Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Self Care In A Pandemic (61): Take A Minute…

When seasons change, are you in a hurry to rush to turn the metaphorical page? To start your new chapter, and head on into the next new thing without looking back?

I’ve been there before. I suffered a lot of pain growing up with a couple of markedly traumatic years in school. I put my head down and just wanted to press ahead and forget everything that was behind me and move forwards. Then later when I finally got my first apartment / home of my own, after facing a range of different challenges, I wanted also to press ahead, and to do things to serve God and help other people. I had it all planned out in my mind. Let me just give you a quick ‘spoiler’ and let you know that the story didn’t unfold that easily for me and was in fact a very painful time. I had gone through so much that overwhelmed me, big and little things accumulating over the years, that I couldn’t just press ahead. I had a traumatic episode of complex PTSD, severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks and although I pressed ahead even when experiencing all of these horrible and terrifying symptoms, holding on a full time job and doing outwardly well by the high quality of work I was producing, I was falling apart. God needed to bleed all that stuff out of me (which is a work in progress) in order for me to heal. Now I am able to build myself up after being broken down and broken apart. At least, God Is rebuilding me and giving me wisdom in how I can be part of that rebuilding process.

Sometimes we want to turn the next page, especially if we’d been on a particularly difficult chapter or few chapters of experience and life, and put it all behind us. Our bodies, brains, nervous systems, spirits and emotions may not let us. We need to heal before moving forwards sometimes, and it can be a painful revelation after having put so much energy and effort into surviving life, only to feel we are back at ‘rock bottom’ once again. It can be hard to see the ‘breaking apart’ as an important part of the healing process – of being progress in its own form.

I was touched to see (watching from the UK) last night, Joe Biden’s memorial service for the thousands of American lives lost to the pandemic. I watched this morning on the news a professor talking about the importance of Truth and Reconciliation in order to move forwards. Truth must come first, and this is a process.

Regardless of what your politics are, and what you may believe, the point I’m making is a humane one and not a political point. There is dignity in taking that moment to show honour, respect to those lost, and also in so many realms of life, of taking time to recognise and perhaps mourn for what happened in order for us to move on.

Perhaps you in your own life want desperately to move on from something. Maybe like me you need to press ahead, but then those painful emotions will catch up with you in a crippling way. You need to allow the wound to be exposed (but in the right way) in order to find deep healing.

As the world watches the changing of administrations in the American presidency today, we are looking at a man who gives honour to that ‘moment’ to pause and reflect, to grieve, and to be honest about things. I’m impressed with Joe Biden as a human being who has overcome adversity and grief and loss and personal struggles in his own life, not by running to push past them or ignore them, but to take time to face them, confront them, feel the human emotions, learn from them, and move forwards with compassion to help other people.

Like I said, this is not a political post, but in my own journey of healing, I look for examples of people who have gone ahead of me from whom I can learn. As I seek to share my learning in my ongoing journey, I also am avidly seeking to learn from the wisdom of others.

So I have been reminded of the important lesson to take a ‘moment’, however long that moment may be. We can’t always rush our healing journeys to fit in with our personal time lines. That can feel devastating when we are living through it, I know that personally, especially when we feel crippled by our emotions and experiences and traumas, even though we have worked four times harder than those around us, only to survive, while they all seem to be moving seamlessly ahead in their lives, even thriving, having never had to experience the things we have had to endure and fight to overcome.

Yet there are others like us. There are others who have found the strength to overcome. And from that they have also found the Grace to be more compassionate people who lift others up, because let’s face it, in this world we all have trouble, we all have battles to overcome and burdens to bear.

The Greatest of all Who has gone before me, before us all Is Jesus Christ. There Is none more compassionate and loving than He, even though He Is Greater than all. He has suffered more than all, having taken upon Himself all of our sufferings, and at the Cross He declared Victory, “It Is Finished”. Yet, He Is The One Who gets down in the dirt, in the dungeon beside us, and holds us and heals us right where we are. He Shines His Light into the Darkest of Places and He binds up our broken hearts and heals our wounds with His own. There is no pain or suffering He does not understand. Jesus Christ, Loving Saviour of the world.

As we face this day, let us take a minute. To remember those around us. To take a moment for ourselves. Let us also challenge ourselves to take a moment before we speak because others are going through their own struggles, anxieties and healing processes too, even those with whom we may disagree. Let us take a moment to be human, to feel what we feel, and to allow love and compassion and Truth and Light into our lives.

Let us take a sacred moment before we turn that next page.

God bless. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (60): With What’s In Front Of You…

You can change the world.

Sometimes we can take for granted what is right in front of us. Yet, let me say it again: With what’s in front of you…you can change the world.

I’m sure we can all see ways in which the world needs changing for the better.

One of the things that will make a positive difference to you in the pandemic is having a sense of purpose. Whether or not you have a paid job, you still have purpose. I remember a time when I had graduated from my Masters in university and it was time for me to get a job. My department asked me to consider doing a PhD, but at the time and with a variety of circumstances, it wasn’t the right route for me to take. And having left the predictable lane of academia, I was suddenly in the world of being ‘between things’ and having no idea of how I would practically get to where I wanted to go. I had Faith, I had dreams, but I also had the anxiety of not knowing how to navigate an adult world and not knowing how to get my ‘foot in the door’ in order to gain employment. I spent a lot of time applying for jobs, I spent a year volunteering doing unpaid work in order to build skills and confidence, I did temp work, and it took about three and a half years for me to get a long term full time job, which I’m very grateful to still be in.

Why do I say this? Because some of you may be equating your purpose with your income stream or lack thereof. You are not your job, and you are not your bank balance. Your worth is far beyond anything or label that the world can put upon you. I believe that Jesus Christ showed you how much you are worth to God when He died for you at the Cross to pay the price for your sin and to take your deserved punishment so that by believing in and trusting in Him for forgiveness you can be bought back to God. You are Priceless. You are worth the Death of God’s Only Son. Let that sink in.

Therefore, to get back to my initial point, you do have a purpose as you navigate your way through this pandemic, and it is not limited to whether you have a job or not. Your purpose is important to the world and for your well being but your worth is not defined by your purpose either. Your worth is in the intrinsic value of you as a human being. And that can’t be changed, added to or taken away.

So, let me ask you, what’s in front of you?

The idea of finding purpose in our days can seem existential and out of reach if we let it. However, if we break things down into their most practical components then we can begin to get somewhere and be in a position to make a positive difference in the world, or at least in our world and immediate surroundings.

I’m sure right now you can tell me that what is physically in front of you is a computer screen, a tablet or a phone, or some electronic device of sorts from which you are reading this blog.

What are you going to do with it? How are you going to use it for good in this world? How can you find ways to encourage other people, share kindness, spread positivity, uplift others, express your creativity and live out some aspect of your purpose in life today? There are so many ways. Instead of ‘doom scrolling’ through the news or social media feeds, think of ways in which you can use your devices for good in the world.

Can you learn, educate, inspire? Can you share a kind message? Can being an inspiration and an encouragement to other people be part of your purpose today?

What else is in front of you? These things may not be literally in front of you right now, but may be in your room, in your home, or somewhere accessible to you or in your garden.

Let me list some of the things that are around and ‘in front of me’.

I have pens, pencils, art supplies. I have paper, colouring books, a calendar. I have books, I have a Bible, I have Scripture verses on my walls.

Can I use these to inspire purpose in my life today? Of course! What can I do with them? I can colour, I can draw, I can create. I can learn new skills, I can build up my relationship with God, I can pray for other people, I can meditate on the Truth and share this with other people. I can create a gift for someone else, I can write a letter, I can bring colour into the world, I can do so many things.

I also have a mobile phone on my desk. I can send an encouraging text to a friend or check if someone is doing ok. I can live out the purpose of kindness today.

What are some of the other things that might be around us or ‘in front of’ us? Some of us are blessed to have things that are so much more precious than things – we may have people around us. Can we live out the purpose of kindness and love in how we relate to other people? Can we try to make changes where we may have fallen short before?

What if what is in front of you is a pile of dishes, or a messy home? Can you live out your day with the purpose of being a home keeper and creating a peaceful environment?

Do you have other things around you or in your life in some way? Do you have money to spare that you can donate to someone in need and live purposefully that way? Do you have ingredients in your kitchen cupboards with which you can try out something new and live purposefully and creatively?

You have far more than you are aware.

Maybe all that you feel you have is the view from your window, if indeed you have one. Yet you have your mind. And your mind when challenged will discover, find, create a purpose for you today, even if it seems at first it is just to survive, that in itself may be a grand purpose for you.

Maybe your purpose is to use your resources to seek help, to get strong, to work on your mental and emotional health, to become resilient.

Maybe it is to engage in self development, to read books, or to create, learn and maybe even teach.

Do you have children in your life? Are you living out your purpose in giving them the best chance that you can today? And just take it one day at a time and be awake and alive to the moments you are living through together for children have an incredible way of helping adults to see the life in the moments right now.

How can your inspire yourself and how can you inspire me to find and live out your purpose in this pandemic, today, and after that one day at a time? For be sure my friend, it is there, and it is right in front of you, if you will just look with curiosity, hope, faith and thoughtfulness.

Peace. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (57): Be Aware of Where You Are At…

Hi Friends,

Something caused me to create this title. Something got me thinking. It was something very simple but prompted me to think that it’s maybe something that you might benefit from hearing.

While we’re all making our way through this pandemic, some of us working through various things in our lives that we already needed to overcome, we may also come in contact with the influences and experiences of others.

Sometimes these are mutually positive connections, at other times we may be seeking out positivity and encouragement online or from people we don’t personally know, such as through reading books, blogs, or seeking out inspiration online.

But what about when information or input comes our way when we haven’t actually sought it out? It might be some negative influence, but let’s just say it’s actually something that is potentially helpful, but we may not be ready for it.

I’m personally on a journey of overcoming trauma from childhood victimisation that devastated me internally. Peer abuse, bullying or whatever you want to call it is abuse and it can have long lasting consequences. Let me affirm that I am no longer a victim, I am an overcomer and I am on a journey learning how to take these experiences and learning to thrive from them. But I’m not quite there yet. I’m still learning, and although I have overcome the worst of the complex PTSD I experienced, which was absolutely horrible, I know that I have survived and overcome not just the experiences of those dark days as a child, but the worst after effects of them. There are still remnants of that damage that Jesus Christ Is healing deep down, bringing forgiveness, restoration and new life deep within, but it is a process and sometimes it seems a long one. Light is breaking through though. There are many things that it is my responsibility to do as well such as ‘being transformed by the renewing of my mind’ and this has to be a daily choice, a discipline and an action. I have to take control and steer my mind and thinking as well as trusting God for the areas deep within me that I cannot touch. I have finished years of trauma counselling and I am ‘going it alone’ and finding new ways to find strength and ways to use these painful experiences to help others. I am also seeking out inspiration online from people such as Lizzie Velazquez, Katie Piper, Nick Vuijicic who have all overcome adversity and dark times.

However, sometimes information or input can come our way that we might not be ready for. It might be good advice or content, but it might be triggering on some level, or it might just be a few steps ahead of where we are, or it might be focused on a different area of life than where we are in our own life journey.

This is why I say, be aware of where you are at. There’s the pandemic, but there is also your own personal life journey. You may or may not be personally ready for every piece of information that comes your way, whether online, on the news, from a friend or an acquaintance or whatever the source may be. You may need time, healing, space, and all of that is ok. In fact it is wise to consider what you allow close to your heart or into your mind, even if it is on the surface a positive thing, and especially if you are on your own journey of healing, recovery or overcoming something and learning how to thrive.

So, while you navigate your way through this pandemic, also be aware of where you are at personally. Perhaps you need to take some time to slow down, to think about this, and to take steps for strengthening yourself, regardless of where other people are at. It may be a learning curve but it’s one worth taking.

Guard your heart above all else, for out of it spring the issues of life.

Take care friends, stay safe, be blessed. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (55): This Too Shall Pass…

Hi Friends,

I hope you’ve all been keeping as well as can be since my last post, last week. For a time I was writing a few posts a day, with a desire to keep up the momentum of encouragement. I feel that encouraging words are so important in these days, when words can and are being used for harm as we have seen in recent events across the world stage. However, although having the space of one week since my last encouraging post may not seem like a lot, I do want to be a consistent voice of hope and courage for those who need it.

The past week has had some challenges for me, however. Starting back at work saw some stressors, even with working from home. I had some difficult moments but various things got me through them. We have also had sad news recently of bereavements of friends of family in some tragic circumstances. I realise that some of you reading this may have faced or be facing quite overwhelming challenges in your lives. It can be hard to know what to say to comfort others or even ourselves during such times. It can be hard to know what to say in this pandemic where there is such loss. ‘This too shall pass’ is one of those old phrases that we often hear, sometimes passed down through the generations to give some kind of solace and comfort.

This moment won’t be as difficult as it is now, this too shall pass, things will change.

I find that only a small consolation, but what gives me True Hope is knowing that as things change and move on, my Unchanging God and Saviour Jesus Christ does not change, will not leave me, and holds me secure. It Is a Peace that goes beyond circumstances, but one I need to remind myself to focus on too.

When I was a child and was being bullied relentlessly in the first year of secondary school, I did not know that that season of life would ever pass. The following year I stepped away from the people who were destroying me, and I was all but completely alone, which was a significant challenge for a child in itself. Abuse, and then neglect, at school. In my third year I met nice, normal people who became friends, and although I didn’t entirely feel like I fit with the new group as much as they did with each other having knowing each other for years already, I didn’t feel scared for my life anymore. I could continue with life, with school, with getting by. Decades later, the impact of those two pivotal years is still felt. I’ve had major struggles with anxiety, complex PTSD, depression, disassociation and fear, low self esteem and even suicidal ideation when the PTSD resurfaced. And here I am today, with a home of my own, with a full time job, with the family I was born into, with friends, having travelled, and writing a blog to encourage other people. I’m still recovering from some of the mental and emotional scars but I’m able to see hope and a future in Christ, and I can use those difficult experiences for good.

Why am I sharing this again now? Because at the time, in that first year I felt crushed, broken, terrified, and in so much pain and agony internally that I didn’t want to live anymore. It’s a big burden for a child to bear. But I did bear it, and hear I am today. With wounds or not, that terribly dark season of my life that I didn’t see a way out of, not having any perspective as a child that things could or would change, has passed.

And this too will pass. Whatever it is you are going through, it will pass. This pandemic will pass. A while ago I started reading ‘The Murmur of Bees’, hardly knowing what it was about. It turns out that as I turn the pages I am reading about not only a revolution, but also about the Spanish Flu of 1918. Reading some of those pages feels like reading some of the news headlines and public health advice of today about quarantining, staying at home, keeping distance from people and sadly about bodies being sent to mass graves. I also read about the hope of finding a vaccine for the Spanish Flu. And guess what, it too did pass.

That’s not to diminish by any means the personal tragedies and losses that people felt along the way, but in terms of world events, things did change, they did move on, and perhaps there is a cyclical element to what happens in the world, but they didn’t stay the same, and in many ways they did get better.

Despite saying that I also believe that there will be a Judgement, when Christ returns to earth again, but we are being given time to repent, to seek His Forgiveness and to turn to Him for eternal life, new life in this world, and a Hope that cannot be denied. True Believers know of this Hope, of the Indwelling of The Holy Spirit, The tangible Peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding and the solid Hope of Eternal Life with Him, and a gradually transformed (or sometimes immediately transformed) life with Him on earth. Turn to Him for True Hope.

Perhaps there is a time in your own life that you can look back upon, a time that seemed like endless misery that you thought would never pass, but it in fact did and you are living new days. You may well bear the scars of those days, that season, you may still be in recovery from it, but you are no longer there. You have a chance.

Those days passed, and these will too. Look up, look to Jesus, and find True Hope. And even if you are not a believer, please try to hold on to hope that this too will pass.

Peace. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (51): Prepare To Overcome The ‘January Blues’.

Happy new year once again, friends. I’m thankful that we’ve all made it safely into 2021, and I know that some of us have experienced losses along the way and my heart goes out to you if you are suffering through grief, loss or trauma of any kind.

We recently looked at how to maintain habits individually as well as the positives of communal habits. I was reading a verse in Scripture in the book of Hebrews today where we are instructed to ‘encourage one another daily’. This is in terms of our faith in The Lord Jesus and so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, as there are so many negative influences in the world. However, I think that even for those of you who don’t share this faith, there is something important in thinking about how we can encourage each other daily.

I’ve written in previous posts about how to keep focused and maintain a faithful and positive mindset especially at this time of year, i.e. post Christmas and New Year. People often talk about the ‘January blues’ when there may be a slump in mood after all of the celebrations, after the novelty of new things and new resolutions wear off, after we’re back to work and the weather (at least in this part of the world) is still gloomy and any travel plans or adventures are still a while away. I think this can be compounded by the messages we receive in the media, as the ‘January blues’ are definitely not inevitable or inescapable.

This year, however, we are faced with additional factors that may be threatening our courage and faithfulness and hopefulness and positivity, especially with the year 2020 has been.

I’m not sure where you are in the world, but in the UK we’ve entered another Lockdown (Lockdown 3.0, I think) which is almost as strict as the initial lockdown we faced in March 2020. There are some exemptions for essential purposes and taking into account people’s mental health they can still have an extended household, but other than that we are under another STAY AT HOME order. It is important to take such advice seriously so as to ease the immense pressure that our health service is facing and help to stem the tide and spread of the virus, and the new strains of the virus.

This also comes at a time when many of us will be going back to work. Most will be working from home, but for some whose livelihood depends on people turning up to their premises, such as hospitality providers, this comes as another blow.

We’re back to hearing those same familiar terms that we first had to grapple with in our realities in early 2020: stay at home, furlough, extreme measures, and so forth.

It’s all enough to get anyone down. I truly believe that the only True Hope is in looking to Jesus Christ and allowing Him to hold our lives together. Yet, I also feel that it is important to encourage each other daily.

It could be so easy to allow ourselves to fall into a ‘slump’ with everything going on, and although it is ok to have ‘off days’, to take time to grieve and to take time away to heal from traumas, it is also important to keep going. To persevere. To never give up.

We need a Source Greater than ourselves to do this, we need God, our Creator, and we need to ask Him to help and rescue, to forgive and cleanse and heal and show us the way. However, on our part, we need to maintain an attitude of daily preparedness, daily disciplines, daily encouragement. When we fall down, we at least have some temporary ‘props’ to help us get up again, and to take the next step and the next and the next.

For example, if we have been working on creating and maintaining those new habits, and if we have been seeking to do this communally in some ways too, then when we have a bad moment, we will be more likely to be able to forge through and press our way out of that into the next moment which we can make more positive rather than giving up and allowing everything to fall in on top of us.

We need a few ‘go to’s’ so that when our minds are overwhelmed we can go to that positive activity or habit we’ve been working on.

I had my first day back at working from home today, but with the news I could easily have felt like crawling back into bed after work. However, I have been working on those habit lists / trackers that I encouraged you with the other day and managed to turn those thoughts towards positive actions. Instead of allowing myself to be discouraged I spent a bit of time exercising. I did some daily reading. I prayed and committed things to God. I did a few minutes of work on a creative project. Some of my inner struggles resurface, yet I know that I have tools and disciplines to persevere through them, and moreover can look up in faith for supernatural help from The Lord.

We don’t need to give in to the so-called ‘January blues’. I’ve been reading biographies and listening to podcasts of people who overcame immense adversity, to help me to overcome some of my personal traumas and struggles. These people have experienced severe loss, abuse, and challenges that would push any human being to the limit. They’ve had tough times and even rough years, they’ve had long processes of recovery, and yet they’ve managed to push through all of that, defy the odds, and refuse to give in to defeat.

They’ve found encouragement from the stories and testimonies of others, and they’ve also gone on to encourage other people. This is something I seek to do. Every time my pain threatens to derail me, I look up to Christ and know that He has the victory over all thing, and will accomplish His plans for my life. I know the calm and peace of His Spirit within and around me and feel that tangible Peace and Healing. And I know that I can take the next steps in life. I know that the things that hurt me can actually be turned around and used for good to help someone else, perhaps even to help you I hope. And I know you have it in you to do the same.

So if the voices of others are getting you down, if the news is defeating you, if your spirit feels low, then look up, and look also to the examples of people who pushed through difficult times, take one day, one moment at a time, and commit to a vision for something better. Don’t give up. Be encouraged, and encourage others. Daily. Even while it is called today.

I believe in you. Look how far you’ve already come. And don’t give up. Have faith, take courage, and press on into victory…even if it is just one shaky step at a time. x

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The Days After Christmas…

Hi Friends,

I hope this finds you as well as can be this year. I thought I’d interject my ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series with a few free flowing thoughts and musings. Don’t worry, I will continue on with the series, as I know we are not out of the woods yet, and we all need as much encouragement as we can get in these trying times.

As i write, I look out upon the bare tree branches. It rained earlier and the sun is gently shining and I can see rain droplets shimmering and shivering and catching the light. It is beautiful and simple and gently wondrous, and a reminder of the simple delights of childhood. A blackbird is perched near the top of a tree. I see branches upon branches, and these twinkling raindrops in the midst of the hard barrenness of the trees lifts my heart. The sky is a gentle blue which is a relief and joy after days of grey. It is cold here.

I’m writing, just writing for the moment because I hadn’t written to you in a few days, and there is so much that I could say. It has been a blessed time with family, yet we had news of bereavements of friends, and that is hard to process. I have had time to think more on the wonder of Christ coming into the world, and He Is revealing new things to me of His Humanity and His Nearness. How do we put these deep things of the tapestry of life into words? I don’t know and so I come simply to write and to reconnect with you after a few days and to wish you well.

I hope you have had a Peaceful Christmas. I read somewhere that Peace is not the absence of troubles but the Presence of Christ. How true in this world as we know it! It is something God reassured me of in the past when in times of trial – ‘In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world!’ Praise the Risen King, Jesus Christ, my LORD and GOD. I hope you come to know His transcendent Peace if you don’t know Him already, because in this world you will have trouble, as sad as that is.

There has been flooding in some parts of the UK, and sadly some people have had to leave their homes on Christmas. We now have a deal between the UK and the EU so Brexit is finally moving along. There is news of yet more strains of the Coronavirus. And across the country and the world people are experiencing joys, sorrows and many things in between. Some are safe and cosy at home with families, others had a day of respite on Christmas day in the UK, being able to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ to visit loved ones for the day. Others still are lonely, bereaved, confused and scared. Where are you among it all? Know that you are loved and not forgotten about and The Good Shepherd of your soul, Jesus, is right there to help if only you would humble yourself to know that you can’t do it alone, and ask Him.

It’s a time of year where many of us find ourselves asking ‘what’s next?’. Are you asking the same of yourself, of life? What’s next? Many want to usher out 2020, and usher in 2021, and I am encouraged to see that people are still exercising hope. Yet, others are deflated and frightened at what might be around the corner. While there is so much outwith our control, we can be grateful for today, for this moment and look up with faith, and hope and do what we can to make things better.

How are you feeling today, this season, as Christmas has passed and we await a New Year that we hope will be better? Know that Jesus Is for Life and not just for Christmas – the day of may have passed, but His Love has not, He Is here and He came for you. It is an extraordinary humble and all powerful love, that does not force itself upon you but gently asks you to invite Him in.

We stand at the brink of a new year, and many of us have much to process. Keep ‘chipping away’ at the positive things you have been doing, keep taking those small steps forward, keep looking for the simple wonders outside your window, and keep looking for a life of deeper, purer love and faith. In the meantime, take that next sip of tea, get cosy and comfortable, take time to be thankful, and we will chat again soon, and continue on this journey together.

Peace. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (30): Build Your Resilience….As Gradually As You Need To….But Keep Building….

I find that despite the pandemic, there is something quite calming and anticipatory about the Advent season. As a Christian, a follower and worshipper of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as strange as it sounds ‘I look forward in anticipatory remembrance’ of His first coming into the world as the Incarnate Christ, God humbling Himself in Human form to be Emmanuel, God with us, and Saviour of the World!

Other people look forward as well as Christmas approaches to a time of rest, perhaps, with a few days off work, and possibly even the chance to spend time relaxing with friends and family. This year certainly looks different to what we are all used to, what with the pandemic and all! Yet, there is something about this time of year that can for many be both a season of calm and of anxiety.

For those of us who will get some time off work and time to relax, and for those of us who enjoy Christmas, this is something to look forward to, even though there may be particular challenges this year.

However, in a ‘normal’ year, there is also a sense of anticipation in a way that might bring us unease. When Christmas passes, we know that soon to follow will be boxing day, perhaps some more days of rest, and then eventually we will take down the tree, the decorations, and before we know it we will be ushering in a ‘new year’ and many of us will be back to work.

Preparedess:

I remember writing last year about how I was preparing for the start of the new working year as I finished up with work before the Christmas holidays 2019. Feel free to take a look through my posts from this season last year for inspiration.

At the close of a year, we tend to comfort ourselves with the anticipation of a new year. As 2019 was drawing to a close, many of us took inspiration from the thought of a ‘brand new year’ and a ‘brand new decade’, and I’m sure I’m not the only blogger who noticed and also wrote about the idea of 2020 vision being a concept that had been brought to the fore, and one which we could apply to our own lives.

Yet, 2020 has certainly not been something that any of us could have anticipated in our plans or vision for that year or the next decade.

Yet as we approach 2021, I would encourage all of us to have an attitude of ‘preparedness’. Let’s explore what this might mean, and what it could look like….

2020 and mental health:

If like me, you’re somewhat of a ‘veteran’ with mental health challenges (c-PTSD, clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks, etc), then you may already have had some ‘coping mechanisms’ under your belt which helped you and I to deal with many of the challenges of 2020.

I am inclined to believe that there will be a fair few people this year, and perhaps some among you reading this, who have experienced mental health challenges this year in the pandemic even if you hadn’t really experienced this before.

Perhaps many things have come as a shock to you, and like some of us before, you’ve experienced things mentally and in your body’s response to stress that ‘freaked you out’ a bit, I guess for want of a better phrase. Anxiety for example can be very scary when you don’t know what’s happening when you experience fight/flight/freeze, racing and intrusive thoughts and don’t have any idea if you’re going mad or about to faint or die, etc! It takes time, work and learning to understand what is happening to us and to find the right tools and techniques to get stronger and manage these unwanted experiences.

As we approach 2021, we may be faced with the uncertainty of what lies ahead, but we can begin to prepare ourselves and build upon our resilience even as the new year perhaps seems to ‘loom’ ahead of some of you. How can we do this? Let’s think about some options:

Tools for resilience:

  1. Begin to identify whether you have had any particular mental health or other health challenges, seek support and research ways in which you can make progress and build strength and resilience.
  2. Take a fresh look at your finances, and start thinking and planning ways in which you can better use your resources.
  3. Consider the opportunities that you may have to meet that at the moment seem like challenges – do you need to adapt the way in which you work, do you need to apply for a new job, do you need to change your day to day routine or consider your caring responsibilities?
  4. Build a network of contacts whether help from professionals or supportive friends so that you are not facing the new year alone.
  5. Re-evaluate how you have been spending your time, and what might be draining your energy, resources and mental wellbeing, and think of the small steps you can begin to take to make positive changes in your life.
  6. Think about self care as being part and parcel of day to day life, and build in nurturing activities every day. These can include looking at what you eat, your water intake, the information you are taking in or should leave out, whether you are getting time outside, time to reflect and be still, exercise, and whether you have time to do things that your mind can enjoy and grow from such as learning or hobbies.
  7. Find inspiration and mentors from the people around you or from what you read or watch online. There is no shortage of inspiring people if you just begin to look for them.
  8. Feed your faith and not your fear, and consider what you spend your time thinking about and how you can begin to change your thought patterns.

There are so many more things we can do to build resilience as we approach the unknown, and we can look at more of these later and in more detail. But for now, know that you are not alone, you are capable, you don’t need to sink under the pressure of the challenges we face, you have a safe and endlessly encouraging place here with my blog, and from someone who has lived through many real challenges, and there are ways and means for finding help, support and empowerment, even if you don’t know exactly the next step to take right now.

The fact that you are reading this and have read to this point shows that you are able to find a starting point for resilience building and seeking out positive and inspiring content and people, so keep taking those next small steps, know that I am right here with you, and never give up.

Ultimately, thought we need something far Greater than all our tools and techniques to get us through – we need deep, true and lasting PEACE which can come only from The Prince of Peace Himself, Jesus Christ, through Whom we can have real experiential Shalom – a Peace with God through reconciliation and forgiveness of our sins because of the Price Jesus paid in His flesh through His death on the cross and His Resurrection. Without Him, I could only have temporary fixes, but even in my darkest or most difficult moments in life, in His Hands I am always Secure and have an eternal and enduring Peace with God and a Love that strengthens me from within. I hope you know the true Shalom of Jesus too. Be blessed.

Peace. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (28): To Plan, Or Not To Plan…..

Many of you will be looking at 2020 as a year of cancelled plans. Some of you may have benefited from staying indoors, especially if like me, the world around you has a tendency to give you panic attacks on a day to day basis! I’ve certainly found a blessing in being able to slow down and not contend with the world at large so much, and it’s ok to recognise and appreciate things like that.

For some people, it has been hard or inconvenient. People have had to cancel weddings, travel plans, children’s birthdays, postpone graduations or do things online. I’ve missed seeing friends, and for four months of total isolation missed being with my family.

Perhaps surprisingly, 2020 has been a year of celebration for some people too. I have friends who have had new additions to their family, some friends have had babies, others are pregnant with their first or second children and there are yet other people I know of who have also got married this year, or embarked upon a new relationship. Some people have done well in their careers or in some kind of personal project.

Maybe for most of us we’ve either been ‘hanging on’ or persevering and trying our best to ‘keep the faith’, stay positive and help and encourage other people.

So for the most of us who have had our ‘plans on hold’ (at the start of the year, I thought, pre-Brexit, let me travel to as many European countries as I can that I haven’t yet visited – ha! what did I know!), do we dare to dream, to plan?

While our lives may all look very different from one another, I feel like it is important for me to set goals. These may not be ‘new’ goals, but I really feel it is important to have something to work towards. I will have all sorts of tasks to do when I resume ‘work work’ in January, new projects to do, new deadlines to meet. Yet, I also feel that it is important to plan and set incremental goals of continuous improvement and development for myself that aren’t specifically work related.

Some of these relate to my faith and relationship with God, and my consistency in doing my bit, in prayer and handling Scripture better, and in keeping in touch with other Christians. Others may relate to being accountable in terms of staying in touch with friends and family.

I have goals and plans to do with writing consistently with my blog, my novel and other creative pursuits, musical interests and hobbies, health and fitness.

And something else I feel is important is progressing with my mental health journey and part of that I guess is working out a ‘structure’ or plan for myself for moving forwards and being able to tackle the challenges of life and of my mind.

There is so much I can’t plan for right now, so much you can’t either. We don’t know all the ‘ins and outs’ of how this pandemic will pan out (no pun intended!) especially as there have been recent reports of a new strain of the virus. In January 2020 I couldn’t have predicted how ludicrous my plans to see more of Europe would turn out to be, so who knows what we will or won’t be able to do going forwards. Yet, life doesn’t stop, and to stay mentally healthy, we need to keep a forward focus.

Maybe you are planning for an online wedding. (Congrats!). Maybe you are planning for a new arrival. Maybe you, like me, are planning to persevere with your own personal goals.

There are many unknowns, but we can still have faith and vision. We can rise up and meet the challenges of each new day with hope. We can choose faith over fear, and while we don’t know the plan we can set a small goal, and then another, and another, and see where that might take us….

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Self Care In A Pandemic (26): Be Kind To Your Mind…

Hi everyone, glad to be with you on this journey.

Do you ever find that you tend to write about the things that are challenging you? If so, you’re in good company πŸ˜‰ I’ve titled this post ‘Be Kind to Your Mind’ precisely because this is the advice and help I need myself right now.

You know those times when outwardly things seem to be ‘fine’. Someone asks you how you are, and you reply ‘I’m fine’ as that generic and perhaps helpfully deflective catch-all phrase that barely touches the surface of how you actually are. A handy phrase for those social situations when you’re not entirely convinced that the person asking how you are actually wants to know, or is just offering you a pleasantry by way of an added extra to ‘hello’.

Well, in that case, ‘I’m fine’. Psychologically, my mind is going over various things (ah….I’ve become one of those people who then proceeds to tell you a little of how I actually am, even though you didn’t ask πŸ™‚ lol. I guess that’s permissible in the blog-o-sphere where you can subtly tune out or close the page and I’d be none the wiser! I hope you don’t though πŸ˜‰ ). Yes, as I was saying, I’ve been having ‘stuck thoughts’. Memories that made me feel bad at the time, things that seem to ‘trip me up’ from time to time. My mood has also been a bit of a struggle as I fend off depression. I’ve come a LONG way. I need to acknowledge that. A few years ago I was getting treatment for severe clinical depression, severe and debilitating generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks and complex (‘severe and repeated’) PTSD. You’d think a few ‘sticky thoughts’ wouldn’t be such a big deal, but when it comes to the mind, you can never be too kind to yourself.

You see, our minds don’t store all information in a linear, chronological or systematic way. Where events are tied to strong emotion or trauma or feelings such as shame, fear, fight and flight, freeze, disgust, self hatred, humiliation, rejection, abuse, even if looking back as an adult logically those things may not in the grand scheme of things seem all ‘that’ bad (for example the wounds of verbal abuse when growing up in front of peers) those events become memories that are stored haphazardly, chaotically and often tied to intense emotion. Now, if like me, you experienced a stream of such events over time, building up, and consequently knocking you down, wearing down your self-esteem, sense of identity, selfhood, worth as a human being, the result can be trauma, dissociation, body dysmorphia, depression, anxiety, and all that kind of stuff.

We can move from season to season, stage to stage, putting one step in front of another in life, but the ways our brains store information don’t always add up to a nice neat ‘film’ of events in our minds. Flashbacks occur when those intensely emotional ‘memories’ haven’t been processed and stored properly in our minds and they often recur again and again intensely until we get help to deal with them. It’s like a scene from a scary movie flashing on the scene of your mind and bringing forth an intense emotion.

Well, that’s a lot to deal with in one post….but I want this to be helpful for you and I both. Our minds are fragile things, yet they are also powerful. Maybe you’re going through a lot right now. Maybe you’re struggling to process things. Maybe your mental health is really beginning to suffer. Maybe you just need to know you’re not alone and you’re not going crazy.

So, here are a few pointers if you are struggling.

  1. Know that you’re not alone, and it is ok to ask for help. In fact, it’s more than ok, it’s heroic and brave in many ways. Find out what professional help is on offer if you need it. Please don’t wait and suffer as I did by placing a stigma on yourself. You’ve probably been through a lot, and minds need to be cared for just as much as bodies do. There is no shame in getting help. If you don’t need to go down that route maybe it’s worth calling a helpline, speaking to a trusted friend or family member, or joining a group of people who can help motivate you from where you are to where you want to be.
  2. Please don’t suffer in silence. Externalise things. Ok, so maybe point 1 is a bit too much for you at the moment, but there may be other ways of getting things out of your head, so to speak. Try writing things down, expressing things creatively or letting someone know maybe not in detail if you don’t want to yet, but just let someone know you’re going through a bit of a difficult time.
  3. Read to be inspired. Sometimes we can find great help and direction from others who have ‘been there’ before us, or who are going through something similar right now. I find that while in my peer group there may not be many people I can relate to about such issues, although there are one or two for whom I am grateful, I can find my ‘peer group’ from people’s lives stories, their blogs, books or videos online. There is so much out there to help, encourage and inspire, and if anything you will see that you are not alone. There will be someone out there who while not having an identical experience to you will have gone through something you can relate to and find strength from.
  4. Positivity. Try to fill your mind with things that will build it up and make it a safe and happy place to be. Get creative, look at beautiful pictures, watch an uplifting film, talk to people who are positive, read blogs and books that inspire and give you hope. With so much ‘doom-scrolling’ going on in 2020, your mind deserves a break!
  5. Share your positivity. Grow in those mental positivity ‘muscles’ by sharing your positivity by externalising it whether by telling someone something encouraging or writing it in a blog post and passing it on.
  6. Share what you have learned from your struggles. Similarly, there is much to be gained by sharing your lessons with someone who may be struggling in a way that you used to. Let’s all keep encouraging and helping each other up and using our words for kindness.
  7. Light relief. I guess this could refer to a couple of things – light levels and laughter. We all need to laugh and it can be so good for the mind, even in trying times. Also, in winter, try to get a bit of sunlight if you can or try not to wallow away in dark rooms in your home – turn on the light. Spiritually, I can always encourage you, particularly in this season, to Seek the True Light of Jesus Christ to light your life path and lead you safely on. πŸ™‚
  8. It will pass. Know that whatever mental health or other struggle you are going through just now, it will pass. Try to think of your tricky thoughts as leaves upon a stream and allow the waters of your mind to take them gently away. If this is constantly difficult, you may need to get some extra help, and I hope you will find the right resources for you where you are, and if not in person, hopefully on the internet.
  9. Be Kind. It’s hard being a human. We often have to deal with a lot and it can impact our mental health. Be kind, kind, kind to your mind. Water it like a little flower, nurture it like a beloved friend, be kind.
  10. Keep learning, and keep up with your hobbies, and set small achievable goals. Ongoing learning and hobbies or creativity in general can work wonders for mental health, as can setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound) goals for ourselves. Routines are also good for giving our minds a predictable structure, which can also make spontaneity all the more fun when we break free from the patterns from time to time. But we do need a dose of structure, and predictability even if that is as simple as making your morning cup of coffee and then seeing where the day takes you from there if that is your personality type. But keep learning, play games that will help with your mental agility, ‘stay in training’ mentally, and you will build up that resilience.

And even if all of that is too much to take in at the moment, simply know that you are not alone, you are Loved, you are worthy, you are important simply because you are a human being and you are you. You are unique, you have so much potential, and even right now as you are if you are feeling broken, worthless, downcast or bad in someway, you are still valuable, a treasure, and I value you and know that you can do great things with that remarkable mind of yours.

So be kind, be kind to your mind. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (25): Learning to Look At Things Differently….

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><strong>An example of positivity:</strong>An example of positivity:

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">When lockdown initially started in the UK, one of my role models, Katie Piper (please, please look her up if you don't know about her already – she is a fantastic example of an overcomer if ever you needed one!) was asked on a breakfast TV interview how she and her family are coping with being 'stuck at home'. When lockdown initially started in the UK, one of my role models, Katie Piper (please, please look her up if you don’t know about her already – she is a fantastic example of an overcomer if ever you needed one!) was asked on a breakfast TV interview how she and her family are coping with being ‘stuck at home’.

Katie, a self-confessed survivor and thriver (despite being the physical victim of a brutal assault and acid attack in 2008, with the multiple traumas and stages of physical and psychological recovery that follow from that) was very quick to challenge the language of the question asked and turn it on its head. Instead of complaining about being ‘stuck at home’, she was quick to show her gratitude for being ‘safe at home’. Katie’s awareness of the power of language and thought is, I believe, a crucial aspect of her resilience and recovery. She is now an ambassador for burns survivors, has a charitable foundation to help others who experienced similar things to her, is a wife, a mother of two little girls, an author of various biographies of different stages of her recovery journey, and of self help and encouragement books. She has her own beauty product range, has hosted various television documentaries looking at the lives of people who suffer from being stigmatised by society for being ‘different’ in some way, and has also had a stint training with the Police for another television programme she was involved in. She has been on the television programme ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in the UK, and has run marathons for charity, and continues to push through the negative attitudes of a society that still judges people based on appearance. Recently after an eye operation which was required because of ongoing injuries due to the acid attack, Katie was ‘trolled’ on social media by people abusing her verbally because of the damage done to her face. Personally I and many others think she is a beautiful and brave human being and she continues to speak out and raise awareness about social stigmas and the way we should treat each other. She has another speaking tour planned for 2021, obviously depending on how things are with the pandemic, but at the age of just 37 years old she is a formidable force of recovery and positivity.

I’m currently re-reading a book of hers that I read earlier this year. It’s called ‘Things get better’ and it starts out with Katie describing her ‘rock bottom’ after her attacks and awakening from a coma, so marred by the acid that she was barely recognisable to her own parents, and she longed for death. In severe psychological and physical trauma, the prognosis for her by most of the experts was extremely bleak. She was not expected to walk properly or be able to live independently and it was considered hugely likely that her mother would have to be her full time carer for life. Now just look at her go!

Katie, despite being desperately crushed and broken by her experiences, found a way to challenge her thinking patterns from victim to survivor (and in my opinion to an overcoming thriver, if not ‘superstar’ πŸ™‚ ).

How can we look at things differently?

I wonder if you and I can take something from this incredible example? I think as a starting point it’s good to be honest with ourselves with where we are in how we are thinking and feeling about things in this pandemic. But let that be a starting point rather than an end result.

Maybe we’ll find we have some things in common with what we are being challenged to overcome.

  1. I haven’t properly been outside the house for a long time. I’m missing nature, the fresh air, being in parks or by the beach, and I’m struggling with the low light levels of winter. Maybe you have similar feelings of being cooped up, restricted or ‘stuck’ or feeling ‘down’ in some ways.

How can we look at this differently? Well, for a start, I am thankful that I have windows from which I can look at the outside world from. I’m thankful that in this cold and somewhat bleak winter season in Scotland I am safe and cosy indoors, that I have a home, and I can enjoy fresh air if I want by opening the door and stepping outside, even if not to go ‘out out’. I am thankful that I have been gifted with an imagination and a memory, and that I also have photographs that can prompt me of reminders of enjoyable times. I can think of times spent at the coast, of sunsets at the beach, I can remember the glistening of sunlight on water, and I can remind myself of walks in the park, and of travel adventures that I was blessed to go on in times past. I can choose to enjoy the cosy things that being indoors can afford me such as daydreaming about such times, imagining a positive future, or watching something inspiring, reading, spending time with family (now that I am blessed to no longer be in complete isolation as I was for the first half of the year), writing my novel, writing my blog, emailing my friends, drawing, colouring, playing my violin, spending time with God, and so the list goes on….

(not to forget getting cosy and watching Christmas movies! πŸ™‚ ).

From what appears at first to be a negative, we can draw out so many positives by looking at things differently, and choosing to keep doing so!

2. I’ve been struggling with my mental health a bit, and I’m sure you can probably relate to this somewhat.

What positives can I / we draw from this? I’m appreciative of the time to think things through, to process, to read inspirational books and to help other people through my blog as I seek answers myself. The extra time being at home gives me a chance to do some of that deeper psychological work to build mental resilience and mental fitness that will help me and other people going forwards from here.

What positives can you draw from your challenges? Have you found opportunities opening up with other people to talk about mental health issues, which are extremely common in society, but not talked about enough? Have you been able to challenge stigmas or assumptions in yourself or others regarding issues with mental health? Are you able to talk about things more freely or with as much openness as you would a physical condition such as a broken leg, something which society does not stigmatise, or are you able to see the need to move further towards such open and honest conversations for the good of everyone involved?

Have you been able to reach out and ask for help, or are you able to provide some support to someone else? Have you grown in awareness of something you might not have been so aware of before, because of some of the issues that have come to light through the course of the pandemic? These can all be positive stepping stones individually and societally.

3. Missing people:

For the first half of the year I was in almost total isolation, and I am proud of myself for managing as well as I did, and for writing to encourage other people through that season of aloneness. I built up my own resilience, and showed concern for others, and made it through the more difficult days positively and having achieved various goals. I’m with family now, but I am missing my friends.

I wonder if you can relate to any of this? Do you live alone? Are you with people but feeling stressed or lonely? Are you missing friends or family that you would have wanted to see this Christmas or holiday season?

Can you reframe your thinking about this?

Can you identify ways in which you have shown resilience, compassion or grown in character or understanding? Have you grown in awareness of the needs of those around you and of more vulnerable members of society? Could you grow in gratitude for the special times you have had with other people, or have you become wiser in the company you keep and where you spend your time in terms of relationships and friendships with other people so that they become more deep and meaningful and so that you make wise decisions about people who may be ‘toxic’ or draining influences?

If you are happy and flourishing at home with your family, could you spare a thought and commit to an action of kindness for someone who is not? There is so much suffering out there, maybe you could add one small act of kindness towards alleviating that for someone?

If you are struggling are there positives you can find, or are there people you can connect with remotely, or are there other things such as skills you can use your time alone to build?

Sometimes it can seem very hard to find a positive from a negative situation or feeling, yet if we learn to see things as challenges rather than obstacles, we can grow in resilience, in fortitude, in positivity, in character, and we can learn to lead the ways as encouragers for those around us.

And remember that it is perfectly ok for you and I to start small. We may be inspired by people but we shouldn’t feel overshadowed by them. Our lives and our choices matter, even the smallest of choices. Personally I know that it is only by God’s Grace and the Sustaining Power of The Risen Lord Jesus Christ that I can do anything, and I am grateful each day for His mercies new every morning and His renewing strength at work in my life. It is a Strength that allows me to be weak, to be honest, to be vulnerable and also that gives me the grace to persevere knowing that I am never alone, and it is not all up to me.

What are you struggling with today? Be honest with yourself. Is there a way that you can change your obstacle into a challenge to be overcome, triumphantly? A thought may seem like a little thing, the smallest of steps forward, but it is incredibly powerful, and it is well within your grasp to choose how you will think about your issue at hand.

Stay safe, be strong, live this day with renewed hope. xx

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