know nothing about, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt.
Who knows what other people are dealing with in this pandemic? Only God really knows. As we expect less of others, we can become more resilient in ourselves and we can also exercise sacrificial love in giving to others, helping them and being a good friend with little or no expectation of anything in return. It’s not always wise to do so if it encourages a dependency for we want to encourage people to be empowered and we also want to live as empowered people. But sometimes friendship dynamics change, and this can be highlighted all the more in the pandemic when everyone experiences this in a different way.
Some of your friends who are doing well may have no insight into the struggles you are going through, especially if you are living alone, have job worries, are anxious about your future, or your health or have experienced loss in some way this year.
Perhaps if we were to let go of expecting anything from others, whether that be kindness, understanding or reciprocity then we might be able to live freer lives to be able to give without needing anything in return.
We also can think about, as I explored in a previous post, about how to build healthier boundaries, and build closer connections with perhaps a few trusted people.
We don’t know what other people are going through all the time, and the same applies to them with us. So let’s all give each other a lot of kindness, and expect more from God, less from others, and more from ourselves.
That way, we may just be pleasantly surprised, and more appreciative if or when our friends or acquaintances do reciprocate our kindess ! What do you think? 🙂 x
I hope this finds you as well as can be this year. I thought I’d interject my ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series with a few free flowing thoughts and musings. Don’t worry, I will continue on with the series, as I know we are not out of the woods yet, and we all need as much encouragement as we can get in these trying times.
As i write, I look out upon the bare tree branches. It rained earlier and the sun is gently shining and I can see rain droplets shimmering and shivering and catching the light. It is beautiful and simple and gently wondrous, and a reminder of the simple delights of childhood. A blackbird is perched near the top of a tree. I see branches upon branches, and these twinkling raindrops in the midst of the hard barrenness of the trees lifts my heart. The sky is a gentle blue which is a relief and joy after days of grey. It is cold here.
I’m writing, just writing for the moment because I hadn’t written to you in a few days, and there is so much that I could say. It has been a blessed time with family, yet we had news of bereavements of friends, and that is hard to process. I have had time to think more on the wonder of Christ coming into the world, and He Is revealing new things to me of His Humanity and His Nearness. How do we put these deep things of the tapestry of life into words? I don’t know and so I come simply to write and to reconnect with you after a few days and to wish you well.
I hope you have had a Peaceful Christmas. I read somewhere that Peace is not the absence of troubles but the Presence of Christ. How true in this world as we know it! It is something God reassured me of in the past when in times of trial – ‘In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world!’ Praise the Risen King, Jesus Christ, my LORD and GOD. I hope you come to know His transcendent Peace if you don’t know Him already, because in this world you will have trouble, as sad as that is.
There has been flooding in some parts of the UK, and sadly some people have had to leave their homes on Christmas. We now have a deal between the UK and the EU so Brexit is finally moving along. There is news of yet more strains of the Coronavirus. And across the country and the world people are experiencing joys, sorrows and many things in between. Some are safe and cosy at home with families, others had a day of respite on Christmas day in the UK, being able to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ to visit loved ones for the day. Others still are lonely, bereaved, confused and scared. Where are you among it all? Know that you are loved and not forgotten about and The Good Shepherd of your soul, Jesus, is right there to help if only you would humble yourself to know that you can’t do it alone, and ask Him.
It’s a time of year where many of us find ourselves asking ‘what’s next?’. Are you asking the same of yourself, of life? What’s next? Many want to usher out 2020, and usher in 2021, and I am encouraged to see that people are still exercising hope. Yet, others are deflated and frightened at what might be around the corner. While there is so much outwith our control, we can be grateful for today, for this moment and look up with faith, and hope and do what we can to make things better.
How are you feeling today, this season, as Christmas has passed and we await a New Year that we hope will be better? Know that Jesus Is for Life and not just for Christmas – the day of may have passed, but His Love has not, He Is here and He came for you. It is an extraordinary humble and all powerful love, that does not force itself upon you but gently asks you to invite Him in.
We stand at the brink of a new year, and many of us have much to process. Keep ‘chipping away’ at the positive things you have been doing, keep taking those small steps forward, keep looking for the simple wonders outside your window, and keep looking for a life of deeper, purer love and faith. In the meantime, take that next sip of tea, get cosy and comfortable, take time to be thankful, and we will chat again soon, and continue on this journey together.
I find that despite the pandemic, there is something quite calming and anticipatory about the Advent season. As a Christian, a follower and worshipper of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as strange as it sounds ‘I look forward in anticipatory remembrance’ of His first coming into the world as the Incarnate Christ, God humbling Himself in Human form to be Emmanuel, God with us, and Saviour of the World!
Other people look forward as well as Christmas approaches to a time of rest, perhaps, with a few days off work, and possibly even the chance to spend time relaxing with friends and family. This year certainly looks different to what we are all used to, what with the pandemic and all! Yet, there is something about this time of year that can for many be both a season of calm and of anxiety.
For those of us who will get some time off work and time to relax, and for those of us who enjoy Christmas, this is something to look forward to, even though there may be particular challenges this year.
However, in a ‘normal’ year, there is also a sense of anticipation in a way that might bring us unease. When Christmas passes, we know that soon to follow will be boxing day, perhaps some more days of rest, and then eventually we will take down the tree, the decorations, and before we know it we will be ushering in a ‘new year’ and many of us will be back to work.
I remember writing last year about how I was preparing for the start of the new working year as I finished up with work before the Christmas holidays 2019. Feel free to take a look through my posts from this season last year for inspiration.
At the close of a year, we tend to comfort ourselves with the anticipation of a new year. As 2019 was drawing to a close, many of us took inspiration from the thought of a ‘brand new year’ and a ‘brand new decade’, and I’m sure I’m not the only blogger who noticed and also wrote about the idea of 2020 vision being a concept that had been brought to the fore, and one which we could apply to our own lives.
Yet, 2020 has certainly not been something that any of us could have anticipated in our plans or vision for that year or the next decade.
Yet as we approach 2021, I would encourage all of us to have an attitude of ‘preparedness’. Let’s explore what this might mean, and what it could look like….
2020 and mental health:
If like me, you’re somewhat of a ‘veteran’ with mental health challenges (c-PTSD, clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks, etc), then you may already have had some ‘coping mechanisms’ under your belt which helped you and I to deal with many of the challenges of 2020.
I am inclined to believe that there will be a fair few people this year, and perhaps some among you reading this, who have experienced mental health challenges this year in the pandemic even if you hadn’t really experienced this before.
Perhaps many things have come as a shock to you, and like some of us before, you’ve experienced things mentally and in your body’s response to stress that ‘freaked you out’ a bit, I guess for want of a better phrase. Anxiety for example can be very scary when you don’t know what’s happening when you experience fight/flight/freeze, racing and intrusive thoughts and don’t have any idea if you’re going mad or about to faint or die, etc! It takes time, work and learning to understand what is happening to us and to find the right tools and techniques to get stronger and manage these unwanted experiences.
As we approach 2021, we may be faced with the uncertainty of what lies ahead, but we can begin to prepare ourselves and build upon our resilience even as the new year perhaps seems to ‘loom’ ahead of some of you. How can we do this? Let’s think about some options:
Tools for resilience:
Begin to identify whether you have had any particular mental health or other health challenges, seek support and research ways in which you can make progress and build strength and resilience.
Take a fresh look at your finances, and start thinking and planning ways in which you can better use your resources.
Consider the opportunities that you may have to meet that at the moment seem like challenges – do you need to adapt the way in which you work, do you need to apply for a new job, do you need to change your day to day routine or consider your caring responsibilities?
Build a network of contacts whether help from professionals or supportive friends so that you are not facing the new year alone.
Re-evaluate how you have been spending your time, and what might be draining your energy, resources and mental wellbeing, and think of the small steps you can begin to take to make positive changes in your life.
Think about self care as being part and parcel of day to day life, and build in nurturing activities every day. These can include looking at what you eat, your water intake, the information you are taking in or should leave out, whether you are getting time outside, time to reflect and be still, exercise, and whether you have time to do things that your mind can enjoy and grow from such as learning or hobbies.
Find inspiration and mentors from the people around you or from what you read or watch online. There is no shortage of inspiring people if you just begin to look for them.
Feed your faith and not your fear, and consider what you spend your time thinking about and how you can begin to change your thought patterns.
There are so many more things we can do to build resilience as we approach the unknown, and we can look at more of these later and in more detail. But for now, know that you are not alone, you are capable, you don’t need to sink under the pressure of the challenges we face, you have a safe and endlessly encouraging place here with my blog, and from someone who has lived through many real challenges, and there are ways and means for finding help, support and empowerment, even if you don’t know exactly the next step to take right now.
The fact that you are reading this and have read to this point shows that you are able to find a starting point for resilience building and seeking out positive and inspiring content and people, so keep taking those next small steps, know that I am right here with you, and never give up.
Ultimately, thought we need something far Greater than all our tools and techniques to get us through – we need deep, true and lasting PEACE which can come only from The Prince of Peace Himself, Jesus Christ, through Whom we can have real experiential Shalom – a Peace with God through reconciliation and forgiveness of our sins because of the Price Jesus paid in His flesh through His death on the cross and His Resurrection. Without Him, I could only have temporary fixes, but even in my darkest or most difficult moments in life, in His Hands I am always Secure and have an eternal and enduring Peace with God and a Love that strengthens me from within. I hope you know the true Shalom of Jesus too. Be blessed.
Many of you will be looking at 2020 as a year of cancelled plans. Some of you may have benefited from staying indoors, especially if like me, the world around you has a tendency to give you panic attacks on a day to day basis! I’ve certainly found a blessing in being able to slow down and not contend with the world at large so much, and it’s ok to recognise and appreciate things like that.
For some people, it has been hard or inconvenient. People have had to cancel weddings, travel plans, children’s birthdays, postpone graduations or do things online. I’ve missed seeing friends, and for four months of total isolation missed being with my family.
Perhaps surprisingly, 2020 has been a year of celebration for some people too. I have friends who have had new additions to their family, some friends have had babies, others are pregnant with their first or second children and there are yet other people I know of who have also got married this year, or embarked upon a new relationship. Some people have done well in their careers or in some kind of personal project.
Maybe for most of us we’ve either been ‘hanging on’ or persevering and trying our best to ‘keep the faith’, stay positive and help and encourage other people.
So for the most of us who have had our ‘plans on hold’ (at the start of the year, I thought, pre-Brexit, let me travel to as many European countries as I can that I haven’t yet visited – ha! what did I know!), do we dare to dream, to plan?
While our lives may all look very different from one another, I feel like it is important for me to set goals. These may not be ‘new’ goals, but I really feel it is important to have something to work towards. I will have all sorts of tasks to do when I resume ‘work work’ in January, new projects to do, new deadlines to meet. Yet, I also feel that it is important to plan and set incremental goals of continuous improvement and development for myself that aren’t specifically work related.
Some of these relate to my faith and relationship with God, and my consistency in doing my bit, in prayer and handling Scripture better, and in keeping in touch with other Christians. Others may relate to being accountable in terms of staying in touch with friends and family.
I have goals and plans to do with writing consistently with my blog, my novel and other creative pursuits, musical interests and hobbies, health and fitness.
And something else I feel is important is progressing with my mental health journey and part of that I guess is working out a ‘structure’ or plan for myself for moving forwards and being able to tackle the challenges of life and of my mind.
There is so much I can’t plan for right now, so much you can’t either. We don’t know all the ‘ins and outs’ of how this pandemic will pan out (no pun intended!) especially as there have been recent reports of a new strain of the virus. In January 2020 I couldn’t have predicted how ludicrous my plans to see more of Europe would turn out to be, so who knows what we will or won’t be able to do going forwards. Yet, life doesn’t stop, and to stay mentally healthy, we need to keep a forward focus.
Maybe you are planning for an online wedding. (Congrats!). Maybe you are planning for a new arrival. Maybe you, like me, are planning to persevere with your own personal goals.
There are many unknowns, but we can still have faith and vision. We can rise up and meet the challenges of each new day with hope. We can choose faith over fear, and while we don’t know the plan we can set a small goal, and then another, and another, and see where that might take us….
Here’s one we can take a few minutes to do, ‘together’. Ok, so obviously, this one will be mine to get us started, but perhaps you can take inspiration from this and keep it going and share with someone else in your life.
While 2020 has been at the very least a challenging year on the global scale, and possibly for many an utterly miserable and heart-breaking year for those who have lost loved ones, it is important to allow our minds space for the positives too.
I realise this may be very hard for some of you. For others it might come more easily depending on where you are in life, especially this year. In these dark days, we need to learn to look for and look to the Light.
One way of beginning to train our minds to do this is to practice gratitude. I’m going to give it a go right now, unrehearsed, in real time, by making a list of some of the positives I’ve gleaned from this year. I’ll try to keep it as inclusive as possible to where you hopefully will also be able to relate:
Positives from 2020:
You and I are still alive, still breathing, hopefully you are also healthy.
We hopefully have a deeper appreciation of the gift of life and both how fragile and how precious it is.
2020 has given us insights into the dedication of many people in society, especially ‘frontline’ workers from those in the medical professions, health and social care, public health, cleaners, bin removal people, shop staff and so many more. If you feel like I’ve missed anyone please comment below so we can share our gratitude for them.
We have had the perhaps unwanted or unrequested opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate certain things in our lives, something that we might otherwise not have been able to do.
Some of us have grown in resilience through solitude, others have grown closer to family members, and others still may have discovered which people are not good for us and made a change in our lives moving forwards.
We realise more that we are part of something bigger than any or each of us individually, and yet we also realise that small actions can have huge consequences. While the virus has been a negative in our year, perhaps we can all start believing that our small positive actions can have a far reaching effect too, and decide to live out our lives in Truth and Love.
We have seen courage and fortitude in people who go the ‘extra mile’ for others, from community efforts to individuals, even in their 80s raising money for charity.
We perhaps have become more aware of the needs of different people in our societies and been motivated to learn more and to do something to help where we can.
We may have gained new skills or rekindled an old hobby.
We have gained insight into the scientific communities of men and women working hard to develop vaccines and to keep us safe.
We have learned to adapt.
There have been some positive environmental changes.
We have perhaps had more time to read, to write, to pray, to think, to connect online, to do some soul searching, to get creative, to learn, to cook, to home school, to….
We value those around us more, and we try to use the time we have to make a difference….
Over to you….please feel free to comment below with the positives you personally have discovered this year….with so many difficult things in 2020, let’s keep each other going and keep building each other up…..
Well done friends, we have all made it to the final month of 2020! God’s Grace has carried me through many storms prior to this year, and I have been kept safe in His Care this year, and this makes me wonder how many of you feel like 2020 has been a stormy year for you?
I started this blog in 2017 (hence ‘livingfully2017′ in the title), and since then I have enjoyed writing series’ of posts on self care during the winter seasons, and I wrote quite extensively last year, so if you need a little ‘pick me up’ and some good advice from last year then do a little search through my blog archives and you will be sure to find something helpful, inspiring and encouraging I hope!
I think that we can all agree that this year we all need a bit of encouragement as we enter the final month of the year. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly never experienced a pandemic before, but that being said I think a lot of the advice I would normally offer at this time of the year would still hold good, especially as I am particularly mindful of how this can be a sensitive time of year for many and that it is also a time of year that highlights more starkly the contrasts that exist between people who are doing well and those who are suffering.
As we hit December 1st in any given year, social media presents us with all sorts of lifestyle goals, and perhaps we put pressure on ourselves to have those picture perfect experiences that aren’t always entirely in touch with the real lives we are actually living through.
This year, I would encourage you, and myself, to consider the expectations we have – and in this post let’s think about the expectations we place upon ourselves.
As a Christian, Advent – the time of the year where we focus particularly upon the preparations in the lead up to Christmas as we think about the reality of the first Advent before Jesus Christ was born into the world to Be The Saviour of The World, is a special and meaningful time for me. It reminds me of the real preparations of heart, mind and spirit that I should be making in thinking of what God has done for me, of Emmanuel, the Living God being with me, and how to live to honour Him because of His Sacrifice of His very life for me at the Cross, so that in His Resurrection I can live a new life. I have been delivered out of darkness, fear, hurt, pain, and been forgiven and set free to live a new life in Christ, and this is what we rejoice about at Advent – the Gift of the Messiah, the Saviour, God Incarnate come to dwell with His Creation and offer us Forgiveness if we put our trust and hope in Him. Jesus Is The only reason I’m still alive in this world today and He Is my Rescuer and my constant source of Peace and Comfort all the days of my life no matter what happens in my circumstances.
Whatever you believe, or don’t believe, this is a time of year when you may feel pressure to meet certain expectations. Do you feel pressurised to decorate your home in a certain way, if you have kids to keep them entertained and happy with different activities, to be a peacemaker in your family, to reach out to your friends, to do all sorts of acts of charity, to be creative, to cook, to organise things, to have a picture perfect holiday season, to have an album of holiday pictures that will make people wish their lives were more like yours?!
We absorb expectations from all sorts of places, and in the society we live in where media is at the forefront of our daily lives, some of these expectations are unrealistic especially when we may be struggling to get through or to keep our heads above the water.
I want to encourage you to focus on those expectations of yourself that are internal. That are more to do with your character, your journey to discover Truth, your mental and emotional health and wellbeing, your healing, recovery and authenticity in your friendships and relationships and in reaching out to others. Also to allow yourself to be unable and to cry out for help because we all need help at some point in our lives.
Are you, are we burdening ourselves with things we can really let go of? Has 2020 taught us anything in this way about the excesses and unnecessary things we spend our time and attention upon?
You don’t need to have a picture perfect holiday or Christmas whatever that means. We are living through hard times and if you are in a good place then maybe it is a great opportunity for you to use that to inspire and encourage other people, but we need to learn that covering up how we actually are with filters isn’t an authentic way forward.
So please, if you are hurting yourself with the weight of your own expectations of yourself, consider laying that down. I pray you will lay it down at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ Who will bear you up in His Loving arms and carry your burdens for you. He Died for you to be free. He Loves you. And even if you don’t relate to that right now, consider that in any case you may be adding weight to your own load by the expectations you place upon yourself.
This has not been a perfect year. Don’t add to your own struggles if you don’t have to. Take care, and find rest. xx
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. ❤