Tag Archives: February

Self Care In A Pandemic (66): Revisiting Those Habits – New Month, New Goals…? …

Hi Friends,

I hope you’ve all been keeping well and finding the courage to move forwards over the past few days since we last checked in.

If you’ve been following along with my ‘Self care in a pandemic’ series, you may remember that at the start of the year I wrote a post on how to create effective habits. If you need a recap, or missed it the first time round, here’s the link.

Self care In A Pandemic (47): Effectively Tracking Habits to Create New Daily Disciplines… ‹ Life as it happens to be ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

As it’s a new month, and the very first day of February 2021 what better time to start thinking about making a fresh new start to things, regardless of how the past month has been for you.

Did you maintain any new habits in January 2021, or did you start something and manage to stick with it for a little while at least? Don’t worry if you didn’t, if we are blessed to have another day, we’re blessed with another chance to try and persevere.

In January I set myself eight new habits to try to maintain everyday, and I’m pleased to say I did pretty well over all, and the only ‘sparse column’ was for continuous learning / studying which I did towards the start, middle and end of the month, but not everyday as with some other disciplines.

How tracking my habits helped me on rough days:

If you feel discouraged reading any of the above, for example, if you haven’t had a particularly good or productive month, then please don’t. You’ve made it to February – in an ongoing pandemic – and you should be proud of yourself with that. You may have had to dig deep and show all kinds of resilience just to survive, so please don’t feel discouraged by any comparisons.

I’m going to be honest because it is so important when discussing mental health and let you know that I’ve had some difficult days this month. I’m on an ongoing journey with my mental health and am still working out ways of coping, managing and overcoming my struggles related to depression, anxiety and c-PTSD. On those down days, having some ‘marker points’ in my days when looking at the habits I’ve been tracking have helped give me a sense of direction and the ability to keep taking small steps forwards, looking outside of my mind, and doing something practical, even if I’m not able to maintain those habits everyday.

They have provided that little bit of leverage needed to persevere from one moment to the next, one day to the next, and keep going, all the while knowing Christ as my True Source and Strength.

Have you had anything in your day to day that has helped you keep to a routine, even if not rigidly, and has this helped you to persevere through your difficult days?

Have you managed to keep or exceed your expectations and have you found any benefit to your mental health from tracking your habits?

Do you feel like you’ve not done very well and have drifted into February and want the chance to ‘begin again’?

Well, if the first of the month isn’t a great place to start, then what is? 🙂

A new month….new goals? …

I think as human beings, we all relish the idea of new starts, especially if there are things that we want to leave behind. However, it’s important to realise that one of the keys to making long lasting changes for the better in life is consistency. Small, meaningful, incremental steps taken daily or on some kind of regular basis, all add up and can make for a brighter future.

This can be especially true if like me you are overcoming some kind of psychological trauma, and trying to unpick the lies and hurts you experienced in childhood. We can wish for a ‘sudden transformation’ but this can be hard to come to terms with mentally if we have been so conditioned into thinking a certain way. For example, if you have experienced years of verbal abuse, it can make you wince if you receive a compliment, because, well, you just don’t know how to receive it in experience. It is alien and unknown to you and it can be really hard to think it’s not a mockery when your personhood and identity has been injured by lies for so long.

Perhaps there are issues in your own life that you can relate to when making a sudden drastic change can feel overwhelming. That’s ok. What we need to do is find a way of retraining our thinking bit by bit, day by day, little by little, and as the Bible says ‘be transformed by the renewing of (y)our mind(s)’. Romans 12:2.

Habits can help with this. Habits can help with moving past trauma. It’s not a ‘be all, end all’ answer, as we need to implement a variety of things into our life and I’m still learning and discovering what these might be, but they can help us move forward a little at a time when our minds and nervous systems threaten to keep us ‘stuck’ in a negative loop of trauma and past thinking. There are times to think about and process the past, but I’ve found that having concrete goals that are to do with the here and now can help me to move forwards in a healthy way in this what can be a very difficult journey.

Even if you’re not dealing with overcoming any particular mental health issues, you can benefit from tracking your habits and setting new goals.

I’ve decided to include the goals I had for January which I managed to track as habits on a daily basis, and include these in my February habit tracker. I have also included new ones so that I have a total of 20. They don’t need to be big things, and they don’t need to be as numerous. Start with one or two areas of your life that you want to make incremental changes to if that suits you better. I know that some people don’t like to track habits and goals and if so that’s fine, feel free to find another blog post in my series that helps you better, but for those who are inclined, this can help you with your mental health and help with that sense of purpose that we talked about in another post, as well as providing structure to your day. You can break free from that structure as and when you want, but if your mind is struggling with what feels like muddled days all merging one into the next, then this could be good for you.

Brainstorming:

If you feel like you’re back at square one, and don’t know where to start, then why not take a piece of paper and a pen, or type something up on your computer and just have a few minutes brainstorming session.

Write down anything and everything that comes to mind that you’d like to implement into your life that will help you to move forwards. Maybe it’s exactly the same as what you have been doing and you want to strengthen and persevere with the same goal / goals and that’s absolutely fine. Get strong in one area before moving on to another if that’s what will work for you.

Once you have brainstormed, then pick out a few key ideas. If they seem very big at first then break them down into smaller parts and set about doing a little bit everyday, or a few times a week, whatever works for you.

This can also be helpful if your goals seem attainable but a bit vague. Turning your goals into trackable habits can be extremely helpful in making progress. For example, maybe you want to ‘read more books’ for a number of reasons, perhaps also because you feel that this will benefit your mental health, especially in a lockdown! This is something I’ve been getting back into and making progress with. It’s not a small thing to be honest. All my childhood I was a voracious reader. I studied English Literature in my undergraduate degree with Politics and for most of my life have been a big reader, but this had not been the case for many years since after graduating. A few years ago I had a traumatic breakdown when childhood memories were ‘exploding’ out of my mind and were stopping me from living a normal day to day life -it was quite simply terrifying as my body and brain was processing the experiences of traumatic bullying in childhood, years of night terrors, and chronic adult stress from a variety of situations that I couldn’t process at the time. As someone who used to love the peace of solitude and thinking my thoughts, daydreaming, reflecting, reading and writing, it became a terrifying living nightmare to no longer be able to feel safe in my own company and mind. I’d try to sit down and read a book but the adrenaline and cortisol would be coursing through me, I’d be having flash backs of the bullying, and I’d feel like a terrified child shouting out for help and my mind felt so broken. It was heart-breaking for me to not be able to read a sentence of a fiction book properly because all around me was so scary in my mind and I could not process even a sentence. So getting back into reading now is a joy and something I need to continue to persevere with because those triggers can happen when I’m reading and I need to keep on strengthening new neural connections as I strengthen my mind.

My apologies that I digressed somewhat, but hopefully the above insights will help encourage someone else who might feel a bit defeated or discouraged with trying to persevere. Things can get better, please don’t give up.

Reading more books can seem quite vague in terms of goal setting. Even giving yourself a number of books to read can feel overwhelming and you may feel discouraged if you’re not able to meet that goal. Instead, if you change it into a habit, then you will be more likely to feel encouraged and make and maintain progress. I have the dates of the month written as rows down the side of my notebook, and I have corresponding columns for the goals I want to track as habits across the top of the page. Included in that is ‘reading’. I don’t specify how much to read, but I can tick off or make a note of progress as I go down through the days of the month. It’s ok if there are gaps, but I can come back to it and it is encouraging to me to see that I am reading often, even if some days that is little, because compared to where I was before, it is big progress. As I persevere, I find that I am enjoying it, I am more able to push through triggers, and it is good food for my mind.

So what about you? Do you have anything you’d like to persevere with, start afresh or embark upon for the first time as we head into this new month?

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, but if it helps to add structure to your day, and give direction to your mind, then why not give it a go? And as ever, please feel free to share your thoughts and learning in the comments, I’d love to hear from you and you might just encourage someone else out there who needs to hear what you have to say.

Stay safe and never give up, keep taking small steps each day, and enjoy seeing the progress you make, even if you have some hurdles and difficulties along the way. x

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Well, that was unexpected!

It’s mid-February, and just as I’ve been getting my home ready with more springtime-like décor, and putting away the last of the remnants of the winter season, guess what? It has started to snow!

Yes, the snow that didn’t fall here over Christmas time is beginning to fall now in not-so-sunny Scotland. We had expected storms, rain and lashing wind, all of which we got, but for me at least, the snow was a surprise. It’s lovely to watch from indoors, especially as just now it’s quite calm with no wind, so I guess we just may as well make the most of the prettiness before having to step into the great outdoors once again, and before the weekend’s forecast storm sets in!

Choose to enjoy the unexpected where you can! 🙂

photo of deer on snow
Photo by Louis on Pexels.com

Planning a restful ‘retreat’ one step at a time (1)…

(1). Beginnings:

If you’ve read my earlier post at the beginning of February (2020), you’ll know that I feel compelled to continue through this month with the theme of ‘Rest’. If you haven’t read my earlier post, in summary I had a great January, yet at the start of February I have felt tired, ‘under the weather’ and not in the best of health. As such, as I often ‘theme’ my months to help me have a better focus and direction, as well as to feel more positive as I move through the year, I am honing in on the idea of rest.

Well friends, ‘life as it happens to be’ is happening as it is, unfolding one step at a time, and I hope you’ll journey with me as I discover more about rest this month. If you’ve been following me for a while, or have looked back at my posts over the past few years (since mid 2017 when I started this blog), then you’ll know that I do like to have myself an at home ‘retreat’ or two throughout the year. Sometimes these have a particular focus such as faith, or a writing retreat, or creativity. I hadn’t planned to start thinking about one so early on in the year, but it seems that I need to for my own wellbeing.

At home retreats can be fairly simple, with relatively little planning and preparation depending on how organised you generally are, or you can put more time, thought and effort into things depending on your needs. I have written about planning retreats in the past. With where I am at right now, I think the planning process itself is something that is good for my mental health, if that makes sense. It helps me not to allow myself to feel overwhelmed or give in to the lack of energy, or to feel ‘frazzled’ that I can’t keep up with things at home what with working full time and feeling a little less than my best at the moment. Some people have holidays coming up at this time of the year, but as I haven’t got anything in the diary just yet, the planning gives me those similar kind of happy ‘vibes’ and something other than the day to day routine to put my attention and focus into.

Do you ever find that planning even the simplest of things, trying to make something special out of the ‘ordinary’ helps to keep you in a positive and healthy frame of mind? I think the process of doing a little bit at a time with the build up to something, even if it’s a weekend of restfulness, is quite special, particularly after the Christmas and festive season for which there was the lovely build up and collective nostalgic feeling which with the season has now passed.

Therefore, I’m inviting you to journey on planning a restful retreat one step at a time, easy does it, no stress, more rest! If you like, please join in and carve out your own little pockets of rest this month. xx

woman in white tank top lying on gray bed
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Revisiting Rest…

I had a pretty great start to the year with a successful and productive January. However, February so far has seen me feeling not quite my best, and struggling a bit with it.

In January I managed to re-establish a work routine, keep in touch with my family, blog consistently, exercise, meal-prep healthy meals, get back into reading regularly, meet up with friends, go to live music events, go out to dinner, persevere with spiritual pursuits and maintain my home.

The first day of February was pretty great too, despite me feeling a bit drained and tired. I saw a good friend and her baby, after 7 months, so it was a lovely time to catch up and get lots of cuddles from the little one. I know it’s only 5th February, but I have been feeling a bit out of sorts since then, and trying to re-establish some kind of balance.

Initially feeling physically drained and tired, I was unable to keep up with all of the things around the house I wanted to do, which in itself I find a bit frustrating. Added to that I just haven’t had the energy to keep up with healthy habits such as meal prep and exercise, and shopping for healthy food. Oh how nice it would be to have another pair of hands to help out with all the day to day things in life, but I live alone and have to take responsibility for myself. On top of this I’ve been experiencing dizzy spells again, fatigue, restless and sometimes sleepless nights or nights of disturbed sleep, fever, cough / cold and shivers.

My body and mind need a rest, and yet there is so much to do that just isn’t getting done.

I usually like to ‘theme’ my months. It looks like February’s theme requires to be around revisiting rest. Physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally, the signs are there that I am in need of refreshing.

It isn’t quite what I would have had in mind for this month, but needs must, and if we don’t have our health and wellbeing then we can’t fully enjoy what we do have.

Sometimes our bodies and minds let us down be it in big ways or just the smaller frustrations of life and we need to listen to them when they tell us to rest.

And so for February I will be revisiting the idea and theme of rest, in the hope of finding some rejuvenation in the process. Perhaps it will be small steps, but hopefully we will mutually find some encouragement along this journey.

Do you ever try to set a theme for your months or weeks? If so, what is February looking like for you? x

orange cat sleeping on white bed
Photo by Александар Цветановић on Pexels.com

January 2018 in Review

Welcome to February. 🙂

What can I say? We made it! I think you deserve a ‘pat on the back’ for making it through the somewhat tricky month of January. I find that January can be laden with so much expectation, being a brand new chapter to a brand new year…and also, at least in my part of the world, quite a cold, dark and wintry month. I smile as I see the days already begin to lighten, with the feeling that spring is not too far away if it is not quite ‘just around the corner’. 

How has the start of the year been for you? I love the start of a brand new month. It is like a mini ‘new beginning’ in and of itself. A couple of years ago, I think, I began ‘theming’ my months. I find that having a theme as well as monthly ‘goals’ and plans helps me to live better rather than merely drifting along. A common theme to all my months, and hopefully each of my days is ‘Faith’, and in particular, my relationship with God.

However, in addition to this core value, running through my entire life, my more ‘down to earth’ themes this January have been cosiness and music. 

Cosiness

Cosiness because I find Christmas such a cosy time of the year, and I feel a certain sadness in so quickly packing up the Christmas tree and getting back into the rush and hurry of work. I’m the kind of person who is a bit of a magpie as it were ~ I love shiny things, I love cosiness, and I have gentle fairy lights up in various parts of my home all year round. I delayed taking down my Christmas decorations until midway through January, and it helped ease me into the transition of the seasons, or our human demarcations of them. 

So I kept in mind the saying on a mug I was gifted with in December, ”Tis the Season to be Cosy’, and I made the most of hot drinks, cosy blankets, fairy lights, comforting food, time inside, making time to ‘breathe’ and relax and slow the pace a little amid the necessity to pick up the pace by getting back to work, commuting, braving the cold weather and getting back into the post holiday routines. 

I found myself learning that I wasn’t the only one with this mind and heart-set, and was intrigued to learn more about the Danish concept of ‘Hygge’ ~ if you haven’t heard of it, you might find it fascinating to look up ~ if you are a person who likes your ‘cosy corners’ in life that is 🙂 

However, cosiness didn’t only involve staying wrapped up indoors. It also involved making the most of the weekend ‘Snow Days’ when I got wrapped up warm, and braved the chill to take photographs and slow down and see the beauty of the wintry season. It is never far from my mind how fortunate I am to have a home when so many are homeless in the cold season in particular, and I kept in mind and in prayer the harsh realities of those for whom the beauty of snow as some see it only exacerbates their misery. It was definitely a time for both creativity and humble reflection and gratitude. 

Making time for reflection and cosiness also came to the fore in establishing more of a ‘morning routine’ ~ as Gretchin Rubin, author of ‘The Happiness Project’ says, some people are born larks and others are born owls, and being an owl I am definitely by nature *not* a morning person, however, I have made progress in this area and have enjoyed having quiet times of prayer, reflection, and time with God, reading His word in the mornings, while drinking a hot cup of tea and cosied up in soft blankets…not something I have always maintained consistently, but the times I have managed it have been quite calming and special before the busy work day begins, and helps set the perspective, heart and tone of the day.11.jpg

Music

In my little part of the world, which just now is Scotland, there is an annual festival held in the City of Glasgow called “Celtic Connections”  (https://www.celticconnections.com/Pages/default.aspx) ~ perhaps you have heard of it? ~ musicians from all over the world show their interest in being involved in this unique and inspiring event. This year Celtic Connections celebrates its 25th Anniversary, and runs (yes, it is ongoing, with two days left!) from 18th January to 4th February, and showcases both ‘new’ and established musicians of high calibre and unique style, in numerous venues from Concert Halls to cosy café / bars and pubs. There are various events throughout the day, from concerts and gigs to workshops, some ticketed and others free such as the well loved ‘Danny Kyle’s Open Stage’ giving new and upcoming artists the chance to share their talent. I have had the pleasure of going to three of the free Open Stage events, for the first time ever (I first dipped my toe in the waters of Celtic Connections only last year!), as well as going along to a ticketed evening event to watch and listen to the likes of Eddi Reader, Phil Cunningham and Siobhan Miller to name but a few ~ if you haven’t heard of them…well, you really should have!! 😉 🙂 

I went to all but one of the events on my own, but even when I went alone I saw and got chatting to one or two people who I knew from different contexts (church and work!), and made new acquaintances for the evening with fellow music lovers. 

Suffice to say, Celtic Connections has helped in many ways to get me through those dreaded ‘January / Winter blues’ ~ and the sense of community, even among strangers, really added to that sense of cosiness and belonging in the way that live music uniquely creates. 

The talent I have seen and heard has been so vastly unique and varied, and deeply sincere. However, as sad as I am to see Celtic Connections come to an end for this year, I am excited to embark upon a new “Theme” for February …..as a ‘sneak preview’ if I can call it a preview with the month having commenced, the focus is shifting towards all things home and lifestyle ~ a good old clear out and purge of the messiness that has built up in my home, establishing new systems of organisation, in a way coming full circle so that eventually it will be organised, well maintained and a beautiful haven wherein I can enjoy the things that make for a happy life like creativity, friendship, cosiness and music! 😉 

More on February’s theme to follow, so keep a look out for that my friends. xx

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