Tag Archives: Mind

Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (9): *Know when to take time out*.

Words of Encouragement (9):
*Know when to take time out*.
As I explored previously in the post about ‘How much news is too much news?’, this one comes having just watched the news, and feeling that restless unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach, and the sense of stress in thinking about and acknowledging what our fellow human beings are going through in this window of history. Even safely tucked away from it all in my quiet flat, the news can still get right to us….and for those who are particularly empathetic it can touch us to the core.
We need to learn how to process things through this experience, this season. And we need to know when to take a step back, to take time out. This is especially true if we are in any position of responsibility or supporting or caring for other people. This might be on many levels or on one or two, but the principle holds true regardless. Your responsibilities might be your work, your volunteering roles, your parents, your spouse, your friends, your children. It could be the role you find yourself in in supporting and encouraging other people, in putting food on the table, in supporting colleagues and others, and you therefore need to know what your ‘triggers’ are in terms of when that feeling inside begins to get too much. When anxiety, stress or fear begins to overtake you.
At such times, step back.
Take some time out and rebuild yourself, nurture yourself, do something perhaps creative, artistic, musical, relaxing to take your mind and attention and emotions off this terrible situation we find ourselves in.
Take time out and take a break so that when you come back you can come back stronger, you can be there for yourself as well as those around you who are depending on you, and so that you can be purposeful in how you use your days so that you can and do make a difference for the better in the lives of those closest to you, and even in the lives of those you don’t know, by doing the right thing.

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Surviving the pandemic together. Words of Encouragement (5): *How much news is too much news?*

Words of Encouragement (5):
*How much news is too much news?*


These are scary times, aren’t they friends? We feel compelled to keep up to date with everything going on, but then sometimes we get ‘sucked in’ to a constant stream of input and information that we get stressed and feel unable to process it all. At other times we seek to ‘escape’, to hide away and to just do the things that we enjoy, but it is important for our own safety and that of others that we stay informed and up to date. I encourage you to do your best to find a healthy balance, just as we are all figuring this out one day at a time. Keep informed, but also look after your mind. Limit how much news you watch, or have a predictable time or routine maybe in the morning and evening. Put your mind to something positive first thing in the morning and last thing at night so that you’re not caught up and overwhelmed with the tragedy of the situation going on around the world. It is real and it is happening, but sometimes we need to take a step back and just look after our own minds. Take care. I hope some of this is helping someone out there. Stay safe.

news

Know your online ‘triggers’…

One of the things I realise that I love about Word Press, and this ‘blog life’ is that I very rarely feel any kind of fear or anxiety when logging in. And because a lot of online fear and anxiety is caused by unkind words of other people, I’d like to commend each and every one of you for your positive influence on the internet. I have never encountered another blogger who has tried to cut someone else down or cause harm or offence. We all have this open platform to share, and I can with real gratitude say that I am part of a community of bloggers who are encouraging, inspiring, motivated, helpful, understanding and positive. Whether or not you or I feel good, we seek to use our blogs as platforms for something good, wholesome, creative, informative and expressive. What a blessing and privilege to be part of this! 🙂

However, more and more on other platforms (which I don’t use), people experience all kinds of negativity, and as such it is important to be aware of and know your online triggers and to safeguard yourselves from these, as well as gaining understanding so that we can safeguard the younger generations coming after us.

Children born in this generation are born into an online world. Of course, not everyone in every part of the world has access to the internet, yet for the most part children in relatively affluent countries do, and they have never known anything different. They perhaps lack the perspective of young people and adults who have either grown up with lesser exposure to the online world, or experienced the internet as a ‘new’ invention, or for those older still have been part of a time before the internet (yes, hard to believe, lol! 🙂 ). I’m part of the generation growing up with less exposure to the internet (I remember dial-up modems 😉 ), and I am grateful that in my young childhood I either had my head in books, in imagining adventures, or I was outside playing and making things with my friends. I have perspective.

I was bullied and I also know how harmful and long-lasting the scars and pain and damage from other people’s cruelty can be, well into adult life. However, I was never exposed to anything like young people (and adults) experience nowadays online.

Lately, news stories and discussions have been affecting me, ‘triggering’ me as it were, so I have decided to be more mindful of my boundaries and what I choose to be exposed to. I have also been learning more about what the younger generation faces when it comes to ‘trolling’. Unlike when I was bullied, an incident may have replayed again and again in my mind or among a small number of people, now the situation is that bullying and ‘trolling’ can be replayed again and again for example in online videos, memes, photos etc. which can be viewed by millions of people. How hard must that be when someone’s open shame of being cruelly treated is ‘permanently’ on show for a whole online world to see!

This is heart-breaking, and without writing anything specific that could be triggering to any of my readers, can lead to great tragedy. This is why it is so important for us as adults to become more well informed, to know how to set boundaries for ourselves, and to teach our children and young people in our lives how to handle life in an online world so that their experiences will be uplifting and positive and so that they can discern the truth from lies. I as an adult am still unpicking my way through the bullying of my childhood, but I knew the people who were being cruel to me, and by God’s love, grace and forgiveness, I have forgiven them, whether or not they ever realised how much damage they caused. However, today people, thousands of people can anonymously use their words like knives as they sit behind a computer screen and attack other people through their keyboards (thinking that it is somehow their ‘right’ or that because they are not face to face it somehow won’t cause as much harm – I honestly don’t know or understand the mentality of such cruelty at all) – complete strangers, and this can be devastating.

I used to think as a child, everyone is saying these mean things about me so they must be true, and it really messed me up psychologically, but as an adult I am reasoning out these lies and realising that I’m not the only one. The world is full of cruel people and no one deserves to be treated that way. We all need so much grace and forgiveness. For children nowadays, the ‘everyone’ may really seem like every one in the world is against them because of the sheer multitude of people who can comment or hurt a person with their words online. We all know this needs to stop, but what about navigating our course and helping others do likewise?

If I can summarise what I’d like you to takeaway from this post it is to know this: you, yes you, are truly valuable, unique, loved, one of a kind, and so very important. Keep being kind and encouraging others to do so. Thank you for being part of this online community that is supportive and encouraging. Know your ‘triggers’, whether this is in the articles you read, watch or listen to on the news, or whether it is more personal things that you are exposed to if you have other online accounts where people are unkind. Find ways to manage your exposure, and grow strong in your mind to know that the unkind words have no place in your life and do not reflect your true identity. And as you grow stronger and wiser seek to be a voice and an advocate and a mentor for the younger generation who are exposed to so much ‘flippant’ and careless negativity and cruelty online. You really are special and you truly make a difference, so keep holding high the banner of Kindness, and you will be blessed in return. With love and peace to you all. xoxox

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Planning a restful ‘retreat’ one step at a time (1)…

(1). Beginnings:

If you’ve read my earlier post at the beginning of February (2020), you’ll know that I feel compelled to continue through this month with the theme of ‘Rest’. If you haven’t read my earlier post, in summary I had a great January, yet at the start of February I have felt tired, ‘under the weather’ and not in the best of health. As such, as I often ‘theme’ my months to help me have a better focus and direction, as well as to feel more positive as I move through the year, I am honing in on the idea of rest.

Well friends, ‘life as it happens to be’ is happening as it is, unfolding one step at a time, and I hope you’ll journey with me as I discover more about rest this month. If you’ve been following me for a while, or have looked back at my posts over the past few years (since mid 2017 when I started this blog), then you’ll know that I do like to have myself an at home ‘retreat’ or two throughout the year. Sometimes these have a particular focus such as faith, or a writing retreat, or creativity. I hadn’t planned to start thinking about one so early on in the year, but it seems that I need to for my own wellbeing.

At home retreats can be fairly simple, with relatively little planning and preparation depending on how organised you generally are, or you can put more time, thought and effort into things depending on your needs. I have written about planning retreats in the past. With where I am at right now, I think the planning process itself is something that is good for my mental health, if that makes sense. It helps me not to allow myself to feel overwhelmed or give in to the lack of energy, or to feel ‘frazzled’ that I can’t keep up with things at home what with working full time and feeling a little less than my best at the moment. Some people have holidays coming up at this time of the year, but as I haven’t got anything in the diary just yet, the planning gives me those similar kind of happy ‘vibes’ and something other than the day to day routine to put my attention and focus into.

Do you ever find that planning even the simplest of things, trying to make something special out of the ‘ordinary’ helps to keep you in a positive and healthy frame of mind? I think the process of doing a little bit at a time with the build up to something, even if it’s a weekend of restfulness, is quite special, particularly after the Christmas and festive season for which there was the lovely build up and collective nostalgic feeling which with the season has now passed.

Therefore, I’m inviting you to journey on planning a restful retreat one step at a time, easy does it, no stress, more rest! If you like, please join in and carve out your own little pockets of rest this month. xx

woman in white tank top lying on gray bed
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Revisiting Rest…

I had a pretty great start to the year with a successful and productive January. However, February so far has seen me feeling not quite my best, and struggling a bit with it.

In January I managed to re-establish a work routine, keep in touch with my family, blog consistently, exercise, meal-prep healthy meals, get back into reading regularly, meet up with friends, go to live music events, go out to dinner, persevere with spiritual pursuits and maintain my home.

The first day of February was pretty great too, despite me feeling a bit drained and tired. I saw a good friend and her baby, after 7 months, so it was a lovely time to catch up and get lots of cuddles from the little one. I know it’s only 5th February, but I have been feeling a bit out of sorts since then, and trying to re-establish some kind of balance.

Initially feeling physically drained and tired, I was unable to keep up with all of the things around the house I wanted to do, which in itself I find a bit frustrating. Added to that I just haven’t had the energy to keep up with healthy habits such as meal prep and exercise, and shopping for healthy food. Oh how nice it would be to have another pair of hands to help out with all the day to day things in life, but I live alone and have to take responsibility for myself. On top of this I’ve been experiencing dizzy spells again, fatigue, restless and sometimes sleepless nights or nights of disturbed sleep, fever, cough / cold and shivers.

My body and mind need a rest, and yet there is so much to do that just isn’t getting done.

I usually like to ‘theme’ my months. It looks like February’s theme requires to be around revisiting rest. Physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally, the signs are there that I am in need of refreshing.

It isn’t quite what I would have had in mind for this month, but needs must, and if we don’t have our health and wellbeing then we can’t fully enjoy what we do have.

Sometimes our bodies and minds let us down be it in big ways or just the smaller frustrations of life and we need to listen to them when they tell us to rest.

And so for February I will be revisiting the idea and theme of rest, in the hope of finding some rejuvenation in the process. Perhaps it will be small steps, but hopefully we will mutually find some encouragement along this journey.

Do you ever try to set a theme for your months or weeks? If so, what is February looking like for you? x

orange cat sleeping on white bed
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The Dream of a Peaceful Mind…

Have you ever seen those pictures in magazines or online, of people relaxing in their ‘dream home’, on their ‘dream holiday’ or with their ‘dream family’ in their ideal ‘dream life’?

We all know they are posed by models, but what kind of image do they present to us? The people invariably look relaxed, peaceful, calm, serene, content or happy.

We look at such pictures and we are only partly taken in by the blissful surroundings. The other thing that resonates with us is how peaceful and calm the people in such pictures look.

Isn’t this part of our dreams for ourselves? We have all experienced situations when we have looked externally to someone or something to make us feel better, happier, calmer or more at peace. Have you also experienced the accompanying disappointment when things don’t quite match up to your ideals? Perhaps the family holiday you planned didn’t turn out quite like the ones in the pictures, and instead you picked up suitcases of stress, frustration and weariness. Maybe that new outfit or piece of clothing made you feel happy for a moment but soon the novelty of it wore off, and it felt old after a while. Maybe escaping by yourself to a quiet place in nature was also accompanied by not so pleasant weather, by insects and other less peaceful aspects of the great outdoors.

Peace of mind and happiness only partly relates to our happenings. When we envisage the life of our dreams, we need to take this into account. Some situations in life are just bad and we need to find a way out of or through them, there’s no doubt about that. However, perhaps we have gone through some tough times or struggles or inconveniences in life and have managed to order our external worlds and yet that hasn’t necessarily brought us the peace of mind that we have been searching for.

One example of this in my own life is when I bought my first flat, moved in, and then had a bit of a breakdown and c-PTSD, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Things like this happen in life sometimes, and even if you are fortunate enough to get through life without any major challenges, you still have your own mind to manage on a day to day basis.

Whatever your journey has been so far, as we step into the new, we all could benefit from greater peace of mind.

This means being aware of the internal reactions we have, and finding a way to manage or overcome some of the more difficult things. It might take a bit of work, but the kind of mental resilience that helps us live more mentally peaceful lives is worth the time, effort and sometimes the tears and facing up to our fears.

It’s an on-going effort for all of us as humans in a world where we suffer, we are faced with ‘information overload’ sometimes, we face stress and challenges, yet as we move through this new year into what we hope to be one where our ‘dreams come true’ let us remind ourselves and each other that this does not depend merely on our circumstances but also on how we think. Is this the year for you to seek help and support to enable you to manage some of the difficult things in your mind? Is it the year to build up on what you have been learning in creating resilience? Is it the year to seek out inspiration? Is it the year to inspire from all that you have learned? Wherever you find yourself, things can be better, your mind can become a calmer and more peaceful place and it is worth putting in the effort daily to make it so. x

 

Have you ever watched the clouds move?

When was the last time you lifted your eyes and watched the clouds drift lazily across the sky? Shadows, darkness and wisps of wonder traverse the skyline, slowly, heavily, lightly, fleeting mists.

When was the last time you looked up, and allowed the gentle pace of the clouds to calm your breathing, and softly nudge your mind to rest?

Have you ever watched the clouds move? Have you ever let them invite you in to a lazy, carefree space within yourself?

I watch the clouds move, and my heart grows calm. The noise of the world seems to dissipate, and all there is is what is in front of me, the moment that I am resting within, swaddled by these wispy, whimsical, gently floating dreams. I don’t see where they go when they move past the corner of my window….where do dreams go as they drift along?

In this vast universe there is a little window of time, of opportunity, of life, your life, and mine….will you slow your heart and mind for a moment to hear it, to experience and to live it, to allow it to deepen the wonder within you?

Have you ever watched the clouds move?

white clouds and blue sky
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Don’t just jump on any train of thought – train your mind instead, and steer your course.

In recovery of any sort, it is absolutely essential that we get a hold of and harness our thoughts if we want to have a successful outcome.

Please bear in mind that I don’t say this at all lightly. Having experienced the nightmare of complex PTSD and severe generalised anxiety disorder and clinical depression, believe me when I say I know how incredibly tough it is to calm those intensely distressing thoughts. Tough, but not impossible.

You need more than muscle or physical endurance to get through a trial or a challenge. You need to set your mind on higher things. Things that are above your pain, above your problems and your circumstances. You need to tell yourself the Truth, and not give in to the despair of lies.

Our thoughts can lead us to all kinds of places. Sometimes those can be incredibly dark places such as low self esteem, depression, fear, phobias, eating disorders, relationship breakdown, self-harm, addiction, obsessions, suicidal ideation and even death. Such negative and intrusive thoughts can affect any of us, and it can be hard to ‘fight them off’. Self pity can lead to anger, bitterness and poor choices. Our thoughts can affect the words we use and our behaviour towards other people. These are certainly not trains of thought that any of us want to get on, but I’m sure that quite a few of us have experience of what it is like to be on such a journey through dark tunnels in our lives.

However, we don’t have to stay on that train. You don’t have to. The longer you are on it, the longer you will hear those ‘announcements’ from inside the carriage, loudly reinforcing that you are headed towards ‘destination nowhere’. Your fellow travellers will be headed in the same direction even if they get off at different stops. And the longer you are on it the more deeply ingrained those messages will become, messages that you may not even realise you are internalising and letting become part of your psyche.

You need to be aware of how detrimental, how devastating and damaging staying with those thoughts can be. They drive deep tracks into your internal processing, how you think of your life, your circumstances and these will inevitably affect not only your mental and emotional health, but your physical health too, as well as the choices you make and how your relationships with other people turn out.

But don’t despair. You are not your thoughts, and you can come back from it. I’m proof, although I’m a work in progress. Many of the negative things, the abusive words that pierced me in childhood became part of my internal processing. I believed the lies, and they damaged me greatly. Childhood is a very vulnerable time when we don’t have much resources or resilience to deal with what comes our way.

As adults, however, we can choose to get off the train and choose a new destination. I’m not saying that positive thinking is the cure to all of our problems, certainly not (as you probably well know, I believe Jesus Christ Is The cure!). However, we need to train ourselves, our thought patterns and develop new ‘tracks’ in our mind.

Think of the physical process of laying down a railway track. It’s a piece by piece effort, and similarly you will need to redesign your thought processes one thought at a time, reinforcing these as you go.

In your recovery you will learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way. You will need to work through things at your own pace. However, it is always helpful if someone can save you some of the heartache by giving you advice and the benefit of experience and hindsight as early as they can for you.

It’s best to decide ahead of time what your ‘go to’ thoughts are going to be, especially in challenging the negative thoughts you have been allowing to become part of your mental make up. You might not even realise that you are doing so. For example, do you allow yourself to dwell on thoughts such as ‘it’s so unfair’ or do you let them drift by and replace them with more productive thoughts such as ‘this isn’t what I would have chosen to happen, but now I have the power to choose what I do with it, and I will choose something productive’.

Thought patterns are so called because of their similarity. It’s unusual to jump from negative thoughts to positive thoughts without intention. For example one negative thought will tend to lead to another, and then another, until ‘tracks’ and ‘grooves’ are formed in our thinking: patterns.

A thought such as ‘it’s so unfair’ could quite easily lead to a stream of other such thoughts, forming a not so beautiful pattern of negativity. ‘It’s so unfair’ can lead to ‘victim thinking’. Whereas as children we may be victims because of our relative powerlessness, as adults, even if our lives are broken, we do have more resources available to us to find a way out. Where we can’t advocate for ourselves, others can, and if we’ve made it into adulthood, we will by default have some ‘tools under our belt’ simply because we have survived this far. We may not feel particularly strong, but we don’t need to be bound by victimhood. We can, at the very least, change our thinking. Victim thinking, such as ‘why me?’, or ‘this always happens to me’ can lead to an apathetic stance, one of ‘giving up’ – ‘what’s the use of trying anyway, nothing ever works out’. I’m not belittling such thoughts because I personally know from experience that they often come from a place of deep hurt but however long the journey of recovery is, we need to begin by acknowledging them for what they are, and then challenging them, followed by replacing them.

Here are some more positive thoughts for you to build upon, and reinforce daily, as you progress and persevere in your recovery over whatever your personal challenge may happen to be:

  • This isn’t what I would have chosen, but I can choose to do something about it.
  • It feels ‘too much’ but the lives of other people who have overcome difficulties testify to the tenacity and strength of the human spirit. If they can do it, I can too.
  • The pain feels too much, but I won’t add to my suffering by thinking negatively about my pain. I will look for the lessons in this tough time and will use them to help other people afterwards, or even while I am in the midst of this.
  • I am grateful to be alive.
  • I appreciate that I can do these (you fill in the blanks) things.
  • I am an overcomer.
  • I am a survivor.
  • I am determined.
  • Nothing is impossible.
  • I will use this difficult experience for good in the world.

 

As with weight lifting, where muscle is built and defined and strengthened over time, it also takes time to grow mentally tough. No one said the process won’t hurt, be challenging, or even gruelling at times, but when you begin to see those mental ‘muscles’ gaining definition and strength, you won’t want to look back, and in time you will want to train other people to be strong and positively minded individuals also. Just imagine what good this can do in the world!

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A mind map

Human beings thrive on narrative. We need things to make sense, and we try to bring order out of chaos through talking things through, discussing them, or compartmentalising them in our minds.

Women perhaps more than men make sense of the world through verbal narrative. Men may be bemused at why women seem to talk things through so much, but what they probably don’t realise if their brains are wired differently is that there is a lot going on socially, emotionally and psychologically through the process of talking about things. By this I of course don’t mean gossip, but if a woman has a problem you may find that her instinctive response is to talk about it, whereas men are more ‘solution – driven’. The verbal narrative helps us to process our thoughts and emotions, make sense of things, find validation and connection as we engage with the person we are talking to and also work through possible solutions without jumping straight in.

Yet regardless of how we approach the narratives of our lives, we all need our stories on some level to make sense. Isn’t this one of the deepest reasons for why we write?

In trauma, a lot of our experiences, memories and sensations simply do not make sense nor do they fit into a ‘timeline’ because these unprocessed parts of our experience, and of us, are up front and in the here and now just as much as they are from the past and we often experience them in the present with great intensity.

Whether or not you’ve experienced trauma, you do have an innate need for reason, logic, the unfolding of a story and for things to make sense. I personally think that’s one part of being human. And so we write, we talk, we listen, we express.

Yet, some of the ways we think actually impact our unfolding narratives. Which is why we need to work on our ‘mind map’ – our own internal mental journey, because this impacts how we move through life.

Regardless of what your experiences have been you can find purpose and meaning in them, even the most difficult, as you gradually reframe them and make them part of something bigger. Seeing the difficulties as chapters in a book for example, and discovering how these form the identity that you are walking into. Look back at my post on superheroes and origin stories for a better idea of what I mean.

The more we are aware of the mental road map we are forging out the more we are able to navigate our way forward with purpose and positivity, taking the difficult things and allowing them to be used for good, for a greater purpose, as part of a bigger narrative.

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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (10) ~ A Summary.

Just in case you need a healthy reminder …. 🙂

Life as it happens to be

1. Keep a list of emergency contacts handy so that you can easily call someone if you need help. Also, phone or reach out to a friend and connect to people face to face when you can even if it’s not an emergency. We all need each other.

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/5446

2. Make an appointment with your doctor and be honest about your mental health struggles – they’re here to help.

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/5451

3. Have a routine.

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/5521

4. Practice your deep breathing technique.

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/5526

5. Practice ‘grounding’ exercises.

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/5537

6. Eat regularly, well and healthily.

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/5581

7. Medication.

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/5588

8. Positive distractions / self-care ‘toolkit’.

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/5594

9. Sleep.

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/129815114/posts/5605

10. Copy this list and keep it somewhere you can easily refer to when you need some help.

https://wordpress.com/post/livingfully2017.wordpress.com/5610

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