With so much going on around us, in the world, and in the lives of other people, it can be easy to feel lost or become swept up in the events of others so much so that we lose focus in our own lives.
As we continue on through the pandemic, and as we near the end of 2020, and approach 2021, take some time to consider what is important to you and to find your own focus – no one else can do it for you.
I’ve been asking God for vision and wisdom for my life for a while and there are things that are important to me that I know that I can keep building up on day by day to help other people and to develop my own gifts and use them for His Glory.
What is important to you in this season, and what are you doing to find your own focus?
What are the things dragging you back or pulling you down? How can you address these? Perhaps like me you’ve had a lot of inner emotional and psychological healing to do so that you are not hurting yourself after others hurt you but are giving yourself a chance. You can use the positivity you develop to help other people too.
Maybe there are other voices from other people who are discouraging or distracting you. Take control of what you have to do and make sure you are not letting negativity rob you of your purpose.
So what is your focus? Maybe that’s too big a question all at once. One helpful tip is to take a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and simply brainstorm all of the things that matter to you, that you enjoy doing or that you feel bring purpose into your life. These can be building blocks for going forwards with greater purpose.
If for example one of those items on your list is ‘helping people’ then that’s the first step, but the next might be to take practical steps to looking into opportunities around you, in your own family, volunteering opportunities or what other people might be doing and see if you can join then. Maybe you could become a telephone volunteer for someone who is lonely in the pandemic or you can help out in some other way. Maybe you can write encouraging blog posts! 🙂
Perhaps you want to focus on writing a book – break it down into small steps and just make a start at writing regularly if not everyday.
Maybe you want to create and sell art work – you’ll need to put in the time developing your skills and also broadening your knowledge of business and seeing what other people out there are doing.
Perhaps you want to focus on health and fitness. What are the small daily steps that you can take regularly and build these up into habits?
These are just some suggestions. Your focus and vision might be far greater – perhaps it is helping to spread the Gospel, maybe it is to help your neighbourhood and city, or to encourage frontline workers, to support single parents, to create an online forum for your community.
Think about what is important to you going forward, it can be big or small, for ever big venture started with the smallest of steps – seek wisdom, purpose and vision and then ‘put feet to your plans’ and simply take the next small step. x
Well friends, we’re well and truly at the last leg of 2020, and what a year it has been! While things may not miraculously improve (or perhaps they will?) in 2021, we can take steps to helping our mental wellbeing and outlook as we approach a new year.
It is understandable if many of you are feeling fearful, anxious, apprehensive or deflated as we approach a new year. After all, so many of us had high hopes for the perfect sounding ‘2020’ at the start of the year, and at the end of last year, expecting visionary things and grand new beginnings for the start of a new decade. While some individuals have done really well this year, on the whole, the world has taken a bit of a beating with this pandemic. It can leave us feeling in a negative mindset as we move forwards.
One thing that sometimes helps me, in fact it often helps me, is to ‘theme my months’. It gives me a sense of focus, purpose and direction for each month and helps me with setting targeted and manageable goals.
While I don’t envisage any time soon any of my months to be themed with ‘travel’, there are things that can help me focus on the positives in my own life and set goals accordingly and keep moving forwards, even with everything else going on around us in the world.
With life being so uncertain in terms of what we will and won’t be able to do in 2021, I think if I do decide to theme my months, or some of them at least, then I will focus on personal projects that I can do from home. I even managed to do this for some of the time during lockdown this year, including a ‘May theme’ of ‘Summer holiday’ where I decorated my room to look like a beach house (I must have posted pictures earlier on if you want to see if you can find them) and listened to holiday music, and even went on ‘virtual walks’ in different parts of the world via You Tube.
What are some of the themes that you or I could set for ourselves in 2021 that could help us to keep positive, focused and moving forwards?
I thought I’d have a bit of a brainstorm here, but your own list might be something completely different:
Potential Monthly Themes for 2021:
– Self Care
-Connecting with Friend and Family
-Learning Something New
-Staycation – learning about new countries without leaving home!
-Exercise or fitness
-Charity / Random Acts of Kindness
-Developing existing skills
-My True Identity
-Overcoming obstacles or personal issues
-Mentoring or being mentored
-Singing / Dance
-Learning how to use a new piece of technology that you haven’t used before.
-Encouraging other people
-Rest and reflection
-Gratitude / Thanksgiving
-Going outside for a walk everyday or most days (if you are permitted to do so).
-Health and wellbeing.
-Decluttering / tidying
-Home or garden projects
-Learn a new creative venture
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head, but perhaps you have some of your own that are totally different to mine. I’d love to hear what they are if you feel like sharing. In the meantime, don’t be discouraged by everything going on in the world. Take a moment to think of the positive things that you can begin to build into your life going forwards as we approach 2021, even as we head into the unknown. We will adapt and change as we go but we will seek to do so with love, hope, faith, joy and peace.
Hands up, or nod knowingly to yourself, if today you turned on the TV and watched the news, scrolled through your phone, listened to, read or watched something about the pandemic today that made you feel even a little lower in your mood than before you absorbed that information.
If we could somehow see each other in our respective little parts of the world, I’m pretty sure there would be a lot of nods and hand-raises happening right now, am I right?
If not, well done, we applaud you.
I remember at the start of the year when the Coronavirus had not yet reached pandemic status, and gradually news stories were gaining attention, first about the outbreaks where they originated. Sadly, slowly but surely, it wasn’t just something impacting one part of the world, but with the free flow of people, began to send shock waves from one country to the next. I remember in January or February I met up with a couple of friends for coffee / tea (as we do in the UK, lol), and I asked my friends if they were still thinking of going on the holidays that they had planned later in the year to France and Italy in April and May respectively. I was concerned for them traveling when cases had started moving across Europe, but they were still in the mindset of going ahead, or waiting to see what would transpire. Needless to say, travel plans were cancelled as a hard lockdown was imposed in the UK from 23rd March 2020.
From then, almost everybody was glued to their screens or devices to try to figure out what was going on, how things would impact our lives, and what was to happen next. I remember when the first case hit our country, and it was still commonly thought that only older people or those with underlying health conditions would be particularly affected by the Coronavirus. One case. It is hard to believe how that has sky rocketed into tens of thousands here, and hundreds of thousands across the world.
It is understandable that when everything was so new, we were absorbing news and information about the pandemic almost constantly. At this moment in time, in the UK at least, restrictions seem to constantly be changing and developing with changing circumstances and therefore a regular diet of news and information about the pandemic seems to be a must.
It’s probably not too dissimilar for you, wherever in the world you might be. Added to this, 2020 has bombarded us with a whole host of troubling insights into the world we are living in, on what perhaps seems like a more intense scale than a few months previously, even though the terrible things happening in the world have been going on for centuries. Is it just me, or does it feel like we keep hearing bad news on the news in 2020? Aren’t we all hopeful for change? Or trying to be hopeful?
With the constant stream of bad news, of mind blowing facts and figures about the Coronavirus and many other issues of the day, it can be very easy to lose sight of the fact that there are good things happening in the world, and in our own lives.
As such, self care in the pandemic includes moderating our intake of news so that we can maintain a healthy and necessary balance. While it is important to stay informed of the rules, regulations, and even new legislation in our countries and regions regarding the pandemic and the accompanying public health restrictions, it is also important to not soak up so much information that it paralyzes us from positivity.
It’s so important to try to set yourself some healthy boundaries with watching, listening to and reading the news, especially this year, especially if you already struggle with mental health issues. It’s a learning curve for all of us on how to keep informed, maintain a compassionate and wise outlook, avoid personal triggers and stay positive and productive with everything that has been going on. But it is so necessary for our wellbeing and for our ability to be there not only for ourselves but for other people too.
Do you recognise yourself in any of this? Do you feel like you have been soaking in too much of the bad news and not giving yourself adequate means or time to process it, and is it all dragging you down? If so, be mindful and practical in how you are going to set boundaries for the information you allow into your life on a day to day basis. Maybe instead of looking at the news throughout the day, choose a set time to stay informed so that you have the rest of the day and night to make sense of it, process the information and do other more productive and positive things that have nothing to do with the pandemic.
Seek and pursue other types of information too, that you will find positive, uplifting, encouraging, inspiring, or simply entertaining (we can’t get enough of those cute puppy videos, can we? 🙂 ). Maybe you could become a source of good news stories for other people. Seek out positive vibes and news and share them with your ‘tribe’ of friends and family and maybe even co-workers. We all need a break from the clouds and rain and negativity of this pandemic.
As well as news, consider including other sources of information into your life, whether that be reading for leisure, spending time learning something new, taking in the sights and sounds of nature and being quiet as you soak in and absorb the beauty of this autumn season and the seasons to follow. Make, create, encourage, write, and look for positive things to fill your mind with too.
In addition to this, know that you are ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. There are so many people who have gone before us, and so many contemporaries in our midst that can be those ‘role models’ that our hearts and minds crave right now. People who have overcome the odds whether that be difficult circumstances, prejudice, lack of opportunity, trauma, abuse, or people who have made a change for the better in society for which we enjoy the benefits today, people who have discovered the seemingly undiscoverable for humanity, who have invented, who have thought beyond the perceived limitations of circumstances and shone in their lifetimes.
Think of the people around you who perhaps quietly, humbly and with good humour and a positive attitude make a change for the better in their day to day lives, or who do the simplest of tasks that most of us would look down upon, without grumbling or complaining.
There are so many people we can look up to as role models, people who can inspire, encourage, help us to think positively even in the darkest of times, who remind us of the power and love that is greater than this world, the resilience of the human spirit, the Grace of God, the tenacity to overcome the odds. Perhaps you and I are or can be role models ourselves to someone, whether intentionally or not, as we pursue these positive habits, seeking to maintain a healthy balance of the input we allow into our minds and lives, and seeking to believe beyond the limits of our present circumstances.
Welcome back to my new interactive series of journal prompts / contemplation points to help us together to navigate our way forwards through 2020. Instead of looking back and feeling that it has been a negative or wasted time, I hope this series will help us to learn more about ourselves and find the ‘hidden treasure’ of this year.
If you haven’t yet seen my first post in this series, please take a look at my main page and you’ll find it there, just before this one. Feel free to start and stop this journey and take things at your own pace to make the most of these times of reflection. And as always, you are so very welcome to share your thoughts in the comments.
So without further ado, here is the second prompt:
(2). Think of at least one thing that you had taken for granted, or not appreciated fully before the 2019/20 pandemic.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in the awareness that there are so many things that I have not fully appreciated, even though I try to cultivate an ‘attitude of gratitude’ on a daily basis. We can be thankful for many things, yet sometimes it takes a crisis to more fully and deeply appreciate them.
There are *so* many things – faith, family, friends, health, homes, food, clothing, the internet and maintaining connections, blue skies, the very ability to breathe and to be given the gift of life each new morning we wake.
I think this question can take us to deep places of gratitude for many different things that we may usually be thankful for, but not quite as deeply so. I’m so thankful for all of the relationships, people and things I’ve mentioned above, however, for this post I want to express my appreciation for one thing in particular: the health care service and all the people who make it work.
I live in the United Kingdom, and here we are very fortunate and blessed to have the National Health Service where most treatment is free. I have friends in America who always have to worry about health insurance, and even crowd-funding long-term treatments for their health problems, whereas here we never have to think of such things. Sure, there may be costs for adults undergoing dental treatment and such like, but GP consultations, prescribed medications, hospital treatment, mental health and psychological care, and the list goes on – it is all FREE to the patient.
And while we have been in the midst of the pandemic, doctors, nurses, auxiliary staff, administrators and a whole host of people have been working tirelessly, sacrificing their own wellbeing, time with their families, and in some heroic cases even their own lives, in their commitment to helping and caring for other people.
We had a weekly ‘clap for carers’, however, even after these things fade away, I know that I should be so deeply appreciative of the people and systems that work tirelessly to preserve and improve the quality of human life. I hope the government will appropriately and financially honour those who do so much for our society.
Yes, this is something I am deeply grateful for, and am so very thankful for during this pandemic.
What about you? What positive thing can you take a moment or two to be appreciative of as you think of this year so far? If you need a few ideas, how about these as starting points for you to explore some thing or various things that you recognise have been a real gift and blessing to you through this experience, even if indirectly:
I’m not in isolation or lockdown or anything like that yet, and am thankfully fit and healthy and well, however, more and more it looks like the country and the world is moving in that direction whether you have symptoms of Covid-19 or not. The rationale is to contain and minimise the spread of the coronavirus.
It strikes me that people are responding very differently to the thought of having to stay indoors or limit their activity for an extended period of time than when they might be in a similar situation say during the Christmas holidays for example.
I’m still out and about going to work, although keeping my distance as much as possible, but the government is recommending that employers allow staff to work from home, so it is a wait and see time for us until we get definitive direction. In the meantime, we have to keep showing up.
However, I digress. There is a difference if you have to stay indoors and you are the only one in that situation, but there is, or at least there can be, a sense of community and camaraderie and shared experience when you know a large percentage of the world are in a similar situation. That’s part of the reason why I love Christmas, and the holiday season, because despite the diversity of beliefs, there is a sense of a shared experience.
Now, I know this whole pandemic is a different situation entirely, but let’s just think of how we can help and encourage each other to stay happy and healthy and mentally well during what might eventually turn out to be an extended period of time indoors. How can we help each other to counter the fear and anxiety that is so rife? Many people may find themselves completely symptom and virus free, but be advised by their employers or governments to stay at home, for the greater good. At any other time and in other circumstances, many of us would jump at the chance for some work from home days, or the chance to take a break away from it all in the comfort of our own homes. However, in this climate of fear, we are reacting very differently, or so it seems to me.
Ok, so maybe you are well and yet having to stay at home. I’m kind of hoping that I will be able to work from home too, but like I said, it’s ‘wait and see’. My heart goes out to those whose livelihoods and jobs are at risk, but if you don’t have those issues and simply have to stay indoors, how can we make the most of the situation?
I think if I have to stay inside for an extended period of time, I might put up my Christmas tree! Perhaps that seems strange to you if you live in sunnier climes, but I live in Scotland, and although the days are lighter and we have some dry days here and there, spring hasn’t really ‘sprung’ as yet, and we do get more than our fair share of rain, so some days it does still feel a bit ‘wintery’.
If you are new to my blog, I have written various series’ on self care, staycations, mental health and wellbeing, retreats of various types, and keeping cosy, so hopefully you will find some inspiration to make the most of an otherwise uncertain time.
Think about the things you would ideally do if you were organising a ‘staycation’ for yourself in your own home, or town. How many of us so often feel the need to ‘get away from it all’ without the practical hassles of travel, and to just have some ‘down time’ to think and reflect and nurture our own souls? How can we be people who seek to be encouragers and a positive influence when all around us is panic and anxiety and uncertainty?
For me, if I were to have to stay indoors, these are the things I would focus my attention on:
Drawing even closer to God, enjoying His Presence, allowing Him to continue His work of healing and restoration, and building up myself in my true identity so that I will be stronger and a vessel for His use in greater measure than before. Spending time with the One Who Loves me most and learning from Him.
Praying and interceding for other people, not only in terms of the concerns around Coronavirus, but taking time to think and pray about and appeal to God for the many people and situations that we so often don’t think about because we are ‘too busy’ with getting through the day to day things of life, and ‘cares of this world’. Focused prayer for people’s salvation and also for the needs of those who are caring for others, making decisions, ‘on the front line’ in some way, or who are ill and suffering or in need. Finding ways to advocate for those who suffer from injustice and abuse whether through prayer and practical means.
Reaching out to other people, and seeking to be a ‘good steward’ of the resources He has given me, and making a positive impact on the world, whether by blogging, keeping in touch with and encouraging people over the phone or email or other means.
Taking time for self development, nurturing myself and allowing God to continue to heal me, and also doing my part in looking after my emotional and mental health.
Working hard, obviously, if working from home did become a reality, and doing my duties to the best of my ability.
Taking time to continue writing my novel.
Read the books that have been waiting for me to get to them! 🙂
Exercise and healthy living.
Take time to be grateful, mindful and thankful for all of the blessings I do have in my life.
Finding ways to encourage and pray for other people, and to offer help where it is safe and wise and healthy to do so.
Home organisation and decluttering.
Arts and crafts projects, adult colouring in, continuing to learn to draw.
Music, playing worship on my violin.
Photography projects – finally compiling my photography work into one place.
Continue work on my blog to help bullied children (which I haven’t been able to while maintaining a daily routine of going to work, etc.).
Having pamper days for self care and looking after my body as well as my mind.
Learning new skills and online learning.
Tidying out my spare room!
Cosying up like at Christmas time and watching some nice films or box sets.
Live a ‘hygge life’.
Encouraging others and being kind!
So, what about you? What positives can you glean from this situation, and how would you, or how are you spending your time ‘away from it all’?
What are your struggles, and what are the things you have learned or that you enjoy that you can share that will benefit others reading this?
Let’s stick together and become stronger in the midst of all of this uncertainty, and bring out the best in each other as we make our way through this uncertain world.
I am thankful that my faith, certainty and hope is in the unchanging, solid rock of Jesus Christ, the source of life and pure love.
Take care and stay well, healthy, and safe, everyone. x
Have you ever looked at the news and felt overwhelmed by what is happening in the world? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by what is going on in your own life, and in the lives of those around you? Have you ever wanted to make a change, an impact in people’s lives but just not known where to start?
I’m sure we all feel like that from time to time. Some of us feel it very often. At times many difficult things converge and we can’t see past them. We might be having a challenging time personally as well as dealing with tough issues in our jobs. At one point I was working in the field of researching violence against women, and at the same time facing certain challenges, and I would feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of news and negativity and the state of the world. Some people term this compassion fatigue, or for those working to help other people, ‘vicarious trauma’.
Life can get heavy sometimes, but do we just throw our hands up in the air and give up? Or do we reach our hands up for help and strength from the True Source of help and of grace and Love?
Many people in this world want to make a positive difference. We face our own injustices and that creates a ‘fire in our belly’ to want to overcome them and then to reach out and help others who are suffering. But sometimes it can all get too much. I’m amazed by the people who tirelessly campaign to help other people, by doctors, nurses, emergency service workers and many others in vocations that serve to help others for the greater good, oftentimes at great risk to their own lives and safety. Many people sacrifice a lot to help others.
Yet what of us living comparatively less challenging lives in terms of what we do day in and day out and the risk we face to help others? What of those of us who still face the feelings of overwhelm in a broken world gone wrong, and in desperate need of Grace and Redemption? Do we just give up, do we allow ourselves to get exhausted, to think it’s all too big a problem so what’s the point of trying anymore?
The point of trying is what is in front of you.
Who is in front of you.
Jesus Christ said that ‘What you do for the least of these….you do for Me’.
Do you realise how valuable that person in front of you is? How valuable you are? You may not be able to solve the problems of the world, you may not be able to be a humanitarian on the front lines of changing this generation at great cost to yourself. You may be an extraordinary person in an ordinary seeming life, just like most of the rest of us. But you are extraordinary. And so am I. We all have this stamp of humanity in us and we all are made to be vessels of Love in a dark and hurting world (and this Love is of God, in Christ Jesus, Who if we let Him in will truly set us free).
Don’t give up. Don’t get so blindsided by the bigger picture that you fail to see the tapestry being woven right in front of you. What is in front of you matters. It may seem like a small offering in the grand scheme of things, but it matters.
So next time you feel overwhelmed or like there’s nothing much you can do to make a change, think of how truly important that one conversation is. That smile. Taking the time to sit and listen to someone who is in need. Giving something to someone in need, even if it seems like a small offering. Reaching out, praying, listening, and simply being. Being with your children, your loved ones, putting down your electronic devices and giving them the attention that they are worthy of that will bless your soul also.
There is a tapestry being woven right in front of you, and you are part of that process. You can choose to create or to tear apart or to leave things unattended to, never allowing a beautiful picture to form because you failed to participate, to contribute, to try.
Don’t worry about the whole world, simply tend to what is in front of you, and you will make a difference. And while we all play our part, in the littlest of ways, we contribute to something beyond ourselves, and surely that should be a source of hope and inspiration.
Within each of us, we hold precious dreams of the life we long to live. As we move through this world the reality of the darkness that surrounds us as well as the darkness that we find in our own minds and hearts can quench those dreams. We struggle just to make it through.
Last year I wrote a lot about overcoming those ‘roadblocks’ in our minds and lives. I wrote about overcoming past difficulties, traumas, mental health struggles, in the hope that this might encourage some of you as well as help me make sense of certain things and to gain in strength and mental resilience. Last year I wrote a lot about recovery, self care and resilience. If you are in a difficult place, please browse through my previous posts to help you find some strength in moving forwards.
I know that there is still a lot of work within me to get to where I am living fully. After all, when I first started this blog almost three years ago I called it ‘Life as it happens to be’ and the web page ‘livingfully2017’ to signify what I hoped it to reflect and the date that I started the blog.
This year I want to challenge myself to take things a bit further. There are so many articles and posts that I have written to inspire and encourage you and I in terms of recovery, getting stronger, finding worth, self care, mental wellbeing and so forth. They’re there if we need them, and no doubt we will find it beneficial to look over these again. I’ll probably write more on these topics as they are so close to my heart and life story that it wouldn’t make sense not to explore them further and more deeply as I continue to journey through life and making sense of things.
However, this year I am considering being more intentional in my focus. To create posts that help and encourage us to ‘live fully’ right where we are, and to explore what may be holding us back from stepping forwards with courage and confidence. I hope to be less focused on overcoming past struggles and have more of a vision to inspire, equip and encourage.
It can be difficult to dare to dream when we have so many insecurities buried deep within ourselves, or even bubbling at the surface. It can be hard to believe for better when we’ve been told so many negative things in this world. But it’s up to us to take this as a challenge, to choose differently, to overcome, to thrive and to soar. Now, I don’t know how to do this as I haven’t got that far along the path myself, but I have come a very long way in ‘recovery’ and if I can put the same efforts into building something new as I have done in surviving and overcoming the old, the past, the difficult things of life, then who knows just what might be possible.
When I talk about daring to dream, please don’t let that hinder you if you lack confidence (as I often do). Daring to dream doesn’t necessarily mean doing a lot of things or accomplishing a string of goals. Daring to dream is perhaps more of an internal journey to become the people we want to be. I will always point to my Beacon, The True Light, the only One Who can regenerate, bring new life, forgiveness, and a fresh, clean start, making us new from within – Jesus Christ. Without Him, there is no lasting or eternal hope and any changes are temporary if they are not built up on Him, the sure foundation.
My faith and relationship with God is integral to my identity and out of it will flow my thoughts and learning about life. However, I also believe that regardless of who you are or what you think at this moment in time, there are ways in which we can encourage and help each other to grow in knowledge and awareness of our worth, of discovering our gifts and talents, of growing in confidence and courage, and reaching out to others with kindness, respect and love. Daring to dream that we can live more fully the lives of possibility that are set before us rather than remaining chained by all that has hindered us so far.
It is ok to be uncertain, unsure of how we will grow in confidence and refuse to let the negative messages we’ve experienced in life hold us back. It’s ok, as quite often the greatest changes stem from tiny ‘baby steps’ taken consistently over time. We all can think of examples in our own lives where we have persevered and made progress.
So, let’s dare to dream this year, as we journey together into the New. x
It’s that beautiful and thought-provoking time of year again, filled with contrasts on so many levels. Autumn is passing, and winter is almost upon us. The vibrancy of leaves bursting into exciting shades of red, orange, yellow, gold, green and brown, will in a short time give way to bare or sparse branches, a stillness, perhaps darker, colder, greyer days, and maybe even a hint of snow.
Perhaps you live in a warmer and sunnier clime than I do, but here people are beginning to sense the change in the air, and it’s that time again to stay indoors, to get warm and cosy and prepare for in a sense a mini ‘hibernation’.
People approach such times of the year differently. You may have read my previous post to encourage and help those of us who might find certain aspects of these seasons at least a little bit challenging. The link is below for those of you who would like to read it or be reminded of some of the things you can do to prepare yourself.
However, I’m also going to start a series of shorter, more ‘bitesized’ posts to encourage us on various aspects of how we can survive and thrive during the winter season, so that you can dip in and out of the ones that interest you. So watch this space, I’ll be posting more very soon. Stay warm and cosy 🙂 x
Take a moment to consider whether the thing you are allowing yourself to get stressed about will be significant to you in five years time, and whether it is worth so much of your mental energy right now.