Tag Archives: Focus

Self Care In A Pandemic (69): Be Aware Of What You Focus On…

Hi friends, I must admit that the mornings here in Scotland are getting a bit challenging for me to deal with at the moment. I’m not sure if the sun is shining in your part of the world, but where I am the sky is a big grey sheet and it is drizzling with rain. Trees are bare branched and there is a bit of a wind whistling through them. I and many others are probably longing for spring and a bit of sunshine (when hopefully the general population won’t go crazy and be irresponsible with going outside or forgetting about social distancing…but that’s for another chapter!).

Whatever the weather is like where you are, it is part of the human condition to sometimes struggle with focusing on the things that our bodies, minds and hearts experience that might get us down. We need to have a plan in place for times like that and the more we can implement better thought habits the better we will be for it through the course of our lives.

My sleep was a bit unsettled, I woke up with unsettling feelings and thoughts inside, and then I woke up to grey skies and a ‘dreich’ day as the Scots say. I knew that I had to get out of my head a bit and so I opened the patio door and got some fresh air on my face. I could see and hear birds, and even saw a fox running behind our garden fence! I appreciate these things having lived the first part of lockdown 1.0 on my own in a tall flat with no garden space or balcony!

It did me good to get some fresh air, but I still felt unsettled. I had breakfast and did some exercise, all the while building up on the new and more helpful thought patterns and neural pathways. This can be effortful at times. We can forget to breathe. We can get lost in the tangle of unsettling thoughts and feelings. We can become overwhelmed and stay stuck focusing on the wrong things. Memories and impressions arose in my mind. Perhaps they do for you, and not particularly the ones you want to remember. Sometimes we want to ‘swat’ them away. Yet there is power in learning to sit with those difficult thoughts and feelings safe in the knowledge that we are not our thoughts, and they will not last.

If you are struggling with things today, be aware of what you are allowing yourself to focus on. As I said in an earlier post, it is normal to have ups and downs, but sometimes those difficult spells can feel really hard to us. That’s why we need Help from Above, and we also need practical tools and strategies.

So whatever it is you are finding yourself focusing on, if it is a negative thing that is, sit with it for a moment, take a deep breath and try to reframe your thought into focusing on something else more positive and productive. The fact that you have read this far in my somewhat rambling blog post is a positive thing in itself! 🙂

Keep moving, feel your feelings, externalise them in some safe way if that helps such as journaling or chatting to a friend, or praying through them to God. Remind yourself that you are not your thoughts and feelings, and that they will pass.

Think of something more positive to turn your attention to and do that for a while. It takes time. We can feel destabilised and discouraged when we feel these difficult things as if we are those things but we are not. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are valuable. And there is an important reason we are here today and we all have a purpose. If you don’t know your purpose, I have written a post about that and finding it in the very things that are right in front of us. You can find a purpose for the next five minutes, and the next, and the next and going on from that….so just focus on the next step on those difficult days.

Remind yourself also that it takes time and practice for all of us to make new neural connections, and trains of thought and patterns of behaviour as our brains readjust from negative thought patterns, experiences and beliefs that we may have been used to or conditioned by for many years. But we can make a change and each small step is important.

There are a couple of verses in Christian Scripture that help me and encourage me with this: ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2) and ‘You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make /set you Free’ (said by Jesus Christ Who also comforts us by showing us that He Is The Way, The Truth and The Life). John 8:32, John 14:6.

We can be free. And even with everything going on in your life today, you can make progress. If you are in a ‘slough of despond’, if you feel like you have fallen down a metaphorical well and don’t know how to get out, don’t let the darkness overtake you, don’t look down at the ground, don’t stay stuck in your difficult thoughts and feelings – instead, like an intrepid explorer find that spark within you that says ‘keep going’, ‘you can do this’ and like a curious child, look for the solution to a puzzle that can be solved. Look up to the light streaming in that otherwise darkened well, look for the foot and hand holds on the side and begin, one small effort at at time to climb up. You CAN do this.

We will speak again soon, friends. If you are doing well, keep going. If you are doing very well, reach a hand out to help someone else. If you are feeling stuck, you can make progress. Just do that next one thing, and be aware of what you choose to focus on. It’s ok to feel those tough feelings, to sit with them a while, to process them, to responsibly vent them without hurting anyone else, to be creative about it, but don’t stay in that place all day. Focus on something new. Do the next thing. And never give up. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (37): Find Your Own Focus…

With so much going on around us, in the world, and in the lives of other people, it can be easy to feel lost or become swept up in the events of others so much so that we lose focus in our own lives.

As we continue on through the pandemic, and as we near the end of 2020, and approach 2021, take some time to consider what is important to you and to find your own focus – no one else can do it for you.

I’ve been asking God for vision and wisdom for my life for a while and there are things that are important to me that I know that I can keep building up on day by day to help other people and to develop my own gifts and use them for His Glory.

What is important to you in this season, and what are you doing to find your own focus?

What are the things dragging you back or pulling you down? How can you address these? Perhaps like me you’ve had a lot of inner emotional and psychological healing to do so that you are not hurting yourself after others hurt you but are giving yourself a chance. You can use the positivity you develop to help other people too.

Maybe there are other voices from other people who are discouraging or distracting you. Take control of what you have to do and make sure you are not letting negativity rob you of your purpose.

So what is your focus? Maybe that’s too big a question all at once. One helpful tip is to take a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and simply brainstorm all of the things that matter to you, that you enjoy doing or that you feel bring purpose into your life. These can be building blocks for going forwards with greater purpose.

If for example one of those items on your list is ‘helping people’ then that’s the first step, but the next might be to take practical steps to looking into opportunities around you, in your own family, volunteering opportunities or what other people might be doing and see if you can join then. Maybe you could become a telephone volunteer for someone who is lonely in the pandemic or you can help out in some other way. Maybe you can write encouraging blog posts! 🙂

Perhaps you want to focus on writing a book – break it down into small steps and just make a start at writing regularly if not everyday.

Maybe you want to create and sell art work – you’ll need to put in the time developing your skills and also broadening your knowledge of business and seeing what other people out there are doing.

Perhaps you want to focus on health and fitness. What are the small daily steps that you can take regularly and build these up into habits?

These are just some suggestions. Your focus and vision might be far greater – perhaps it is helping to spread the Gospel, maybe it is to help your neighbourhood and city, or to encourage frontline workers, to support single parents, to create an online forum for your community.

Think about what is important to you going forward, it can be big or small, for ever big venture started with the smallest of steps – seek wisdom, purpose and vision and then ‘put feet to your plans’ and simply take the next small step. x

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Surviving The Pandemic Together. Words of Encouragement (20): *Do you want to survive or thrive in lockdown?*

*Do you want to survive or thrive in lockdown?*


We’re all somewhat anxiously finding ways to adjust to this new and unwanted ‘normal’. While we may be able to enjoy more time at home, and have more time to do things, it is under awful circumstances, and so it can be hard to settle and to concentrate on anything much.


We all have a choice here. To survive or thrive in lockdown. The third option is to go under, and that’s not a pleasant place to be. Many of us will have experienced times in our lives that have felt dark, scary and as if things are falling in upon us. We need to be strong and not let that be an option here. My heart goes out to those who are living in terrible domestic situations or even homeless in this time, such that ‘thriving’ isn’t really an option. But for the rest of us who are safe at home, we do have options. 


Unless we have vision, we’re going to simply drift along, trying to muddle through each day as best as we can. If you want to thrive in this situation, you’re going to have to put your mind to it. We’re part of a unique time in history, and I personally don’t want my ‘legacy’ or ‘fruit’ of this season to be merely having spent all of my time playing computer games, watching films, or sharing random videos on social media. Do you? We need to step up if we want more than that for ourselves and our communities.


If you’re in this with me, then I encourage you to write down at least three things that you want to accomplish, work on, or build up during this time. You don’t need to share it with anyone, but you do need to be clear about what these things are. That way, even if you don’t have a solid routine (and who does in a time like this anyway?), you can still ‘chip away’ at things little by little, day by day, moving purposefully and with focus and direction.

Perhaps once you’ve written them down, share them with at least one other person, or simply display them somewhere for you to see and to keep yourself accountable by.
It can also help us to focus so that we don’t give in to the stress, sadness and negativity of this situation.


What about you? What focus will you have to help you more than just ‘muddle through’ this stressful and challenging time?

The Desire to Inspire – your purpose, and theirs…how much are you meant to handle?

Most people have a cause or purpose that is close to their heart. At the core of all of mine is the desire to live for the Glory of God because of His great love in laying down His life to forgive me, heal me, cleanse me, give me new life and make me His forever.

You could say that is the centre of the ‘wheel’ out of which come several other ‘spokes’.

Some of these other spokes include involvement in my church and various initiatives to help others; being there for my family and friends; nurturing and building up younger people where and when I can; writing my book; personal development; recovery. It also includes the desire to inspire other people, to encourage people to overcome mental health challenges and lead a better quality of life, to build people up, and to help those who are struggling with things such as bullying, PTSD, depression, anxiety and so forth. This is just one part of my life, but an important one, and one which my blog is a key avenue for reaching out with advice and encouragement, guidance, tips and tricks, sharing personal experience and sharing hope. Why is it important? Because people are important and my story of struggle has led me to one of being an encourager, of speaking ‘life’ through my words, and I am thankful that this blog platform gives me an avenue of opportunity to do that.

There are many other causes and things that are close to my heart or that I care about and seek to be involved with in some way or another, even if my efforts are little. At one point in time, and linked to the work I was doing about a decade ago, my ’cause’ or passion was focused on praying for and raising awareness about victims of human trafficking, and also other ‘spokes’ related to the persecuted church, environmentalism, reaching out to older vulnerable people, and homeless people, and being involved with international human rights charities. Each spoke had its own little place, nothing grand or deserving of any fanfare, just humble little parts of a bigger ‘wheel’ with God at the centre. Each for a season. And the wheels will go around in their time again and perhaps those seasons and ’causes’ will be revisited as a focus of attention.

I have a number of friends who are equally passionate about various things. Some friends work abroad as missionaries, others are passionate about taking up the baton of challenging human trafficking, for others their focus is veganism and have set up charities and groups to further their cause. Some due to their own health challenges are seeking solutions for others in similar circumstances to them, campaigning and advocating for the use of certain treatments. Others want to raise awareness of autism because of their experiences of being parents of an autistic child. Some are keenly involved with environmental causes. Others in raising awareness and fundraising for dementia, Alzheimer’s, cancer, stroke and so forth, because of how these things have touched either their lives or the lives of their loved ones or friends. Some people make their passion, their ’cause’, their charitable inclination into a ‘religion’ of sorts. For me, all these things are a part of a much bigger purpose and to be submitted to God and His plans, purposes and direction.

Whether or not you believe in God, you’ll be aware simply from living in this world that there are many people who want to make a change for the better. In your own life you may think of examples of how certain things have been important to you in terms of social justice, human rights, environmental protection, animal welfare, and so on and so forth at different times in your life. Some people seek to make a change through their jobs, through politics, through joining a group, or giving to charities. The point I’m making I suppose is that there is so much need in the world, and so many people we know have their own particular focus, which is positive in that many people are ‘doing their bit’ to make a change, and that way different changes can be made by a diversity of people all doing something. We can’t all be the same, and we don’t always even have the same focus as we did a few years ago, or that we might have a few years from now. Priorities change, and there are times and seasons in our lives.

While you may be surrounded by passionate people who want to make a difference and who may feel like their cause is of most urgent importance (I personally believe that, underpinning everything else that is temporal, praying for people’s eternal salvation and sharing The Truth of Jesus Christ is of utmost importance), your focus may be different to theirs at this moment in time, and that is probably a good thing as it encourages learning, growth and development. Everyone is building their own part of the wall rather than everyone focusing on bridging just one gap to the detriment of the rest of the structure.

I have a variety of friends who have approached me at different points to get involved with the things that they are passionate about. These might be small things or potentially things that may involve more time and commitment. I wonder if you are the same? These requests might come in the form of signing a petition, attending an event, writing for a website, giving time, money, ideas and so forth. It’s great when we can do our bit, but we can’t do it all and it’s important to know that it’s ok to focus on what is important in our lives without feeling the need to be pulled in all directions.

Everyone has  a part to play and everyone will play their part (even if it is just one small scene in this time of their lives) better if they are focused. If many people are asking many things of you don’t be afraid to take a step back to assess your priorities in this season of your life. You are only meant to carry so much. The desire to inspire is wonderful, but acknowledge that the priorities and causes of other people in your life may be different than your own, and that’s possibly a good thing. Keep focused on the part that you were called to play, and inspire others as you go. x

yellow flowers in brown woven basket on bicycle
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Focus…

A favourite Scripture among many Christians is from the book of Proverbs (Chapter 3: verses 5 – 6).

Trust in The LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths”.

For those who have never encountered The Living God, who don’t know the Reality of the Risen Christ, and who don’t personally have a relationship with Him as their Lord and Saviour, then this advice might seem a little bit strange, inaccessible or contrary to their way of thinking and of living life. For without God in the picture, people trust in their own wayward hearts, they lean on their own faulty reasoning, ‘logic’ and understanding, and that of other people as they try to forge out a way forwards, yet never walking in the Truth.

Statements like these can be hard to swallow, might invite challenging discussion, but as someone who does know The Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, I also know just how much I need Him to navigate the path ahead for me, and to trust The One Who sees and knows with perfect wisdom the many things I can’t possibly figure out without Him. Who would walk into a jungle for the first time without a guide? Who would walk through the jungle of life without The Saviour, The Shepherd, The One Who declares in Truth: “I AM The Way, The Truth and The Life (no one comes to The Father except through Me)” ?

For those of us who do know Him, we have a responsibility to always seek His guidance and direction in our lives, in the day to day decisions, as well as the bigger situations we may face. How many times do we get into a mess trying to figure out things all on our own, when we only have to ask, and listen for that direction that He so freely gives? The Good Shepherd will never lead us astray.

We need to stay focussed on Him, because He has a plan, a mission, a purpose for our lives, and much of this is being played out in the spiritual realm – something that the secular world around us does not understand, accept or acknowledge, and something that others may not be ‘armed’ to know what they are actually ‘dabbling with’ when it comes to spiritual things that on the surface seem harmless.

WE need to stay focussed, alert, on track and listen for His direction, and guidance, through the Word and being led by His Spirit.

Sometimes there may be a lot of competing demands in our lives, things that arise from a variety of sources, and seemingly ‘good causes’, but before diving in, we need to acknowledge our Lord and ask what He desires and requires of us. Just because something on the surface seems like it is a good thing to be involved with, doesn’t mean that it is something that He wants us to focus our attention on, or maybe He has a different or a better way than the one we see immediately set before us.

Are you letting competing voices draw you away from hearing The Voice of your Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ?

The world busies itself with all sorts of things to be done, but sometimes rushing into things isn’t the best course of action. Wait, listen, trust in Him with all your heart, lean on His understanding and not your own, acknowledge Him in everything, knowing that without any doubt, He *will* direct your paths.

 

A ‘mini mini-retreat’.

Following on from my recent series (which is awaiting a final concluding blog post) on my personal / writing retreat, I have a few words that will hopefully encourage you that even if you don’t feel you have the time to take a retreat, even if that is in your own home, and even if it is a mini retreat over a weekend, you can plan what I’d like to call ‘mini mini-retreats’…or maybe micro retreats if you prefer 🙂

This is something you can achievably plan to incorporate into your week, your weekend or even your daily life. What do I mean by a micro retreat? It’s simply time that you have set aside to focus on an aspect of your life that is important to you, giving it the care and attention you long to. You may, like myself, only have rare occasions where you can deeply delve into creative projects you are involved in where over a space of a few days or even a week you are immersed in that creative experience and set aside time without having to worry about other commitments. However, on a regular basis, you can still ‘go on retreat’ in a focused and meaningful way, even if the breadth and depth of your experience differs from a longer time spent in this way. In some ways, because it is shorter and more focused time, you may reap unexpected benefits and glean new insights into your self and life. 

So, think about what you’d like to focus on. Like me, you may have many different aspects of life that are important to you that you’d like to give time care and attention to. Perhaps self care, meditative time in nature, prayer, reading the Bible, reading generally, blog writing, spending time alone, painting, writing, photography, journaling, model making, music, or simply just getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You can be flexible with how you fit such times into your daily and weekly life. All you need to do is set aside, protect and honour that time. In business speak, ‘ring fence’ that time for a specific purpose. Whether it is 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour, or half a day, you can modify and change things to suit your own life. But once you’re in that time, treat it as you would a retreat – no distractions, find a place by yourself, undisturbed, make a warm cosy drink and spend that time giving attention to that one specific thing that matters to you. You can have many ‘mini mini retreats’ or micro retreats in a month, week or even a day. Let it be a time you make special for yourself, and give your full attention to that purpose, with gratitude, intent and a deep focus. And most of all enjoy the time, and seek to be refreshed, as you seek to live a life that you don’t want to ‘get away from’, and learn to live fully right where you are. 

white and pink flowers beside a canister
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Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 5

It’s 10.05am of day 1 of my writing retreat, and so far the morning has been reasonably productive. I have written 355 words of my novel since 9.40am, and although this may not seem much I am pleased with it, and have felt content inhabiting the time to think and to focus. So far, cumulatively since last night I have written 1,485 words. 

For me, progressing with writing my novel is not about word-count. However, that being said, I do realise the need to hold myself accountable and make sure that I use my time productively. Having taken 3 days unpaid leave from work is another additional reason for me to be disciplined with my time, and especially as focussed writing and creative time is a rare opportunity for me, other than blogging and business writing for work. I am finding that blogging in little ‘snippets’ about my retreat experience also helps me to stay focused, productive and accountable. 

I have set myself a minimum ‘target’ of writing for at least 15 minutes at a stretch within one hour, and to do this at least 7 times each day for the three days. Personally, this really is helping me as when I sit down to write, I feel a lot more focused, I am not overwhelmed by the thought that I *have* to write for an hour or several hours, and therefore, I am finding the creative process enjoyable, satisfying and productive, which really should be a central component to creativity, rather than any pressures we or others impose upon ourselves. We need to linger in our creative space and explore the internal dynamics of what it is to be human, and somehow to translate that into what we create. These relatively small targets feel very manageable at the moment, and it also frees me up to stay within the creative space while affording myself the opportunity to do other things, the variety of which I feel will help maintain the creative ‘flow’ and interest. 

As such, I know that I can intersperse writing my novel which is the focus of this creative time, with other ‘lighter’ creative projects that I have going on, including some adult colouring in and working on a photography project. Personally the variety keeps me from feeling ‘stifled’, stuck or overwhelmed. 

I wonder if you have gained insights you can share about your creative process? What works for you? What doesn’t? Does this change with circumstances and opportunities, or have you established a set pattern that helps you with both your creativity and productivity? 

For now, I will aim to write for another stretch of 15 minutes, and then take a break and do some exercise, so that my body and brain will be in ‘tip top’ condition and keeping those ‘creative juices’ flowing! 😉 

accuracy action active activity
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