I’ve often written about how breaking down a task into its component parts can make it more manageable. This became an absolute necessity for me at a difficult time of my life where various health struggles meant that the smallest task was overwhelming to me and I couldn’t see a way out of the situation as my body and mind were at a point of burn out, exhaustion and in desperate need of repair and recovery.
However, I persevered with the small steps, and I can tell you it has been life changing to approach each day in this way.
I don’t know what you’re facing right now in this rather unexpected year of 2020, but perhaps now that we are in the final third of the year you may be feeling a little weary and wondering ‘what next?’.
No matter where you are at, don’t underestimate the power of small steps, for these can add up to be transformative. Whether the steps you take are in relation to your mental health and emotional wellbeing, physical health, recovery, creating a beautiful home environment, writing a book, accomplishing a task or persevering with your blog, small steps can cumulatively have a life changing effect.
When what you are facing seems insurmountable, and the bigger picture unachievable, create goals and forward steps that are small and manageable and focus on that one thing at a time, and seek enjoyment in it. Little by little, day by day, you will see the improvements.
How do you feel at this point of the year? It’s often a reflective time as the seasons begin to change, as I have written about before, however perhaps all the more so this year with having lived through a pandemic. Are there changes you need to make, or things you need to slow down and take the time to appreciate more or people you need to connect or reconnect with? Have you taken a resigned attitude to the rest of this year or are you willing to take the next small step of setting a new goal for yourself, of giving yourself the permission to take it one small step at a time and enjoy the process and the journey that it takes you on?
Setting a goal is in a way an expression of hope, and perhaps for some of us even of Faith. It means we have more to live for, more to aspire towards, and more to appreciate and give thanks for as we choose to live rather than merely exist.
Maybe today is the day for you to look around you, at your life, and however big or modest your vision is, take that next one small step, keep going, and see where the journey leads as you keep moving forwards. x
*Get moving and stay in training*.
Have you noticed that as we are now in a form of ‘lockdown’ in the midst of this pandemic, people are beginning to take notice of things they may have once taken for granted? There are the obvious big things, like life itself, health, being able to draw the next breath. Yet there are also other things that we might begin to notice more: nature, the colour of the sky, the freedom we once had to be able to go outside without the level of fear or apprehension we now face.
Maybe what you miss is being able to go out for a walk, a run, or just the natural flow of movements you make throughout the day as you go from place to place.
During this ‘lockdown’, movement and physical activity will have a direct impact upon how well you cope with being indoors most of the time. It’s important, regardless of your level of physical fitness, to get moving and stay in training. You might be an athlete, or you might be mostly sedentary, or like me, you might be somewhere nearer the middle of that spectrum. Even if you can’t go outside, try to establish a routine where you will be moving and exercising at least 3 times a week, if you can’t manage everyday. This could be something as simple as some basic stretches to begin with, or some seated exercises and low intensity movements if you don’t feel you can manage much, but the important thing is to do things regularly, even if a very little at a time, depending on your fitness. Don’t put pressure on yourself, but remember that the endorphins produced when you get moving will help you to (a) feel better (b) have a more positive outlook (c) manage your emotions and stress responses (d) help you to manage and regulate physical and psychological pain.
So even if you feel you can do very little to begin with, do that little bit, and keep going. It will help you to build up both your physical and mental / emotional resilience.
Feel free to comment on your exercise of choice to inspire and encourage other people.
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
If like me you’ve suffered from health struggles over the years, then you know how valuable good health is. Thankfully I have persevered through these challenges and am now in a much better and healthier place, yet I know it’s not something to take for granted. Being healthy physically necessarily affects almost all aspects of our lives from our mental and emotional health to our mood, energy and activity levels, as well as our general outlook on life.
Wherever you are in terms of your health, you can improve your wellbeing. Perhaps you face major health challenges, which require specialist support, and I hope and pray you find all the help that you need. Yet we all on a daily basis need to think about two aspects of our health and wellbeing: nutrition and activity.
Good health isn’t maintained by accident. It takes thought, time and planning. And it starts with a single step, so don’t be discouraged if this feels ‘too much’ for you for where you are now. Make a start and keep going.
What we put into our bodies impacts our quality of life. Isn’t that a sobering thought? Often we get so busy we just do what is convenient and this has often been the case for me. However, yesterday I took a small step, that has set me up for a week of healthy eating, stress free: I meal-prepped! This is something that I used to do more regularly but fell out of the habit of. Although it takes possibly half a day of time, effort and preparation, it takes the stress off you for the rest of the week. You’ll be far less likely to make unhealthy choices because you’ve made healthy choices ahead of time. You’ll have less decisions to make and you’ll have more free time to use for other things because you won’t have to think about preparing a meal each day.
I won’t offer particular advice on what to eat, as that can be very personal. However, I can only recommend eating as many healthy, non-processed, natural foods such as fruit and vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds and plant based food.
Wherever you are, if you dream of a ‘healthier you’ this year, try taking this small step of preparing your meals ahead of time and even if you can’t do this every week to start off with, at least it will improve your intake of healthy food somewhat. Make some small and healthy changes, and keep going with them until they become part and parcel of your routine. I’ve started but need to continue, so let’s keep each other going!
Have a happy, healthy and blessed day and look after your health, it is of more worth than you know. x
Life can leave us feeling crushed sometimes. Disappointment after disappointment can pile upon our fragile hearts so much so that we begin to lose hope. Discouragement can sometimes be worse that what we are afflicted by because when discouragement sets in, as I well know, we lose faith that things will get better for us.
Can anybody relate to this?
Whatever you may be going through right now in life, if you have ‘serendipitously’ (or purposefully) stumbled across this post, I want to plant some words of encouragement in your heart and mind.
I know what it is to be crushed. To watch other people’s lives progressing, sometimes almost seamlessly, while feeling I am face down in the dust, having to get up over and over, punch after punch, hard knock after hard knock.
If you can relate to this, whether that be because of ill health, chronic pain, mental distress, family breakdown, hurt, pain, abuse, loss, loneliness, divorce, bereavement, self-hatred, addiction or whatever other of the many things you might be facing in this broken world, then listen up, my friends.
When we feel crushed, it can feel so very personal on so many levels. Our spirits and hearts may be crushed, and our minds feel ‘broken’ and we’ve all but lost hope. It seems far too great a leap to even think that things can get better for us sometimes, don’t you think?
This is precisely where we need to start to gently and gradually work towards a vision for our recovery. As unbelievable as it may feel or seem to you right now, it matters so much.
How can you do this?
Faith. The Rock on which I stand and on which my Life is built, is and always will be Jesus Christ, so in the first instance I will point you to look to Him in your desperation and to call out to Him – He not only knows what to do, but He knows you personally, having woven your substance into being, giving you the breath of life, and He not only knows what to do, but He also has the power and ability to heal you, restore you, and give you a purpose to use your pain for good. Ask Him, however feebly, to Help you.
2. Inspiration. Regardless of where you stand in relation to my first point, this second one will help you to bridge the mental and emotional gap between where you are now and where you believe you can be. It is quite simply to find living examples of people who have defeated the odds, and to listen to their stories, to watch their videos, to read their books or blogs, to talk to them in person. This really helped me in a dark and difficult time in my life when I was diagnosed with c-PTSD.
One person I found a great deal of inspiration and courage from was and is Katie Piper. In her early twenties she was a young, attractive, blonde, outgoing woman, interested in a life as a TV presenter and she was also involved in modelling. Her career was built around her looks and her bubbly personality. She unfortunately got into an unhealthy short-term relationship and when she realised there were ‘red flags’ with this person and called things off, he retaliated. First she went through horrendous physical attacks by this man, who also raped her. Then he set her up by getting a friend of his to pour acid on her face. She was covered in severe burns from head to toe, and when her parents saw her in the hospital they couldn’t recognise their daughter because she was so severely disfigured. It was a world away from the world which she had once known and any hopes and dreams of her former career and life were instantly burned up with that acid. She couldn’t walk, talk, eat, was in excruciating pain and wanted to die. She now has gone through years of intensive burns treatment, is a writer, has published books about her experiences, set up a burns charity and foundation with the doctor who treated her, thereby helping countless others, has been involved in documentaries helping other survivors, and is now happily married, a wife, mother of two lovely daughters, has her independence again (after being terrified to leave her house) and appears on TV, radio, awards ceremonies and helps other people, as well as now branching out into other roles that have nothing directly to do with her ‘survival story’.
I find this incredible, because at her lowest Katie had all but completely given up. I read her biographies and watched her videos, because to me it seemed far ‘worse’ than anything I had ever gone through. This is not a call to ‘compare’ traumas, because we can’t really do that, pain is pain at the end of the day, but it helped me to have someone to look up to through her writings, almost like a ‘big sister’, and also because her story was so far removed from mine it wasn’t ‘triggering’ in the way other sources that I turned to were. I previously obsessively watched YouTube videos on bullying, bullycide and these negatively affected me because they were my experiences. But looking to other people who made it through their different tough times I was able to find inspiration and motivation. If they could go through all that and make it through then I could surely get through my ‘stuff’. Another person I found encouraging was Nick Vuijicic. I won’t go into his story here because you’ll understand my point of looking to people who haven’t given up and whose lives have the power to inspire your own recovery journey, but look him up.
The amazing thing is you’ll find so many more people whose lives testify to the tenacity of the human spirit, the determination to survive, and then to find ways to thrive, using those adverse experiences and pain in a transformative way, many touched and carried by the Grace of God, and seeing His touch in their lives. People, who like us become more outward facing, as they challenge the pain that draws them in and under, and defy it. People whose compassion is real because they, we, have gone through our own stuff too.
Find your people. They may surprisingly be closer than you think, because everyone has a story to tell. They might be famous people, or they may be the person you see every day but have no idea that they’ve themselves ‘overcome the odds’. Other people don’t necessarily see me, or you, or know our stories. They may think it’s all been plain sailing, but it has not. Similarly, there may be stories, lives of hope all around you. When you find them, if they are in that place where they want to share with you, listen carefully, attentively, and let that hope encourage you as you take your next steps forward, as you simply breathe your next breath.
3. Your future self. As you begin to dwell in the realm of possibility, inspired and encouraged by faith, and by seeing and hearing about the lives of real life people who didn’t let their circumstances defeat them, start to envision your own recovery. Who do you want to be on the other side of this? Forget the impossible, which is to say, forget that anything is impossible, it only seems to be.
So you can’t get out of bed in the morning. I couldn’t either. Your vision doesn’t need to be bound by that: what do you want to be on the other side of this challenge? A blogger, a writer, a motivational speaker, a mentor, a compassionate friend, someone who listens, someone who inspires? Be specific if you can. Do you see yourself in front of a group of people who are suffering, telling them how you did it, and that they can too?
Your vision is yours. As you think about these things, you switch the pathways that are focusing on your pain, on your ‘prison’, to focusing on your possibilities.
‘Neurons that fire together wire together’, so be aware of the thought patterns that you are allowing to keep you down or help you up. Keep thinking of the possible and you will overcome the prison of your pain.
Creativity has been a great natural pain reliever for me, because of where it allows my mind to go, and the new neurological pathways that form and get strengthened. It isn’t an easy or a quick road, or way out, but it is a healthy way out and forward and I can’t even believe how much of a difference it has made in my life. Because it takes me away from the suffering, even momently, into a different mental, emotional, and neurological and psychological space. Keep building up your creative outlets, focus your mind on what can be built rather than what is broken, and you will find some soothing in that.
5. Your People
Times may get tough. You’ll need people on your side, cheering for you, motivating you, listening to you or being there when you break down. I have had some really special people on my side, and now it is my turn to be there for others. Find someone, find a group of people, and if you don’t have anyone in your friends or family to be those people, know that there are groups, helplines, charities and networks you can reach out to. In my deep times of PTSD and depression when I felt it was too much for me to keep burdening friends and family although they were always there for me, I turned to helplines and found encouragement there, even if for a moment, and that is what they are there for, to help you through, to help you now. You’re not meant to do this all on your own, so find your people, and believe that one day you will become that person to someone too so don’t feel ‘guilty’ for reaching out and accepting help – we’re all human and we all need that human touch and support. Accept their help and appreciate them. Your turn to reach out and give back will come in due course.
Listen to inspiring, motivational music, find your ‘fight song’, the one that gets you up, keeps you going. Mine, which I still listen to almost every day is ‘Overcomer’ by Mandissa. I like the video that goes along with it because it shows real people, real overcomers. What you allow in to your mind will be shaping what you think about your identity and the possibilities, so make sure it is positive, truthful and going to help you forwards, rather than keep you focused inwards on the pain and suffering. You’re an overcomer.
Gratitude is a far more powerful force than people give it credit for. Suffering will lead you to a greater appreciation of the things most people take for granted – the very ability to breathe your next breath in life. To do the simplest of things, this takes on a new meaning, a new value. Be grateful for the ‘small victories’ for they really aren’t that small at all. I can’t tell you how it felt that I could not move my body or do the smallest of things without feeling like my mind was exploding in a nightmare, depression meant I could barely function it was a massive achievement for me to merely feed myself, to wash a cup, and yet I’ve somehow maintained a full time job, done well and I’m out and about traveling and meeting friends again when I was terrified to leave the house before. Taking a spoonful of food might be our greatest achievement in a particular day. Sleeping through the night an incredible feat. Going to your next appointment. Tying your shoelaces. Brushing your hair when your hands are crippled with pain. Remembering to take your medication. Staying alive. These ‘small things’ can be massive, so appreciate them, and appreciate the many blessings you have.
There is so much on your side, your Creator is with you and for you, people who care for you are propelling you on, there is so much motivation in the lives of others who have made it through. You might feel like giving up right now, like it is an impossibility, but take heart, and simply take that next breath.
January is a good time to be gentle with ourselves. It’s a time when we are emerging out of ‘hibernation’ and yet are also faced with expectations to be all things new and all at once. That’s not reasonable nor practical nor altogether healthy for us if we’re honest with ourselves.
It’s a great idea to re-evaluate our lives and set new goals, however, the idea of being able to ‘hit the ground running’ on January 1st isn’t particularly helpful. I find that incremental changes over time are far more sustainable in the long run: ‘slow and steady wins the race’.
However, that’s not to say that it isn’t a particularly good time to use the idea of a new year and a new start to boost our motivation, but the way in which we do that doesn’t need to be in a flurry of activity.
So, feel free to pace yourself as you continue to journey through January.
For many of us, the first changes stem from perhaps going back home after spending time with family over Christmas, or saying goodbye to family if they have stayed with us. Others may not have to move or say goodbye or make any such changes, but the chances are that you will have to start tidying up and reorganising after the festive period. I don’t put any pressure on myself to do this in the first week of January as I like to gradually and gently say goodbye to that holiday feeling and savour the happy moments of it as I do. What’s the rush after all?
After that, we face the next challenge of remembering to get out of bed in the morning and go to work, while also remembering that it’s not socially acceptable to wear pyjamas all day or to take a nap in the afternoon – at least not in normal working life!
Our bodies are still adjusting to the changes in our sleep patterns, our diets and our activity levels. Which is why it’s a good idea like I said at the start of this post to be gentle with ourselves. Don’t expect that you will make and keep many drastic changes from ‘day 1’, that’s too much pressure. Maybe you thrive under that kind of pressure, and I suppose that’s ok, but if you don’t then don’t add to your anxiety by self-imposed and non-essential demands. Things take time, life takes time, so….take your time.
Perhaps it is a good idea to set ‘weekly goals’ in January rather than try to ‘attack’ a whole host of new year resolutions all at once. For example the first week could be simply going to work, with no other added expectations other than whatever else needs to be done to get you through your daily routine.
After that, perhaps the following week you will be more energised to begin to really ‘get going’ or to focus on another area of your routine such as addressing your sleep habits and your morning and evening routines. Your body will gradually adjust as you go at a gentle pace. Maybe in week three you can attend to the tidying up, the seeing people or the other things that you want to focus on.
As we are gentle with ourselves and accept that things take time and change is often most beneficial in the long term when it is gradual, consistent and sustained, then we will in good time find that boost of motivation to stride confidently into and through this new year.
A beautiful analogy of life is winter. The latter seasons of the year one might compare with the changing tones and mood of life as one ages. As with a carefree youth and young adulthood, the beginning of the year is often filled and overflowing with doing things, getting things done, making plans, achieving, going places, exploring, dreaming, figuring things out, seeing the world, and finding one’s passion. How many of us look upon January as a fresh new start, and begin dreaming of and planning for the wonderful adventures in the year ahead? However, as time moves on, and the year draws to a close, as things mature, and aspects of life fall away, the mood becomes somewhat more pensive, more reflective, a time for thinking, for evaluating, for finding meaning, for ‘taking stock’.
The winter months provide a perfect opportunity for ‘taking stock’ in a number of ways. It is a good time to consider how you have spent the past year, whether you used your time wisely, faced your challenges bravely, have grown in character, have shown love, lived out your purpose and made the world a little kinder than before. It is also a good time to ‘rest and be thankful’, and to think upon our individual journey through life, our faith, our personal beliefs and whether we have found the answers we have been searching for, whether indeed we have been asking the right questions of our short lives on earth in the first place (questions which yield answers of eternal significance), whether we have to ‘dig a bit deeper’, or whether we have been ‘frittering our time away’ and wasting the gifts, talent and time given to us. These deep things are definitely a reason to pause for thought.
However, on a much lighter and more practical note, this time of year is also a good opportunity for taking stock of the day to day things of our lives. Perhaps thinking about these practical things is more to your liking, so here are some suggestions of where you could start.
Take stock of what you have at home, what you need to let go of, and what you need to stock up on.
For example, do you have the things you need to see you through this season? Things such as medicines, cough and cold supplies, a stock of food in your pantry including all of those helpful non-perishable items, toiletries, first aid kits, warm clothes, and so forth?
Before going out and buying all of the things you need for winter time, have a look through what you have already got and make the best use of those items. As my Mum still tells me, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” (Wise words, thanks Mum! 🙂 x ).
Similarly, if you have more than you need, or have gone through the year not using what you have such as clothes, then consider donating some of these items to people who will get good use out of them. This is something that I keep meaning to do, but need to actually put into action this year. If I’m not using it, shouldn’t I give someone else the chance to?
Having taken stock of what we have, what we can let go of, and what we need, it’s a good time to ‘stock up’ for the winter – especially for those cold nights when you don’t feel like going out to get something from the shops, having something at hand comes in very useful!
So over to you – what are the types of things you are taking stock of this winter season, whether practical or more in terms of your values and life journey? Do you have any hints and tips to share with the rest of us?
I feel that God Is working on healing the deep things in me, an ongoing perhaps lifelong process, and that now His Love is gradually enlarging my heart.
Whenever I see a new ‘follower’, or one of you liking my posts, my heart is touched to know that He Is using the painful things in my life, and turning them around, to hopefully encourage, inspire or help other people.
His Love Is at work in my heart and I am seeing this less as a part in my healing journey and more so in feeling somewhat awed to know that there are people, real people, you in this same country, and you on the other side of the world who might have their burdens eased a bit in their day. And that means so much to me. Not just because of the significance of it in my personal journey, but because of God’s Pure Love at work in my heart.
Is it possible to love people I may never meet? Is it possible to care so much about your wellbeing from the other side of a computer? I think it is really beginning to mean much more to me. That’s what you mean to me. People precious to and loved by God, and so He Is pouring His Love for you into my heart.
It touches me to know that you might find some comfort from this little blog, and I will seek and pray for His will to show me how to be an encourager, how to care for those He loves, how to help you when you are down and how to be a friend, albeit behind a computer screen, when you feel alone or in need of some advice on moving forwards.
I write a lot about a lot of different things from creativity, lifestyle, mental health, depression, faith, anxiety, and encouragement to name a few things. I write a lot from experience, so it is authentic, raw and real. If there are any things you would like me to write more about that might help you, please do comment and let me know.
Everyone needs compassion, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.
My love and prayers go out to each and every one of you. x