To survive this winter season, and to thrive as you journey through it, I’d like to encourage you, and myself, to have regular mental health and self care ‘check ins’. Make an appointment with yourself to focus on taking care of you. It’s easy to get lost in the many things going on around us, to the detriment of our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. So along with all of the other tips in this season, let’s make our wellbeing and our mental health a priority. Once again I have loads of helpful tips and articles on these issues on my blog, and the many things I’ve learned over the years from personal experience, so I’m with you friend, I know it can be hard, but you’re important and your mind matters, so do what you can to take care of yourself, to regularly make some time just to be kind and look after your wellbeing so that you can be and feel your best this season. x
Around this time last month, I wrote a post reflecting upon autumn, and also that I was making a start on creating an autumnal vibe in my home décor. I left you with a messy picture of the beginnings of ‘tidying away the spring’ in my home, and I almost immediately got to work on ushering in autumn into my home. The only thing is, I didn’t get around to posting it, so my apologies for that. You can look back at my previous post here:
I’m well into my ‘Winter Survival Guide’ series, so I thought I’d better share my autumn home décor updates with you before it’s time to post my Christmas and winter home updates! 🙂
So here goes with a little glimpse into my home.
Gathering in what I already have:
I think with most of us wanting to be environmentally aware, and responsible, a good place to start when changing your décor from one season to the next, is by looking in your home to find what you already have rather than immediately going out to buy new things.
I did just that, and I didn’t actually buy anything new to update my home for the autumn season. I just gathered together what I had that might have been hiding away in the back of cupboards, or stored under the bed or wherever I had put my autumn and winter things, or just things that I hadn’t really noticed for a while.
Here is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy a little glimpse into my home.
I have a few more pictures I’d like to share, but that I can’t upload at the moment, which means you can look forward to a part 2 with the finishing touches 🙂 x
1. Looking through my home and gathering together what I already have, rather than buying anything new.
2. Organising and ‘redecorating’ with minimal fuss, to usher out the spring, and bring in some Autumnal vibes, that can easily be added to or changed up when Christmas and winter comes around.
I’ve been writing a lot about the autumn and winter seasons in my ‘Winter Survival Guide’ series (in which there is more to come, you’ll hopefully be pleased to hear, as a lot of you seem to be enjoying this). I’ve touched upon how the changing of the seasons can reflect aspects of our lives that in their time either fall away from us or we let go of.
One theme and aspect of life I’d like to write a little more about in this post, as it applies to my life right now, is that of Friendship.
Friendships teach us about ourselves:
Friendships come in different forms and at different times of our lives, for different seasons and reasons. Although I’ve entitled this post ‘Fair-weather Friends & Friends For Life…’, I know that life isn’t as straightforward as this proverbial dichotomy.
Friendships and our friends as well as ourselves can be complicated, intricate and not easy to define.
However, if we are present, we will always learn a lot from our friendships, including learning more about ourselves and how we relate to other people, although at times we may have ‘blind spots’ as regards the patterns of our own thinking and behaviours, and our friends will have their own ‘blind spots’ too.
An unknown journey:
I don’t entirely know what shape this post will end up taking, what ‘conclusions’ I will reach and have to share with you, and in a sense as we embark upon new friendships or relationships we also are exploring the unknown, unfamiliar, and inconclusive.
We share life with a range of people, and although people are far too unique and special to categorise, we do often clearly have ‘types’ of interactions. These may change over time, and we may become closer or more distant from people, and this is all part of the learning curve, as well as the ebb and flow of life.
In my life right now I can say that in terms of people in my life, I have my immediate family, close friends, friends who are not as close, acquaintances, people I interact with on a regular basis but might not know as well such as work colleagues, people who serve lunch in the canteen, the concierge in my building, and people who I see at work but don’t know by name. Some of these relationships overlap or change over time. For example, I have a couple of colleagues at work who are also close friends. I have worked with people who I once didn’t know but who I became friends with, who I now consider close and lifelong friends but who I no longer work with because they have changed jobs, retired (I have good friends of all different ages), or moved on to another stage of life, but who I keep in touch with, and they with me, and we love spending time together when we can. I have friends I hardly see, but who remain some of my closest friends, and we maintain a bond, and we contact as and when we can even if that’s not face to face. One of these friends has moved thousands of miles away to Cambodia, but we still consider each other to be close friends and love each other as ‘sisters’ and for the maybe ten years now she’s been living abroad we’ve managed to maintain a friendship even with her getting married and being in a different stage of life as me.
I have friends who I met when we shared a similar stage of life. I have friends who I met and we didn’t have all that much in common. I have friends who once shared a similar stage of life but now are in a completely different life stage. We have maintained our friendships, our bonds and although many of these friends have different circumstances to me, such as being married, becoming parents, having moved abroad, and so forth, or being of a different generation as I have friends that are the same age, older and younger, we still remain close and interested in each others lives as different as they are now.
This is both a blessing and a skill to nurture, invest in, grow and maintain good relationships and friendships. I have learned that not only am I blessed with good friends but I also am a great friend to have – someone who is loyal, kind, caring, compassionate, who will listen, who will give time and genuine care to others and who can organise some pretty awesome presents too 😉
The reason I speak of the above is because the distance we experience in friendships (growing apart, drifting apart, losing interest or losing touch) isn’t necessarily caused by a physical distance such as moving away, a distance in life stage, such as embarking upon a new season of life, or an emotional distance such as going through different things (true friends are there for each other through the tears and the joys of life).
As I mentioned previously, I have maintained close friendships with people who now live thousands of miles away. Because we care about each other.
I have close friends who like me are single and have our own places and work in the city and share our Faith.
Yet, I also have close friends who are in completely different life stages – they may be married, have kids, be retired, be atheist and have completely different beliefs, and who have completely different lifestyles.
We care about each other, we connect, and we make it work.
Distance is a choice, it is not a length of space or time:
Although our friendships with people may change over time, we may not be able to keep in as frequent contact as we once did, we may not know all the ins and outs of each others lives, we are still there for each other in the background. I’m thankful that even though friends may be thousands of miles away or we may be miles apart in terms of our life circumstances, I’m blessed that we’ve managed to stay close. I know it’s not as easy for everyone, and people make different efforts to stay in touch. Sometimes people let things drift, sometimes we do too, it can be part of the natural ebb and flow of life just as the changing of the seasons.
However, distance, I believe is a choice. When someone decides to cut us out of their lives that is a choice. There are people in our lives that are ‘toxic’ and it may be necessary to create distance or cut them out. But in this article, I’m not talking about such people who drag us down, I’m talking about genuine people, real friends, people like me and hopefully like you who build other people up.
What about when people cut us out? People to whom we were genuine friends?
One of the things friendship has taught me recently is that some seemingly genuine friends are actually ‘fair-weather’ friends. A certain person a few years ago sought out friendship with me, we were a blessing and encouragement in each others lives and I poured kindness and encouragement into this person’s life. I believed we had a genuine friendship, and although it was a real mutual blessing, I now realise that the person looked upon it in a ‘utilitarian’ way. Whereas some people need time and space as they go into new life stages, others choose to cut you out. That’s ok, but it brings about a real life lesson. As nice as they may be, the person was being utilitarian – it was a friendship that they valued so long as it suited them. When it no longer suits them, they drop you. We all move on, but some people can’t see their selfishness in how they treat people, as kind as they may be or seem, they are ultimately looking out for their needs to be met, and they consider their needs the most important thing.
Friends may seem genuine even for a number of years, but in due season, they prove to you what you perhaps had no idea about, that they are ‘fair-weather’ friends. They only want the friendship so long as it suits them. I know I’m a kind, loving, genuine person and have been told I have a high emotional intelligence, am good at giving people space as well as being a source of comfort and listening. If people ‘drop’ you and you’re such a friend, and in no ways are a ‘toxic’ person, then know that there is a life lesson for you – it is far better to have the realisation than to continue on, and be used for someone else’s convenience.
Learn the life lessons, let things go, and soar off into a beautiful future, nurturing, cherishing, and being a mutual blessing to your true, life-long, friends to whom distance in space or life stage doesn’t even factor in to whether or not you will care about and be there for each other.
Be blessed, and be a true and genuine friend. x
In my last post (21) I wrote about taking time out just to ‘be’ and to enjoy doing nothing in particular. This post explores taking time out to reflect and to deal with some of our ‘stuff’. Not the stuff in our attics, spare rooms, garages or basements – but to spend a bit of time sorting out what’s overflowing from our ’emotional junk drawers’ in our hearts and minds.
Hopefully we’ll all have a bit of time this season where we can have even at least a day or two to ourselves to rest and reflect. If we think we don’t have this time, then maybe we are not being intentional in making this time for ourselves (time we would otherwise spend watching TV perhaps).
The new calendar year will be upon us in a matter of weeks, and the general mood of new years, and beginnings of various sorts tends to be geared more towards action rather than reflection. Those around you, as well as the things you read and see in the media, will be imparting messages of goals, things to accomplish, plans and experiences.
This time of the year, however, lends naturally to reflection, to taking time to pause and ponder, to rest and be thankful, to look back before looking forwards, to re-evaluate where we are and where we need to go. It is also a time for being honest with ourselves and taking time to deal with some of our ‘stuff’ emotionally and mentally.
We can choose to view some of our struggles as blessings. For example, this time of year can bring certain things in our lives more sharply into focus. Light might be shed upon our true feelings and motives, for example, the sociable nature of this season might reveal our inner loneliness; the frivolity and consumerism might pull on our heart strings to search for something deeper and more meaningful in our lives; the end of one year might nudge us into reflection as to whether we have made the best use of our time or simply been frittering it away.
As much as we need plans, and to take action, we also need to do this purposefully and to do so requires quieter times of thinking and reflection.
Moving forwards also requires letting go of some of the burdens that we carry. We might be allowing things from our past to hold us back from stepping into the future that we long for. Perhaps we need healing, need time to seek counsel, therapy and to get help with how to deal with traumas or difficulties in our lives. This can be a long road, but we have to start somewhere and we don’t have to do it all at once. We often face a ‘stop-start’ process in any journey of self-reflection, repentance, healing, recovery and change. But the thing is to start, to reflect upon what is needed to go from where we are to where we are meant to be.
I am blessed in that I don’t take this journey alone. Jesus Is my Shepherd, King, Healer and Lord, and He leads me forward with grace and peace. There is healing that only He can bring and things that only He can do. There are also certain things that I must do to cooperate and participate in the process – things like renewing my mind, working on difficult issues, forgiving, letting go, and reframing the way I think about difficulties I have experienced. These things, like the changing of the seasons take time.
But it’s important that we do take time to reflect upon our lives and to consider what things we have been ‘stuffing down’ deep within our hearts, and into our subconscious that we hope will just ‘go away’, things that actually in their time need to be dealt with in order for us to go forwards in our journey with a greater understanding, appreciation of life, sense of identity and purpose.
Will you give yourself some time to do just that this season? You need and deserve it. x
It’s 12th November 2019 as I write this. We’ve already heard it so many times now: “I can’t believe it’s November already!”. People tend to say things like this a lot, commenting on ‘how fast’ the year has flown in. It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose, but we’re undeniably bedded in now in the latter part of the calendar year, and before we know it people will be saying “I can’t believe it’s 2020!”.
This means that ‘before we know it’ we’ll be in the midst of the Christmas, festive, holiday, New Year (and other, depending on what this time of year means to you) season.
It’s a good ‘survival’ tip to plan ahead a bit so that things don’t unexpectedly creep up on you and you find that anxiety is knocking on the door of your heart.
Let me break this down a little, just to give us all a bit of perspective, and help us to visually see what and where we might gain from a little bit of forward planning. Keeping it simple, here is a visual representation of the next few weeks ahead:
Tues: 12th November (today), 19th, 26th
Wed: 13th Nov, 20th, 27th
Thur: 14th Nov, 21st, 28th
Fri: 15th Nov, 22nd, 29th
Sat: 16th Nov, 23rd, 30th.
Sun: 17th Nov, 24th
Mon: 18th Nov, 25th
Sun: 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th
Mon: 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th
Tue: 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st
Wed: 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th
Thur: 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th
Fri: 6th, 13th, 20th , 27th
Sat: 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th
Maybe you float through your days, and planning isn’t much of a priority, but personally as someone who has anxiety (and who also incidentally can be a bit forgetful), planning is pretty essential for me, and I like to break things down into smaller more manageable ‘chunks’. Together with the fact that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I like to make the most of the time I have and to do things well, and encourage other people, so that’s another reason I need a bit of an idea of what’s ahead of me, and what I need and want to do, as well as how this fits in with the needs and expectations of others, and my general obligations.
I’m not sure what the next few weeks ahead look like for you, but here are some of the things that I personally will need to factor in and begin thinking about and preparing for:
- Finish up work projects (I’m usually ahead of schedule as I am just now, so I can relax with this one, considering nothing new or major lands on my plate) and tie up any loose ends before the office closes for Christmas.
- Complete my personal work review which is just something I do for myself and is not a requirement, as it helps me to see just how much I have been involved with, what I have learned, and how to go forwards. Sometimes we fail to realise or appreciate just how much we have accomplished in a year, and it’s good to review that at the end of the year.
- Support colleagues / team with anything we collaboratively need to accomplish / tie up.
- Take annual leave that I have remaining from mid-December.
- End of November, early Christmas work lunch out with colleagues.
- Mini reunion with friends visiting from another part of the country, but just for the day.
- Christmas dinner out (mid December) with a couple of close friends.
- Catch-ups, exchanging gifts and doing some fun Christmassy things with various friends before we head our separate ways for the holidays.
- Plan and carry out some acts of kindness to help those less fortunate, and encourage others with ways we can all help.
Personal Devotions, Church and Fellowship:
- Only six more Sundays before Christmas, so it would be nice to spend some time in advance really preparing myself spiritually, thanking God and reflecting upon the year gone by, and prayerfully looking at what is ahead. The Centre of Christmas and of Life for me Is Christ, so it is important that He Is my Focus throughout this whole season, filled as it is with distractions aplenty.
- Connect with friends, encourage others who are struggling this season, and participate in the many beautiful events celebrating Christ, as He leads me.
Prepare for Birthdays, Christmas Presents, gifts for God-children, friends’ kids, and prepare / recycle things to create Environmentally Friendly Packaging:
Pack and plan for a short holiday to see Christmas markets in Europe – finances, clothes, etc. all to be prepared.
Hospitality and Home:
- Decorate, have people over for festive fun.
Pack and prepare for visiting family.
Reach out to support friends who are grieving or struggling this year.
Other bits and bobs: plan some crafts, use up coupons before their expiry dates, send things in the post on time, and create a photo book of memories for 2019.
Ah, that wonderful time of the year to huddle up indoors, stay warm and cosy, and indulge in some relaxation. Now, be honest here, what does that tend to look like for you? How much time will you spend curled up on your sofa watching your favourite shows or films and munching on chocolate and / or party food?
Maybe it’s not quite the time of year for that yet, but it does inevitably come around, and unless you’re already quite health conscious it can become all too easy to let things slip.
The result? Feeling sluggish, tired, lethargic, sleepy, a bit heavy and maybe bloated, and in full on hibernation mode. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are stuck indoors during the winter, this can mean limited activity, but it doesn’t inevitably have to mean no activity.
Just think how much more wonderful your holiday season will be if you are feeling bright and alert and at your best, as far as is possible. You’ll be more ‘switched on’ to be able to enjoy the special moments you and your loved ones hopefully are creating, and you will be able to engage better with the people around you. Even if you are facing a particularly hard time this season, taking care of your body and mind will help you to deal better with your challenges and build your resilience through it.
You don’t need to go to the gym, or lift weights or go out for a jog in the cold weather. You can find a few simple activities that work for you that you can do in the comfort of your own home, doing a bit of strength training which you can do with your own body weight, and some cardio. Once again, you don’t need to spend hours at a time working out. Just keep active, little and often if that works best for you, and you’ll feel the difference within you as your heart gets moving and pumps more oxygen to your brain and muscles keeping you alert and feeling better than if you otherwise were just slumped on the sofa.
There is no shortage of inspiration out there. I personally like to follow a few fitness trainers on You Tube, which is absolutely free to do so, and comes with the added benefit of not having to feel self conscious if you’re not comfortable with going to the gym or outside to exercise.
A little at a time throughout the winter season will work wonders for your mind, your energy levels and your waistline!
p.s. Did the cat picture make you yawn? 😉 Time to get moving! 🙂
Sitting around a lot, or staying indoors more than usual during the colder seasons when life tends to become a bit more sedentary, can lead to achy muscles, and tension in our body. Take some time every day to do a few simple stretches, even if it’s just for five minutes a day. It will help you feel better, calmer, more relaxed and supple and will ease away some of that tension that we hold in our bodies throughout the day, especially when those days are spent curled up on the couch indoors!
The colder, wintry weather brings with it challenges for our skin, especially those of us with pre-existing skin conditions and / or sensitive skin. Stay prepared and have a good moisturiser and lip balm at the ready to keep your skin healthy and soothe the abrasions and cracks that the harsher weather can cause, and stay hydrated with water to help your skin replenish and renew itself.
In this increasingly ‘connected’ world, loneliness can be an uncomfortable admission. When faced with images and stories of all the fun things other people are doing (or seem to be), particularly via online media, the ache that we are missing out can be all too acute especially as the winter season approaches.
For some who work in office based jobs, the end of the year may mean office closures over the festive season. Most of us welcome time off work to rest, relax, recuperate, and to spend time with family and friends, and maybe even to travel. However, for some people, this time of year is like a looming dark cloud, bringing with it a downpour of loneliness and isolation.
Maybe it is the case that you don’t have anyone to go home to, which is fine if at least you have other social contacts. But maybe you are far from home, or don’t even have friends or family, and the most social interaction you usually have is from colleagues at work. But when you’re not at work, you’re on your own. I live alone, and personally I find time alone very refreshing – I’m the type of person who thrives from a lot of solitude, but perhaps I am able to do so because I know that my family is just a phone call away, and I have a wide network of close friends. For others, a lack of relationships or an abundance of shallow and surface relationships can leave them feeling very empty, isolated and alone, even in a room full of people.
Loneliness can come to anyone at any stage of life, and for a variety of different reasons, as unique as each individual is. However, some people in society, such as the elderly, or young office workers far from home in a busy and unfriendly city environment, or people working overseas, or those who are bereaved, struggle to make social connections or feel like outsiders in some way might be more vulnerable to loneliness. Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but when it becomes debilitating and consuming, that’s when it can be dangerous, therefore we all need to look out for each other, even for those who on the surface seem ‘gregarious’ but who underneath don’t have any real deep connections or relationships to turn to. The season may also be particularly lonely for those who are perhaps single and longing for companionship while faced with lots of social invitations for couples, or for those facing family stresses, and maybe even separation or divorce.
There’s no easy or quick fix solution, but it’s important not to try to go through a period of loneliness alone, because when we are not in a good place, the isolation that would otherwise be a fruitful and enjoyable solitude can turn into a negative and unhealthy place to be.
Whether you are facing a deep loneliness that leaves you feeling vulnerable mentally and emotionally, or whether you are mostly fine but have the occasional ‘pang’ of loneliness during those dark wintery nights, you don’t have to face it alone.
What can you do?
- Reach out to friends and family if you have them. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about how you feel, at least just reach out and talk – about anything – keep the lines of communication open, phone or meet up for a chat, and enjoy being in the company of people who know and love you, even if you are not yet ready or willing to share your deepest thoughts and feelings about what you are experiencing.
- Perhaps you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to. In that case, it can be a good idea to reach out to charitable organisations that exist to help people in such situations. During times of my deepest depression and post traumatic stress, even though I have family and friends who I can phone to talk to, I didn’t always feel that I could. I carried the burden of not wanting to be a constant source of worry to the people who cared about me, and also being mindful of the sheer impracticalities of phoning or reaching out to someone while I was in distress in the middle of the night when they would be sleeping. So I found solace in calling helplines like Samaritans in the UK, and it did help to have someone to talk to in that time of distress. Thankfully I don’t feel the need to do that now, but I would encourage anyone and everyone to reach out to the people who have been trained to help those in need, and find some solace there. It may not be ideal, I know first hand how it feels when you’re in that position, but it can be such a life line, and even if you don’t need a life line as such, it can still be a source of comfort, solace and just the right thing at the right time to help you on your way.
- Find ways of being in situations that don’t make you feel socially anxious, but in which you can have even a small degree of social interaction. You might like to visit a library, join a group, or go to a coffee shop or a museum, or volunteer to help other people. All of these provide opportunities to engage with other people, even if just on an initial and surface level. It may not take your loneliness away, but it will remind you that you are connected to people, to society and even those simple interactions can have a positive effect, even if only in the short term, on our mental health.
- If you really can’t face any of the above, maybe you might find it worthwhile talking to your doctor. And for those times when you are just on your own and struggling with loneliness, you could perhaps seek out positive articles, videos and blog posts from people who share what has helped them in similar situations and life experiences. Be careful not to go down the route, however, of indulging in emotionally burdensome, negative or draining content – seek out those with messages of courage, hope, inspiration, and positivity who can point you towards positive changes and ways of coping. And remember although the winter is here for the time being, things will change, and spring will soon be on its way.
At this time of the year, the days are growing shorter and darkness sets in a lot earlier. It can be oh so tempting to spend most of our days inside, however, our bodies still need whatever sunlight we can get and while the days are still light, and reasonably temperate, my encouragement is to make the most of that by stepping outside whenever we can. It’s early November, and here although we have rainy and windy days, they are also interspersed with days like today where it is calm, still, and reasonably bright, albeit a little cold.
The ‘Brits’ are probably well known for talking about the weather a lot, but it’s probably because things are so changeable over here. We can’t be guaranteed sun in the summer, and when it comes, we all get very excited about it. In Scotland, like Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, these can often occur in one day!
At the moment, we are blessed with some crisp, cold, sometimes even bright autumnal days. I need to remind myself to make the most of these, to not spend an entire Saturday indoors, but to go for a walk while I still can, to wander down to the park and to enjoy the wildlife. It is beautiful, and so good for us to take in a bit of nature and breathe in some fresh air. Bearing in mind the winter seasons here often bring with them wilder weather, lashing rain and wind, and even snow, I really ought to enjoy as much ‘outside time’, even if that means a simple short walk, while I can.
It is good not only for the body, but also for those of us who have to work at our mental health, whether that may be depression, anxiety or some other condition, it is good also for the mind. So let’s make the most of the brighter and more temperate days while we can….for we know that they are very likely set to change very soon!