This week I have two special occasions; a birthday, and reaching the milestone of 500 + blog followers. I know this might seem a humble number for some of you, but for me, my blog started at a point where things were very difficult for me personally and I thought that if I can write to help myself and even just one other person then it would be worth it. The thought that I might be able to encourage each of you is a real gift and blessing to me ❤
So, I want to Give Thanks for this journey, and to thank each of you for being part of it, so here is a celebratory picture of a mini cupcake from my recent birthday, and also a celebratory Word Press badge 🙂
According to popular culture, ‘Blue Monday’ is a day in January – typically the third Monday of the month – when many people feel low. I don’t use the phrase, ‘the most depressing day of the year’, as some do, because as someone who has clinical depression, I know that feeling blue and being depressed are and can be very different things, and I know other people who suffer with this very real medical condition would also not appreciate the term being used lightly to mean just feeling ‘a bit sad’.
However, on a lighter note, as far as ‘pop culture’ goes, this is one way in which trends are noted, trends which can be used by retailers and advertisers to sell things to make people act in a way that they think will make them feel better about themselves and their lives – through consumerism.
Yet, could there be something that we can actually learn from the idea of there being a ‘Blue Monday’ or the concept of the ‘January blues’? I don’t think there’s any particular significance about the day itself, but psychologically I can understand why people might feel low at this time of the month and year.
Typically, in many parts of the world, it is still winter season, and the communal festivities have passed, and spring is a long way from having sprung. People may have fallen short already in terms of living up to their ‘new year resolutions’ and with the holiday season passed, it is back to work for most people, while the weather is still fairly gloomy and without there being anything imminent to look forward to. Motivation may have dwindled and life may have become a bit ‘hum drum’ once again.
There are many ways in which we can avoid or overcome such negative feelings. For example, we can address our mind-set, thoughts, attitudes and so forth. We can also take care of ourselves physically by getting appropriate sleep, rest, exercise and eating healthily. We can try to stay interested with hobbies, and maintain contact with friends and family.
However, I did specify ‘one way’ in the title of this post, so I’ll let you into a little ‘secret’ of mine. Although the festivities may have passed, I approach each brand new month a bit like a mini ‘new year’. It is a fresh start, time to re-evaluate, to set new goals, and to see new possibilities. I personally like to ‘plan’ and decorate my diary / planner, so it means getting creative with a fresh new approach and new doodles and designs for that month. Sometimes I have a theme in mind for things I’d like to think about or explore or achieve for each month as I go through the year. It keeps things fresh, and it helps me to stay hopeful, rather than seeing an expanse of time stretching out before me with all the ‘new ideas’ falling behind.
If by the time January 20th, 2020 comes around, you are feeling a little ‘blue’, don’t worry. February will soon be around the corner and chance for another new start. So celebrate these mini new beginnings throughout your year, and stay vibrant, hopeful and blessed. x
Grounding technique: keep a small, safe object handy for when you need to feel grounded. This could be something like a pebble or stone, something that won’t break easily, or perhaps some children’s ‘putty’ / play-dough that you can squeeze, or anything you think will help to ground you. Make sure that you can’t hurt yourself on it, that it doesn’t have sharp edges, won’t break if you hold or squeeze it, and that makes you feel calm when you hold it as a grounding object.
If you feel like you are experiencing anxiety, panic, dissociation, dizziness, confusion, intrusive thoughts or mental and emotional distress, use this object to help you ground yourself. Focus on how it feels to touch, what it looks like, observe it, the way the light touches it, its texture and so forth and focus intently on this safe object while calming your breathing. Keep it in your pocket or take it with you so that you can use this to help you when you need it. The good thing about a small object like this is that other people most likely will not even notice it in case you are worried about that.
Also, you can try the ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ method as a grounding technique where you focus on being aware of your five senses. Notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
Saturday 16th / Sunday 17th November 2019 (00:35hrs) :
I hope you’ve all been enjoying and following my series of posts in my ‘Winter Survival Guide’, and have found some of my suggestions helpful.
I thought it would be a nice idea to actually share with you my own efforts to put some of my ideas into practice, and hopefully you will be inspired to join in.
This isn’t necessarily going to be in the order of my original posts, and for some of the ‘smaller’ and more lighter hearted suggestions (such as dancing along to Christmas music! 😉 ) you’ll have to browse through the comments sections of my Winter Survival Guide to see any updates I’ve put in there, but for the more eventful suggestions I’ll write longer posts.
I’ve actually been stuck inside all day today by myself, and truth be told I had a bit of a dip in my mood this evening as some things have been bothering me, but I’m working through them and have been enjoying some quiet reflective times listening to Scripture, cosying up on my couch and watching Grey’s Anatomy, as well as doing some tidying up around the house, talking to my parents on the phone, blogging – of course, and having a little ‘dance party’ of my own. So although the updates on my wintery walks aren’t from today, I have been putting into practice some of the other, cosier, indoor tips from my Winter Survival Guide. However, here are some pictures from some wintery walks in the park and observations in the city’s main train station from a little earlier on. I hope that it brings some joy and inspiration to you even if you can’t get outside yourself today. Be blessed, and happy beautiful wintery journey to you. x
You may look at life and people through eyes filled with compassion, love, grace, care, kindness and helpfulness. This might be so natural to you, or something you have worked hard on developing, with the gifts of grace and mercy at work in your life to bring you there, that you don’t necessarily expect that other people who are close to you have other more selfish motives.
Of course, you can easily spot the negative characteristics in people whom you don’t wish to associate too closely with, even though you know that there are many and complex aspects to each person with everyone having a mix of positive and negative traits including ourselves- but you don’t allow people who are overtly rude, unkind, selfish, manipulative or cold into your inner circle. Because after all, you’re a good judge of character, right?
It can be harder to see negative characteristics in the people we let closest to us, because for the most part we think that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and that our friends have similar values to us.
And they may well do, for the most part. They may share the broad brushstrokes of similar ideas generally of overall life values, how to treat other people, and what it means to be a good friend. Or we may be choosing to see them in that way.
But sometimes true colours on a canvas begin to show through over time, and we gloss over them. Things arise that we feel not so comfortable with, but we know that we too have our flaws and we try to be the best friend that we can be. We see the way someone relates to and treats other friends or mutual connections and we think that there is a problem in their specific situation and we try to show understanding, empathy, kindness and to give a listening ear. But then, we realise that our friend has treated other friends in a way that simply doesn’t match with our values, in a way that that other friend or those other friends don’t deserve because they’re simply lovely people, and we try to make sense of it, to understand the things that might be going on under the surface, and we think that because we are closer that of course they wouldn’t treat us that way, but the warning bells have already started ringing, and somewhere deeper down a trust has been damaged, as our instincts tell us that the person we consider to be similar to us, actually treats other people in a way that harms them – are they unaware of it, do they not realise their behaviour is selfish and damaging, or maybe they have some wounds and issues to sort out, do they just take the easier way out when they feel that things get tricky, regardless of whether or not it is the right way to behave? We try to be understanding, to give our friends the benefit of the doubt, and maybe we ignore our instincts and those warning signals because we want to think and believe the best of people.
We don’t want to believe that our friends are using people for their own convenience, for when things suit them. We want to believe they are deeper, warmer, and more compassionate than they are. We don’t want to see the true colours that are beginning to come through, we may not try to change them but we change the evidence that we are beginning to see to fall in line with a more loving, caring version of the person we’ve created in our minds. We all have flaws. But then there are points when someone shows themselves to have deeper rooted characteristics that don’t fit with our values, and we try to excuse them or tell ourselves it’s because of this or that reason, and be graceful towards that person. Who wants to honestly conclude that someone they had given time, care, love, a listening ear and understanding to is actually colder than we thought, more selfish in their motives and perhaps has even been using us, whether intentionally or not, for their own convenience? Sometimes we don’t let ourselves see true colours until it is too late, and they have been as narrowly focused and self focused in their treatment of us as they have to others. The warning signs were there, but we didn’t want to pay heed to them, and so we live with the lessons. We learn that we are people who care, but not everyone does….some people care when it is convenient to them to do so, and I suppose that’s ok, so long as we are willing to continue being people who are genuine, caring, look out for other people’s interests as well as our own, seek to communicate for the benefit of other people, and ensure that we don’t use other people for our own selfish gain as we have been used. And the deeper lesson if you find yourself in such a situation is that you can’t change people. You can’t change someone’s true colours, it’s not within your gift to do so. You can pray for them, for them to perhaps realise that their patterns of behaviour damage others, and perhaps they don’t care too much about that, but you can pray for other people to be protected, and you can seek to become a better person, more noble in character for the good of others.
You could try to change people, you could try because the idea of them was different to the reality, but it wouldn’t be worth your efforts and time, because just as others can’t change you, you can’t change them. But you do have immense power to work on yourself, to seek to be kinder, more understanding, more compassionate, more giving, loving and caring, looking out for others and not just ourselves, so that the lessons we learn don’t bring negativity but actually make our world and the lives of those around us a much more vibrant, colourful, Truthful, genuine, loving, honest and caring place. x
Well friends, we’ve reached a mini-milestone of our 40th Winter Survival Guide tip in this series. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on this and exploring how we can all stay healthy, well, motivated, positive, and happy as we reflect upon moving into the latter season of this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed, or are enjoying, reading through my series too, as my main goal is to help and encourage other people as well as myself to get through what can for many be a season that is not without its challenges, in the best way possible – basically to help us all look out for and look after each other! I hope you have found it encouraging and helpful.
I’d like to request a little feedback if you have been enjoying and reading this series. Would you like me to conclude it with this 40th post, or to round it up to the next ‘milestone’ of 50, and bring you ten more suggestions and tips for thriving this winter? I’d absolutely love to do that, and will have something to share with you to conclude the series of 50 posts before the end of November, so that you are well stocked up with helpful ideas and suggestions before the end of the month, and to take you into December and January!
So what do you all think? Would you like to read a few more posts in this series, or would you prefer if I just conclude it here?
That’s my first request for feedback.
Now my second one is for a bit of reader participation if you are up for it?
I’d like to actually update you with how I am doing in implementing some of my own suggestions and Winter Survival Guide tips, along with some photos along the way!
Would you be interested in that? And also, more to the point, would you be interested in taking this journey with me? You don’t have to do or share updates of how your are getting on with all of the suggestions or even in a particular order – I certainly don’t think I’d be able to do that myself. Even if you want to just let us all know of one or two suggestions you’ve taken forward, you could either share with us in the comments section of that particular Winter Survival Guide post, or you could write up what you did on your own blog and link to the relevant post in my Winter Survival Guide.
Let’s make this season as encouraging and fun for each other as possible, and help one another along the way if anyone is struggling, and share inspiring stories and experiences too! Is anyone up for it? I’d love it if you’d join me on this wintery festive journey, and share with us what it means to you.
So, please do let me know in the comments:
Would you like to see a further ten more posts to take the Winter Survival Guide tips up to 50, or would you prefer me to conclude it with the 40th post I’ve just written?
Would you like to participate in trying out one or some of my Winter Survival Guide suggestions and posting an update to encourage and inspire others and to build a bit of blogging festive community spirit and spread the joy? 🙂 x
Every now and then we need some ‘down time’ – time out just to ‘be’ and not to do very much, time to enjoy the simple things of life.
Maybe you just need to spend some time ‘pottering about’ at home, with no tasks, commitments or anything in particular to do. Perhaps you have an entire day to yourself and you want to take it a bit easier for a while, and stay indoors and be cosy, maybe you could take a nap, read a book, go for a long hot bath, put together a nice winter outfit, go for a walk in nature, catch up with a friend over coffee, or just wander about with no plans in particular.
Sometimes we need to enjoy doing nothing because the rest of the time we are so busy doing everything else. I love lazy Saturday mornings like that, when I have a bit of ‘me time’ and when I don’t have any appointments, I can just take time and enjoy the simple things, linger over a hot cup of tea, watch birds flying outside my window, do a bit of tidying up at my leisure, listen to some music, read a bit, put on cosy socks and curl up on the couch and watch some TV, phone my family for a chat and a catch up.
Sometimes the simple things are the best things in life. Maybe you have someone special to spend your time doing these things with, or maybe like me, you’re on your own, either way there are so many day to day things and charms that we can find in ‘doing nothing’.
I think the Italians have a phrase for the blessedness of doing nothing: ‘La dolce far niente’.
Are you a people pleaser, a perfectionist, or someone who regularly over commits? Do you often say yes to other people, even if doing so is detrimental to your own physical, mental and emotional health?
If you are any or all of the above, or you habitually say ‘yes’ to everyone and everything, even when the words you are hoping will come out of your mouth are ‘I would if I could, but no thank you…’, then this post is for you!
This time of the year can be a tricky balance between sharing peace and enjoyment with our nearest and dearest, and taking on the lion’s share of the burden of organising, planning, getting things done and keeping everyone happy.
There may be some commitments that you are obligated to fulfil, and can’t get out of. But what about the other things that you end up doing (and I wonder if this is more applicable to the ladies out there) to look after others, help people out, and make things run smoothly simply because everyone else knows you are good at it, have done it in the past, or just expects you to. And of course, you don’t want to disappoint anyone, do you? But what about yourself? Where does your wellbeing come into things if you end up saying yes and overcommitting yourself, leading to stress and anxiety, when what you really want and need to do is to say ‘no’. It’s not always easy to do, but setting boundaries and managing expectations is important in good communication and healthy relationships for ourselves and other people in the long run, as the other person or people may have no idea that you don’t want to do something, and may think you actually enjoy it or want to be the person to do it.
Ok, so maybe there are some family commitments that you know you have to take the lead on or contribute to. You’re looking after what is closest to you. But what about all of the other things that are more on the periphery of your duties and commitments?
Someone asks you to go to an event, but you are feeling ‘stretched’ on all sides, and know that by going you won’t be able to manage your time and commitments in other areas, and it will leave you feeling stressed if you do go. But you don’t want to disappoint the person who asked you. What do you do? Could you try saying a polite ‘no’, thanking them for their offer, and explaining that you have a lot on at the moment, but you appreciate their invitation?
You need to make sure that you are looking after your own health and wellbeing, and that saying ‘yes’ to things is held in balance with what is wise to do. Just because you are an excellent cake maker it doesn’t mean that you need to say ‘yes’ to everyone who asks you to make something for a Christmas party or family event if you are ‘juggling’ other commitments and trying to manage your time and priorities in other ways. Saying ‘no’ might actually give someone else an opportunity to say ‘yes’ to something for a change. What can you think of in your life this season that you might have to pluck up the courage to say ‘no’ to for the sake of your own health and well being? If it is the source of stress and anxiety, consider how crucial it is, and if it is not that important in the grand scheme of things, then try saying ‘no’.
The seasons of the year remind us that change is an inevitable, and thankfully purposeful, part of our lives. Autumn is a beautiful conundrum: we are mesmerised with the beauty of leaves turning vibrant shades of gold, orange, red and yellow – yet what is actually happening is that these leaves are changing, dying and falling away. One season of life gives way to the next, and the spectacular thing is that there is great beauty and vibrancy in Autumn before winter sets in…a beauty which is at the same time a decay and the falling away of old things.
I find this both strange and captivating. Autumn is truly beautiful to me, glorious even, and many other people also find it wondrous – yet who really celebrates decay in any other aspect of life? It’s quite an unusual thought when you reflect upon it.
I think God gives us gifts in the lessons we can learn from the changing of the seasons. There can be beauty in transitions, even ones which mean letting go and moving on.
I think this post in my Winter Survival Guide may be challenging for some of us. There is a tendency among human beings to want to ‘hold on’, or if we want to let go, it doesn’t happen without struggle. We don’t let go of aspects of our lives by seeing them bursting into beauteous colours to gracefully float away in their appointed time, but this is one of the lessons that this season teaches us – the beauty and even majesty of change, of life giving way to life, through death (and isn’t this the message of The Cross). And there is a time and season ‘for every purpose under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes).
If we allow the lessons we are gifted through the changing of the seasons to be an opportunity to reflect upon our own lives, then what is this season saying to you? What can we more generally as human beings learn from it?
I certainly don’t have all, or even many of the answers on this one, but maybe we could find some points of reflection about our lives in the following:
Beauty and Gratitude in life’s changing seasons: Perhaps you are facing some poignant changes in your life. Maybe you are in a season of life where you have ‘grown up’ children who are leaving home for the first time, and it is a bittersweet transition for you. In what ways can you truly take time to reflect upon the beauty and the gifts that you have enjoyed, and how can you gracefully let go as one season of life gives way to the next as your children move into another stage of their lives? What ways can the ’empty nest’ – the feelings of sadness, loss and parting be looked upon for their beauty, vibrancy and life? As these previous seasons fade to memories, what aspects of ‘spring’ in the seasons to come could you be looking forward to?
Acceptance of loss: Maybe what you or someone you know is facing is actual loss, as you deal with bereavement. Is this a time you can spend reflecting upon the good times, and learning to celebrate the life that was? Or maybe you can helps someone else who is grieving to find comfort and hope in this season, maybe it can be a time of quietness, solitude, ‘hibernation’ in a sense, to come to terms with things as they change.
The parting of ways: Often times we feel reluctant to let things change or to embrace and step into change. Think about the things in your life that you have held onto, even though it was time to let them go, because you were anxious about the unknown, unfamiliar or unexpected. Sometimes ‘leaves’ fall from our lives seemingly without any rhyme or reason, and we are faced with the choice whether to let them go. Sometimes it is right and good to seek to hold on to something, to work at reviving it, nurturing it, bringing it back to life, and health with love because it wouldn’t be right to simply let it go. A marriage for example – maybe it is changing, maybe facing decay in aspects, but it would not be right for the couple to simply give up on each other. Maybe one is already giving up, but the other has to fight to keep things alive, to nurture, to care for, to bring life.
At other times however, things do just seem to naturally ‘fall away’. Friendships for example. This is something I am facing at the moment – a friend of several years has silently moved on – it is something they have done with other friends as well, and so I reached out in love and have left it up to them as to whether they wish to connect, but otherwise to say a loving goodbye if that is what they wish. I have been met with only silence, and so all I can do is pray, and let go. There is a time and season and reason for some friendships and sometimes those seasons pass and we need to allow the dead leaves and dead things of our lives to fall away.
Perhaps you have been reflecting on the friendships, relationships, acquaintances and connections in your life, and you have decided to intentionally let go of certain people, with it not necessarily being their choice. Maybe they are not ‘life bringing’ connections and you feel it is best for you to move on. Perhaps you could reflect on how best to do this in a loving way, and where possible if appropriate to offer some explanation to the person. Understandably this isn’t always appropriate depending on the nature of the relationship and how unhealthy or detrimental it might be, but it is nonetheless something that you can take time to reflect upon.
Things, things, things! Maybe the ‘dead leaves’ of this season in your life are in fact certain material things that you no longer need, use or appreciate. Perhaps their falling away from your life, as you let them go, could bring beauty to someone else’s life. Maybe the ‘letting go’ in this season for you could be a good old de-cluttering and instead of a ‘spring clean’, having an autumn / winter clean!
What are some of the things you no longer need that someone else could benefit from? Clothes, books, toys, household goods, furniture, and so forth. Letting them go may benefit not only the people who can make good use of them, but also free you up to enjoy a ‘lighter load’ and the opportunity for a new season. Maybe you don’t need to get rid of things as such, but just unsubscribe from things – emails, newsletters, subscriptions, etc. Do you really need to hold on to them, or is it the season to let them fall away by choosing to intentionally let go?
Priorities: Sometimes our priorities or projects get old, start to decay, and it becomes time for us to let them fall away. Maybe they once served a purpose, but now they no longer do, or they are just time-wasters, and maybe take our time, attention and dedication away from other more important aspects of our lives. Perhaps when you were young, carefree and single you could spend as much time as you liked doing whatever you liked but now that you are a parent you need to refocus your priorities as your child is far more important than your hobbies or even your career. Maybe you need to make an intentional shift and let certain things go, or at least lessen your time spent on them so that you can nurture new life in other areas of your life. Maybe you are young, carefree and single, but some of the ways you are spending your time are dead priorities, and not even that important after all – maybe it’s time for you to let some of that go so that you can invest in bringing life to more important things such as nurturing yourself, your mental health and wellbeing, your friendships and family relationships, building upon your skills and pursuing your dreams.
When the dead leaves are our own thoughts, attitudes or characteristics: Many if not most of us get stuck in unhelpful patterns of thought. We hold on to them because they are familiar even though we know them to be destructive. What would happen if we let them go? Of course, it’s not so simple with our minds as to simply see thoughts fall like autumn leaves, but we can make a decision to do the hard work to let go of unhealthy thoughts, to stop believing lies about ourselves or our lives, and to choose to allow new, positive, true, beautiful, kind and noble thoughts to spring to life in the next seasons.
Letting go of good things: What if the things we need to let go of are good things? There is nothing wrong with them as such, but they just no longer belong in this season of our lives. It can be hard to recognise these at first, but perhaps slowly the realisation dawns upon us – maybe they just no longer are quite the right fit for us. You might have some profound thoughts on what some of these good things in your life might be. I feel like I ought to be able to come up with something at least moderately deep and meaningful to give as an example, but actually the only thing I can think of right now is the Planner I use. I’ve used this type of Planner for the past two years, I absolutely love it and there are so many good and great things about it, its format, set-up, how it helps you see and plan out your goals and for the first year and a half I was making some really good use of it. However, as good as it continues to be, for the Planner hasn’t changed, I’m not really making the most of it anymore because I have changed – the way I do things, the amount of time I can spend doing my Planner in a certain way – it continues to be good, lovely and wonderful, but I think it is nearing the end of having served its purpose for this season, and maybe in the new year I will have a different planner, a different system or way of doing things that works better for me for where I am right now. Maybe it’s just time to let go! 😉
So, what about you? What are the leaves that are falling away from your life in this season? What are some of the things you think you may need to let go of? What have I missed that maybe I could be encouraged to reflect upon? As always, happy to hear your thoughts.
We all need that reminder, don’t we? Most people have some kind of struggle, even if only a minor one, in their relationship with food, and obviously what we put into our bodies affects our health, wellbeing, state of mind, energy, mood and so forth on so many different levels.
It’s important to fuel our bodies well for the winter, to remember to eat, but also to be aware of the temptations towards over indulging, comfort eating, or eating too much unhealthy foods. By all means enjoy what you eat, but keep things in balance. Don’t neglect to eat enough, for you’ll need the energy, but also don’t over eat, and try to eat healthily and do all things in moderation.
I know for many people this seems too ‘glib’ and it’s not easy because of your deeper struggles. But remember you are important and worth taking care of, which includes in how you treat your body and in what you eat, so stay well, warm, healthy and happy. x