We’ve talked previously about turning our goals into habits to help us keep on track throughout this pandemic and especially in long and extended periods of lockdown like some of us are in just now.
But what about when all of that still seems too much? We’ve broken things down into small manageable parts so that we can persevere in doing what we want to rather than sinking into a ‘slough of despond’ but sometimes even that seems a bit too much.
It can be difficult to find our way forwards even with some kind of structure and plan, especially if we are feeling overwhelmed or we have pre-existing mental health conditions that might draw us to turning inwards and getting lost within our own thoughts and potentially difficult emotions.
So, try this when you’re feeling that way. Imagine drawing a box in front of you, or perhaps not a box as such but a rectangle like you might see in a children’s chalk outline of a game of ‘hop scotch’ on the pavement. Think of that rectangle as a neat contained space for the next five minutes. Doesn’t that make it a bit easier to take the next step (or ‘hop’ 🙂 )?
Think of something outside of your mind to do and know that you only need to deal with the next five minutes or the next step at any given time. Even when things seem overwhelming and thoughts of past or future depress or unsettle you, the next five minutes doesn’t seem so unsurmountable does it?
I know that it can be hard and I don’t deny you the difficult things you may be feeling or going through, I have struggles too, but I find that these little techniques can get me out of a slump or can help keep me from falling into one. And when you’ve taken that step in that contained five minutes, you can take the next one, and with a hop, skip and a jump, you might just find that you actually begin to enjoy the process!
Stay safe and well friends, and we’ll continue soon through this journey of encouragement and self care as we make progress through this pandemic. x
What is the particular thing that you are struggling with today? It’s wonderful if you are having a peaceful, restful day and aren’t faced with troubles, but perhaps you have a problem to solve, or you will do so in the days ahead.
Are you struggling with problems specific to the pandemic, or ongoing issues that you faced before?
In this world, we all face trouble or struggles of some kind or another, no one is immune to them, even if it seems or even if it is the case that some people have it ‘easier’ than others.
Are you struggling with mental health challenges, health issues, job or finance troubles or family problems? Do you face loneliness, boredom, or a lack of a sense of purpose? Are you fearful about the future, or facing grief or loss of some sort, or are you missing friends and family and the ‘way things used to be’? Are you mentally and emotionally fatigued because of all the bad news in the world or simply facing household tasks that you wish would do themselves? Are you worried about your children, your spouse, your lack of human connections, or not sure what to do next with your life? Is the weather getting you down?
Whatever your challenges in life today, while I could encourage you and provide advice and guidance, reassurance or support in the words that I write, instead I challenge you to take a step back.
Take a deep breath, define your problem or issue in words, and perhaps write it down.
Take another deep breath. Now, make a choice to reorient yourself with finding a solution, rather than being brought low by the problem. Of course, it is ok to feel down, to feel low, and life is full of things that crush us such as abuse, mental illness, grief and loss, and it is important to fully face these human emotions and experiences. But if you are ready, and if it is time for you, then look up and consider what you would say to someone else who needed help or advice with the very thing you are facing.
Sometimes we look to others for advice, when all along, there is something we can learn from ourselves if we’d listen. Ultimately, the True Source of wisdom is The One True and Living God, our Creator.
Yet, sometimes we can help ourselves by considering what we would say to someone else.
What if the thing you are struggling with today was the problem of a friend? Imagine that they or a stranger were to come to you for advice on this same issue. What would you tell them? How would you treat them? What compassion would you give them and what wisdom would you share?
Take a deep breath and look once more at the problem you started with and now look at the answer you gave to your ‘friend’. Consider that this might be the next step for you to take in moving forwards, and take that one small step and keep on going.
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
We may all have had very different experiences of this year, but one thing we all share in common is that we’re all living through a pandemic. For most of us below a certain age, we’ve never experienced anything like this on a global scale before, and for those who have perhaps lived through wars, it may not be the first time you have experienced the world shaken on this kind of scale.
No matter who you are, or where you live, or what you’ve been going through this year, I somehow feel close enough to reach you through the internet, as we share the experience of living in a changed world.
I have been praying for ways to help other people, and I feel that using the gifts and skills I already have is a good place to start. That being said, while in previous autumn seasons I have written series’ of blog posts on surviving the winter, and there are many encouraging past posts that you can dig into in my archives, this year I want to write a series to help those of you who read my blog to continue positively through life in this pandemic. I feel a glow and a warmth in my heart as I write, as if I could just reach out with love and encouragement to touch your life in some way. Perhaps we could sit down together as I write and you read, over a cup of coffee or tea and share our thoughts and our hearts in our shared humanity.
Mental health is of such importance, and perhaps especially so when our worlds are turned upside down. We all need hope. In the United Kingdom, during the height of the pandemic in the first part of this year, children started drawing, colouring and displaying all sorts of creative expressions of rainbows as a symbol of hope, and also as a way of saying thanks to our dedicated National Health Service.
During a time of fear, uncertainty and change for the whole nation, when people were increasingly cut off and isolated from friends, family, neighbours, loved ones, and even strangers, these emblems became signs of hope across the country as they were displayed in windows and on banners.
We all need hope. Maybe you are reading this and things are going well. Even so, surely there have been times in your life in the past, and there may well be times in the future when you have needed or will need hope. Life is full of ups and downs, uncertainties, blue skies and grey clouds. And we all need hope.
Just now it is the autumn season, or ‘fall’ if you like. Even as things in the natural world around me begin to fall away, decay and die in order to give way to new life, there is something heart touching and encouraging about the vibrancy of red and orange leaves and the beauty of this changing season. There is something hopeful even in this fleeting season about the beauty that blossoms and even as it fades away, we have the hope of spring, of new days, new life.
If you are facing dark, depressing times of grief, instability, loneliness, loss or fear, what do you cling onto for hope? There are different types of hope, I think. There are the little things we look forward to in our daily lives, small, tangible things that we sometimes turn to to make us feel better, but we know that these are momentary and will not sustain us through life. Perhaps we look with hope to better times, or we plan good things into our calendars as restricted as they are for the moment.
For me, I need a hope that will help me to weather the storms of this life, no matter how tempestuous they have been. I need an anchor for my soul. I need a hope that is deeper and higher and stronger than everything in this world, in this life, and something that my very soul can lean into and never be let down by.
I have had years of searching for this hope. Glimmers and flickers of faith kept me going through dark times in my life as I was growing up, and felt that there was no hope because life felt so bad for me. Yet, having pressed on through those tests and trials I was left still with uncertainty, anxiety and fear. It wasn’t enough to have this nebulous, ethereal ‘hope’ of something I wasn’t quite sure of.
Now I have a hope that does not disappoint. My Hope will hold me through life, through the passage through death and into eternal life. My Hope is for the big things and little things I may face, for times of mental struggle, for uncertain world events, for changing relationships, for loneliness, for everything. My Hope Is sure and certain, faithful and unfailing, and holds me with the Strongest and most Gentle Love a human soul could ever need. My Hope Is a Person, The Living God, Jesus Christ, and no matter what I go through, He Is with me, He Is Faithful, and He will hold me through it all and let me know that I am Loved and that this world as uncertain as it may be will never quench His Unfathomable Love for me.
What are you looking to for Hope in these uncertain times? What helps you get through the day? Who can you turn to for support or encouragement? What keeps you taking the next step?
If you are in any doubt that you can make it through, if you feel hopeless, then know that it is no coincidence that you are reading these words right now. This Love Is for you. You are Loved, you just need to call out in hope, in faith and ask for help and hope, for forgiveness, for rescue in your time of need….in such a time as this, right now.
You are meant to be here. You are meant to keep going. You are meant to live. Never give up. While it may seem stormy today, remember the rainbows of hope, for the sun will shine again, and colours will fill the sky, and if you are willing to let True Love in, The Light of Jesus Christ will save you and fill your soul.
Remember ‘JOMO’? The phrase (the ‘Joy Of Missing Out’) coined to counter FOMO (‘Fear Of Missing Out’)?
Well, you might need to keep it handy so that you can bring it to mind in the days and weeks to come. While lockdown was somewhat of a leveller in that we all were made to stay indoors, it also brought to the fore some disparities between people’s experiences with a varying spectrum of health, wealth, work, care, family, social, ideological, and other issues. It’s been nice to see people finding a level of common ground despite varying experiences, and for communities to try to bridge the gaps to some extent. However, the differences in our experiences of life in lockdown may also have brought about divergences in friendships and relationships when for example people no longer have the same common ground that they once did socially to connect with each other. It’s worth reminding ourselves that everyone has been trying to make it through as best as they can through their own unique experiences, and remembering this will help us to manage our expectations and avoid disappointment. Lockdown may have strengthened and deepened some of our relationships and friendships, while others might have come under strain, broken down, stagnated or drifted away.
And here we all are gradually leaving that part of our experience behind. This is where the phrase ‘JOMO’ might come in handy, at least as a temporary measure to help you, and for you to help others, to navigate this transition. Why? Because people will be emerging from the past four months of lockdown with potentially very different stories to tell. Some may have flourished, others may have held on, and there are those who have broken down. You might have enjoyed more time with your family or more time to yourself, or you may be struggling financially, grieving, feeling neglected or lonely, facing job loss or uncertainty with the end of furlough, or be wrestling with mental health issues and broken relationships or exhaustion, or whatever your experience may be. You might have been able to use all of your mixed experiences as opportunities to grow or you may not have overcome the challenges quite yet. At times like this other people’s stories, media, social media, news, magazines and the internet in general, can potentially become a stumbling block or a difficult place to navigate, so just remember that you’re never seeing the full story of other people’s lives.
I personally find a wonderful perspective in this: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn”.
Try to remember that, as well as bringing to mind the joy of missing out, and deepen any other life lessons you’ve had the opportunity to learn in lockdown when you begin to see and hear of people’s experiences of life after lockdown.
If you’re doing great, well or getting through, then I rejoice with you, and am glad for you. If you are struggling and can barely make it through the day, try to prepare yourself to avoid the comparison trap when you begin to see, hear or read of some of the joyful post-lockdown stories in the days and weeks to come. It’s good that people are doing well, and even if you’re in tough spot you can choose to dig deep and learn and grow through it until your brighter days come along.
Don’t forget those simple day-to-day things that you found life in when you were focused on life at home. Try to avoid the temptation to compare, and if you are emerging from this and are doing well, then reach out to others who might not be. ‘JOMO’ – it sounds ridiculous, but it may just have some very useful lessons for us, as sometimes humility with gratitude is the road to ‘happiness’. 😀
Words of Encouragement (3):
*Order in the midst of chaos*
There is so much going on in the world around us that is beyond the realm of our physical control. It has always been that way, but we are experiencing things on a different scale and from threats that we are not so used to hearing about, the devastation of which is reaching far and wide across the world.
We all need an anchor, and even those of us who resist rules, who take pride in rebellion or non-conformity, also on some deep level crave order, security, safety and stability, no matter what we might tell ourselves to the contrary, and especially at a time like this. We are designed for order, for structure, for peace and a life well lived, but sometimes we can feel like we are tossed like a tempest, drowning, unable to control what’s going on around us.
And to be honest, there is a great deal that we just cannot control in the world around us right now.
But what can you control? What *is* within the sphere of your influence right now? What kind of structure can you incorporate into your day to day while we are in this hiatus as this pandemic crashes around us, buffeting many, and pulling others under?
Think about how you can be like a lighthouse in the midst of a storm. Many of us are fortunate enough to have homes and shelter when others do not, and we can remain tucked safely away indoors while the storm rages on around us.
Imagine that being indoors is like being hidden within a lighthouse, offering at least temporal safety for the time being.
Think of ways you can bring a sense of structure, of order, of pattern into your days hidden away from the world, whether you are going through this hiatus physically on your own, or as part of a family that also needs order and structure, especially where younger children are concerned.
You personally cannot calm this raging storm, but you can create an atmosphere of calm and of order within your own home on a physical level. Can you think of any ways you could begin to approach this today? ❤ Also, if things at home are chaotic in their own way, is there some way you can reach out for help? I know that this is not an easy time for some to be inside in an environment that you also might feel the need to escape from. If so, sending you much love and hugs.
Words of Encouragement (1):
We all find ourselves in a situation that we’ve never experienced before (a global pandemic! ), one that can feel frightening, nerve-wracking and filled with uncertainty and worry. A situation that none of us expected to be facing this year, or perhaps ever! Yet notice that *we* are facing this together, and it is affecting *us*. I’d like to try as much as possible to offer some snippets of regular encouragement to help us all through as a community.
To start with, I’d like to encourage you that you are not alone, we are all facing this together, and if you need help, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can reach out to bloggers, you can reach out to groups, or other friends or family, and even if we don’t have a direct solution, there are a lot of networks forming regularly, with advice, support and practical and emotional help, so someone should be able to point you in the right direction in your area. You’re not alone. We’re in this together. Feel free to open up discussion in the comments because someone might just be able to offer you the encouragement and mutual support that we all need, especially at a time like this. Stay safe and well.
We all must be familiar with the news of this unfamiliar virus Covid-19 by now. It is fair to say that a lot of things have been revealed about human behaviour during this time:
Fear of the unknown.
Feelings towards dying (a good time to consider our need for eternal salvation, and lift our eyes above our immediate concerns!).
Panic that leads to hoarding and buying more than we need.
A lack of consideration for the impact that our behaviour will have on others, such as the most vulnerable who may find that they cannot even find their basic necessities when they go to the shops.
A desire to help.
Self protection and self preservation.
Isolation and loneliness.
Fear and concern for other people.
The realisation that viruses don’t respect borders and at the end of the day no matter where we are from, we are all human and vulnerable to things that are bigger than us.
It’s a mixed bag, isn’t it!
And I don’t condemn or judge any of you / us who have experienced a range of these emotions or attitudes. Initially I saw the panic buying and I avoided it completely. Then the practical side of me considered the possible reality that I would have to stock up on what I need…but not to the extent of hoarding. Simultaneously I want to help other people and have been looking online for ways to do that.
We oscillate between self protection and wanting to help others, or at least I imagine most of us do. Our immediate concerns are for ourselves, our nearest and dearest, for avoiding causing harm to others and where safe, to help other people.
What can we do to help?
Keeping ourselves safe and well and hygienic actually is a help to others if we can curb the spread of this virus. Keeping away from frail or vulnerable people if we are at risk of compromising their immune system in some way. Keeping up to date with scientific advice to avoid the spread of misinformation. Helping each other with anxiety and fear, and most of all casting our cares upon God and seeking His Wisdom and love for humanity.
We can also do practical things where it is safe to do so. I’ve seen and heard of people doing things that encourages me. Such as parents who home-school / home educate their children sharing resources and advice with those whose children’s schools have been closed. I’ve heard stories of small local shops providing free care packages to vulnerable and elderly people and care homes, at a cost to themselves. My local church has set up an online support group where people can ask for or offer help in line with specialist advice to keep people safe. People checking in by telephone or email or text or Skype with those who are self isolating. Donations to charities. A local college recently set up a crowd funding page to raise money to prepare care packages for vulnerable people and they had to ask for people to stop donating because they had exceeded their target by far, and were donating the extra money to local food banks and homeless charities.
We have to start somewhere. We all have a selfishness in our hearts, and protecting ourselves and our loved ones is a good thing, but selfishness is not. Yet being honest with ourselves is the first step forwards. Realising that we are a global community is the next. And sharing ways to help and encourage each other safely will help us a little further down the path of kindness. We all need each other.
I need you. I need your advice and suggestions and encouragement. Because I don’t want to live selfishly through this time.
So my small step for today is to write this blog post. To encourage you no matter where you are that you can make a small change today, and if you need help, to encourage you to reach out to someone while at the same time staying safe and well.
Most of all I can pray – for each and every one of you reading this, for your loved ones, family, friends and those in your neighbourhoods to be protected, for your ultimate healing and salvation and also for your protection on earth also. God bless and let’s all help and encourage each other to live kindly in these uncertain times. x
When you imagine someone with a ‘dream-like’ life, what do you see? Someone with strength, courage, confidence, unwavering self-belief? We don’t necessarily have to believe in ourselves to believe in our worth. What do I mean? I mean that we all have failures, flaws, limitations, sin, and none of us can be our own Saviour. Yet, despite all that is imperfect about us, we are still of intrinsic worth as human beings.
When you think of yourself say in the future, living the life of your dreams, what do you desire of your experience? I don’t mean the external things such as money, success, nor even relationships. What do you desire of how you feel about yourself and your experience in life?
This is a journey of discovery for me, and one which I perhaps am not alone in finding that there is a bridge to cross between how I think and feel about myself now and the Truth about my worth that will lead me to experiencing Freedom.
It can sometimes feel as if clouds of negativity follow us, or that negative thoughts have seeped into our experience. It can be hard not to believe them, or to accept that certain things are lies and not the truth about who we are.
Things that cause anxiety, nervousness and fear. Perhaps not even fully-formed thoughts, but just feelings or sensations that cause us to doubt and to feel insecure, and ‘not good enough’. Have you ever felt this way? I certainly have.
Sometimes we believe that these lies are stronger than we are. But they are never stronger than the Truth.
If you are nervous, anxious or afraid, full of self doubt and hiding behind your fears, then it may be a challenge to take big strides into freedom in how you think of and value yourself.
Sometimes thoughts, images, memories from the past, of harmful words spoken over us, and things that have knocked our confidence can linger around us and affect the way we feel and think about ourselves.
It may be difficult to live in the experience of our True worth all at once, but I am a believer that small steps and changes add up over time to make a big difference. I personally know that I will have to continue with my ‘small steps’ because it isn’t easy for me to feel free from the negativity that I have experienced in life.
But what if we take the challenge today to take a ‘small step’, yet a powerful one, one borne in Truth? And what if we were to build upon this, reminding ourselves of the Truth about ourselves every day? Would that make a difference to how we experience our lives? I think it would.
So, today I set a challenge, if you’d like to join me, to simply remind ourselves that the following is True of each and every one of us no matter what we have experienced in life, or what lies we have believed that have damaged our perception and experience of our worth:
“I am a human being of intrinsic worth, I am and always have been, and always will be valuable simply because I am me”.
It’s a small but powerful step, and one we can keep taking day by day. I wonder what a difference it would make to our experience of life if we do?
Take a moment to consider whether the thing you are allowing yourself to get stressed about will be significant to you in five years time, and whether it is worth so much of your mental energy right now.