One of the lovely things about moving away from the city for a while, at least during the pandemic, is that I have a view of trees and my parents’ garden (in the city, it was a bit of a rigmarole leaving my 10th floor flat simply to step outside – you know the drill: facemask, hand sanitiser, stress of being around people, etc! I can’t tell you how much I missed just going for a walk in the park and seeing squirrels – now I can watch a little squirrel at play among the leaves most days, and it makes my heart happy to see, rather than to feel that bit ‘cut off’ from nature while I was in my flat).
It is a very blustery day today, the autumn leaves have changed from vibrant oranges and yellows to dry and crumpled (still somewhat golden) browns. The trees are daily being stripped of their leaves now by the wind and rain.
However, one source of delight, especially for my mum has been a vibrant red acer tree in the front garden. Knowing that the season of autumnal fullness is passing, she has been enjoying gathering its fallen leaves to press at home.
I took the opportunity to capture their natural beauty, so I hope in these dark and difficult days of 2020 they bring at least a glimpse of colour and happiness into your day.
And mum, this is especially for you, with Love ❤ x
Feeling overwhelmed in life is not unusual considering the generally busy lifestyles that many people lead. There are so many things ‘to do’, so many tasks to tick off, so many people and plans and projects to keep up with.
Yet even in the pandemic, and perhaps especially more so, with a change in the pace of our lives, there is still a likelihood that some of you reading this will be feeling overwhelmed.
There are different issues to think of in new and developing contexts whether these contexts involve public health risks, political unrest, a change to our daily routine, isolation, job and financial instability, and so forth.
Even if these things haven’t impacted you too much, there is still the chance that you put pressure on yourself to use the ‘extra time’ to achieve so many goals, do more things, or become better at others. Another common concern that seems to be cropping up is around body image and weight gain (or loss), which is unsurprising given the way many of us respond in times of stress by either comfort eating or forgetting to eat! You may want to make a change in this area of your life.
Which leads me to the point of this post on self care in a pandemic, namely whatever positive or productive changes you need or want to make in your life, don’t forget that you can only (and only need to) live out one day at a time on this journey.
I like to plan, there’s something reassuring about the creative processes I use in putting pen to paper and bringing clarity to my thoughts as I make sense of my day, and the weeks and months ahead. Yet, we all know, and have learned especially this year, that we cannot put all of our hopes or trust in our plans. A year ago, none of us would have known, expected or thought about a year like 2020, we don’t know what the next day or week will bring, and therefore as you move towards making changes in your life, be they to take better care of your body or mind, to use your time wisely, to learn something new, to maintain your home, to do your job well, to move towards greater financial ‘stability’, to invest time and attention in your relationships, to have a better balance in your day to day life, to be less stressed, to give up bad habits, to encourage others, to read more, pray more, live well, whatever it may be, give yourself the permission to do things incrementally, with care and thought.
When we feel overwhelmed, it is important to maintain a healthy balance between our visions of the ‘bigger picture’ and the small, time bound manageable ‘chunks’ of tasks that we need to do, bit by bit, step by step, little by little to get there.
It’s ok to make incremental changes….after all, isn’t that how most change starts to be made?
Don’t compare yourself with other people, and don’t add pressure to your life and mind with negative self talk over how far you have to go.
Take this moment, look up with faith, have an idea of what you want or need to do that will be beneficial, and simply take that one small next step, make an incremental change, and keep going….
It’s autumn / fall season once again, and right now I have a beautiful view of auburn, orange, red, gold and green leafy trees. I am delighted, now that I am out of the city once more, to be able to watch squirrels scamper in my parents’ garden, to see magpies and a garden fox and to hear birdsong. In the city where I usually live, there are plenty of parks and green spaces, but in order to get to them I have to walk through the city, cross traffic and share the space once there with other people. In this pandemic year, it is a welcome relief to have some quiet space, to simply be able to look out the window and see trees and birds without having to go anywhere to enjoy such a peaceful autumnal scene. I find that watching the leaves gently shiver and the branches sway in the breeze calms my mind somewhat.
Yet, we may face seasons in our lives when our surroundings are not conducive to rest, whether because of other people, circumstances, stressors or events. Further still, we may also experience times where regardless of whether our external environments are peaceful or problematic, our own psychological processes cause us pain.
I am well versed with such struggles. I know that a troubled mind is not necessarily calmed by peaceful surroundings, and I also know that in difficult circumstances we may find a resilience to overcome the odds and challenges that we may not have realised, despite the suffering that may bring us to such a realisation.
Whatever situation you find yourself in presently, it is important to consider your thoughts. I have written many articles on this previously so if you are interested please browse my blog if you need encouragement with your thoughts, mental health and well being.
This year has been a lot to process. If like me you’ve ever experienced times of ‘burn out’, you’ll know the awful feelings of stress, anxiety and heightened fight-flight-freeze responses that living in a reactive state to your circumstances can bring.
When we’re always on the go, always wound up, battling racing thoughts and constantly on survival mode, then our bodies react with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and this can take a toll on our long term physical, mental, psychological and emotional health if left unchecked.
That’s why it is so important to have a way to process your thoughts and experiences in a healthy way.
To do this, you need to try to carve out time and space for yourself where you are not simply absorbing information (as we explored in my previous post), and where you can be still and allow your mind to try to make sense of whatever is going on with you.
It can be hard to know where to start, which is why I will explore this topic further in subsequent posts, but a good starting point is to begin with an awareness of the importance to give your mind space and time away from the noise in order to rest, reflect, process and organise as well as to heal from stress, traumas and such like.
Maybe you can start by thinking about whether this is important to you, and if not, why not? If you are not taking care of your mind, then perhaps you should be because your mind matters – you matter.
Set aside some time today, even if just a minute to begin with, to quieten your thoughts, focus on your breathing, and to become aware of what is bothering you or causing you stress or anxiety, or to simply enjoy the peace of the moment you are in.
I will follow this post up with one on the benefits of journaling as a way of processing your thoughts, so for the meantime, remind yourself of the importance of looking after your mind and your mental health as a crucial part of self care in the pandemic, and together we will explore more practical steps as to how to take this forwards.
We may all have had very different experiences of this year, but one thing we all share in common is that we’re all living through a pandemic. For most of us below a certain age, we’ve never experienced anything like this on a global scale before, and for those who have perhaps lived through wars, it may not be the first time you have experienced the world shaken on this kind of scale.
No matter who you are, or where you live, or what you’ve been going through this year, I somehow feel close enough to reach you through the internet, as we share the experience of living in a changed world.
I have been praying for ways to help other people, and I feel that using the gifts and skills I already have is a good place to start. That being said, while in previous autumn seasons I have written series’ of blog posts on surviving the winter, and there are many encouraging past posts that you can dig into in my archives, this year I want to write a series to help those of you who read my blog to continue positively through life in this pandemic. I feel a glow and a warmth in my heart as I write, as if I could just reach out with love and encouragement to touch your life in some way. Perhaps we could sit down together as I write and you read, over a cup of coffee or tea and share our thoughts and our hearts in our shared humanity.
Mental health is of such importance, and perhaps especially so when our worlds are turned upside down. We all need hope. In the United Kingdom, during the height of the pandemic in the first part of this year, children started drawing, colouring and displaying all sorts of creative expressions of rainbows as a symbol of hope, and also as a way of saying thanks to our dedicated National Health Service.
During a time of fear, uncertainty and change for the whole nation, when people were increasingly cut off and isolated from friends, family, neighbours, loved ones, and even strangers, these emblems became signs of hope across the country as they were displayed in windows and on banners.
We all need hope. Maybe you are reading this and things are going well. Even so, surely there have been times in your life in the past, and there may well be times in the future when you have needed or will need hope. Life is full of ups and downs, uncertainties, blue skies and grey clouds. And we all need hope.
Just now it is the autumn season, or ‘fall’ if you like. Even as things in the natural world around me begin to fall away, decay and die in order to give way to new life, there is something heart touching and encouraging about the vibrancy of red and orange leaves and the beauty of this changing season. There is something hopeful even in this fleeting season about the beauty that blossoms and even as it fades away, we have the hope of spring, of new days, new life.
If you are facing dark, depressing times of grief, instability, loneliness, loss or fear, what do you cling onto for hope? There are different types of hope, I think. There are the little things we look forward to in our daily lives, small, tangible things that we sometimes turn to to make us feel better, but we know that these are momentary and will not sustain us through life. Perhaps we look with hope to better times, or we plan good things into our calendars as restricted as they are for the moment.
For me, I need a hope that will help me to weather the storms of this life, no matter how tempestuous they have been. I need an anchor for my soul. I need a hope that is deeper and higher and stronger than everything in this world, in this life, and something that my very soul can lean into and never be let down by.
I have had years of searching for this hope. Glimmers and flickers of faith kept me going through dark times in my life as I was growing up, and felt that there was no hope because life felt so bad for me. Yet, having pressed on through those tests and trials I was left still with uncertainty, anxiety and fear. It wasn’t enough to have this nebulous, ethereal ‘hope’ of something I wasn’t quite sure of.
Now I have a hope that does not disappoint. My Hope will hold me through life, through the passage through death and into eternal life. My Hope is for the big things and little things I may face, for times of mental struggle, for uncertain world events, for changing relationships, for loneliness, for everything. My Hope Is sure and certain, faithful and unfailing, and holds me with the Strongest and most Gentle Love a human soul could ever need. My Hope Is a Person, The Living God, Jesus Christ, and no matter what I go through, He Is with me, He Is Faithful, and He will hold me through it all and let me know that I am Loved and that this world as uncertain as it may be will never quench His Unfathomable Love for me.
What are you looking to for Hope in these uncertain times? What helps you get through the day? Who can you turn to for support or encouragement? What keeps you taking the next step?
If you are in any doubt that you can make it through, if you feel hopeless, then know that it is no coincidence that you are reading these words right now. This Love Is for you. You are Loved, you just need to call out in hope, in faith and ask for help and hope, for forgiveness, for rescue in your time of need….in such a time as this, right now.
You are meant to be here. You are meant to keep going. You are meant to live. Never give up. While it may seem stormy today, remember the rainbows of hope, for the sun will shine again, and colours will fill the sky, and if you are willing to let True Love in, The Light of Jesus Christ will save you and fill your soul.
I realise that I started blogging about my autumn home décor ‘makeover’ as it were (just simple changes for these beautiful autumnal seasons), but I haven’t got around to posting the updated pictures, so if you read those posts, you will just have been left with the ‘mess’ and the aim to transition from one season to the next in my home.
Sorry about that, friends! 🙂 Coming soon….I’ll hopefully post some updated pics and ideas before Christmas comes around and it’s time for another change! I’ll try to do my autumnal home update this week…!
Last week I wrote about how I went for the first time to a little place where you can paint pieces of pottery. This was a birthday treat from my mum, and we had an enjoyable ‘crafternoon’ getting creative and a little messy (or at least I was messy, with paint all over my hands!) painting pottery.
It was the first time I had done something quite like this, but it was a blast. Not only did I have a blast, but our pottery did too. It was dipped in some kind of a green glaze (all you potterers out there will know the technical terms for these things, I’m just a ‘newbie’) and then put in the heat of a kiln, and after a week it was ready for me to come and collect.
Here is how it turned out. Just my first ever attempt so hopefully if I have another go I can learn more about technique and do something a bit better. But it is full of fun and happy memories.
So a little piece of encouragement from a little piece of pottery – if in your life you find that the heat is up, the pressure is on and you’re in a ‘fiery furnace’ – stay strong, endure, persevere and let it pass – you might find that you emerge on the other side, stronger, shinier, more vibrant with your true colours radiating brightly for all to enjoy. Be encouraged, friends! 🙂
Life in the adult world can be stressful at times. Goodness, life as a teenager and even as a child can be filled with challenges, depending on one’s circumstances and disposition. Today, however, I had the good pleasure of spending the afternoon with my little God-daughter, and my friend who is her mum who I have known since university days before her two children were born. We were belatedly celebrating her 10th birthday at the same place I took her to the previous year. Her choice, so I know she liked it.
Last month she had her birthday celebrations with friends and family, and today I got to celebrate with her, and be reminded to smile at all of the things a happy child has going on in her little world.
As adults our problems come and go, we stress and worry, we make big decisions. But today, this little one’s decisions featured around whether to choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream (in the end, she went for a scoop of both, in a big wafer cone, and couldn’t finish it although it clearly tasted amazing!); how to wipe all of the ice cream off her face; which toy, toys or outfit to buy with her £20.00 that she brought with her; and best of all hoping for things to work out as she desired – think of what our hopes are as adults, what do we really want to happen, and then contrast it with this little girl’s hopes for the day – she hoped and hoped that it would rain! Not because there is any shortage of rain here, it rains frequently…too frequently most would say – but because one of her birthday presents that she brought with her on today’s outing was an ‘umbrella hat’…basically this is the top of an umbrella (multicoloured of course! think rainbow, or ‘Skittles’, a different colour in each ‘segment’), with an elastic headband attached, and just the right size to fit over a child’s head! 🙂 It did rain, and it was splendid. She wore her little umbrella hat with pride, and when we were indoors again she didn’t take it off until absolutely necessary, and she didn’t have a care in the world about what anyone else might think, as she was oblivious to that notion – for her the hat was just what everyone needed, and she was the only little girl around, and the only person around who was wearing one!
Imagine for a moment living life that way. Enjoying the ice-cream, spending a long time playing with toys in a big toy shop, unable to decide what to buy, and in the end not buying anything from the shop at all, of hoping that it will rain so that you can wear your one of a kind rainbow umbrella hat! Yes, I know, life isn’t that simple for us adults, but don’t you think that sometimes we make it far too complicated for our own good?
Why don’t we think of our favourite things more often, things that don’t cost the earth, that don’t have to be worthy of taking pictures of, but just to enjoy those simple, fun and happy things that for a child make life worth living? Today might be a good day to try out that umbrella hat for yourself, or to enjoy the ice-cream and not worry about getting chocolate on your face! Keep smiling 🙂 x