Tag Archives: plan

Self Care In A Pandemic (74): Give Your Brain Some Direction…

Have you ever watched the film ‘Castaway’ with Tom Hanks when his character is stranded on a desert island, after a plane crash and being washed up on shore?

It’s a psychologically intriguing film and I think on some level we can all find some sense of human connection with various themes in the film. Like all good plots, from my point of view, there is a transformation story within it and as viewers we can see the physical and psychological changes that take place, firstly in the shock of the situation to someone who is totally out of their element, then to their resourcefulness and resilience in survival and then after being rescued and coming back to ‘civilization’ the strange disconnect and having to relearn what it is to be part of a community and in a totally different environment from that desert island.

I’m not saying that we’re in a situation similar to that by any means, but many of us have had to go through things in our lives that have tested or continue to test our mental, emotional and psychological resilience and adaptability. Some among us, myself included have had to overcome and are still overcoming remnants of complex PTSD pre-pandemic time. I know that some of my readers also are overcoming different challenges that may involve mental health and recovery from something or other. The thing is, living in this world will at some point challenge our mental and emotional resilience, and where we find we haven’t established it yet (say for example if we go through something as a child or young person) then we are put to the test as to discover and build that resilience from perhaps a very low point. But we can do it.

In the pandemic we have a variety of psychological challenges, and I’ve explored some of these in previous posts. There is a lot going on and I don’t want to trigger anyone reading this by going into details repeating some of the many things that we’ve collectively been faced with the past year particularly because there are some among you for whom that might feel too close to home.

But what about the situation of being in an extended lockdown (as we are in the UK)? That in itself has mental challenges for us. I’ve explored the importance of some semblance of routines and habits to give ourselves structure to our days even if we like to break free from those structures at times. Perhaps we can relate to some of the emotions that Tom Hanks’s character faced such as shock, loneliness, isolation, even delusional or troubled thinking from lack of human connection (when his closest companion was a blood stained basketball named ‘Wilson’ with a bloodstained handprint that he connected to as being Wilson’s face).

Our brains need somewhere to go, and when we physically can’t go anywhere, we need to keep adapting and finding ways to become increasingly resilient so that we don’t sink under the pressure of mental health challenges.

Think of the ways you have so far adapted to and grown from your experiences of an extended lockdown if you have faced or are facing one. Are there things that were overwhelming to you at the start that you now take in your stride? One aspect of this, whether for good or bad I don’t know, may be a sense of not being so affected by the daily case numbers that we are presented with. Initially we were all, or most of us were, shocked and worried by these but now we can almost ‘tune out’. We focus on our own situations and adapt and some among us are able to reach out beyond our situations to help others and we can’t forget to be grateful for the many front line workers who continue to do this through all sorts of tests and trials and pressures.

Thank you frontline workers.

So, in an extended period of lockdown, your brain needs somewhere to go. We have the small steps that we can all be taking, but what about a bigger direction? Is there a project that you can get stuck into, something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time that you didn’t seem to have the time for? Maybe something you wanted to do when you finally retired if you’re not there already? I know a lot of people at work who would be of the mindset pre-pandemic that ‘if only they had the time’ to do such and such. Well folks, now we do have the time.

Give yourself a bigger challenge to steadily work away at bit by bit. Maybe you’re not into that and it’s fine, but do you have a novel you want to be working on, a model to build, a business to set up? Do you want to become a mentor to someone but need to learn the skills? Perhaps now is the time to set yourself a slightly bigger challenge and give your brain somewhere a bit more ambitious to go. Maybe you want to set up a charity to help those less fortunate, or to advocate for others with mental health issues, or to be a supportive voice and presence to others who are suffering even if that presence is online and via technology.

Maybe your blog has places to go and you need to put your mind to it. I started this blog when I was in a tough spot mentally myself and I both wanted to do something to help myself and to help others. I find some solace and strength in knowing that my words can be used to help and encourage other people who might need help with mental health issues generally and over and above that to reach out to more people through this pandemic.

It’s a small blog, I haven’t earned any money from it, although if you want to help me with getting more people viewing my blog and finding help from it and thereby encouraging and helping me, please do share it. It’s a small beginning but it gives my mind a purpose bigger than myself to focus on and is also an avenue for me to gently share my faith for those who will read even if we walk different paths.

If we are simply getting up one day at a time to try to manage that bit at a time well, that’s ok and it’s also good and commendable, but it is just one phase of this journey. We can’t stay in a state of shock or disbelief, and we haven’t. We’ve all collectively moved on from that in many resourceful ways. But sometimes our courage can wax and wane and we can lose momentum and feel like we don’t know how to keep on going. We can keep on going. We will.

I also still have mental health challenges. Things come and go in my mind and I need to remind myself of Who my God Is, and also that He has equipped me with a resilient brain and that I can handle many things and not get discouraged by them. But our minds do need somewhere to go so that they don’t simply ruminate, go inwards or become negative and so that we don’t get lost in ourselves. We need vision.

That’s a big statement because I believe the biggest vision for our lives should be our Creator. However, on a lesser scale we also need vision to help us get through our days and to do so purposefully and that’s why having a long term or bigger project can be helpful.

I understand and agree that this is not for everyone and that’s fine, but I do feel that we need to look beyond where we’re currently at if we want to move forwards, make progress and not get lost inside our heads.

What do you all think? How can we encourage each other? Do you have any goals that you are pursuing over and above the tasks you have been focusing on to help get you through each day? The small tasks are crucial so don’t ever think that they’re not enough or not important enough. But for some of us our minds need to go further so that they don’t go inwards and perhaps like me you are also one of those people.

Are you giving your brain some direction and purpose in this pandemic and if so would you be so gracious as to share some of your inspiration with us so that as a community we can help and encourage each other to keep going on stronger?

Take care friends, stay safe, be curious, be inspired and seek to inspire. x

Photo by Maria Orlova 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

Review your Goals

Well, we’ve made it to May, which means that summer is on its way, and hopefully so too are new opportunities and adventures, be they big or small.

The new year seems to be the most obvious time of the year for most people to reflect and take stock of where they are in life, and where they want to be, to set goals and make plans for the year ahead.

However, I think that each season, and even each new month provides an opportunity to invest in our personal growth and quality of life, by taking the time to reflect on whether the way we spend our time is aligned to our deepest values and purpose in life.

That might sound a little overwhelming, but the thing is, life can only be lived one day at a time, one moment at a time, one breath at a time. And so it brings a kind of comfort in knowing that the little things all add up to build the pattern of our lives in more significant ways.

By looking at each month as an opportunity to reflect and reprioritise, this makes the perhaps otherwise overwhelming task of accomplishing life goals, or living well, much more manageable, fun and achievable.

I don’t know about you, but I find using a planner a helpful, creative and engaging way of doing this. Personally, I use the ‘Tools 4 Wisdom’ planner, and although I don’t always manage to sit down at the start of each month to do so, when I am able, like this month of May, I enjoy adding colour, designs and drawings to the month, creating a colour scheme and a theme, and adding in the details of events, tasks and goals.

Some people prefer to use online methods, or combine these with art journaling or bullet journaling, there are so many ways to create a framework and a structure for reflection that works for you.

I find it helps me to have a positive outlook on the month, as otherwise it is so easy to simply ‘drift’, to wonder where the time is going, or to feel like each day is just slipping into the next and that you’re somehow not making the most of things. It is engaging too, creatively in that the very act of producing something authentic, putting pen to paper, means that you are putting in something of yourself, and appreciating through the creative process, the fact that each little detail is important, and allowing yourself to value each day.

Even the seemingly mundane or ‘ordinary’ days can be extraordinary in their own ways.

Perhaps a good way to move forwards is to bring to mind any goals you had at the start of the year, and reflect upon these and revise them if required. Life changes, and your plans may have to as well, however, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Then each month, choose one key life area, and maybe four or five smaller things that you want to work towards or accomplish. They don’t need to be ‘massive’ goals, like traveling the world or sky diving (perhaps those are ‘ordinary’ goals to you if you are the more adventurous type!), they can be simple yet authentic, and therefore beautiful in their own way – things like read one book, plan to spend time with a friend or family member, write a blog post, work on a particular creative project, make time for self care, etc.

Living purposefully gives us the opportunity to clear away some of the clutter in our lives and minds, to let go of what are unnecessary time stealers, and to perhaps live more simply, deeply and authentically, so that we feel more connected to ourselves, our core values and the people and pursuits in our lives that matter most to us.

Breaking things down and appreciating each small ‘chunk’ of time that we’ve been blessed with is good for our mental health too. Things feel less overwhelming, clearer and easier to prioritise. We can’t do it all, but we can try to spend more time focussing on what matters most, knowing that these little steps in the right direction all add up to a more fulfilling life.

We seem to be, in this generation, constantly ‘plugged in’, and always taking in stimuli from the world around us with unceasing suggestions of what we should be doing, thinking, eating, wearing, feeling, and so on. We also find ourselves caught up in the stream of images, stories, pictures and snapshots of other people’s lives, and that creates a risk of unhealthy comparison, ‘FOMO’ and even mental health struggles such as anxiety, fear, loneliness and depression if we feel that our lives are ‘not enough’ compared to those around us.

Yet, there is a beautiful paradox that reveals that when we disconnect from the noise, we are able to live in a deeper way that is more fully connected. We don’t need to pretend that the rest of the world isn’t there, or to stop engaging with it, but we do need to realise the importance of taking time to reengage with ourselves, our own lives, quietness, solitude and personal self reflection so that the time we spend on this earth is meaningful, authentic and much less wasteful.

I hope you take the time to enjoy something meaningful to you today. Perhaps that is in prayer, a walk in nature, journaling and reflecting, assessing your priorities, spending time with people you love, or maybe even sending out a random act of kindness to someone, even a stranger, who might need the authentic love and care of a fellow human being. Perhaps today, in taking time to connect with what is meaningful to you in your life, you might be inspired to write a blog post that will encourage another precious soul. Take care, think deeply, seek peace and pursue it, and be kind. xx

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Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

gray cat near brown vase with sunflowers
Photo by Buenosia Carol on Pexels.com

“Travelling Teaches You” (9).

Travelling teaches you to plan ahead. Travelling also teaches you to leave your plans behind. 

There is so much to explore, and limited time, so we may find we gain the most from our experiences if we have in mind what we most want to see and do and focus on those. These lessons in planning and preparation can be useful and transferable into our ‘ordinary’ lives. We are so ‘wired up’ in the 21st Century to try to have multiple ‘tabs’ open in our lives, however, just as our computers and devices can only handle so much, so too we sometimes need a ‘re-boot’ or to close down some of the tabs we have so that we can enrich our experience of the fewer things we actually choose to do, and be more productive and efficient in making the most of our time in doing so. 

However, travelling also teaches us to sometimes leave our plans behind, to go with the ebb and flow of experience, and to discover these new experiences organically rather than rigidly trying to set our own timetables, schedules or expectations of how we think things ‘ought’ to be. Sometimes we are enriched by being open to possibilities in the moment, to saying ‘yes’ when it is safe to do so, and to being truly present and alive in the here and now. 

We all have different and unique preferred styles of learning, experience and also in our approach to travel. These may shift and change, or we may lean more heavily towards one side more than another…yet it is good to be open to learning from both, and enhancing the depth, and quality of our experiences as we do so. What is your preferred way and approach to new experiences and travel opportunities in your life? (c). 

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(c) Photograph I took in Bellagio, Italy, August 2018.