It’s new year’s eve again. It’s been another ‘pandemic year’. Perhaps you have started hearing highlights of the year gone by, or people’s reflections, or plans for celebrations to ring in 2022, however ‘muted’ they may be compared to non-pandemic times. But what might be helpful for you to hear?
*You’ve probably learned more in the past two years than you realise, including how to adapt to your changing circumstances. We’ll continue to have to learn to live in a challenging world, but you have made it this far, you can take the next step, don’t give up, and don’t let fear of the unknown future overwhelm you. One day at a time. Encourage yourself and someone else today.
*There are people around you right now, today, whether in person or at the other end of a phone or screen that you can be really grateful for. You may have faced some real losses, or challenges, but even in the pain or struggle, there may still be people you value who are still in your life (even if they are the source of some of your challenges!). It’s worth remembering that and letting it brighten your heart a bit, and maybe even letting them know, especially knowing that not everyone has made it. There are people who are really grateful that you have stayed in touch with them during the pandemic too, and others who you’ve lost touch with that may actually be really pleased to hear from you again. Life is short, don’t be afraid to reach out – now is a good time, and a new year’s greeting a good enough ‘reason’.*
It’s not worth comparing our lives with other people’s, but while things might not be ideal, there are so many things to be thankful for, today. If you have more than enough, think of how you can share that with someone else who might not, whether kindness, love, friendship, encouragement or material things.
*Someone will really benefit from hearing from *you* , perhaps particularly today. There are a lot of people going through some heavy stuff just now, and you never know what difference you might make. Think about maybe not just sticking to your own circle, and reaching a little further beyond, you might just find some common ground, and you might be the reason for a changed or a saved life!.
*It’s a new year, but while it’s a good time to consider goals and plans, don’t pile on the pressure to do so. Learn your lessons at your pace. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
*You are not your achievements, you are not the sum total of your relationships or connections, your appearance, or your possessions; your life has worth and value regardless of how well or badly you think you are doing, so be kind to your mind, and be kind to other people, and don’t judge them for where they are at. It’s a new year, but it’s ok just to take that one next step.
*Life on earth is fleeting, consider the big questions while you can, and don’t leave regrets. If you have been fortunate enough to come to the realisation of some of life’s big ‘answers’, live them out with all that you’ve got.
*Choose to enjoy the simple things today. If you’re on your own, remember that you’re not alone, the whole world isn’t having a great party that you’re not part of, so find some joy in your own little corner of life and be happy, even if for a moment. If you’re not on your own, reach out to someone who is .
*It’s ok to be going through what you’re going through. Even as we ring in a ‘new year’.
*At least no one is panic buying loo roll this year
*While the pandemic sucks, we still have this gift of life, and it does sometimes help to look around and take notice of all the little and big things we can be grateful for in this moment. Sometimes a bit of perspective helps – there may well be someone out there wishing their life was a bit more like yours or mine. We just need to look at the news to realise that.
*Speaking of which, maybe turn off the news for a while.
*1st Jan 2022 might be a brand new year for you, or ‘just another day’ – whatever the case, I hope you find peace, love, health and a sure hope amidst all the ups and downs of your unknown tomorrows. x
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.
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.
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
I hope the first two and a half or three days (depending on which time zone you are in) of 2021 have been kind to you.
We left off with instalment 46 of this series having briefly reviewed the year of 2020. I ended the post with letting you know that I’d share some guided prompts on how we can all take positive steps to move ahead. I realise that I have a lot to share, so instead of trying to condense these various points into one post, I’ll give them their due and treat you with an entire post per point. How’s that for forward steps in 2021? 🙂
So for this post, let’s think about effectively tracking our habits.
The weird and wonderful world of habit trackers:
I personally have my own evolving systems for keeping on top of things in my daily, weekly and monthly life, and I have a yearly planner. I’ve never had a BuJo (bullet journal) myself, although I do incorporate various elements of the bullet journal world into my own planning.
If you are a BuJo-er (is that a word?) then you’ll probably be able to share your advice with me. But if you don’t know what a bullet journal is then there is plenty of information on You Tube regarding how this system started and how people have incorporated the idea to make it personal to them, and there are some very creative approaches out there to bullet journaling that go beyond a method of staying on top of things in your life to making it an art project of itself. I’ll leave it to you to explore some of the inspiring videos out there on You Tube (simply type in bullet journaling and see what you find!).
One of the elements that many people incorporate into their bullet journaling or other planning systems is the habit tracker. Again, some people like to do this quite simply as a list, while other people create more ‘ornate’ as it were diagrams, wheels and even pictorial designs and trackers. Each to their own, I suppose.
What makes for effective habit tracking?
Sometimes looking at what other people track in terms of habits, becomes a bit overwhelming for me. Some people have a habit tracker for almost everything they can think of. If it works for them, that’s fine, but personally, I try to think of what is an effective approach.
The purpose of habit tracking and what not to track:
The purpose of tracking your habits can be very individual. Some people may find it gives them a sense of accomplishment, direction, or maybe even the very act of doing this helps them to slow down and reflect on their day. I personally prefer the good old analogue method of putting pen to paper (in a cute notebook, of course) rather than using a spreadsheet or online tool, but some people are a real whiz at the electronic versions and are super efficient.
The main point here is to find your own style, system and what works for you.
In terms of the purpose of tracking habits in the first place (the very ‘why do it?’ behind the action) for me is to help me to develop and maintain certain actions that I want to incorporate into my daily life.
I therefore am not a fan of trying to track ‘everything’. If I am already in a daily habit of making my bed then I don’t have a particular need to track that in a habit tracker. If I drink a glass of water every morning, then I don’t particularly need to track that. What I’m saying is I don’t feel the need to track already well established habits.
However, if there are new things I want to do then a tracker is helpful in encouraging me to create a habit or to strengthen or maintain habits that might be at risk of falling by the way side or being over shadowed by competing demands. At the moment I have 8 key habits that I am tracking in January and these include Scripture study and prayer, exercise, reading and studying as well as few others.
My habit tracker is very simple. I have a notebook and I have divided it up so that I have four pages for each month of 2021. Each page is divided into two headings, and I have a list of dates running down the page so that I can make a note each day of what I have done against that particular task or life goal that I want to form into a habit.
You can of course be as elaborate as you like with designs, colour coding and whatnot, but for me the list style in this regard is simple and effective and gives my brain some guidelines to follow.
While there are certain things I do everyday on autopilot that I don’t need to track such as making my bed, brushing my teeth, having a shower, getting dressed, there are other things that I may do more occasionally or sporadically (such as reading or studying a course or exercise) that I am now able to have visual queues for to do everyday.
Your takeaways from this post can be fairly simply.
You don’t need to track everything you do (unless of course you want to).
Focus on the things that you don’t already do every day that you want to do every day or more regularly and choose a few key areas (I have 8) to work on for the first month of the year so that you can review whether this works for you or whether you need to ‘tweak’ your system here or there.
Seek out what other people are doing for inspiration, but make it your own – you’ll know what works best for your way of thinking and personality. If habit tracking isn’t for you, feel free to ignore this post and go with the flow if that works better for you 🙂
Think about your purpose for tracking habits – is it something you enjoy in and of it itself to slow down and reflect? Does it help you to organise your mind and life? Are you focusing on building into your day to day life new actions that will eventually become habits that you do on autopilot?
Experiment and figure out what works best for you whether digital or analogue, simple or ornate, and enjoy the process. It will help you to see the progress you are making as you give yourself a visual opportunity to take small yet steady steps forwards.
All the best. A new year is a great time for fun new stationery – perhaps you can buy local and support small businesses, artists and creatives. Enjoy taking those next steps forwards this January 2021 and beyond. x
I stopped at the point when the United Kingdom went into a full lockdown on 23rd March 2020.
It was a drastic situation that caused for drastic measures and decisive action. I’m not sure that we saw decisive action from the government throughout the pandemic, unfortunately, but I did find myself feeling more grateful for living North of the border in Scotland where Nicola Sturgeon seemed to tighten restrictions more and quicker than in England. That said, perhaps we should have gone into lockdown a lot sooner with what we were seeing in and learning from other countries not too far from home, such as Italy and France. Even with hindsight, the decisions being made were challenging and difficult for all concerned.
The drastic measure of lockdown meant that there was an inevitable but unplanned for knock-on-effect on other important issues. For example, people who suffered from domestic abuse were in fact trapped within their own homes, non-covid related operations and hospital visits had to to be postponed, rescheduled and deprioritised because of the huge pressure upon our health service as numbers of cases rose.
I kept a notebook, a ‘quarantine journal’ as it were to make sure I wasn’t succumbing to the negativity all around me and seeking to see progress in my own life and learn lessons along the way. It’s a keepsake journal that I am still working on, but one of the pages I included is titled “Vocabulary of a ‘new normal'”.
Vocabulary of a ‘new normal’:
It’s interesting looking back on things that were new concepts to our daily lives that have now become common place, everyday things that we hardly think about as much.
When we went into lockdown in the UK, I was in my own flat / apartment where I live alone. I went through the first stint of the lockdown on my own with no human contact (IRL – In Real Life) for around a total of 6 months (give or take a couple of occasions where I was able to visit my family after the easing of Lockdown 1.0 in July, and a socially distanced meet up with friends, or seeing a delivery person or concierge).
I learned a lot during that time, and I see that time as precious in terms of the healing that I was able to focus on for past issues, the reprioritisation and insight I gained into friendships and the lack of awareness and understanding people had of someone in my situation living alone in a pandemic, and the value of daily conversations with my family over the phone.
However, I digress. 2020 brought with it a vocabulary of a ‘new normal’ and some of the key terms that came to the fore during that time that I noted down were as follows:
-Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.
-Daily Walk / One form of exercise only once a day.
–Virtual Meetings / Zoom / Teams
–Furlough / Extension Period
–Covid-19 / Coronavirus / Novel Coronavirus
–Covidiot / Covid warrior
–Shop your wardrobe
–Toilet roll hoarding
–Hand sanitizer / disinfectant / PPE
–WFH (Work From Home) / Home Schooling
-Antibodies Test / Asymptomatic / Incubation Period (14 days).
Honestly, the list goes on…..and on….over two pages. I think I drew a metaphorical line under it because of how much I could have kept on listing.
But you get the picture; things that were not part of our everyday lives – such as facemasks – have now become part and parcel of ‘normality’ as we’ve moved through this pandemic and continue to do so.
I have to say that my favourite new term has probably got to be ‘Clap For Carers’. Do you remember when we used to clap for our health care workers, our delivery drivers, supermarket people, and frontline staff at the height of the first wave (first wave, there’s another term!). Perhaps in some countries you still do.
We’ve seen so many heroes throughout this rough year, and I am so grateful for each and every one of them, and perhaps some of you reading this are among those heroes. We’ve also seen people in all different walks of live reaching out to help communities.
Community Blessings and Struggles:
As mentioned, our communities have at times come together for the greater good. We’ve seen the NHS staff and other health care workers in other countries going above and beyond to help save lives. We’ve seen people helping out with food bank initiatives, charities, reaching out to lonely people, checking in on their neighbours. I’m personally grateful to have had the chance to do a bit of research work with my job around public health and safety at work for reintroducing services and also to be a ‘shielding helpline volunteer’ to help get essentials to residents who are vulnerable because of underlying health conditions. I’ve been grateful to be able to use my writing to encourage other people far and wide as well throughout this year, even if these efforts are a small offering amid much greater sacrifices of others. There is value in all of us playing our part and doing our bit.
However, we’ve also seen tensions and unrest in our communities, from the racial issues coming to the fore of mainstream society (things that minority people like me have had to deal with and suffer through in some form or another throughout our lives) and we’ve seen brief ‘moments in time’ of awareness, activism and insight that should have been there decades ago. We’ve seen tensions in our local communities and have watched divisions in America or perhaps some of you have been living through those, with the recent presidential elections. There have been a whole host of other issues in individual countries, communities and even families and yet we’ve made it through somehow, some with losses and pain along the way, and others with less of a struggle or even opportunity for growth.
There have been so many opportunities for lessons this past year of 2020. Now that we are in the first day of 2021, perhaps we have renewed momentum as we collectively face and embark upon a ‘new year’. Perhaps we have gained greater insight into ourselves, our own lives, our priorities and purpose, or perhaps some have barely made it through and have struggled. Either way, the pandemic isn’t over just because we’ve reached a new year, and there is still work to be done, responsibility to be taken and lessons to be learned.
I’m hopeful for the future, but I also think we need to live diligently day by day.
I’d like to take these reflections to a next stage with my subsequent posts as we move from global and local to individual and as we together see how we can reflect upon the lessons we individually have learned and how to move forwards with hope and strength into 2021.
I am considering sharing some guided reflections and journal prompts and ideas for goal setting, so stay with me as we forge ahead, stronger and more courageous as we embark upon these new days together.
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
The thing with being human is that we have ups and downs, good days and bad, and if we are recovering from or getting through some difficult or challenging experience, then that is not always linear.
Today I’ve had to take a bit of ‘time out’ for myself as I am re-experiencing some challenges with my health. We can sometimes be quite hard on ourselves when we are having those days when we feel the struggle a bit more than on others. If we’ve been making progress in an area of our life, and then feel like things are going ‘backwards’ then that can be tough too – but progress is not always linear, as I’m sure most of us well know.
In this pandemic year, perhaps you’ve experienced your fair share of contrasting days, ups and downs, good times and bad. I wonder how you are doing today? You know one way we can help stay in a more positive frame of mind on those particularly challenging days could be to set the smallest of goals.
We need to shift gears at times, and take things at a slower more moderate pace, focusing on self care, but at times when we’re struggling it can be hard to get going and some of us have the tendency to be overly critical of ourselves in such times.
How about setting the smallest of goals like making the bed, or having a healthy lunch, or doing a few stretches? Maybe that’s all you can manage, and that’s ok, but maybe you’ll find the momentum to do something else, leaving you in a better frame of mind for the rest of the day, or at least feeling like you have accomplished a goal, even if you feel like it is the smallest of goals.
I’ve often written about how breaking down a task into its component parts can make it more manageable. This became an absolute necessity for me at a difficult time of my life where various health struggles meant that the smallest task was overwhelming to me and I couldn’t see a way out of the situation as my body and mind were at a point of burn out, exhaustion and in desperate need of repair and recovery.
However, I persevered with the small steps, and I can tell you it has been life changing to approach each day in this way.
I don’t know what you’re facing right now in this rather unexpected year of 2020, but perhaps now that we are in the final third of the year you may be feeling a little weary and wondering ‘what next?’.
No matter where you are at, don’t underestimate the power of small steps, for these can add up to be transformative. Whether the steps you take are in relation to your mental health and emotional wellbeing, physical health, recovery, creating a beautiful home environment, writing a book, accomplishing a task or persevering with your blog, small steps can cumulatively have a life changing effect.
When what you are facing seems insurmountable, and the bigger picture unachievable, create goals and forward steps that are small and manageable and focus on that one thing at a time, and seek enjoyment in it. Little by little, day by day, you will see the improvements.
How do you feel at this point of the year? It’s often a reflective time as the seasons begin to change, as I have written about before, however perhaps all the more so this year with having lived through a pandemic. Are there changes you need to make, or things you need to slow down and take the time to appreciate more or people you need to connect or reconnect with? Have you taken a resigned attitude to the rest of this year or are you willing to take the next small step of setting a new goal for yourself, of giving yourself the permission to take it one small step at a time and enjoy the process and the journey that it takes you on?
Setting a goal is in a way an expression of hope, and perhaps for some of us even of Faith. It means we have more to live for, more to aspire towards, and more to appreciate and give thanks for as we choose to live rather than merely exist.
Maybe today is the day for you to look around you, at your life, and however big or modest your vision is, take that next one small step, keep going, and see where the journey leads as you keep moving forwards. x
We’ve all been living through a time of change and of readjustments. For some, such changes have been drastic and even life changing, for others the changes have been adapting to new routines and day to day restrictions.
And here we all are, once again, facing change as societies across the world venture into adapting to a ‘new normal’ and gradually or perhaps in some places more dramatically, moving forwards.
So, how do you feel about all of these major and minor adjustments in your own life? Has lockdown helped you to learn more about yourself and how you cope with and adapt to changes? Does the prospect of a ‘new normal’ feel daunting to you? Have you spent your time in a kind of hiatus and now are looking to re-engage with your life in more meaningful ways, yet don’t quite know how to go about it?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people have varying degrees of anxiety specifically about moving forwards with all of the societal changes we’ve been facing particularly around the coronavirus.
You might be facing challenges around your employment, you might have to physically leave your home and commute to get to your work and all these things can be quite daunting.
But those things aside, what about finding ways to keep moving forwards in your personal growth? Perhaps you have had more time to focus on such matters during lockdown, or perhaps things have been too busy that you have had to let such things take a back seat.
As you look to moving forwards, think of those small and simple steps that you can take to get back into things.
Maybe, like me, you had more pressing priorities during lockdown and you haven’t been able to blog for a while. Try taking the small step forwards of dipping your toe back into the water and writing a short post. And then keep going as and when you can.
Maybe you need to look after your body better after spending a long spell of time indoors. Start today with something manageable, a bit of exercise, even if 5 minutes is all you can manage, and build it up from there.
Do you feel like you’ve been disconnected from people and don’t know how to re-engage with society? Think about reaching out to a trusted friend, take that first step, ask how someone else is doing, and allow things to take shape in their own way and time, even if that means facing silence or rejection. At least you will have tried, and you can take some confidence from that to keep trying to take new steps.
Does going outside seem daunting? Start small. Plan a short walk, be prepared with all your health and safety measures and gradually ease yourself back into the outside world.
Do you feel like you’ve been overly preoccupied or worried with certain aspects of your life? Try to do something that will help your mind move in a more positive direction. Perhaps you could read a book, do a crossword, have a conversation with someone positive, do something you enjoy.
Do you find the thought of doing certain things daunting? Can you reach out to a friend and share those thoughts with them? Maybe they feel the same, and maybe you can mutually help each other face those changes together.
Wherever you are at, there is no doubt that things always feel more overwhelming when we try to tackle them all in one go. Instead of seeing the mountain before you as a challenge to conquer, see the mountain and just take that one next step. We each can only live one moment at a time, yet all of these little moments add up and shape our choices and the direction of our lives.
Has it been a while since you have prayed? Start now. Have you forgotten gratitude? Write down three things you are grateful for today. Have you found it difficult to blog and are struggling to know how to come back to things? Write a paragraph, post a picture, share the little that is in your hand today, knowing and believing that someone else may benefit from it. Life is full, but we have to participate. We have to reach up in faith to find what we are meant to do and be on this earth while we have the chance. I look up to Jesus everyday, for all the Fulness of Life, Love, Goodness and Truth Is found in Him. And He Who holds all things together, also cares about the tiniest of details. So start small, start in faith and see where those small beginnings might lead you. Perhaps on the adventure of your lifetime! x
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?
Words of Encouragement (4.2):
*When home doesn’t feel like home* (or when the people you live with are driving you crazy! 😉 ).
With reference to my earlier post about finding order in the midst of chaos, I provided the image of your home being like a lighthouse in the midst of a global storm. We considered the idea of things that are within our realm of control in contrast to those things going on in the outside world that we can’t do a great deal about in the grand scheme of things. But what if your home is actually like waves crashing upon the rocks? Could *you* still be like a lighthouse in the midst of not only what is happening right now in our communities and in the world, but also more specifically in your own home?
This is worth exploring because we’re all going to be at home in this hiatus for an unknown length of time. Who knows how this is all going to pan out?
If you find that you are struggling with the daily stresses of home or family life, whether or not the people you are living with at the moment are your family, then it is important for your wellbeing and for theirs that you all consider strategies that could help.
1. Routine: This is a stressful time for everyone. People have various concerns from the obvious life and death reality of Coronavirus, fears for family and friends, worries about jobs and work and managing childcare, food supplies and finances. Regardless of your situation, it is important that you have at least some kind of basic structure that will help you to manage and juggle these various cares and responsibilities, and to keep things from becoming overwhelming. Be flexible with these, but try to establish some kind of new household ‘norms’ in these challenging times.
2. Physical boundaries and psychological space: No one said this is going to be easy. Perhaps you are blessed to live in a happy family where for the most part you all get on well and are loving and caring towards each other. This is wonderful if you do, and take time to appreciate your blessings, the people in your life, but also remember that this is sometimes far from the case for everyone around you, and think about how you can be a source of support to friends or family who may be struggling at home. We need to all be thinking of each other, especially in such challenging times.
If you are in a stressful situation at home, it is important that you create some kind of physical and psychological space for yourself, and allow the same for those you live with. Maybe you feel like you’re not getting a moment to yourself if children are competing for your attention, or maybe tensions are running high with your partner or housemate, and you are beginning to lose perspective.
Even if you feel trapped, you *do* have options. It might mean getting up earlier than everyone else or taking some time after others have gone to bed to decompress and think and process.
If you can, try to create a space at home that is just for you where you can get away to. Even if it is just a small area, if you need boundaries, try to establish them and listen to the needs of the other people you’re living with too – this is a challenge for everyone.
3. Be understanding: Communication is really important, and sometimes we all do it quite badly, but this is a time to learn. The people you live with may be stressing you out, but try to remember that this is a new and stressful situation for everyone, and they may be struggling too. Find ways of being mutually supportive, and give extra grace to those who may not be doing things the way you think they should. You can’t stop the waves crashing, their attitudes and responses may be out of the realm of your control, but yours aren’t. So be that light in the midst of the storm, in the world, and in your own household. Be gracious, be kind, be forgiving, and supportive, and take time to work on your own character rather than getting annoyed about the things you can’t change in someone else – I know it’s not easy but it is important. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Help, love and support each other.
4. Take responsibility: It can be easy to fall into negative patterns of blame rather than working together when things get stressful. You need to take responsibility and be concerned about what you can change in yourself and your own attitude rather than trying to ‘fix’ someone else. They are imperfect, but so are you. They need compassion, support and understanding, and so do you. Look for solutions, together if you can, so that you aren’t weighted down by the problems.
5. Create a new family / household ‘tradition’ for this time: Maybe it could be a new activity you do regularly at home with your children so that the Coronavirus pandemic seems a little less scary to them, and isn’t always the focus of attention or conversation. Maybe with the adults you live with you can create an activity to accomplish during this time inside, something after you’ve done your ‘working from home’ bit, and something that has nothing to do with watching the news or TV or tidying the house, etc. Read a play or a novel aloud to each other each evening even for a few minutes, do a puzzle, a jigsaw or something else that will activate the parts of your brain that help you to focus, to concentrate and to relax, rather than just constantly absorbing information from external sources. A few minutes of time in your daily routine that you can look forwards to together, and even if you have to stay isolated in a separate room, you can also pick up the phone for a chat 🙂
6. Set goals: When things feel like they are getting a bit crazy around you, it helps to have some small and manageable goals each day. You might have bigger things you want to use your time to work on while you have a bit of extra time away from the outside world, but also be realistic and set small goals too, as during times of stress and change it can be hard to concentrate. Some of these goals can be working alongside your family members to establish a sense of teamwork to overcome conflict. If this seems like it can’t be done then do what you are able to do on your own. Set short time limits, and break down tasks into tiny ‘bitesized’ chunks that you can do for a while and come back to if you are getting overwhelmed. Try to keep your space tidy and clean as this will help you to have a calmer state of mind. If this is difficult, then have one small area that is ordered and that you can go to to rest, even if it is the corner of a sofa!
7. Be *intentionally* grateful everyday: gratitude doesn’t just happen. It takes a choice on your part to recognise and appreciate the specific things in your life that you can be grateful for, even if those things are challenges. Be intentionally grateful at the start and the end of each day, and allow this to change you. You can put pen to paper or just take time to think on these things. If you are feeling stressed out or annoyed with your living situation and the people around you, take time to be intentionally grateful for them everyday. It might not be easy for you, but when you think of the sobering reality that so many people are losing loved ones, and how many frontline workers would wish to be at home with their people even if it is stressful, then it will definitely change your attitude, your perspective, and hopefully the atmosphere in your home for the better.
Take care, love, stay safe, be kind.