Tag Archives: Mental Health

Simple Self-Care Challenge # 3 (What’s in your Toolkit?)

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Hi Friends,

I hope you are well today. However, even if you’re not doing too well, part 3 of the simple step-by-step self care series is very much for you.

(Parts 1 and 2 can be found here: https://livingfully2017.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/simple-step-by-step-self-care-series-simple-self-care-challenge-1/

and here:

https://livingfully2017.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/simple-self-care-challenge-2/).

Take it at your own pace, and revisit the previous ‘challenges’ as often as you like, just do what works best for you.

What is a Self-Care Toolkit and why do I need one?

Today, as you will have gathered from the title, I’m going to be talking about your ‘Self-Care Toolkit’. So, a good place to start is to discuss what a self-care toolkit is.

Like everyone, I’m sure you have your ups and downs. Some days are very good days, and others, not so much. However, some of us who suffer from and struggle with longer term health challenges such as depression, anxiety, PTSD…..the list goes on and on! the bad days can be very difficult indeed! To limit things from getting so bad that they become overwhelming and we feel that we can’t cope, we need a strategy. Even if you don’t feel that you struggle with these more severe conditions, it is still important that you are aware of how best to take care of yourself.

I find that it is usually when we are having slightly better days that it is a good time to plan ahead for the days when we will struggle.  One way of doing this is to have a ‘toolkit’ for your self-care and wellbeing. The ‘toolkit’ isn’t so much a physical thing as it is a bunch of ideas for you to keep at hand so that when you are struggling  you know what your ‘go to’ helpful things will be.  However, you can also keep a toolkit of physical things too.

So, what goes in the toolkit?

Just as we all have different learning styles, we will also have different approaches to putting together our self-care toolkits. I’ll share some of my ideas of what works for me to give you a starting point from which to develop your own.

I personally find that I can make sense of things better with lists and categories. Therefore, I will group ideas into the following two categories:

  • Emotional and psychological self-care
  • Physical self-care

Emotional and Psychological Self-Care

Depending on your general wellbeing you may wish to incorporate some of the following ideas into your self-care toolkit:

  • Contacts – trusted people whom you can reach out to. These might be close friends or family members, support workers, a psychologist, or even helplines that you can contact. Your resource list of contacts from organisations will depend on where in the world you live, so if you think it will be helpful to you take some time to do a little bit of research online, ask people you know or as health professionals. Make a note of contacts in your self-care journal that you started in week 1.
  • Distractions – can be greatly beneficial when we find ourselves struggling or slipping into a negative mood or unhelpful thought patterns. They bring you back into the present, out of your head, and provide enjoyment and relief that can tide over your ‘bad spell’. Some of the distractions that I like to absorb myself in include: adult colouring in books (there is a plethora to choose from!), art and craft hobbies, writing, photography, music, watching a comedy, doodling, planning ahead in my diary to keep focussed on the future and planning in positive things to look forward to no matter how small they might be, reading, meeting with a friend, going outside, etc. Have a think of what your healthy distractions could be and write them down in your self-care journal 🙂

Physical Self-Care

Physical self-care is equally as important as emotional self-care and you will find that a lot of aspects of both overlap with each other. Here are some starting points to consider:

  • Is there anything you need to intentionally avoid in order to stay safe during difficult times? If so, have a contingency plan and where possible make sure you have a couple of trusted people that you can be accountable with.
  • Plan ahead with healthy meal ideas. Nutrition is so important for both physical and mental wellbeing. If you take some time out to write down some healthy meal ideas, then when you feel stuck and unable to think of what to eat (and equally what not to eat), then you will have something written down to refer to. But don’t forget you are allowed to treat yourself every now and then aswell.
  • Drink plenty of water and make healthy snacks a part of your every day routine.
  • Make a note of any medications you require to take should you be likely to forget.
  • Get fresh air and exercise, and where possible spend time in the beauty of nature.
  • Have a bubble bath.
  • Do some self-pampering at home such as making your own ‘foot spa’.
  • Get the right amount of sleep.
  • Practice deep breathing and relaxation.

You may also find it comforting to have a little box of ‘goodies’ of special objects or things that make you feel calm to keep at hand for times when you need that extra boost, or that just make you happier even if you already feel alright.

So, have a think about these suggestions as a starting point, and remember to make them your own. Do what works best for you, and make a note of them in your self-care journal, and I will see you soon for the next ‘challenge’.

In the meantime, stay well.

Much love, x.

 

 

Simple Self-Care Challenge #2

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Picture courtesy of Google Images.

Hi friends, and welcome back to the simple self-care series, or Welcome! for the first time if you are just joining us.

Here is the first post in the series, but if you have a browse through my blog you will find longer articles incorporating themes and aspects to do with self-care, mental health, and much more. My blog is called ‘Life as it happens to be’ which is just that, and really can and will cover just about anything as it happens in my life. But this theme is also a big part of it. https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/66574131/posts/1489611501

So for the second challenge in this self-care series, having written down some of the character traits you appreciate about yourself, in this exercise I encourage you to set aside some quiet time for yourself, grab a tea, coffee, hot chocolate or comforting beverage of choice 🙂 , find somewhere quiet and cosy where you can spend some time thinking about what you like about yourself physically this time.

You can approach this in whatever way you feel comfortable with. The reason behind this exercise is to encourage positive ‘self talk’ and viewing ourselves positively. This doesn’t need to be in a prideful way, but simply being grateful for who you are. I know from personal experience that this can be challenging. Gentle hearts often give out so much appreciation and compliments to other people, but are we as good friends to ourselves, or do we constantly condemn, criticise and belittle ourselves with negative self talk?

I could give examples here, but I don’t want to use any ‘trigger’ words that might make this place seem less safe or empowering. You’ll know what goes on in your own mind and how you ‘talk to yourself’, and believe me, you do and that’s normal. 🙂

It might be a struggle to get started on this depending on where you are in terms of self-image and self-esteem.  Here are some suggestions to get you started, and there is no limit to what you want to write down with this exercise. Write down one thing if that’s what you’re comfortable with, or write down one hundred things. It’s your time, your space for self-care, and it’s up to you. Keep it in your little notebook as discussed in the previous post, or blog it if you want to share with others and link to this page if you want to share the journey – totally up to you with what you feel comfortable with. But write it down somewhere for yourself.

Suggestions of what you might appreciate about yourself physically (whether ‘aesthetically’ or ‘functionally’, there are different ways of interpreting this and being kind to yourself):

  • Beautiful eyes.
  • Eyes – sight, a window to experience the world, see wonderful things, learn, read, be creative, etc.
  • Long hair.
  • Nice smile, friendly, positive, encouraging.
  • Hands that can reach out to others, feed, clothe yourself, play the piano, write, draw, paint.

I’m going to stop there, as this is a space for your creativity and self-kindness. You can write a sentence, a paragraph, a story, be creative and design some ‘word art’, write a poem, write a song, but take time to give yourself the compliments you deserve, to build yourself up and strengthen patterns of healthy self talk and a positive ‘self image’, just as you would do for your friends.

Go for it, and enjoy yourself.

Much Love. x

 

Simple Step-by-Step Self-Care Series… Simple Self Care Challenge – #1

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Self-care is such an important practice to incorporate into our lives on a regular basis. But what even is it, and where do we start? I will blog in more detail on why this is important in a separate longer post, however, I want to keep these simple challenges ‘short and sweet’ and as accessible as possible so that if you so wish, you can follow along and incorporate some of these suggestions into your life.

Each of us is unique, and therefore what is important in terms of looking after ourselves, may vary significantly from person to person. However, we all do share similar basic needs in terms of health & wellbeing both emotionally/mentally and physically, so hopefully you will find something of value to enrich your life and relationship with yourself through this simple series.

So here goes, and keeping it quite simple for the first challenge:

~ Invest in a notebook that is just for you. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or expensive as there are plenty of places nowadays that you can buy a very inexpensive yet beautiful notebook. Just something that you are happy to look at and write in.

~Make it your aim to use this notebook ONLY for your self care challenges, i.e. not for shopping lists, or writing down friends’ birthdays or daily ‘to-do’s’ – this is your special personal space, just for you.

~And once you have your notebook, here’s a task for you. Think about someone you admire for their qualities and characteristics. This can be someone you know, someone from history or someone you’ve heard about through the media or through friends. Now think about what you admire about them, not physically, but in terms of character traits, such as kindness, gentleness, passion, commitment and so forth. Don’t write it down, just think about it.

~Next, gently and compassionately think about yourself. It may be hard to think positively about your own character traits, but just as you are able to do so for other people, now is your chance to do so for yourself. The difference this time is that I would like you to write down three to five character qualities about yourself that you admire, and think about at least one way for each of these qualities that you have displayed them.

Take your time over this, this is your time. Think about and appreciate what is special about yourself and write it down, with pen and paper preferably as I find you are more connected, but if you prefer to blog it, and link to this series, you are most welcome to do so, I would love it if we can go on this journey together and share insights as friends.

To help you out, I’ll give it a go myself.

Qualities about myself that I feel positively about:

1. Kindness ~ I have a genuine care and concern for other people and seek to do what I can to be helpful, kind and caring to them. In the past I have done special things for others such as making personalised gifts, giving food to homeless people and helping someone in a fatal accident before they died.

2. Loyalty ~ I am a good friend to people, and I love my friends and family. I seek to build and maintain good relationships with the people in my life and have long-lasting relationships with close friends and family as a result.

3. Creativity ~ I find inspiration almost everywhere, and long to share this inspiration with other people. Creative things that I do include photography, writing, blogging, ‘doodling’ and the occasional collaborative project with creative friends.

Ok, so now it’s your turn! Pretty simple, but important, and a good first step. I’d be delighted if you want to share with me, but there is absolutely no pressure to share your self care with anyone but yourself! So go for it…be kind to yourself today, and I’ll see you soon for Self-Care Challenge # 2. 🙂 xx

 

Where the grass is greener…

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Picture courtesy of Google Images.

The grass is greener where you water it. It may seem a bit glib to say so, but I believe it is certainly a healthy perspective to have.

I don’t know what your life situation is right now. Perhaps you feel that the grass is greenest right where you are – you may have been blessed with your heart’s desires in life, and if so, I am sincerely happy for you. Or you maybe distracted by looking over the fence at your neighbour’s beautiful lawn and rose studded garden, and lamenting the state of your own garden. You may have one eye on your lawn and one on theirs seeing positives and negatives in both of your situations. Perhaps the latter, despite possibly inducing a squint, is the most practical point of view. 🙂

However, why do we compare our lives with others? From a young age, it seems that society, peer groups, educational institutions, relations and the media to varying degrees indoctrinate us into the comparison trap.  We are bombarded with images of what our bodies ‘should’ look like, encouraged or pressured to excel and get the best grades, asked questions like ‘why can’t you be more like your cousin/friend/sibling/classmate so and so…they are so much more (fill in the blank)’. And the list goes on and on. It is hardly surprising that most of us go through periods of discontent with ourselves and our lot in life, feeling that somehow we’re just not good enough, or our lives don’t quite measure up.

A degree of comparison can sometimes be healthy especially if it makes us more grateful for what we have, and more desirous to help others who are less fortunate than ourselves. Yet, I don’t believe that this is the kind of ‘healthy comparison’ that most of us, however subconsciously, train our minds to make.

It’s been said that “Comparison is the thief of joy”, probably because most comparison stems from negative heart motives and results in feelings of jealousy, envy, pride, self-pity or resentment. The thief steals our joy and destroys our well being and relationships, or mars them at least.

We tend not to compare ourselves with those less fortunate than ourselves, and feel grateful for our own blessings in life, but instead compare ourselves and our lives with those who “have what we want” in life, have what we think will make us happy, and with a false sense of entitlement and perhaps a degree of prideful arrogance, have what we think we should have or be given.

Perhaps it is our responsibility to take the more mature path and keep our eyes fixed on our own lives and situations. That way we will be more likely to be a blessing to other people as well as taking better care of ourselves and our mental and emotional wellbeing.

I am called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn”. To be happy when other people are blessed and to show compassion to those who are hurting.

However, I am not superhuman, and have to work on having a healthy outlook on life. If I think back to my dreams as a little child, when thinking about that question we are so often asked when we are young, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I think my heart desires would have painted a picture of happiness, love and health. I wanted to be a writer and a painter or cartoonist, to be beautiful, to be happily married and have a happy family of my own, and to live and be close to the family I was born into. I would want best friends and a puppy and a log cabin in the woods, to be immersed in nature’s beauty and to travel the world. I would be a picture of health and happiness, a loving wife and mother, daughter, sister and friend. Life would be coming up roses!

However, ‘the once upon a time’ of my childhood dreams has not resulted in the ‘happily ever after’ I longed for. So what actually happened? Well, there have been ups and downs in my life. You might say I am an unpublished writer, as I am working on two novels that I have not shown to many people and that I work on privately in my ‘spare time’. Writing is an act of catharsis and release from trauma as well as a creative passion. I am neither a painter or cartoonist, but I do like to doodle, sketch every now and then, and indulge in adult colouring books. I have been called beautiful and pretty several times since my teenage years, but I also have a daily battle over being called ugly and disgusting from the painful days of childhood bullying and so my self identity is something I need to desperately refashion. I am single, neither a wife, girlfriend nor a mother, I am blessed with some good friends, however, my best childhood friend sadly passed away a few years ago. I have skin allergies and so a puppy is out of the question, and I own my own flat / apartment in the city. I have parks and a river nearby to where I live, I can take a longer trip and go to quiet beaches. I have battled health struggles over the years including severe eczema, severe clinical depression, panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder, feelings of despair at life and wanting to end it all, post traumatic stress, complex trauma, nightmares, sleeplessness, chronic pain and so forth. I do live within an hour’s travel time of my parents, which is a huge blessing to me, and I have been fortunate enough to have a good education despite everything else going on, gained two first class degrees, have a full time job and have done some solo travelling!

So all in all, there are plenty of plusses and minuses, however, some seasons of my life have felt particularly dark. Now that there is more experience of the Light around me, I’d like to reach out to others and share some things that I find helpful when we are tempted to compare ourselves and lives unfavourably with the next person.

During times of suffering in my life, I have often been surrounded with good news from other people’s milestones in life, when I have felt like I was carrying a millstone. Perhaps you can relate? You’re going through a tough time, and emotionally you’re already struggling but then you get news of someone’s engagement, marriage celebration, first, second, third, fourth child while you remain childless, new home, travel adventures when you are not well enough to even leave the house. Know what I mean? Chances are if you’re reading this, you do.

However, that’s where choice and responsibility comes in. As does self-care. When you face a situation like that you may feel happy for your friend or the person who has come to good times in their lives, you may paint out the negatives in their lives and over emphasise in your mind the positives, you may feel a twinge of sadness and pain that you are not experiencing your longed for hopes and dreams. And that is exactly where choice comes in. Your choice. It is ok to feel what you feel, but what you do next is more important. Do you dwell on these unfavourable comparisons, do you indulge in feeling sorry for yourself, do you resent the other person, think ‘it’s not fair’, and go on a spiral of negativity?

Or do you celebrate that other person’s happiness, acknowledge your own feelings of sadness, take time out to take care of yourself and be grateful for the good in your own life? Because despite how ‘unfair’ things might seem, it is your choice and responsibility as to how you react, whether positively or negatively, what you allow your mind and heart to dwell on, and what you do to take a healthier path.

Your life matters. The things you take for granted, someone else is longing for. Truly longing for. One of the best relationships in my life is that which I have with my mum. I am grateful everyday, and yet probably not as deeply as I should be. A friend of mine volunteers with the city mission helping homeless people. She often comes into contact with women who have been abused, traumatised, addicted, raped, and sold into prostitution. We have prayed together for such people facing such terrible sadness. My friend told me of one particular woman, who was so relieved and even celebrated hearing of her mother’s death. This woman had been so abused and mistreated by her own birth mother, had been hurt and chewed up to such an extent that her death was a relief to her. I found this heart breaking. I think I appreciate my own mum all the more, and want to reach out to others in whatever small way I can in their suffering. Sometimes comparison can be good when it helps us to be more grateful and more compassionate.

I would encourage you to slow down, take time and really think of those things about yourself and that you have in your life that you are taking for granted. Things that other people are longing after. Take time and focus on your own little patch of green grass, water it, nurture it, and maybe even plant some seeds of love in someone else’s garden. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and add to the beauty that they already are blessed with. Mourn with those who mourn and plant something beautiful in someone who’s garden is dry and barren. And go that extra step in gratitude to express your thankfulness to the people who matter in your life. Give thanks to God. And know that your life is important, and it is up to you to nurture and invest in it. 🙂

 

 

Life Lessons from the Common Cold!

As I type, life as it happens to be today has me experiencing symptoms of the common cold – sore throat, cough, fever, fatigue, etc.

The thing I find about blogging about and reflecting on my life, just as it happens to be, is that within the everyday, seemingly ordinary and mundane things of life (like having a bad cold!)  there can be little treasures of lessons and blessings.

So, here is what having the cold is teaching me today! 🙂

  1. Sometimes in life, you’ve just got to wait it out!

Nobody likes feeling unwell (and if they do, then that is rather strange). And it is unlikely that anyone particularly enjoys having a cough, cold, fever, tiredness, fatigue, and so forth. However, these things are facts of life that come and go with the seasons.

In life, we can find ourselves wanting to be in a different state to that which we are currently experiencing. For instance, you might be experiencing delays, setbacks, illness or disappointment. You may be unemployed and waiting for something to work out for you. You may be struggling with any number of things in life that have you experiencing a state you would rather not be in, but sometimes you’ve just got to ‘wait it out’. Let the season or situation of life take its course, just as you would when you’ve got a bad cold, and do your best to stay well, recover, and take the actions you need to in order to improve your situation.

2.  Take time to rest and build up strength!

When facing a cold, depending on our attitude, we may take a defiant stance – “I’m not going to let this defeat me. This isn’t going to stop me from doing all the things I normally do. I’ll show this cold who’s boss, and I’ll just plough on through it.”

Sometimes that might work. However, most medical advice would say that the best way to enable your body to ‘fight back’ and to replenish itself is to give it the chance to rest. Get plenty of rest and sleep, don’t push yourself farther than you need to go, take a break and it’s likely you’ll recover quicker.

Similarly, in life more generally, we need to make sure we take the time to rest and rejuvenate, even in the day to day routine of life if not taking specific, longer set aside time out. Taking the time to rest can help us achieve a better balance between work and leisure, it can help us to be more aware of our own thoughts and feelings, better manage your emotions, relate better to other people, be more productive longer term, live more fully and avoid the build up of unnecessary stress that can lead to burnout. I’ve definitely been a victim of not getting enough rest, and sometimes it is difficult depending on our circumstances to do just that. However, there are ways of building ‘R&R’ into our days and for our longer term health and wellbeing and fulfilment in life it is definitely worth thinking about and implementing steps towards this.

3. Self-care is important

When you’re feeling under the weather, what do you normally do, or what advice would other people give you?

Perhaps that would include: get plenty of rest, take the appropriate medicine, eat healthily, drink plenty of water, don’t overdo it, and basically just look after yourself.

In life, it’s important that we take care of ourselves more generally too. Maybe it’s worth thinking about how you can look after yourself a bit better, or how you can maintain your self-care if it is already something that you do intentionally as it is.

4. Things will change

You won’t have a cold forever, things will take their course, you’ll hopefully feel better, get back to strength and keep going with the next things in life.

Likely, things will improve. However, whatever your situation in life is right now, it is guaranteed that it will change. And your adaptability to change and seeing the positives even in situations that don’t seem good, has a lot to do with your perception and attitude.

Whatever the case, things will change, and there are plenty of things that you can do to make things better and improve whatever situation you are in.  Life goes on, so make the most of your better days, and don’t despair over your ‘not so good’ days, this too will pass.

And now, taking my own advice from steps 1, 2 and 3, I’m off to bed! 🙂

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

 

Personal Growth Through Chronic Pain

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, so please see this as a personal piece of writing, and follow up with your own research as required.

Living with chronic pain can be overwhelming. The sources of chronic pain are numerous, and can derive from neuropathic sources where there is nerve damage, from external injury, from psychosomatic pain and / or a combination of these as well as various other factors.

Psychosomatic pain can be wide ranging, but can include pain stemming from depression, post traumatic stress, complex (severe and repeated) trauma, grief, and so forth and can be just as intense and debilitating as pain from more physically identifiable sources.  Neurological pathways in the brain can be triggered causing pain receptors to be stimulated with psychosomatic pain being as ‘real’ and intense as pain from nerve damage and / or external injury.

Living with ongoing pain can also have a massive impact upon a person’s mental health, outlook on life, general wellbeing, and relationships with others. However, just as pain can be triggered by non-physical factors, I believe, so too can it be alleviated similarly as well.

There is a light-hearted phrase that I find particularly helpful to bear in mind. That is: “neurons that fire together, wire together”. (Donald Hebb, 1949 – Canadian neuropsychologist). What this means is that our brain cells communicate with each other in a process that involves synaptic transmission where chemicals or neurotransmitters are released and absorbed by other brain cells, in a process that can be called ‘neuronal firing’.  Whenever we have any experience, feeling, physical experience, or thought (yes, thought), this process occurs and over time ‘neural networks’ are formed, and such pathways can be strengthened, and can trigger the process of this ongoing ‘communication’ with other cells in the ‘network’.

Simply put, if pain sensations are triggered, then certain neural networks are activated, and pain is intensified.

As I italicised above, thoughts can trigger the firing of neurons and the wiring of neural connections. If you think about it, if you dwell on a negative thought or on a painful symptom, you are more likely to experience that pain with greater intensity, remember other times and experiences when you were in pain, and feel less resistant to overcoming it.

Similarly, if by thought you can activate the ‘pleasure sensors’ in the brain, you are more likely to remember other positive experiences, feel calmer and more able to manage your pain-related symptoms, and gain resistance and even the ability to withstand greater levels of pain.

I do believe that to some extent, what you focus on ‘expands’. From personal experience, focusing on pain tends to make it feel all the more overwhelming, whereas engaging in healthy distractions for the mind such as absorbing oneself in a creative pursuit, taking time to dwell on positive experiences, keeping a ‘gratitude journal’, practicing calming exercises such as controlled breathing and focusing on natural and beautiful things can overtime strengthen our ability to “activate” those neural pathways that trigger pleasurable sensations over painful ones, and overtime the exercise of this habit can greatly strengthen our fortitude to manage and overcome chronic pain, or at the least to alleviate it to some extent.

Please bear in mind that I am not advocating doing this to the exclusion of utilising medical help and prescribed pain relief. As mentioned previously the sources of chronic pain are numerous, therefore I would not venture to provide such foolhardy advice – there is a place for medical treatment of course. However, chronic pain can often leave people feeling overwhelmed, defeated and like victims of their conditions. Taking control of our thoughts and strengthening positive neural networks in our brain brings back an element of control into the process and can add to our feelings of fulfilment in life.

I wish you all well on your journeys and hope that you find relief and blessing, and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

God bless. x

 

 

 

 

Fitness, focus and forming new habits.

Life as it happens to be today has included getting in a couple of workout routines.

Now, let me clarify…amongst my friends and people I know, there are a lot of very sporty, healthy and fit people. Their pursuits range from swimming, skiing, snowboarding, long distance running, rock-climbing, weight training, hillwalking, playing football (‘soccer’), canoeing, assault courses, working out at the gym and cycling! They do sponsored events….for fun!  The point I wish to clarify, is that I am not one of these people. I like walking. I like cycling, but in a leisurely way, and it would help if I had a bike, which I haven’t had for years. I also very much like the idea of being a cool pole vaulting, rock climbing, mountain biking, snowboarding chic – but as much as I like the idea of it, my body doesn’t seem quite to have a natural inclination towards sports and fitness in the competitive sense. Ok, I hated gym class in school – not so much because I didn’t like the exercise – I loved the hurdles, because I could do that well, and I felt as if I was flying. But because my fitness and stamina was pretty average, and with sports in school there is quite a competitive edge, or there can be, and average doesn’t really stand for much. There are also all of the ‘cliques’ that go along with that kind of world. Well, my school days are long behind me now, but I do wonder if perhaps my inclinations towards sport and exercise as an adult have been influenced by the certain dread felt in those younger days?!

Now that I have the freedom to be my own person in the adult world, I find that fitness is a very personal thing, and a personal journey. And it really doesn’t matter where you are starting from. What matters is that you have decided to take better care of your body and physical health, which in turn has a positive impact upon your mental health. I went to the gym for a while several years ago, but I don’t go now. Growing up I’ve always been quite ‘petite’ in my frame, but as the years progress I find that I can no longer take that for granted, and I will have to work at it to keep in shape and stay as healthy as I want to be.

For me, one of the things that keeps me motivated is breaking big goals down into smaller more manageable pieces, and making lists! I’m a big ‘list-maker’, me. I find that that helps me to focus. And while I don’t go to the gym, as perhaps I have the ‘self-conscious bug’, I have set myself tasks and goals that I try to keep a track of.

I do walk a lot, however, and I have also started skipping (‘jump rope’) and keeping a track of how many I can manage over time. I love being able to exercise at home without all of the social fears and anxieties that go along with being in a gym environment and the natural self consciousness and comparison traps that result. I love the fact that there are so many health and fitness videos on YouTube and I have started to do some simple weight training and cardio amongst other things. I am not well versed in the world of fitness, but I’m making a start and keeping going.

Of course, there are days and weeks when I don’t actually manage to get anything in. And I think that’s ok. What works for me is to have a goal, write it down, break it up into smaller steps, have a way of encouraging myself and tracking my progress. So the fact that I might metaphorically slip off the treadmill from time to time isn’t such a big deal, the main thing is I got on to start with and will keep going and if I slip up here and there, I’ll simply get back on and aim to keep going, without external pressure.

I know we all work differently, and some people find the external pressure a driving force and a catalyst for change. I don’t think I’m one of those people, but I’m sure there is still so much more for me to learn about myself and maybe if I stepped further out of my comfort zone I would find that that actually helps.

I know someone who wasn’t particularly fit, but took up running and participating in marathons and now does them with alarming regularity! 🙂 Initially he trained on a treadmill in the gym but thought that he didn’t like running outside or with other people (the marathons being the exception), but later joined a running group and is loving the mutual encouragement and meeting people at his own stage and fitness level when previously his mind had been closed off to the idea. So …who knows…we learn and we change and new opportunities can take us to new places.

I believe that the process of habit formation, for me at least, is most effective by incremental gains. Small and consistent changes building up over time. Some people like to throw themselves into things, and take on big challenges, and find that they do great that way.

You might be a ‘super fit’ person, someone somewhere in the middle like me, or someone who feels very unfit and wants to make a change. I think an important thing is to be kind to yourself. To know that who you are right now is wonderful and although there are changes you want to make in your life, you are no more or less deserving than the next person of having a healthy life. Start from where you are, find out what works best for you, and encourage yourself and other people.

And don’t worry if you’ve slipped off that treadmill….you can always get back up on it again, or leave the gym and take a walk in the park. Whatever works for you…find it, start it and keep going. You can do it! 🙂

And if you’d like to share, I’d love to hear what works for you, so please feel free to comment below! 🙂

Loneliness and Isolation…

I recently came across this lovely Blogger, who like me, is new to the blogging world.  She goes by the name of ‘notalone’ https://notalone832.wordpress.com/

I was touched by her heartfelt posts, reaching out to connect with others and to be an encouragement to others.

If you have the chance and are so inclined, please visit her Blog and say ‘hello’. I hope you don’t mind me sharing your Blog, ‘notalone’. 🙂

I also have felt the ache of loneliness and even being alone in a crowd or amongst friends, and know that many others have felt similar things also.

I have been encouraged from ‘day 1’ of blogging here by the feeling of community and connection that sharing our thoughts and a glimpse into our individual worlds brings.

I wonder if you have any suggestions as to what can help someone feeling this way? What healthy ways of coping with loneliness do you have?

I believe that God cares for us and that ultimately we always have SomeOne to reach out to. But it’s not always easy to feel or believe that. We need human companionship too.

But what happens when that is not available?

I think in addition to reaching out to God (for me, personally), we need to learn to be our own best friend, when too often we can be our own worst enemies. The thoughts we think about ourselves really do have such a powerful impact, not only on the state of our mind, but also on our mood, physical and emotional health and our ability to cope with the day to day things of life.

I would encourage you, if you are feeling alone and isolated to think about what might help you.

Here are some things that have helped me. I’d love to know what works for you, so please feel free to respond in the comments.

Much love. x

  • Prayer and reaching out to God.
  • Connecting with friends and family where possible – whether face to face, by telephone or via email, etc.
  • Positive self talk.
  • Making connections in safe ways on the online world.
  • Thinking of how I can help other people and reaching out to people in need / being an encourager.
  • Absorbing myself in a hobby.
  • Going outside for a long walk.
  • ‘Journalling’ / writing down my thoughts and ‘to do’ lists to keep productive.
  • Focusing on ‘self care’ and building myself up to be independent and resilient emotionally.

When I am in a ‘good place’ within myself, I also find solitude immensely satisfying, especially being out in nature – so there is a difference between being physically alone and being lonely….we just need to find the healthy balance and manage our feelings along the way.

Let me know what works for you, if you so wish. Oh, and say ‘hi’ to my new friend over at Blogger.