There’s no doubt about it that the past year has exerted a lot of pressure on a lot of people and a lot of different industries.
Perhaps I’m in good company in being blessed to be able to work from home (albeit using my own devices at present) and have some job security. I am very thankful for this as I know that there are others who are having a hard time, and I know that my work is a gift.
If you are in a similar situation, perhaps you notice that there are certain expenses that you haven’t had this year that you might have previously. For example, in pre-pandemic times I would have a daily commute which meant buying a train ticket on a daily basis. I’d have to buy lunch if I hadn’t had enough time to meal prep in advance, and there were probably other things that I also ended up spending money on. Of course, some of these savings are offset by spending in other areas such as electricity bills if you are working from home. However, if you do have bit of disposable income, then perhaps you can think about supporting local businesses when you do make your purchases. This isn’t always possible, but I do like to be of the mindset that every little bit does help in some way or another.
For example, as it is still the first month of the new year you may find yourself in need of new stationery, diaries, planners and such like. Why don’t you support some local businesses such as those that you can find on Etsy? As a Christian, I also personally like the UK based Christian version called ‘Cheerfully Given’ where I sometimes buy Scripture inspired stationery and gifts.
This post is completely of my own heart and initiative and I’m not sponsored by anyone, but I do feel that perhaps in addition to buying local from time to time, spreading the word can also help people in sectors that might otherwise be struggling or finding it a bit harder than usual to make ends meet.
I’ll leave the links below, and maybe you too can ‘pay it forward’ by recommending some local businesses to friends. We can’t do everything to help everyone, but let’s have faith that the small gestures we make also matter.
And if you yourself are a local business then I hope you find some encouragement that there are still people out there who want to support you in these difficult times.
I hope that you have had a safe, healthy and peaceful first week of 2021. I hope that if you have faced challenges along the way that you are digging deep and finding a resilience within yourself to persevere and a faith to look beyond yourself for greater strength.
Although this post title aims at those among us who are now or currently working from home in this pandemic, I think some of the main principles can apply to all of us. It can be easy when there is no physical boundary between work and home life to let the psychological boundaries blur a bit.
Have you ever heard people say, leave your work at work and don’t bring the burdens of the office (or other work place setting) home with you? That can be a huge challenge in and of itself, but what about when work and home are in one and the same setting?
Some of you may also be trying to juggle home working with daily routines and other aspects of family life such as child care, parental care, home schooling / education and the list is as endless and unique as the differences in our lives.
Whatever your scenario, it is important to have some emotional and mental boundaries even when you can’t have concrete physical boundaries. Just as we looked at in previous posts about the importance of having boundaries between ourselves and our news intake and also boundaries in relationships and in other things that might be emotionally or mentally demanding, we also need to establish healthy boundaries between the different aspects of our lives.
Some things at work this first week back have been bothering me, but I need to remind myself that the weekend is a time when I would normally be away from the office physically. Although with home working I could check my work emails when I couldn’t before after leaving the office, it is important not to allow the boundaries to blur too much.
If we are to care for ourselves we need to set aside time to nourish ourselves, to rest, to spend time with the people who we love and who love us whether in person or online or by telephone or some other means so that we can be recharged and ready for the week ahead.
During lockdown I’ve been so fortunate in that my church has had online services that have been broadcast on You Tube. This has helped to remind me of when it is Sunday and to purposefully set aside that time as I normally would. I’ve had more time to set aside during the days as well for time with God, prayer, worship and building myself up spiritually and sharing with others.
However, sometimes we can get caught up in things as the days and weeks go by. The past year has been a challenging one globally and the recent events of January 2021 for anyone who has been watching the news and seeing the …..(pause to try to think of an appropriate word)….indescribable events in America, we know that there may be challenging times ahead for the world in 2021.
We need to maintain our wellbeing and resilience, and we all have a variety of commitments, duties and tasks to attend to in our daily lives. Maintaining mental and emotional boundaries between these is so important.
As the days go by I will continue to share tips and ideas with you regarding what I find helpful that you may also find helpful. However, this post is more of a general reminder as we reach the close of week one of 2021 that this is an important point and aspect of your life to bear in mind.
People will try to encroach upon you even from a distance, even when working or studying from home. It is ok and it is good to give and take but don’t become depleted of your strength and resilience. Don’t let things blur together so that you are no longer demarcating time for yourself to rest, recharge and recover so that you can become stronger and stronger for the days ahead.
So on that note, I wish you all a happy weekend. Thankfully I don’t see blogging as work but as enjoyment, so you can expect to hear from me again very soon for more encouragement and reminders that it is important to care for yourself as well through this pandemic. x
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.
I’ve written about managing our news intake in the pandemic, before. I remember writing a post around March 2020 on this, and perhaps I’ve also mentioned it in subsequent posts. I think it is actually helpful for us to be reminded of key themes as we continue on this journey, especially at key points in the calendar.
I’m revisiting the idea of managing news intake so that we stay informed but don’t become overwhelmed by it all, because we’ve crossed over from the Christmas holiday and new year festive season to being in that ‘new year, new start’ mode.
Some of you may not have had a break from work. My special thanks, gratitude and appreciation goes out to all of you who are front line workers. Some of you may be full time bloggers so perhaps you’ve not had to shift gears or mindsets so much. I personally blog as a ‘hobby’ (although, who knows in pandemic times it may be something I’ll have to look into at some point in making it a ‘side hustle’ but for the moment it’s all done in my own time and I don’t earn anything from it). I have a full time job wherein in ‘normal’ times I’d be heading back to the office, but for the time being I’m (thankfully) working from home.
Yet, at this time of year I need to keep on top of what is going on in the news at least on a local level. I may need to pick up a work laptop soon, I may need to travel in and make arrangements for that, and there had been talk previously of working part time in the office, which I am not keen on myself, but I still need to stay informed with what my employer and what the government are saying.
Perhaps you also are shifting gears mentally as we make our way through the first month of this new year. It always takes a bit of getting used to. Maybe at this time you will have to engage a bit more with the outside world for your job, or if you need to take your kids to school and so forth. Maybe you’ve started upping your news intake.
It’s good and important and perhaps vital in times like this to stay informed of what the pandemic situation is, however, we need to maintain a healthy balance between that and protecting our mental and emotional health.
It can become all too easy to become caught up in things and to jump from one news story to another, allowing ourselves to become overwhelmed and emotionally burdened by it all.
So this is just a friendly reminder to you to hold things in a balance. Keep informed but don’t allow yourself to get sucked into over checking the news because it does impact you whether you realise it or not.
Take care of yourself, remember your wellbeing and that of your loved ones, and seek to be informed in a healthy, balanced and productive way. x
Well friends, tomorrow is the concluding day of the first month of 2020! A brand new year, a brand new month and a brand new decade. How has it been for you? Have you survived and / or thrived through all of the expectations that this ‘newness’ may have presented you with?
What have been your highlights, and your learning points? And are you excited to soon be starting a brand new month?
As you move forwards from here, let me share with you a few things to consider to make for a more fruitful month in February.
1. Be honest with yourself as you look back over the past month.
Oftentimes we feel the pressure from others, ourselves, society and social media messages to be ‘doing great’ at the start of a brand new year. At the start of a new decade, perhaps some of the internal pressures we place upon ourselves to ‘rise and shine’ and ‘live our best lives’ is even greater. Or perhaps such things don’t affect you all that much.
Either way, as we reach the end of the first month of this year, it is important to be honest with yourself. Most people start a new year with new expectations, goals and plans. Take time to think about where you have got to with yours if you had any. Also, be honest with yourself as to how the past month has actually been for you. You can think about things in the following ways:
Circumstances: Overall, were things good or bad this month? Accept what has passed and identify any issues that you need to resolve that have been difficult for you, both practically and emotionally. If things have overall been good, take time to reflect upon these, enjoy the memories of the experiences, be grateful for them and think of steps to climb even higher as you progress through the year.
Mental and emotional health and wellbeing: This is quite a personal one, and you hopefully will best know the questions to ask of yourself. Taking time to assess your mental and emotional wellbeing will help you and others as you move forwards, otherwise you can get stuck in a rut, or even pulled under if you don’t take time to address any issues that you may have that need your attention and care.
Think about how your mental and emotional health has been in January. Are there any triggering factors that made things difficult? Are there any things contributing to your positive mental and emotional health? What can you take forwards from here to build upon as you head into February?
Physical health: Time to think about your well being physically including in terms of activity levels, nutrition and other forms of self care. Are you looking after yourself or are there things that you can be doing better?
Sleep: After the time off during Christmas and the winter seasons, it can come as a bit of a shock to the system to get back into a routine. By now, most people are back ‘in the swing of things’ and sometimes this can mean powering full steam ahead which can be detrimental if you’re not getting the rest and sleep that you need. Check in with yourself and make sure you are not overworking yourself or wasting the precious rejuvenating hours that a good night’s sleep and rest can bring. Don’t worry if you struggle with this, you’re definitely not alone – it’s one of the biggest things that I need to work on!
2. Social connections, priorities and other people.
As well as taking time to think about how well you have been taking care of yourself over this past month (so that you can make improvements as you move forwards through the year), it is also important to consider your wellbeing in terms of a wider perspective. Taking care of ourselves on an individual level is one thing, but we also need to think about how connections with other people affect us whether positively or negatively, and to consider which aspects of these connections need to be nurtured, and which others need to be ‘pruned’ or cut away.
It’s important not to let yourself get swept up in the current of other people’s priorities, demands and activities where they don’t align well with your own. By this I don’t mean shirk your responsibilities and duties. Not by any means! If you have responsibilities to care for other people such as parents, children, dependants and so forth, it would be unethical to simply disregard their needs just because you want something different. No, what I mean is that being part of a society, the people we come in contact with may make requests or demands upon our time and attention and before committing to anything and everything you need to consider the longer term vision of your own life, and year, and not overcommit, especially to things that don’t align with your vision or values. Be open minded, but also be cautious – your personal, ‘free’ time away from work and family is such a precious commodity, you need to use it wisely, so don’t feel pressured into saying ‘yes’ to everything. Equally don’t miss out on opportunities that you need to take.
Further to this, you also need to think about how you are spending time and who you are spending time with. Are there people in your life who are draining you? Are there those who inspire you? Are there others with whom you are mutually encouraged? Think about the specifics of your own situations and circumstances and be mindful of how you relate to people and the effect you allow them to have on you, and make more considered choices as you continue through the year.
3. Plans and projects.
You may have started the year with a whole host of great ideas, some of which you might have hoped to get off the ground or make progress with in January. Let’s (once again) be honest with ourselves. How practical has this been? Have you achieved what you enthusiastically set out to, or do you need to revisit your plans, projects, goals and timescales? Don’t be hard on yourself. Small steps all add up. Keep going, but also don’t tie yourself to something you have started that you now realise actually isn’t the right choice for your life. Take time to responsibly consider whether there are things you can let go of and how without negatively affecting other people as far as is possible.
What has worked and what needs improved upon or changed in terms of how you have approached your plans for this month? What lessons have you learned and what will you take forwards into February?
4. The bigger picture – Faith, and the people you love.
Don’t get so caught up in the minutiae or day to day routines of life that you forget to ‘look up’. Don’t forget to take time to appreciate, to be thankful, to consider the Source of all the good things and blessings in your life. Are you seeking Truth? Are you growing as a person? Are you gaining insights spiritually? And are you making time to simply be and spend time with the people you love?
Be blessed as you progress into a brand new month, and don’t be afraid to start afresh. x
January is a good time to be gentle with ourselves. It’s a time when we are emerging out of ‘hibernation’ and yet are also faced with expectations to be all things new and all at once. That’s not reasonable nor practical nor altogether healthy for us if we’re honest with ourselves.
It’s a great idea to re-evaluate our lives and set new goals, however, the idea of being able to ‘hit the ground running’ on January 1st isn’t particularly helpful. I find that incremental changes over time are far more sustainable in the long run: ‘slow and steady wins the race’.
However, that’s not to say that it isn’t a particularly good time to use the idea of a new year and a new start to boost our motivation, but the way in which we do that doesn’t need to be in a flurry of activity.
So, feel free to pace yourself as you continue to journey through January.
For many of us, the first changes stem from perhaps going back home after spending time with family over Christmas, or saying goodbye to family if they have stayed with us. Others may not have to move or say goodbye or make any such changes, but the chances are that you will have to start tidying up and reorganising after the festive period. I don’t put any pressure on myself to do this in the first week of January as I like to gradually and gently say goodbye to that holiday feeling and savour the happy moments of it as I do. What’s the rush after all?
After that, we face the next challenge of remembering to get out of bed in the morning and go to work, while also remembering that it’s not socially acceptable to wear pyjamas all day or to take a nap in the afternoon – at least not in normal working life!
Our bodies are still adjusting to the changes in our sleep patterns, our diets and our activity levels. Which is why it’s a good idea like I said at the start of this post to be gentle with ourselves. Don’t expect that you will make and keep many drastic changes from ‘day 1’, that’s too much pressure. Maybe you thrive under that kind of pressure, and I suppose that’s ok, but if you don’t then don’t add to your anxiety by self-imposed and non-essential demands. Things take time, life takes time, so….take your time.
Perhaps it is a good idea to set ‘weekly goals’ in January rather than try to ‘attack’ a whole host of new year resolutions all at once. For example the first week could be simply going to work, with no other added expectations other than whatever else needs to be done to get you through your daily routine.
After that, perhaps the following week you will be more energised to begin to really ‘get going’ or to focus on another area of your routine such as addressing your sleep habits and your morning and evening routines. Your body will gradually adjust as you go at a gentle pace. Maybe in week three you can attend to the tidying up, the seeing people or the other things that you want to focus on.
As we are gentle with ourselves and accept that things take time and change is often most beneficial in the long term when it is gradual, consistent and sustained, then we will in good time find that boost of motivation to stride confidently into and through this new year.
According to popular culture, ‘Blue Monday’ is a day in January – typically the third Monday of the month – when many people feel low. I don’t use the phrase, ‘the most depressing day of the year’, as some do, because as someone who has clinical depression, I know that feeling blue and being depressed are and can be very different things, and I know other people who suffer with this very real medical condition would also not appreciate the term being used lightly to mean just feeling ‘a bit sad’.
However, on a lighter note, as far as ‘pop culture’ goes, this is one way in which trends are noted, trends which can be used by retailers and advertisers to sell things to make people act in a way that they think will make them feel better about themselves and their lives – through consumerism.
Yet, could there be something that we can actually learn from the idea of there being a ‘Blue Monday’ or the concept of the ‘January blues’? I don’t think there’s any particular significance about the day itself, but psychologically I can understand why people might feel low at this time of the month and year.
Typically, in many parts of the world, it is still winter season, and the communal festivities have passed, and spring is a long way from having sprung. People may have fallen short already in terms of living up to their ‘new year resolutions’ and with the holiday season passed, it is back to work for most people, while the weather is still fairly gloomy and without there being anything imminent to look forward to. Motivation may have dwindled and life may have become a bit ‘hum drum’ once again.
There are many ways in which we can avoid or overcome such negative feelings. For example, we can address our mind-set, thoughts, attitudes and so forth. We can also take care of ourselves physically by getting appropriate sleep, rest, exercise and eating healthily. We can try to stay interested with hobbies, and maintain contact with friends and family.
However, I did specify ‘one way’ in the title of this post, so I’ll let you into a little ‘secret’ of mine. Although the festivities may have passed, I approach each brand new month a bit like a mini ‘new year’. It is a fresh start, time to re-evaluate, to set new goals, and to see new possibilities. I personally like to ‘plan’ and decorate my diary / planner, so it means getting creative with a fresh new approach and new doodles and designs for that month. Sometimes I have a theme in mind for things I’d like to think about or explore or achieve for each month as I go through the year. It keeps things fresh, and it helps me to stay hopeful, rather than seeing an expanse of time stretching out before me with all the ‘new ideas’ falling behind.
If by the time January 20th, 2020 comes around, you are feeling a little ‘blue’, don’t worry. February will soon be around the corner and chance for another new start. So celebrate these mini new beginnings throughout your year, and stay vibrant, hopeful and blessed. x
Well, I’ve made it to lunchtime! And I am so glad that I decided to come back to work today, with it being a Friday. A one day working week is the perfect way to ease back into things, and although there are a few people in, it feels like one of the quietest days at work I’ve seen….definitely the quietest day of the year and of the decade so far! 😉
I think the build up and anticipation and taking the first steps into a routine after the holiday season are usually the hardest part of the whole process of going back to work, and once that’s out of the way, everything else seems more ‘doable’ and manageable.
I struggled through the night with this cough, sore throat and cold, but other than a brief ‘coughing fit’ on the train here this morning, I have had quite a pleasant start back to work, especially as things are so quiet. Quiet not just at work, but the streets and train were also void of the usual hustle and bustle of working commuters. Lovely! 🙂
I expect that this will be quite a different scene come Monday, with those who took the extra day off coming in all at once, which is why I and the others who have come in today will be appreciating this much gentler start to the new working year. With it being so quiet, people have pretty much just kept to themselves, and I’ve had a couple of chats to colleagues who I hadn’t seen in a while, but a quiet day allows everyone to get the tiredness, grumpiness and adjustments out of the way with as little fuss as possible, to have an easy start as we go through our inboxes, remind ourselves of our tasks and begin preparing for the next full week ahead, without all the ‘new year’ madness that will likely ensue when there will be far more people in, most likely grumbling about being back at work.
I’m pleased to say that I remembered my password, and that my ‘Welcome back’ email from my 2019 self was extremely helpful, and will probably be even more so next week when I really get into work as I have given myself detailed instructions as to what I’ll be taking forward. I can’t recommend this highly enough; ok, so maybe you don’t have to write to yourself in a ‘Back to the Future’ kind of way, but at least leave yourself helpful notes and instructions as you will inevitably have forgotten the minute details of what you were doing pre-holiday season.
A one day week really does feel like a nice ‘stretch and a warm up’ before the real exercise begins. I don’t envy people who will be starting back on the Monday with the stretch of a whole week ahead and little quiet time to properly adjust. I’d much rather have this gentler start than the extra day at home.
However, on the bright side, for anyone who is starting back to work on Monday, at least you’re ‘in the same boat’ as almost everyone else, and you’ll all be experiencing similar feelings, and so you’ll all be going through the post holiday adjustment at the same time, which may bring about a sense of camaraderie.
This morning I remembered a day years ago when I was sick the day before a job interview (for a job I didn’t get, and probably wouldn’t have been happy in anyway), and it gave me a sense of gratitude and relief that I have a job I enjoy, that I feel settled in, and that gives me a sense of stability in my life. I’m glad to be far from those days post-graduation of job-hunting, interviews, and doing volunteer work and temping in ‘dead end’ unfulfilling jobs to tide me over, while not knowing where I would end up.
It is a good perspective to have to be grateful for the jobs we have when facing those ‘first day back nerves’, or if we feel negative about leaving the holidays behind – because, really many of us are very blessed in having regular employment with fair working conditions and I am thankful for that as I begin a new working year.
Coming back to work also reminds me that there are a lot of ‘niggly’ things that we face on a day to day basis that we need to be careful to keep in perspective and not let them spoil our attitude.
For example, our department pre-Christmas released an organisational structure with everyone’s job titles and grades on it, and of course with me being on holiday today is the first chance for me to see it. Often in my team, because I work well and efficiently, I am given a lot of work to do, and sometimes I am given responsibility to take over work from other colleagues who may have let things slip, and have completed pieces of work for other managers because I am industrious, efficient and work to a high standard. However, the new structure clearly reveals that even though I am often doing more work or being asked to pick up other colleagues work, I am being paid less that those team members. There is a organisational-wide review happening, however, the point I am trying to make is that back at work we may be faced with issues that we had forgotten about, not had to deal with, or been able to take a break from while on holiday.
These issues may not necessarily be to do with working more and to a higher standard while being paid less than colleagues, they may be to do with other things such as team dynamics, communication with managers or staff, who controls the temperature on the heating / air conditioning / thermostat, or whether there is enough space for your lunch in the fridge! It could be anything, and my point is that we need to be careful not to let either these significant or smaller issues take away our peace of mind, or nudge us into having a negative perspective.
It is important to take a step back, take in a deep breath, and remind ourselves that we are more than our work, we are more than what we do or don’t do when we rest, and we can’t live our best lives in 2020 if we allow ourselves to fall into the comparison trap.
I’m reminded of how Jesus said to Peter, ‘what is it to you?’ when he was concerned with John’s situation in comparison with his, as they talked and ate after Christ’s resurrection. And it is good to remind myself that I am working for The LORD and not for man, and that humility and gratitude is a good starting point for continuing on this walk with Him, knowing that He will grant wisdom in every circumstance that I will face.
So no matter what you believe, remember that you will be stepping into an environment where your inner responses will be challenged. Be mindful of this and gird yourself with the determination to walk through 2020 with gratitude, grace, dignity, respect, diligence, positivity, good humour and excellence.
As they say, “don’t sweat the small stuff”.
So go out there, and make a difference for the better, and remember just to take it one step at a time! 🙂 x
It’s 2020, and this sounds like it should be the year of perfect vision, it has a sense of wholeness when we say it, and seems even a bit ‘futuristic’.
That aside, any New Year brings with it a sense of new expectations and this can be both exciting and challenging.
In this blog post, I’m going to explore some of the expectations we place upon ourselves, and walk you through some of the ways we could approach a new year in a more gentle way that helps us adjust to life with the changing of the seasons and in a way that is better for our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Different cultures may celebrate new year at different points, however, in a globalised world we generally note the 1st of January as the start of the new calendar.
And yet, at least in my part of the world, we are still in that period of winter well before spring has begun to show, and so our bodies and minds may continue to be more inclined to the state of hibernation than to that of springing up with new ideas, plans and activities. However, there remains the external and internal ‘pressures’ that now is the time to make a change, to be new, to start afresh, to be better, to get those goals, dreams and plans in motion and to live our best lives.
Some people say that January is a month where a couple of weeks in, people begin to feel low, depressed and to experience the ‘January blues’, when the festive celebrations of Christmas and New Year have passed, the new year resolutions have dwindled away after 2 weeks of trying to make a sudden change and when the weather is still gloomy and spring and summer are just a little too far out of reach to be excited about. We’re mostly all back at work or back in a routine of some sort, and the big and exciting changes haven’t really happened and so we are left with an anti-climax and perhaps even the seasonal low moods of wintertime.
January 2nd for me:
As I write, I have returned back to my own flat after time away during December. I finished work on the evening of Friday 6th December (see that post for ideas of ‘wrapping up’ at work before a holiday), spent the next few days tidying, organising and decorating my flat to make it lovely and cosy for Christmas, after which I packed for a trip to Germany’s Black Forest and to France to see the Strasbourg Christmas markets. On return, I unpacked, washed my clothes, reorganised, tidied etc, had a bit of cosy time at home, went to church to celebrate the Birth of Christ with my church ‘family’, and then packed all over again to spend the next week and a half at my parents’ house with my family for Christmas and New Year.
The next ten days were spent with my family, cosied up inside, enjoying celebrations of Christmas, birthdays, New Year and an anniversary. This involved being looked after by my lovely mum, eating good food, playing music on my violin, family time playing games, quizzes, and even having fun with balloons, napping in the afternoons, reading my Bible, decorating my room, chilling out, laughing, relaxing, a couple of walks in the garden, a short and chilly new year’s eve walk at the beach, board games, films, Christmas and birthday cake, and only one day venturing out to see a friend.
The usual routine of work was completely forgotten about, and all in all it was a good time to be indoors and forget about the cold and chilly weather outside and enjoy some family togetherness and the blessings of having a roof over our heads, warm food, a place to sleep, and all the cosy things of the winter season and being at home with loved ones.
Having returned to my flat last night, I have returned, not quite with the energy and enthusiasm to start a new year, but instead with a bad cold, sneezes, a cough and sore throat. This has meant having to get a lot of rest, sleep and to try to look after myself so that I am as fit and healthy as I can be in time for starting back at work tomorrow! It is a good thing that it is a Friday and that I won’t have an entire week as a shock to the system.
Out of hibernation?
At my parents’ home, they have quite a big back garden, and most evenings a little (although much chubbier this winter 🙂 ) fox visits to receive its ‘daily bread’ 🙂 .
Often times there are also squirrels that scamper around the garden. However, while I was there I didn’t see a single squirrel until yesterday or the day before. It seems that they were hibernating for winter, and then all of a sudden two arrived at the same time, bright and breezy, and in a terrible hurry, before disappearing as quick as a flash.
It was an uncommon sight from the past two weeks as it seems that the squirrels had hidden themselves away with the cold and wintery weather.
Can you imagine a little squirrel popping its head tentatively out from behind a tree, wondering whether or not it is time to venture further into the light of day?
I think sometimes we can have that feeling in January, when we know it is time to get back into the routine of things, back to work, back to going out and about, but we’re not quite sure we are ready for it after so much time spent cosying up indoors, and knowing that spring won’t fully spring for at least another month or two.
A gentler pace:
The first month of a new year can be a difficult one to get into our stride. It seems that everyone around us feels the need to hurry up and put the old away and bring in the new. Christmas trees come down, decorations are put away, lists of goals and new year’s resolutions are made, diets and exercise routines are planned, habits are expected to change and we expect that we should be able to charge full steam ahead.
Yet the reality may be that our bodies and minds are still adjusting to the seasonal changes, the circumstantial changes of our lives, and we may be still trying to shake off the wintery coughs and colds that we have picked up.
So, what can we do to ease the transitions? To find a healthier and gentler pace with which to approach change?
One more step along the world I go:
Goals and Resolutions:
Personally, I find that ‘goal setting’ throughout the year (for me, on a monthly basis) to be much more helpful than new year’s resolutions in January, although I love the chance that a new year brings to reflect, to be thankful and to focus on valuable priorities in my life.
Rather than everything having to be a sudden change, I find that I am building upon goals that I have been steadily working upon and refreshing these and maybe incorporating new ones from the lessons I have learned over the past year.
‘Tis (still) the season to be cosy:
Perhaps you live in a sunnier part of the world, but here in Scotland, it is still cold and wintery in January. While many people may be taking their Christmas decorations down and packing them away, I feel no hurry to do so – for me, it’s one of the things that makes the season cosy while the weather is bleak outside. Living in a flat on the 10th floor means that I don’t really need to worry about what other people think, and so I plan to keep my tree and decorations and cosy lighting up for as long into January as my heart desires, to allow me to gradually move from one ‘season’ to the next.
Health and fitness is often at the top of people’s lists at the start of a new calendar year. However, try to be reasonable in your expectations of yourself so that you are not setting yourself up for disappointment. After possibly being indoors for an extended period of time, with potentially lessened activity levels, is it really helpful for your body to go full steam ahead into a brand new exercise routine, or would steady, gradual and committed changes be more beneficial in the long run?
Another thing we have to think about, as I am having to right now, is our bodies’ natural recovery time from seasonal illnesses such as coughs, colds and flu. We need to get back into a rhythm of healthier sleep, eating and activity, of drinking plenty of healthy fluids, and giving us time to rest and recover from any sicknesses. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t seem to be able to move full steam ahead into your new year goals. Change can be more effective if it is gradual and consistent – slow and steady can win the race.
Something to look forward to:
Having something to look forward to can be a great incentive and motivation for us to get going. Maybe you have a summer holiday booked in that you can start thinking about, planning for and day dreaming of.
If like me, you don’t have anything planned yet, you could maybe have some things in January that you can schedule in to look forward to. Have things to look forward to but don’t over commit, and allow yourself the room to change your mind.
I have had to decline two separate invitations for tomorrow and the weekend, from friends, as I have only just come down with this cough, cold, and sore throat and know I will need time to rest and recover especially with starting back at work tomorrow.
However, there are things that ‘traditionally’ I know I have to look forward to in January each year – one of which is various music events in my city, and the other is going out for dinner with a couple of good friends, and these plans can be flexible.
Other things to look forward to could be setting time aside, or spontaneously making time to do things we enjoy such as self care, a ‘pamper evening’, watching a film at the weekend, playing an instrument, or getting back into hobbies, reading, or other things that can be done without venturing out into the cold weather.
A time of reflection:
I personally like to take time to reflect on my life, to be thankful, and to prayerfully consider what I have learned, and what I should be focusing on and putting my time into. Just because January the 1st has passed it doesn’t mean that we can’t spend an extended period of time, if so inclined, in personal reflection and preparing our minds and hearts for what is ahead – that way any changes we do set about making or resolving to make will be more personal and meaningful and likelier to last the changing of times and seasons as we progress through life.
Back to work:
Unless you have taken time off in January, it is likely that as with most of us, you will be getting back into some kind of a work routine, whether that involves leaving the comfort of your own home and going outside to your place of work, or working at home, for yourself in some capacity, or flexible working. In any case, it will involve a shift of gears, some changes to your routine, and a different mindset to your holiday mode.
How can we ease this transition? We might not have a lot of time to prepare. Personally, I start work tomorrow, and I hope that with it being a Friday, this in itself will ease the transition back into the routine.
If you have thought ahead, you will have done some preparation before the holidays to ease this transition. I wrote a ‘welcome back’ email to myself before I finished up for the Christmas break, so now although I have forgotten what exactly I was doing, I have a list of specific instructions to get me going and keep me up to speed.
Even if you haven’t been organised before the holidays, you can find ways of making your start back to work more bearable.
Try to get a good night’s sleep.
Know where your staff ID badge for getting into work is, if you use one.
Keep essential things in easy to get to places so that the first morning back at work isn’t chaotic, or one in which you have unnecessary panic. For example, think about things you will definitely need such as money / credit card, house keys, car keys, train or bus pass, etc.
If you are very prepared you might even give yourself a head start by planning your work outfit – I am always impressed with people who manage to do this on a regular basis!
Eat a healthy breakfast, or at least keep money with you so that you can buy something to eat during the day.
Remind yourself of when you need to leave, where you need to be (e.g. if you have any meetings – hopefully not for the first day back), and set an alarm to allow you plenty of time to get ready and be on time (this is something I definitely want and need to work on in the coming year 🙂 ).
If you take medication, put it somewhere easy to access so that you don’t forget in a morning rush.
Keep some positive and uplifting music at hand for you to listen to if you are commuting on public transport so that you can be in a good frame of mind to start your day.
Try to keep a supply of cough and cold remedies handy, because chances are you’re not the only one who has been sick, and at new year people tend to want to wish you a happy new year with a handshake or a hug, so don’t forget to do what you can to avoid falling sick again or passing on your own illnesses.
Remember that if you are starting back at work around the same time as everyone else, then you all will be in a similar situation, so try not to worry about the transition into your daily routine.
First days back are generally more gentle days, reacclimatising yourself, remembering your passwords, checking through emails, and preparing for what you will be working on.
Try not to schedule in too many meetings, if any on your first few days back at work, and as people always say, before you know it, it will feel like you’ve never been away.
Change with the seasons:
Nature has a way of telling us when to slow down, to rest, to sleep, to wake, to spring into action, to adventure. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter, have a way of nudging us into action and into rest. So while society may be telling you to do this, that or the other, pay attention to the natural rhythms of life, listen to what your body is telling you, and take action at a pace that is comfortable for you to make long lasting, life affirming changes that will stand the test of time, and not just the first few weeks of January.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy, blessed, and spiritually enlightened new year, and a 2020 filled with love, joy, peace, self discovery, Truth and meaning.
Take care, and take the time to live life at a pace that keeps you well and healthy. x