Tag Archives: Mind

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!

photo of railway on mountain near houses
Photo by SenuScape on Pexels.com
man and woman holding battle ropes
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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.

man wearing black cap with eyes closed under cloudy sky
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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

person hands woman pen Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

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

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

person hands woman pen
Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (9).

Sleep it off: sometimes we really need the chance to rest our bodies and our minds. If you have tried the other tips, maybe you could try to get some sleep. Make sure that you have eaten well and maybe have a warm drink and then giver yourself some rest and the chance to heal.

close up photography of woman sleeping
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (8).

Positive Distractions: Create a self-care ‘toolkit’ or list of your favourite things that you can go to that will serve as positive and healthy distractions when your mind is not in a good place.

Some ideas below:

  • Something tactile, soft and comforting, like a cosy blanket, a soft toy, etc.
  • A colouring book, pens and pencils.
  • Arts and crafts materials such as paper, card, stickers, pens.
  • Beautiful pictures or postcards of calming scenes such as nature scenery, animals, or photos of friends and loved ones that don’t ‘trigger’ you but only bring about positive and helpful emotions.
  • Some mood lifting songs.
  • A journal where you can write out and express your thoughts.
  • A book of puzzles or mind teaser computer games such as cards or word games (avoid anything with too much noise, visual stimuli or emotional content).
  • A favourite or sentimental object that makes you feel happy.
  • A stress ball, children’s play dough, slime or putty, that feels relaxing when you hold it.
  • A book of beautiful pictures.
  • A bar of your favourite chocolate, dark chocolate is good for you (in moderation like everything of course) so if you like that maybe you can choose a bar of dark chocolate.
  • Some calming scents, such as a fragrant wax lavender candle, something that gives of a calming aroma without you having to light it, some essential oils which you can also get in the form of a room spray, lightly scented hand cream, etc.
  • Herbal teas.
  • A book to ‘doodle’ and draw in.
  • Cosy socks / slippers.
  • A cosy cardigan or jumper.
  • Stencils to create patterns.
  • A favourite book that has a positive message.
  • A DVD of your favourite film – preferably something uplifting or light-hearted like a comedy.
  • Audiobooks (that will not be ‘triggering’ for you).
  • Encouraging, inspiring and uplifting podcasts, Ted Talks, etc.
  • Anything else that you know will help, calm and soothe you in those difficult moments.
multi colored pen
Photo by Maria Georgieva on Pexels.com

 

A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (4).

Breathing technique: to help with anxiety or panic, practice breathing well to calm your nervous system and stress (fight / flight) response. Breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 4, and exhale slowly and deeply through your mouth for a count of 5. Allow your belly to rise on the in-breath, and to ‘deflate’ when you exhale. Repeat as often as required. Practice this even when you are not feeling anxious as it will help ‘reset’ your system from some of the stress responses you have been used to.

side view photo of woman with her eyes closed holding her her as sunlight shines on her face
Photo by Ingrid Santana on Pexels.com

A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (3).

As much as possible, try to stick to a routine, or have a routine or plan written down to fall back upon. This will help you if things get mentally foggy, confusing or overwhelming for you. Ask for help if you need to create a plan or routine and take small steps to stay well.

man wearing black crew neck shirt and black jeans
Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com