Tag Archives: Help

SELF CARE IN A PANDEMIC (80): Accept The Process…

Today I am in my own flat again having had to come back here for work reasons. I am blessed to know that soon enough I’ll be back with my family, God-willing.

The sun is shining and I have a beautiful view. I’ve eaten breakfast and have had a shower and a bath and have got ready and am cosy on my couch watching the world go by from my 10th floor window.

I know that I’m not alone in being among others for whom enjoying the things around us isn’t as straightforward as it might outwardly seem. Sometimes our minds and our subconscious can be a difficult place to contend with. We might be feeling constant anxiety and unease and be battling with difficult thoughts as we try to make it through the day.

If that’s how you feel, know that you’re not alone. It can sometimes seem that the people around us are doing just fine but truth be told we all go through different phases of mental wellbeing or otherwise and some have a more challenging time than others.

I just want you to know that you’re not alone. Sometimes we just have to accept the process that we’re in and take the next steps to make progress. Being in a pandemic might be highlighting issues that are already there or it might be creating new issues in some of our brains and minds. It’s important for you to know that you’re not the only one facing mental health challenges if you are going through something.

You are not alone. Other people are experiencing things just like you are in your mind, only you can’t see it. That’s ok.

There is help out there so please look for it or ask someone.

Get sleep, eat well, keep in contact, distract yourself and have a routine.

Be aware of your waking thoughts and reframe them.

Look for the positives in today and be gentle with yourself. This too will pass.

Remind yourself that you are important.

Do something ‘outside of your head’.

Be brave.

Much love to you all. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (78): Keep At It…

There’s no doubt about it, life can be tough sometimes. Perhaps you’re reading my blog series on self care in a pandemic precisely because you are finding things challenging and need some comfort, encouragement, advice and guidance.

When our thoughts, emotions and brokenness inside feel too much we can sometimes allow ourselves to give up on doing things that are actually good for us. Things such as eating well, taking exercise, getting fresh air, sleeping, getting showered and dressed in the morning and connecting with other people. For Christians it is essential that we stay ‘abiding’ in Christ as He teaches us, as He Is The True Source of Pure and Eternal Life, not just existence but radiant refreshing Love and Life that gives life to our souls, and a Love that holds us through the storms. Apart from Him we can do nothing (of true and lasting spiritual and eternal value) and we become like withered branches whereas by drinking from the Source of pure life we are able to bear spiritual fruit even in difficult seasons. We do this by spending time with Jesus and feeding on the Word of God and relying on the Holy Spirit to make us alive to The Living Word, and change us from the inside out (even if at times this means a difficult ‘pruning’ away of the bad bits so that He can fill us with His Spirit and heal us).

There are things we know are good for us whether on a physical and / or a spiritual level and sometimes we may allow these to slip when we are struggling or feeling burdened by life or by our own thoughts, feelings, inner wounds and traumas.

Maybe you know it is good to do a certain thing but it feels like you are sinking. If that’s where you are at, please just keep at it. Easier said than done, I know, but even if you just do a little bit at a time then you will be doing something good for yourself.

If you are struggling with your mental health just now, keep at it. Keep reading my blog, even if just a little at a time. Keep drinking water, even if a little at a time. Keep in touch with people, even if a little at a time. Keep feeding your mind on good things, and positive messages and affirming your worth as a human being, even if a little at a time. I know this isn’t easy. Even this morning I had traumatic images and words coming into my mind and I have to allow God to heal me bit by bit in His perfect way and timing. And I also have a part to play in renewing my mind. We may not be where we want to be just now but perhaps we have already come a long way. If damage was done to your mind and personhood over several years or even decades or even if just in an instant and that deeply affected you then it may take a bit of time and consistent effort to create new positive tracks of thought, neural pathways and physical reactions. I can rest in knowing God Is in control and can bring His Beauty from the ashes of this world and the things that happen to us in life. Sometimes things take time, recovery takes time, and just making it through the day well or making it through this pandemic season will take time.

Don’t despair, don’t lose heart, don’t feel that because you can’t do it all just now it’s not worth it. Keep at it friends. Little by little, bit by bit, moment by moment, day by day.

Do something kind for yourself or for someone else. Don’t stop taking those steps forwards, don’t stop believing, and even if you can’t make it all the way through a task, at least you tried and did a little bit. That’s important. One more step along the world I go….

With much love, and praying for you to have strength to keep moving forwards today. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (76): When It’s HaRd To Keep Going…

I know that blogging about mental health and self care in a pandemic is good for other people, and it helps me too to write and explore my thoughts. Yet, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a few days, or perhaps a week or so since my last post, I can’t quite recall. Sometimes, friends, it’s hard to keep going, even with the things that we know are good for ourselves and for other people. And that’s ok.

It’s ok to have peaks and troughs, ups and downs in life. For many of us, the pandemic and lockdown is just one aspect of what we are going through just now. Many of us are overcoming longstanding mental health issues in addition to some of the cares and concerns of present day, and that can be tough.

For the most part, I’ve found that the tools and techniques I had previously learned to help me to overcome complex post traumatic stress, anxiety and depression were helpful in sharing with others and sharing ideas of how we can progress through this pandemic. Yet lately, I’ve been struggling a bit with some of these recurring issues. Sometimes it is hard to keep going, and I’m sure there are many among you who know what I mean. Our minds can at times be scary places and can throw up all kinds of traumatic memories, sensations and even things of their own imaginings, and when we are in lockdown it can seem all the more intense.

So what do we do? Let me remind us of two truths:

  1. We are not our thoughts and feelings.
  2. This too shall pass.

When I was a child I thought I was my thoughts and feelings and I thought I was all of the horrible things that people called me. I had no concept that the rush of anxiety and the hormones my body was producing and the intense emotional, psychological and physical pain I felt made me feel awful together with the abusive words and treatment from other people against my very personhood. I thought I was awful and horrible and disgusting because people and my own body and brain made me feel that way, and I did not know how to de-escalate those feelings. The result was a very dark season of my life when as a child I thought there was something terrible about me and when everything felt so bad and the reality was that I was severely traumatised. I also for the first time no longer wanted to be alive. I’m using that language so as not to trigger anyone.

Well, by God’s saving grace, I survived. I’m overcoming things. Yet at times my brain and body throws up those awful experiences and it’s my job as an adult to know that those things are separate from my worth as a person and to learn ways to de-escalate those feelings.

Perhaps you are struggling with unwanted or uncomfortable or awful thoughts and feelings and you need someone to remind you that you are not your thoughts and feelings and you are not the bad things that you may have been told. That’s not how your worth is defined as a human being. You are worthy because you are human and the God Who Created you loves you and wants to restore you, forgive you, clean you up, heal you and give you a future and a hope. That’s not to say that there won’t be ups and downs but Jesus Is strong enough and loves you enough to get you through.

So, regardless of what you believe right now, know that your worth is simply in your humanity. You are not what you feel, you are so much more than that, you are valuable and important. That is a FACT.

Secondly, this too shall pass. There have been times when life has been hard as a child and then later in adulthood when traumas resurfaced that my brain started throwing up those horrible thoughts and feelings about not being able to cope and about giving up on life, etc. If I gave in to those thoughts and feelings, then I wouldn’t be here writing these words of encouragement to you. Those thoughts and feelings came and over time and with effort and God’s grace, they went, or lost intensity. I no longer feel that way. So if you are feeling overwhelmed, helpless or stuck in this pandemic or in some difficult circumstance or by your own mind, know that it is a temporary state and just as the seasons change so too will the way you feel, and you can take steps (read my many blog posts to find some suggestions) to feel better. The sun will shine again my friends.

In addition to this, I’d like to encourage you to do the following:

Engage your logical brain especially when your thoughts and emotions start to overwhelm you. It can be tough to do things that are good for us when we’re not feeling just quite right, but you can do it, I believe in you. Maybe you could do a crossword puzzle, or play a non-triggering computer game such as solitaire. Maybe you can go outside for a walk if that is available to you and start to notice things of a certain colour, or count how many birds you can see. Maybe you can set yourself some small tasks around the house, or if you are in a better place you can engage with some of your much loved hobbies from playing an instrument, listening to music, dancing, exercise, reading a book, cross stitch, gardening, cooking, or some kind of arts or crafts. When we engage with our senses this helps to activate certain healthy brain areas.

Connect with other people and let someone know how you’ve been feeling. It’s understandable that you may feel you don’t want to ‘offload’ onto others if you think they are going through their own things, but it is important to have human contact and to be able to bounce ideas off other people and to know that those connections are in their own way a form of ‘grounding’ in present reality. We don’t always have to talk about our ‘stuff’ but it is important to keep in contact with other human beings. If you don’t have someone to talk to then you can always call a helpline. And if you aren’t up for that, always know that you can read my blog for encouragement and advice and know that you’re not alone in whatever you are going through.

Try to maintain a routine outside of your head. It’s all too easy to get lost in our minds and trying to figure out or to solve our problems from the inside out. I’ve struggled with this a lot over the years and that’s ok. One thing that does help me get from one moment to the next is to have tasks to do outside of my own head and it gives my mind a focus knowing that I have to get up and do this or that rather than allowing myself to lie down under the weight of whatever it is I am thinking or feeling. Perhaps these could include eating something healthy, reading a book, doing a bit of exercise, getting fresh air, playing an instrument, writing a blog post, or watch something non-triggering and uplifting such as a nature documentary. Sometimes the things we do to help ourselves can also uplift those around us or those we are connected to online, such as in the blogging community.

So if you are finding it hard to keep going right now, remind yourself that you are not your thoughts and feelings, you are worthy as a living being, a human being and try to give yourself some positive affirmations. Also remind yourself that this too will pass and you will move forwards and feel better again just as you have in times past. Try to engage your logical brain, stay connected with other people who are good influences in your life, and set yourself some small self care tasks that will help take you out of your head. If like me you sometimes feel like you ‘shouldn’t’ be struggling, or you feel bad because of your mental health struggles, then know that it is completely normal, all human beings have faulty minds in some way or another and encourage yourself that you are looking for healthy ways forwards, even by reading this blog you are doing so, so give yourself a ‘well done’ and a pat on the back for that because small steps matter.

Remind yourself that you are not alone, and take a look through my blog archives for plenty of helpful material on managing your mental health and self care in the pandemic and otherwise just generally in life.

Even if all you feel able to do today is the smallest of steps then that’s ok, because small changes add up. We all have our ups and downs, and I had to take some time out of blogging over the past few days because I was finding things difficult again myself. That’s ok. I am proud of you for reading this blog post especially if you have been finding things difficult. That could be one of the tasks you have done to care for yourself and there are plenty of posts you can come back and read later on too to help keep you going and give you ideas for how to persevere.

Well done, my friend. Let’s keep taking those small steps forward to care for our bodies and our minds in what has been a challenging time and to remind ourselves of how far we have come and that we can keep going.

You are worthy, you are important, you are here for a reason and you have the strength to take that one next step and the next, and the next and on and on……

All you have to do is live a moment at a time and you CAN do that.

Be blessed. Stay safe and know you are important, worthy and loved. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (58): Don’t Stay Down For Too Long…

It’s understandable that things may get you down. The times we are living in are, after all, *unprecedented*, as we keep being told.

There’s a lot going on, and I understand that. You know in your own life what you have going on. On the other side of a computer screen, perhaps even on the other side of the world, or maybe closer to home, I, the person writing this cannot see into your heart or know your deepest thoughts, hurts or fears. Yet I do know that we share a common humanity, and I do know from experience that sometimes life can be very hard.

Sometimes life, and being human, can really get us down. I hear you. I feel that. My encouragement for you today, however, is not to stay down for too long. The wisdom book of ‘Ecclesiastes’ tells us that there is a time for every matter in life.

“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3).

Ecclesiastes 3 NKJV – Everything Has Its Time – To everything – Bible Gateway

And in our own lives, we can see that there are times of suffering, times to grieve that suffering, times to be alone, times to be helped by other people, times to build up, to get stronger, and times of joy too.

If you are in a season of strength, keep going strong, keep building what is good, keep doing what is right. If you are in a place of pain, then take solace that you are not alone. In all of humanity across the ages people have felt feelings similar to what you are feeling, even if you feel like you are the only one. Yet, those times did not last forever. If life, if the pandemic, if being you is getting you down right now, that’s ok – it’s ok to feel all of those raw and real human emotions. But don’t let it keep you down. There is a time when we may get knocked over, but there is a time to get back up again, and again and again if need be. Be strong. Be courageous. Let your faith be far, far greater than your fear. You don’t need to have it all together or all sorted out, but don’t stay down for too long.

Do you remember that a few posts back we talked about daily habits, and about building new habits into our routines? Perhaps I will check back with you all properly shortly and we can do a progress check together. However, these simple tools that we use in our day to day lives can help us when the going gets rough. They can provide prompts that can help leverage us up and out of the pit of despair and into taking the next step of action.

Today I ‘brainstormed’ some ideas for myself. I made a list of what the people who inspire me do or have done to make progress in their lives. The three people I focused on are people who I don’t know personally but who are famous (and I mentioned them in my last post and some previous others: Lizzie Velazquez, Katie Piper and Nick Vuijicic). I’m looking for help and inspiration in the ‘what next’ of life. How do I take the next step, what do I do next, how do I get stronger in this journey of recovery and overcoming so that I can confidently thrive in life even if that seems a few steps ahead of where I am right now?

The list was impressive, encouraging, insightful and helpful. It was both inspiring and practical and down to earth. Yet it was not something that was simply handed to me. It took me time and thought and effort to come up with. And it helped me to realise that I am already doing many of the things that my role models are doing, even if on a very small scale. Yet one thing we all have in common is that sometimes we have all just had to take the tiniest of next steps even if they don’t seem to be that impressive at the time. They all add up.

Perhaps this is something you can do for yourself. Maybe you can think of a person or some people that you look up to in life, whether you know them personally or not, and make a list of the qualities, characteristics and attributes that they have that you aspire to. Write down some of their practical achievements. List some of the things about them that you admire. And begin to put into practice some of those things that you want to also be part of your own life. The chances are that you already do some or many of these things, even if in little day to day ways. Small things matter. Small steps, goals, achievements all matter. Repetition of these small things also matters, which is why I may reiterate some of the same advice that I have shared in a variety of ways, because we need that healthy positive reinforcement.

If you are feeling down, try not to stay down for too long. Even if it seems like a long season for you, one that isn’t a particularly happy one, try to think of the lessons that you can be learning, the resilience you can be building, and the seeds of faith and hope that you can be sowing. For when you come out on the other side, you may just be that stronger person for someone else to look up to for help and advice.

In times of need, when life has been weighing heavy upon me and I’ve felt crushed, there was always a sense of disconnect with people who although well meaning told me that they hadn’t ever really suffered. Their kindness was appreciated of course, but I never felt the comfort I needed from someone who had been there. Maybe you are or will be that someone who has been there, for someone else. Be strong, be courageous, don’t let the difficult season get you down for too long, for there will inevitably be a new season after this, for which you will want to be ready.

If you are not down, try to remember that you may be able to be a helping hand for someone else who is.

Be strong, be courageous, look up with faith, and take that next simple small step forwards.

Love and peace to you all, dear friends. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (53): Back To Work? Know Your Rights…

Many of us will be going back to working from home this week, after a Christmas and New Year festive break. Others will be on the front line and have hardly had a break at all, and I am so thankful for the many people who are living and working sacrificially to help us all.

I’m not here to offer any sector or service specific advice, but I’m just writing as I encounter life, and want to share my insights, learning and encouragements with you.

In the UK, we are under Government Lockdown apart from certain ‘exemptions’. We should stay at home unless it’s absolutely essential to do otherwise. However, not all employers take this seriously or seriously enough. Some managers allow their pride to dictate how they are going to present things to their staff. And if you are finding yourself feeling stressed because your employer is asking you to do things you feel uncomfortable about, or that make you feel unsafe or that you are going against governmental advice or putting yourself or others at risk in this pandemic, then take a step back and remind yourself that your boss isn’t the ultimate authority in this situation, or in any situation.

It will be difficult for some of you where in the employment setting the buck does stop with your boss. I’ve been in those difficult situations in the past when I was a young, fresh graduate and didn’t know much about the world of work and found myself working in an organisation that didn’t have an HR team, or HR officer….. at all. It turned out the boss bent certain rules to his advantage, and being timid, shy, scared and not knowing my rights I was a bit of a walk over and I wasn’t treated or paid well. Said boss turned out to be a bit let’s just say ‘bossy’ towards the end, and with him being the head of the organisation that was a tough place to be. However, as an employee you do have rights and perhaps depending on the part of the world you are in and the sector you work for joining a union might help.

Since then, I’ve been blessed to work in an organisation that despite its faults does have a proper HR structure, therefore no boss can call all the shots. It took a good few years for me to realise this. My first couple of bosses in this organisation were lovely, kind women. My bosses changed due to changing structures in teams and so the second lovely boss with whom I’m still friends never caused me any issues. We got on great and she didn’t ‘lord it over’ other people. She was merely first among equals and treated us with respect.

After that she retired and my next boss was a bully, and someone I don’t want to spend many sentences writing about. It caused a lot of distress to myself and others and I thought I had no alternative but to just try to suffer through things myself. Everything went through her, even things she should have and said would go to HR through. I suffered and others around me suffered until one day I was having a coffee after work with my boss / friend who retired and she told me that what my new boss was doing was out of order, unethical and that I should join a union.

I realise that this is not for everyone, but it has been such a blessing in my working life, especially as I needed to get reasonable adjustments for health conditions, and was being made to suffer, jump through hoops and denied fair treatment until I did join a union. Even after joining a union the amount of bureaucracy with the employers was just plain sad. For people asking for the smallest, simplest of things, the bosses with their egos wanted to put up so many obstacles and make their employees miserable. I am thankful that my True Boss, My King of kings and Lord of lords Whose servant I am is Jesus Christ – The Servant King who Loves and cares for those who are His.

I found a couple of great advocates and representatives with my union and even this week I’ve been able to reach out to one of them to ask advice because of things I feel I’m being called upon to do in terms of work that I don’t feel comfortable with in light of the government stay at home order.

So whatever situation you find yourself in if you are employed externally, remind yourself that you deserve to be heard, treated with respect and that you have employee responsibilities, but you also have rights. Especially with everything going on with the coronavirus you may be more likely to find information and advocacy support as there will be others in the same boat as you. Know that you’re not alone, and that there are options, even if it takes a bit of hard work, perseverance and researching information for you to get to a better and safer place.

I think back to my coffee with my lovely retired boss and the chance conversation that actually was a game changer for me. Join the union, she advised, and I did and it has helped me so much.

Maybe that’s not the right route for you, but perhaps think of this blog post as a coffee and cake with a friend (me 🙂 ) who is telling you, reminding you that you have options, you have every right not to be bullied or to be made to go against government safety advice in the pandemic and that there are people out there who will advocate for you and support you.

Maybe there is a citizens advice bureau or similar that you can talk to if you don’t want to go down the union route, or if it’s not for you in your personal situation, your sector or industry.

Maybe there is a trusted friend or family member that you can bounce ideas off.

Maybe there are advice and information pages you can read up on online.

Just know that you are not trapped, and that there are options for you as you move forwards. It can be hard to stand up for ourselves sometimes, so don’t be afraid to ask for a bit of advocacy and support and help if you need to.

Take care, and stay safe. You are not alone. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (49): It’s Ok To Feel Those Difficult Feelings…

When life was busier, before this pandemic struck, most of us were caught up with the societal pressures of deadlines, of having to get up and leave the house by a certain time, get in the car or catch a train or bus to be at work on time. Some of you may have had to juggle this with dropping your kids off at school, with being home by a certain time and attending meetings or appointments on schedule. You’d then have to make the dinner and so forth, and because our usually fast-paced lives are coupled with the information overload of the internet age, we often don’t find the time to stop and think and process or feel our feelings.

Some of us like myself faced burnout after years of enduring stressful situations. I reached a point where many of my painful emotions bubbled to the surface and overflowed in a way I couldn’t deal with on my own, and had to get support with. It turns out that I was dealing with complex post traumatic stress mainly from severe trauma from childhood bullying, involving verbal, mental, physical and psychological abuse, and from resultant depression and anxiety. It was not a fun time in my life, and it took a good few years to get to a better place, although I am still on a journey to getting stronger.

My trauma psychologists informed me that I was being triggered by many things and that overwhelming emotions, thoughts, feelings and flashbacks were the result. I was given a helpful analogy that sometimes when we try to supress or keep down those painful emotions and experiences it is like trying to hold an inflatable ball under water, it takes a lot of effort, and after a while when we’re tired and lose our grip it will bounce right back up to the surface and beyond as we can’t control those feelings by keeping them down forever!

Perhaps the lockdown situation in this pandemic has been a space where you find your mind and body trying to process and reprocess all kinds of pent up thoughts, feelings and emotions, and sometimes you just don’t know how to handle it. Maybe you’ve been trying for so long and you just can’t stand the pressure anymore?

If so, know that you’re not alone and that there is help out there. Some of you may be in a place where it is important that you do reach out and get professional help and support. Others of you may not be in such a place, but you may be finding it quite scary to be feeling some overwhelming emotions. As a society, we’re so used to avoiding painful emotions, numbing them out, distracting ourselves from them, when sometimes what we really need is to feel them, let them surface, let them out and process them so that eventually we can heal, move on, get stronger, and help other people. I never thought back then I’d ever be able to get through to the other side, it all felt so overwhelming and bleak, so know that you’re not alone, it is possible, and there is so much hope for you. My Hope Is in Jesus Christ, Who gets beyond the symptoms to the root cause in a way no mere mortal can and provide that deep healing and Peace that can only come from the Hand of The Creator Himself.

There is a time and time and a space for things to surface, and maybe if you have the chance during these restrictions, now might be the time for you to begin to feel, to allow yourself to feel difficult emotions and to begin to deal with things you’ve ‘shoved down’ inside yourself for so long.

It helps to have support with this so that we don’t allow our emotions to negatively impact others such as through angry outbursts or blaming others, but maybe a first step is to learn to gently sit with those painful feelings, to write them down perhaps and then to calm and quieten yourself by sitting in stillness in nature if you can or by speaking to a friend or someone who cares even if it is a stranger on the other end of a telephone.

Our fast paced lives may in time resume, but if it is your time just now, think about taking the opportunity to begin to allow yourself to feel and to heal from those difficult emotions and experiences you may have had in life. You’re not alone, so many people have come through so many things, so keep your head up, keep your heart strong, reach out for help, (I pray you will let the True Healer, Jesus Christ in to deeply heal those broken places) and begin to move forward into greater freedom in your life one step at a time.

I’m still on that journey, but I am just one testimony among many that there is Hope, which means there is also Hope for you.

Take care, be blessed. x

Photo by Mateus Souza on Pexels.com

Self Care In A Pandemic (17): Let Someone Know You Care.

A fundamental part of what it is to be human is to love, to give, to care, to demonstrate kindness and thoughtfulness towards others.

We all need to know that we are loved, important and valued, and while it is good for us to receive, it is also incredibly important to give…to keep that heart muscle of kindness pumping.

While we need to look after ourselves in order to be able to give of ourselves (and for Christ followers, we know the instruction to ‘Abide’ in Him so that we can ‘bear much fruit’ because apart from Him, The Source of sources, the True Source of Love, Light, Wisdom, Righteousness, Goodness and Truth, apart from Him we can do nothing of eternal significance that will stand the test of His Perfection), we still need to be giving out once we have received.

We exist to love and to be Loved, and yet in this fallen and dark humanity, it can often feel that this is hard to come by. Yet what might take very little effort from us, to reach out to check in on someone and ask if they are ok, to send a note, a text or an email or some other communication in this technologically flourishing world to say ‘I’m thinking of you’ is often something we don’t do often enough.

Is there anyone in your life today who can benefit from your kindness, the power of your gracious words, your time?

Send that text.

Pick up that phone to your family member.

Remember that person who is probably lonely.

Give to a stranger.

Give to a friend.

To be the fullest versions of ourselves we need to be thoughtful Givers as well as receivers. It will benefit not only them, but you as well. Who can you bless with your love today? x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (13) – Be Active and Not Reactive – Take Time To Process…

I’m fairly sure that if you are reading this, and are looking for ways to better care for yourself and others during this pandemic, then you are likely to have encountered some challenges along the way this year.

I mean, really, which of us haven’t encountered challenges? I’m sure we are all dealing with something. That being said, how we get through things can have a lot to do with not just our circumstances and means of help, but also how we process (or don’t) the things going on in our lives.

Let’s take for example somebody does or says or doesn’t do something to you and this stirs up your emotions, you start thinking about the situation and feel almost ‘stuck’ in your thoughts, and you *react* to things in a visceral way. There may be certain situations in life when an immediate ‘gut’ or visceral reaction is appropriate and even necessary, such as if you or someone else is in immediate danger and you need to do something instantly, but in the main, this kind of response is not helpful, to ourselves, other people, to resolving the situation, or to our wellbeing.

If you think about what you’ve had to take in this year, even if you’ve not had a lot going on in your own personal circumstances, the chances are you’ve had to process quite a lot. The fact of the pandemic itself has been a big thing for us all. Then there has been the various lockdowns and easing of restrictions, the daily ‘count’ of deaths in some countries where we are presented this in the news or by politicians’ daily briefings, social and political unrest, the situations of friends, family members, colleagues or acquaintances, our own day to day routines and the impact on our living, job, relationship and mental health situations, and so forth. Whether you have experienced the ‘big’ things hitting you this year, like grief, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loneliness and isolation or other health concerns or you name the thing that you’ve been dealing with, or if you are somehow coping or trundling along without a great deal of change in your personal situation, either way, the fact that we are in a pandemic year will have impacted you in some way, and it is important to take note and take account of that.

The reason I say this is because living through these things in a ‘reactive’ way can be damaging to our health and can also impact our relationships and be damaging to those around us. Can you think of anyone you know who when they see a news story that raises a reaction in them, they start calling people names, or swearing, or getting agitated or anxious? There are a lot of people reacting in such ways at the moment. This impacts their immediate physical, emotional and psychological health, and most likely not in a good way.

If you are that person, soaking up the news and experiences of 2020 in a very reactive way, then chances are you are causing yourself some damage. So what’s the solution?

I’ve found in recent weeks that things have been affecting me such as work stress, or changing dynamics of friendships. When I get those ‘warning signals’ in my ‘gut’ so to speak, when those anxious thoughts and feelings start to arise, I know that it’s time to take a step back, to take a break, to take a few deep breaths and get a bit of space from the situation and focus my mind on something calming and grounding.

Doing this can produce an almost ‘immediate’ effect on our nervous systems. However, in itself, it is not enough. We not only need to get distance and calm ourselves down in the immediate situation, but we need to put in a little bit of effort to make sure we are giving ourselves the time, space and chance to process our thoughts, our feelings, our instinctive reactions so that we can move forwards positively and actively rather than reactively.

There are various ways that we can process what we are dealing with and it is probably good to have a range of ‘tools’ and techniques to hand, and it is good when we can also find ways to use what we learn to benefit other people.

So what could you do?

One thing is finding a way to externalise your thoughts and feelings. This could be by writing or journaling, for example.

Talking to someone else can also be a very helpful way to diffuse intense emotions, and can help give us a more balanced perspective, as well as helping us feel that we are not so alone in dealing with our problems, challenges and issues. If you are physically alone, perhaps you could have a few friends or family members that you can talk with every now and then, on the phone or online. And if you feel like there’s no one in your life that you know who you can turn to, then perhaps you can seek out some helplines that you can phone. I have done so in the past in times of depression, anxiety and crisis, even though I have friends and family members. Sometimes we need to just talk to someone else, because maybe those close to us aren’t available or we don’t feel comfortable always turning to them. Sometimes we just need to hear the voice of another human being and chat things through and that’s perfectly ok, and definitely not something to feel ashamed about. That’s what they are there for.

Creativity can also be a balm to troubled emotions and it can also be a stepping stone into community where you can link up with like minded people, and these days there is so much going on online, even if you don’t wish to connect personally you can still find sources of inspiration by watching or reading about what others are doing and this may help you as you seek to process or externalise or express your own thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences. Creativity could be expressed in a variety of ways such as art, music, song, dance or play or so many other things.

Community can also be a source of easing our inner tensions, diffusing pent up emotions, sharing experiences and letting us know we’re not alone. For me, keeping a sense of connection with church and other Christians has been an encouragement, but at the same time, sometimes we need to be careful that we aren’t left feeling alone by being a part of a group, which can happen from time to time. Try to find a helpful balance for you.

Nature is also a source of calm for me, that helps settle me down and release those ‘reactive’ thoughts and feelings. It helps lift my mind and take my mind off certain negative trains of thought.

There are many more calming and soothing things you can do to gain space, perspective and help process your thoughts and experiences and it is so important to do so to enable you to act rather than react to situations.

That’s not to say everything will somehow sort itself out, but you will be in a better place to make positive decisions in your own life in response to what you are facing. I’m personally finding it necessary to reassess some of my friendship dynamics this year so as to avoid being taken for granted for example, or even forgotten about, and so that I can protect my mental and emotional health as well as that of others. I’ve found that even though I’ve been really productive at work this year, working from home, that doesn’t necessarily stave off the stress that accompanies work at times, and it is my responsibility to step back, and find a healthy balance for myself so that I can act positively rather than simply react instinctively to ongoing challenges and situations.

So what about you, friends? Does any of this resonate with you or do you find it helpful? What do you do that helps you? Whatever you are going through this year, I hope that you will take the time, and find a way to step back, process, and move forwards in a way that will contribute to your health, happiness, wellbeing and that of those around you.

Take care, stay strong, and sending each of you uplifting prayers for this day and those ahead of you. Peace. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (9): It’s ok not to be ok…

I was doing pretty good today…until I wasn’t. For a number of years I was finding life difficult and overwhelming on a number of levels. I’ve worked pretty hard, and God’s grace has carried me forwards, and I’ve recently been in a place of building myself up. However, sometimes as we seek to press forwards, despite all of our best efforts, there can be an internal challenge to get to where we want to be and feel how we want to feel. Sometimes we just want to feel ‘ok’, but that might seem like an impossible dream.

If you’re struggling just now, I’m sending you a great big virtual hug and lots of compassion.

Especially in this pandemic year we may find that we go through ups and downs and that’s ok. Some of the things we struggle with might be to do with what’s happening this year, but then other things may be internal and seem to come ‘out of the blue’ and can be ‘triggers’ of some form or another. It can be tough, especially if you feel like you’d been making progress. But it’s ok. It’s ok to learn to sit with those uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and emotions until they pass (and eventually they will), and to take the next step to begin again. You’ve come this far, and if you need a well done from someone, then I am giving it to you right now, friend.

*Well done* – whatever it is you have faced or been going through or are going through now, it is something you are or have persevered through and possibly in the most difficult of circumstances for you – so well done. I’m proud of you, even though I don’t know you, but I know what it is to be human. I know what it is to struggle, to suffer, to feel weak and broken, and I also know what it is to get up again. And again. And again. And chances are if you’re reading this and relating to this, then you do too.

It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to be doing fine for a while and then not to be doing fine. You’re human, that’s part of what it is to experience our frail and fallen lives in this world. It’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to need grace and it’s ok to be humbled to a place where you need to ask for help. I believe there is an amazing grace for us all, in fact, I know that the Grace of God has saved me and brought me this far and is giving me Peace and renewal day by day. It’s not always been easy, perhaps it isn’t meant to be. But I have a Saviour, a Friend, a King, to turn to and Who loves me through the dark times as well as the more joyful moments of life.

Whatever you think or believe or whatever you don’t believe, know that the moment you are in will pass. You will find the strength to not be ok. You will find the strength to sit in those uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, and to get up again. So take heart my friend, this too will pass. You are not alone. ❤ x

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Lockdown Life Lessons (4). (Interactive Series).

Continuing on our series on lockdown life lessons, I feel it’s important not to gloss over the challenges even while we are looking for the positives and growth opportunities through 2020 so far.

Why might that be? Because without addressing or at least acknowledging some of the more difficult parts of our experience we won’t be as well equipped to deal with patterns of struggle or challenge in our lives in order to change them for the better in the future.

So, with that being said, prompt number four is as follows (try to be honest with yourself, and compassionate towards yourself too):

4. What has been the hardest thing for you during lockdown / quarantine, and why? What or how can you change, learn or grow to make things better in the future?

This one might be difficult for you to answer, and may involve expressing personal issues, weaknesses or pain. However, by acknowledging the challenges as well as the positives, we will be more likely to seek the help we need, or respond in better ways in the future. Perhaps whatever you’ve experienced won’t be resolved quickly, but take time to acknowledge what you’re struggling with or feeling challenged by and then ask yourself the following questions:

-If you are a person of faith – ‘Have I prayed about it?’

Is there anything within my power to change?

What lessons have I learned or am I learning about this?

Is there anyone I can share this with for help, mutual support, encouragement, etc?

Do I know other people who might be going through similar things who I can reach out to and encourage or show support, understanding or love?

Do I need help from people professionally with this?

Is there something within myself I need to work on to change? How can I start going about making those changes?

Will I choose not to worry about this all the time?

What is needed to make things better?

What a I using as a ‘crutch’ to cope with this situation, and what should I change to deal with it in a more positive manner?

Perhaps you don’t want to or don’t feel the need to go through these additional self-reflection questions. But take a moment to think about the original question as to what was most difficult for you and how things can be better moving forwards.

In subsequent posts, the focus will once more be more positive, however, it is important to also acknowledge the issues explored in this post if we are to move forwards with greater self-awareness, strength and ability to make positive changes in our lives.

Take care.

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