It’s a bright and beautiful Sunday early afternoon. I spent some quiet time this morning listening to worship music, praying and praising God while playing worship songs on my violin. Taking time for a bit of self care and reflection, and tidying up, and hopefully by later this afternoon I’ll catch some of that winter sunshine while it is still here, God willing.
It was cold, dark, and I’d had a long albeit productive week at work, and I was spending the evening alone. I’ve been feeling tired after work this week and working through some things that had been bothering me a bit, so I haven’t really had a lot of time or energy to put into practice some of the other perhaps more productive Winter Survival Guide tips this week, alongside the fact that I have been blogging a lot! 🙂
So, Friday night was definitely a good night for a cosy night in and for a bit of a treat, so I ordered in a takeaway, I was in the mood for Wagamama, so here are the obligatory pictures of what I got – all vegan too I’m pleased to say 🙂 Yasai Katsu Curry, and panko breadcrumb covered aubergines in a bun, with a side salad. Delish! 🙂
I ended up not watching a film, but enjoying my ‘go to’ cosy night in fix of Grey’s Anatomy.
Sometimes we just need an evening like that, no pressure, some good food, and the chance to unwind after a long week. Have you had any cosy nights in lately as winter approaches? What did you do, or do you have any film or TV recommendations?
It’s mid-November, and already the Christmas markets have gone up in my city. There are food stalls representing a variety of countries, chocolate stalls, crafts, clothes and woodwork for sale. You can hear uplifting and fun music, and feel the warmth from the freshly cooked food, and smell delicious sweet treats like chocolate covered churros, waffles and crepes.
No doubt it will get a lot busier as we near Christmas, so why not visit a Christmas market a little earlier and beat the crowds (although where there is yummy smelling food and deserts, the crowds will be there anyway, but hopefully a little less busy).
Even if you do go when it’s busiest, still there is something really nostalgic, cosy and festive about including a visit to some Christmas markets into your diary.
Try to remember those on the fringes of society as you walk past, enjoying the atmosphere with your friends. Maybe you could buy a homeless person a hot drink or something warm to eat and give it to them as you pass by, I am sure it will be a welcome offering.
Do you have Christmas markets near where you live, or do you have to travel to a nearby town or city to visit them? Have you ever gone abroad to visit some Christmas markets? If so, which are your favourites and recommendations? Do you enjoy including a visit to a Christmas market to your holiday festivities, or do you prefer to avoid them altogether?
I have some exciting adventures planned that may involve Christmas markets, but not any of them nearby, so keep a look out for my posts on that later on in December! 🙂 x
These are some pictures from Christmas markets I visited in 2016 in Scotland:
Instead of getting stuck in front of the telly when the holidays arrive, mindlessly watching things that you aren’t even really interested in, so that you don’t get to spend your time doing other fun activities as well, be more intentional by planning ahead.
Why don’t you create a personal list of ‘Top 5 Festive Films’ (or however many you want to include, but 5 is a nice easy number to start with) that you really would like to watch during the holidays. Plan them into your schedule so that you can make a special occasion of it, and create some lovely memories.
You might like to include something that you’ve watched before, or maybe that you watch every year, and that has some kind of sentimental meaning to you. Maybe you could watch this with family and friends and have some people over, get some takeaway or popcorn and create a fun get-together with the people you love.
Maybe there’s a film that is shown every year in the cinemas, or smaller film theatres such as “It’s a wonderful life” (or is it ‘A Wonderful Life’…? Oops can’t remember). I have seen this film twice, once in a local artsy film theatre which was quite cosy. I went a good few years ago with a couple of friends from my church. It was snowing, and my female friend and I made snowballs and threw them at our male friend on the way there and back – it was a lot of fun 🙂 Last year I went to see it with another friend, this friend has recently moved home, and for that reason moved on to new friendships so at least I have that memory of a nice festive time together. I wonder what new memories I may make in the future and who with, watching this timeless classic.
As well as going out to see a film, or having a film night with friends and family, you could also have some ‘me time’ and make an evening of it – go to the cinema yourself if you like, or if you’d rather stay in and watch a good ‘oldie’, then get into your cosy clothes, wear some warm socks, get some yummy snacks and have a great night in to yourself watching one of your favourite films.
Make it special so that you’ll have the memories to look back on, rather than feeling like you just mindlessly lay in front of the telly for hours wasting time.
By being more intentional, it becomes more special, and frees you up to use your time for other wonderful things that you could do as well that might include going out, making crafts, or whatever it is that will make the season feel cosy and special to you. x
We all need that reminder, don’t we? Most people have some kind of struggle, even if only a minor one, in their relationship with food, and obviously what we put into our bodies affects our health, wellbeing, state of mind, energy, mood and so forth on so many different levels.
It’s important to fuel our bodies well for the winter, to remember to eat, but also to be aware of the temptations towards over indulging, comfort eating, or eating too much unhealthy foods. By all means enjoy what you eat, but keep things in balance. Don’t neglect to eat enough, for you’ll need the energy, but also don’t over eat, and try to eat healthily and do all things in moderation.
I know for many people this seems too ‘glib’ and it’s not easy because of your deeper struggles. But remember you are important and worth taking care of, which includes in how you treat your body and in what you eat, so stay well, warm, healthy and happy. x
A beautiful analogy of life is winter. The latter seasons of the year one might compare with the changing tones and mood of life as one ages. As with a carefree youth and young adulthood, the beginning of the year is often filled and overflowing with doing things, getting things done, making plans, achieving, going places, exploring, dreaming, figuring things out, seeing the world, and finding one’s passion. How many of us look upon January as a fresh new start, and begin dreaming of and planning for the wonderful adventures in the year ahead? However, as time moves on, and the year draws to a close, as things mature, and aspects of life fall away, the mood becomes somewhat more pensive, more reflective, a time for thinking, for evaluating, for finding meaning, for ‘taking stock’.
The winter months provide a perfect opportunity for ‘taking stock’ in a number of ways. It is a good time to consider how you have spent the past year, whether you used your time wisely, faced your challenges bravely, have grown in character, have shown love, lived out your purpose and made the world a little kinder than before. It is also a good time to ‘rest and be thankful’, and to think upon our individual journey through life, our faith, our personal beliefs and whether we have found the answers we have been searching for, whether indeed we have been asking the right questions of our short lives on earth in the first place (questions which yield answers of eternal significance), whether we have to ‘dig a bit deeper’, or whether we have been ‘frittering our time away’ and wasting the gifts, talent and time given to us. These deep things are definitely a reason to pause for thought.
However, on a much lighter and more practical note, this time of year is also a good opportunity for taking stock of the day to day things of our lives. Perhaps thinking about these practical things is more to your liking, so here are some suggestions of where you could start.
Take stock of what you have at home, what you need to let go of, and what you need to stock up on.
For example, do you have the things you need to see you through this season? Things such as medicines, cough and cold supplies, a stock of food in your pantry including all of those helpful non-perishable items, toiletries, first aid kits, warm clothes, and so forth?
Before going out and buying all of the things you need for winter time, have a look through what you have already got and make the best use of those items. As my Mum still tells me, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” (Wise words, thanks Mum! 🙂 x ).
Similarly, if you have more than you need, or have gone through the year not using what you have such as clothes, then consider donating some of these items to people who will get good use out of them. This is something that I keep meaning to do, but need to actually put into action this year. If I’m not using it, shouldn’t I give someone else the chance to?
Having taken stock of what we have, what we can let go of, and what we need, it’s a good time to ‘stock up’ for the winter – especially for those cold nights when you don’t feel like going out to get something from the shops, having something at hand comes in very useful!
So over to you – what are the types of things you are taking stock of this winter season, whether practical or more in terms of your values and life journey? Do you have any hints and tips to share with the rest of us?
Anxiety can leave you feeling pretty small. If you battle against anxiety, you know that this ‘nemesis’ can leave you feeling overwhelmed, underprepared, backed up against a wall, cowering in a corner with your hands over your face, wishing it all would just go away. But guess what? You lived to fight another day. And if you stay in training, one day you will find that you have the courage to step away from that corner, lift your head high, tell anxiety who’s boss, and win the battle as you take the next step to accomplish your goal however big or small that goal might be. Don’t get me wrong, anxiety like most opponents doesn’t give up easily…winning one battle doesn’t mean that you won’t face others in the future, but as you stay in training, build resilience and learn how to use your ‘armoury’ then you will become increasingly stronger and better prepared so that it doesn’t continue to overwhelm your every day life in such a debilitating way as it might be doing just now.
You’ll probably realise, and if you’ve read my previous blog posts on related issues then you’ll know, that I speak from years of painful experience in this regard. However, I have learnt a fair bit in this difficult journey, it certainly has been a battle against a persistent foe, but as small as we might be feeling when experiencing anxiety, panic attacks and related conditions, we can become ‘superheroes’ in our own way as we overcome our own battles, and use our increasing skills and strength to help others.
You are not alone
I know how debilitating living with Generalised Anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, etc can be. My heart goes out to you if you are overwhelmed by these things just now. I’d love to share with you some of the things I’ve learned that help me make progress on this journey. It continues to be a daily challenge, however, it does get better the more you understand. Actually, the reason I started writing this was prompted by almost having a ‘meltdown’ this evening because I couldn’t find an address that I needed, but I was able to ‘talk myself out of that corner’ that I felt backed up against.
Quick tips for your training to become a ‘superhero’ in your fight against anxiety.
Arm yourself with knowledge – know your opponent.
You can’t really win this fight if you don’t know what you’re up against. I know the fear of feeling that your head and heart are about to explode, hyperventilating and feeling that you will be sick (or in my case, actually being sick a couple of times), collapsing physically in a heap, feeling dizzy, stressed, and worrying that you might be going crazy because of the relentless and unceasing bombardment of thoughts firing at you like arrows from all sides.
Knowing that these are ‘normal’ symptoms of a condition that many people share was one of the first steps for me for making sense of things and lessening the fear that something far worse was happening to me. So find some recommended resources – there are plenty out there such as MIND in the UK https://www.mind.org.uk/ but there will be plenty of others that can help explain to you what’s going on in your body, brain and nervous system. You’re not going crazy if you’re experiencing anxiety or panic attacks – you are in fact incredibly brave as each small thing that may seem easy or effortless to other people, is a monumental task for us.
2. Get support from a professional.
I am so blessed and thankful that living in the UK I have free access to health care, including support for mental health conditions such as anxiety. I had to face in myself the ‘stigma’ that I felt in reaching out for help but things had got to such a point that after years of stress my body was overloaded with stress hormones and I physically and mentally couldn’t cope any more. I needed support, and actually reaching out to get that, as scary as I felt it was at the time, and as reluctant as I was, is one of the best things I have done in my recovery.
Work at getting rid of and overcoming any stigmas you might have about getting help for mental health. Just as you wouldn’t feel ashamed about getting help for a broken arm, for diabetes or migraines or other physical conditions, you and I have no reason to feel ashamed if the chemicals in our brains, our hormones, nervous systems and consequently our thoughts are ‘not working properly’. Nor would you sit at home trying to repair your own broken arm, or at least I hope you wouldn’t, so learn from my mistakes of trying to get through things on my own for so many years, and losing out on quality of life and suffering more than necessary, by getting help from someone who knows and understands what is going on. If you live in a country where you have to fund your own health care, try to find out if there are charitable groups with a strong background in mental health that can offer you some support, phone a related helpline and ask if someone can help you understand what’s going on, access online resources, including YouTube videos such as those by licensed therapist Katie Morton – she is lovely and explains things very well. But don’t try to go it alone when you don’t need to. Even ‘Batman’ has backup, so why shouldn’t you? 🙂
3. Friends, family and a support network.
Related to this, share with trusted friends and family members and try to build up a support network. You might not like the sound of this at first, but you won’t always be what you might feel is ‘the needy one’. You are strong too and can reciprocate help. Having friends and family involved to supplement the support from professionals, rather than feeling like you are overburdening people who might not have the resources to help, can be a big part of your recovery, and your training on your ‘superhero’ journey 🙂 Just knowing that you have someone who is aware that you might need a bit of encouragement when you both are walking into a crowded room, or going out with friends, or that you might need a bit of extra time as ‘leeway’ when leaving the house to meet them because anxiety can strike when you’re not expecting it, can help build and preserve understanding within these relationships. You might find that they also struggle and that you can be sources of mutual support to each other.
4. Breathe, breathe, breathe!
You and I really need to practice this regularly and stay in training. This is one aspect of becoming resilient that we cannot afford to neglect. Breathing properly is essential for life. It is also essential for quality of life. When we panic, we hyperventilate, we breathe short, shallow breaths, sometimes ‘gulping’ in air, or holding our breath, and we can breathe erratically and too frequently. Everything speeds up! We send our bodies and brains into fight / flight / freeze mode, adrenaline and cortisol go up, we might start pacing up and down, looking for a ‘way out’, sweating, crying or facing a melt down. An inevitable response is that we then have to contend with racing thoughts, mostly negative and self-deprecating, or ‘catastrophising’ about the situation and imagining the worst which means our anxiety goes up rather than coming under control.
This is why breathing properly is so essential. I know, I know, ‘it’s easier said than done’, right? That’s true, but it’s also not as hard as you think. You’ve seen in films how someone panicking might be given a paper bag to breathe into, and gradually the pace and intensity of their breathing calms down. You don’t need a paper bag, but you do need to breathe in a more helpful way. Try this – breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, breathing so that your belly rises on the in breath, hold the breath for 4 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of 5. There are different variations on this for the amount of time, but the main thing to remember is breathe in through the nose, hold, and breathe out through your mouth, allowing your tummy to rise and fall with the in and out breaths, and making sure that you exhale for just a bit longer than you inhale. This helps to regulate the oxygen and carbon dioxide in your system, calms the nervous system and get you out of the ‘fight / flight / freeze’ state into being more in control of your body and mind.
We need to keep practicing this though, daily. Start small, for a few seconds at a time if that’s all you feel you can manage, and then just build from there and keep going – it works wonders! At first I felt frustrated when doctors kept on at me about the breathing when I felt I needed something more to help me, but simplicity is really the key sometimes, and just trust me they know what they’re talking about when they prescribe ‘breathing’ properly as the medicine you need! Sometimes, as the saying goes, the best things in life really are free!!! 🙂
This is a very personal journey, so ask for advice, information and guidance from healthcare professionals. Tell them what your concerns and symptoms are and consider whether taking medicine to help with anxiety, might be a helpful option for you, even if just in the short term to take the edge off things.
6. You are what you think?
Be transformed by renewing your mind. Challenge and intercept your negative thoughts, and grow in understanding of the connective cycle between thoughts, feelings, reactions and actions. You might need help with this at first, but it is essential, and as with breathing, it is a daily and lifelong training we need to maintain. Initially it feels impossible to rise up from the onslaught of negative thoughts incessantly bombarding our minds, and they seldom turn up alone. But if you can address and intercept your thoughts then you can gain mastery over your physical, mental and emotional reactions.
Stay in training even on good days, because if out of the blue anxiety strikes you will be better placed and practiced to talk yourself down into a calmer more rational state of body and mind, as I was this evening when facing a potential ‘meltdown’.
For example, if you have to walk into a room full of people, you might be indulging in negative self-talk such as “I’m so awkward, everyone’s looking at me, I can’t do this, I need to get out of here” etc. This leads to feelings of stress, anxiety, self-consciousness, fear, shame, awkwardness, distress, low self esteem, and so forth. You then might react with a racing heart, hypervigilance, wringing your hands, keeping your head down, avoiding eye contact, clenching your fists, while experiencing symptoms of dizziness, nausea, pain, etc. This leads you to take the actions of walking quickly to where you’re going, avoiding eye contact with others, or seeking an exit (don’t worry, I do this often but I’m working on it, and getting better gradually and you can too) or make excuses to leave. Alternatively, you might have a ‘fight’ reaction and snap at someone, become agitated in your movements, or you might ‘freeze’ like a rabbit startled by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, which is often what anxiety can feel like.
See how powerful a thought is! So, instead, focus on your breathing, arm yourself with new, positive and affirming thoughts such as ‘I can do this’, and keep practicing these and see how much better you come to feel over time. Basically, you need to learn to ‘be your own best friend’ in all of your self-talk and thought processes – it takes a lot of hard work, but we all need to keep at it to see the benefits.
7. Five, four, three, two, one.
A simple and helpful ‘grounding’ technique has been so beneficial to me, so please do try it yourself and keep practicing even on good days to train your mind. Observe 5 things you can see, four things you can hear, three that you can touch, two that you can smell and one that you can taste. This really helps get us out of our own heads, grounds ourselves in reality and helps us feel safe.
8. Brain training
You’ll be amazed at how much your brain is capable of when you put in the work to take care of your mental health. Brain training is a good and enjoyable way to start, and this might take the form of puzzles, cross words, card games, mind challenges, riddles, touch typing, learning a new language or skill, etc.
9. Exercise and Nutrition
Just as we need to exercise our brains for health and well being, physical exercise, even starting small at first for 5 minutes a day if you are not used to it can boost our endorphins, our ‘happy hormones’, lift our mood, help our bodies, brains and nervous systems and regulate our emotions, while fuelling ourselves with healthy and nutritious foods and water can boost our mood and also help us feel calmer and more balanced.
10. Sleep – Zzzzzzzz!
Good sleep is something I struggle with and have to keep working on. Often I feel anxious before going to bed and can’t settle, or my sleep might be interrupted. I need to work on this, we all do, but little by little, step by step we can make improvements so that we can reap the healing benefits of sleep and rest. Even if we can’t sleep, we can practice stilling our minds, and disconnecting from the overload of online information and chatter, so that we are in a more restful and rejuvenating state.
So that’s my top 10 for now. No one said it is going to be easy, but you and I deserve a better quality of life than we have with anxiety, and it is possible…we are superheroes afterall! 🙂 x
Which of us doesn’t get the ‘munchies’ during our work day? It’s all too easy to grab an unhealthy snack because it’s the easiest thing to find, and I know that I certainly have done this while at work. However, today’s inspiration for your lunch break is to spend a little bit of time the night before prepping some healthy snacks to keep you going throughout the day, and also to prep some healthy lunches. You’ll be amazed at how a few simple ingredients can go a long way, save money, and be better for your wellbeing, not to mention your waistline too! You can bring things into work and make up a lunchtime snack while you are there, and store your ingredients in the fridge – or you can do a little bit of cooking or putting things together at home and bring your lunch in. That way you know exactly what you’re getting, you’re not left with the only option of a calorific unhealthy meal, and you have a bit more change in your pockets.
For quick and easy vegan and vegetarian meal prep ideas, see my main page and click on the relevant ‘tab’ on the menu. Also, keep an eye out for some new recipe and snack ideas coming soon. Today I am enjoying a home made healthy pasta lunch, and for snacks I have been happily munching on cucumber sticks and vegan mayo which are surprisingly filling and much better than grabbing a chocolate bar from the vending machine or filling up on biscuits. Happy munching – if you have meal prep ideas, be sure to share them with us 🙂 x
Sometimes I find incremental changes to be far more effective and sustainable than sudden energetic efforts to drastically change a particular area of life. Of course sometimes a large project needs to be planned and undertaken (such as de-cluttering you home, for example), wherein such energetic efforts for a short-term project are necessary and helpful in order to sustain new habits, a new system and new daily routines that will be sustainable in the long term.
However, unlike some, I’m not one to approach healthy eating in this way, and I wouldn’t jump on the January “New year, new start, new diet” bandwagon. From observation, such efforts often seem short lived, ending in discouragement, disappointment and a lapse into old bad habits.
I prefer to make incremental changes gradually and throughout the year, taking time to research healthy options and what will work for me in my life and routine. Overall, I find, small and consistent changes are more sustainable and can lead to a healthier lifestyle, rather than finding oneself struggling under the guilt of not achieving a particular diet or lifestyle goal.
And yet, they busy-ness of life does mean that at certain times of the year, and under certain circumstances, I do better than at others. Therefore, I find January and a new year to be a wonderful opportunity to think afresh about whether I can approach things differently to sustain positive changes and intentions on a day to day basis.
So, with that in mind, a new purchase I have recently introduced into my life is this lovely stainless steel “Bento Box” or compartmentalised meal tray.
Psychologically: For some, perhaps idiosyncratic and childlike reason, I love airplane tray meals. Therefore, it gives me a little burst of joy to look forward to eating from this whether I’m at work, or at home curled up on the sofa while watching TV.
Portion Control: I am more aware of how much food I am eating, and these compartments certainly help visually in seeing this more clearly than on a standard plate.
Preparing and Maintaining Healthy Eating Habits in a Busy Lifestyle:
As a young, single woman, who works full time, 5 days a week, I often only get home from work after 7pm. This can mean falling into bad patterns of getting ‘quick’ options for food, including ready-meals for the microwave, or occasionally even takeaways when I don’t have the energy to cook a full and healthy meal for myself. This is fine in moderation, however, I’d like to choose the option intentionally, rather than by default because I’m too tired or not organised and prepared enough. However, now I only have to think of 5 things to put into the compartments, which means it is easier to have a healthier variety of food, eat well and be mindful of portion sizes, and save some money. I used to ‘meal prep’ for the week ahead on some weekends, however, this takes time and is something I tended to stop and start as I found it hard to maintain on a regular basis. This way, ‘meal-prepping’ feels far easier and more manageable – at least for me – you may have different and better ways that work for you.
This little investment has already helped me to make healthier and manageable changes in my day to day life and I feel that I will be better able to sustain these changes than with good intentions alone. What about you? What fun things can you introduce into your life to help make and maintain positive changes? What things do you already do that you can share with the rest of us? xx
Travelling teaches you the importance of Home. Perhaps this in itself is a challenge to some of us. It is beautiful and inspiring to get away and explore the world. However, there are inevitably challenges and annoyances along the way no matter what we do. Moving from place to place, living out of a suitcase at times, being in unfamiliar territory or out of our comfort zone, or simply not being somewhere that is our ‘own’, of living in a constant state of the temporary, of moving, shifting, changing, can give us a deeper longing for and appreciation of Home. Yet, perhaps some of us, especially those of you who have spent years ‘on the road’ (something I haven’t yet done) find the idea of ‘Home’ a strange and transient concept, and maybe you don’t have a place where you feel ‘rooted’ to.
As much as I love adventure and travel, there is a sense of comfort, security and cosiness in knowing that I have a place of my own to return to, more importantly, I have people I love, family and friends that I can come back to and share my experiences with even if it is just a glimpse into the new worlds I or they have encountered. I find that I appreciate little things more, such as food or drink that would ordinarily be part of my daily life but that I don’t have on my travels, or the familiarity of language, and of shared experiences that go beyond the temporary excitement of travel, and that go back perhaps years with those who are nearest and dearest to me.
Yet, maybe ‘Home’ is not a place for you to return to, maybe your concept of home is different to mine, maybe you live a more ‘nomadic’ existence and you find other ways of embracing comfort and bringing familiarity into your life. If you do, I would love to hear about them. ❤ (c).