Tag Archives: Project

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

In the midst of things…

As I often say, life happens in seasons. There is a natural ebb and flow to our daily lives, just as there is to the oceans, and just as in nature things take time to blossom and bloom and grow so too do the happenings of our lives.

In our working lives things can be similar. Most of us will be familiar with the hectic and busy spells when it seems we just don’t have enough time to get everything done. Sometimes we have a good balance between being busy and productive such that we are able to efficiently handle all of our tasks without becoming overwhelmed or overburdened.

At other times, when we are neither ‘run off our feet’ nor at a satisfying level of productivity, we find that we may be in a ‘lull’ while in the midst of things. Not in the middle of being busy, not in the middle of chaos or activity, but just in the midst of things while waiting for the next stage to unfold.

Casework can bring a regular and predictable dose of activity whereas larger and longer term projects can occur in ‘fits and starts’. At times the work is non-stop, while at others there is a process of waiting. Waiting, perhaps for information or actions from other people, departments or parts of the process. Waiting for development in certain areas. Waiting for a number of reasons.

Being busy all the time doesn’t necessarily equate with being productive. During the ‘lull’ periods we may actually have the opportunity for deeper and strategic thinking, planning and preparation. We may be tempted to ‘fill our time’ and we may risk doing so unnecessarily.

As with work, projects and plans, life also sometimes has its ‘lull’ periods.

We probably rarely appreciate them. So many of us are creatures of activity, of habit, of getting things done. And yet when we find that we have ‘too much on our plates’, too much to do and not enough time we wish that we were ‘in the midst of things’ with some time to catch our breaths, to think and reflect, to pause if not to stop.

Are you ‘in the midst of things’ in your life just now? Are you waiting for the next thing to happen or come your way so that you can keep busy? Don’t waste this season, this natural lull, this pause. Think of it like a ‘rest’ in music. It is but for a moment, and sometimes the silence can be as profound as the sound. Notes will fly your way again, soon enough, perhaps all too soon, and you will naturally anticipate the next rest, the next pause, the next brief moment of silence.

When we are in the midst of things what do we do?

Are you living in a quiet spell in your life just now, longing for something to happen but not knowing how to make it so? Does if feel that life has somehow naturally slowed and that you are being brought to a place of pause? So many things can make us feel this way. Times in our lives where we are not able to fill up our time with activity. Perhaps you are a parent of adult children who have recently ‘flown the nest’ and you are in the midst of things waiting for the next but not quite yet and your home and heart is filled with silence and aching. Perhaps you are working on a project and you can’t move on to the next stage of it until you receive input from other parties to do their bit, because after all it is all connected. You chase things up, you plan what you can, but right now at this moment in time, you simply have to bide your time. You could choose to fill up your time with other things but it would mean doing so because of the need to feel busy rather than because it is the most efficient or effective thing to do. Maybe you are between jobs, and although you diligently search and apply for jobs as I once did you can’t force the process or make that big break happen just because you want it to – you have to bide your time in the midst of things, use your time wisely and wait. You can’t force one season to change to the next, life doesn’t work that way as much as we sometimes want it to. Maybe you are in a stage of your life where you know what the next milestone is that you want to reach but you can’t make it happen. Sure, there may be things you can try and you can do, but you can’t make things turn out just as you want them, you can only persevere and do what you can do and hope and wait. Are you waiting for a life partner? You can try to meet people, but you can’t force the hands of fate. Are you setting up your own business? There are many things you can be doing but there are times of waiting too until things take their shape. Are you in recovery and working on your health? Are you laid up in hospital or on a sick bed knowing that the process of healing will take time and you simply cannot do all the things you want to do….at least not yet? Are you preparing to move country and start a new life, but you have to go through the process of paper work and various formalities and while you have done everything you can you just need to wait for the response, the go-ahead, the ‘green light’?

Life is full of ‘in between’ seasons. Times when we are ‘in the midst of things’ and waiting for things to really get going again. That’s ok. You can’t force a bud to blossom and bloom and grow. It will happen naturally. And at times in our lives we can work hard and do everything that we can do, but we can’t push one season of life into the next. Sometimes, we just have to be in the midst of things. Waiting to sell a house, waiting for a baby to be born, preparing for the next stage of a project, abiding in the silence of your ’empty nest’ when your chicks have flown, waiting for that prayer to be answered.

Are you in such a place? Can you learn to be? And if we must do something, what can we do?

In the silence of an empty nest, can you invest in yourself?

In the pause between one stage of a work project and the next, can you educate yourself, seek out training, develop your skills, research what others are doing so that when the time comes to progress to the next stage you will be better equipped?

Are you wondering about that ‘next season’ of life? Can you find ways to make the most of the one you are in? Even if that means slowing down to savour and enjoy and appreciate it? Maybe what you really need is the quiet space and time to process some deep thoughts, to reflect on what you’ve been learning, and what you might need to think about in the next stage of your journey.

When you are in the midst of things, it may seem like a time of undue quiet, but it can in fact be a place of deep growth. What will you do in the midst of things today?

x

woman sitting on chair
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Winter Survival Guide (32) ~ Pictures and Perspectives.

It’s not uncommon to fall prey to our human nature of being ‘near-sighted’ in how we look at our lives. During winter time, this can be especially challenging if you find that the low light levels, and sometimes ‘gloomier’ days have a negative effect on your mood. It can become easy to lose perspective, to become inwardly focused, ruminative and negative.

We might feel like hibernating, hiding away from the world, and we can fall into a gloomy, wintery ‘slump’.

To help lift your mood, and broaden your perspective as the year draws to a close, instead of getting stuck in negative thinking, why not encourage yourself by printing off a few pictures of the highlights, or most meaningful times throughout your year. We live in a day and age where we’re all almost constantly taking photographs, whether with a professional camera, or with a phone, and most of these remain in digital form.

However, there is something nice about having some actual prints to keep and to look through every now and then. I did this a couple of years ago, and I meant to do it last year as well, so I’ll need to get around to printing off pics for 2018 as well as 2019! I put them into an album, and I have it in my living room. It’s easy to show to friends and family if they’re interested, and every now and then I’ll take it out and look back over the year of 2017, and it brings a real smile to my face to see the highlights of my memories, and the faces of people I love, and remind me of fun times I might have forgotten.

You can create a simple photo album, and while you pick out those photographs, get them printed out and then put them together it will hopefully bring back some of those good memories that you’ve made along the way. If it’s been a tough year for you, it might be a good way of reminding yourself of the good times too, even if those pictures are of the simple pleasures of life, such as a flower, or a nature picture if you don’t have so many eventful memories that bring you happiness from the year gone by. There will always be a blessing, even hidden away, if you’ll only look for it.

You could also go further and make a crafts project which you could do on your own, or if you preferred you could do this with friends and family. Maybe you could make a scrapbook and include your photographs in that, along with your own drawings, crafts, captions, and things like ticket stubs from events you’ve been to for example.

You can let your creativity run wild, and make gifts and presents with your photos, such as wall art, calendars, mugs or other keepsakes, either for yourself or to give as personalised gifts to the people you love.

It will make those otherwise gloomy days and nights seem brighter, you’ll have a project to get your creative juices flowing, you’ll feel more alert, positive and engaged, and will maybe even enjoy looking forward to the cold dark nights where you can stay in and work on your project. You’ll hopefully gain a more positive and grateful and wider perspective of your life, of the year gone by, the blessings in it, the meaning gained from any losses you’ve faced and lessons you’ve learned, and be in a better frame of mind as you look forward. You’ll also, by the end of it have captured some memories that you can look back on and share with others too. x

photo of polaroid camera near book
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Writing Retreat

Following on from my recent blog post from a few days ago, on Planning a Personal Retreat, which you can read here: https://livingfully2017.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/planning-a-personal-retreat/ 

I am embarking upon a three day writing retreat. 

autumn autumn leaves beautiful color
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Ok, so I’m not actually going to be staying in a cute and cosy log cabin in the woods, but I did feel that in line with my teenage dreams from years ago a picture of a log cabin was a necessity – don’t you agree? 🙂

As per my earlier post on planning a retreat, I have carved out some space and time for myself to focus on a couple of projects that are important to me. I am fortunate enough to live alone and have a cosy flat which affords me the opportunity for creativity and solitude. I have also taken three days off work so that I can focus more seriously on my writing, and also intersperse that with a couple of other creative projects, and taking that time off means that I have given myself a sense of accountability to use it well. I had tried to plan working writing time into my after work time in the evenings and at weekends. However, this didn’t quite work for me. There would be days when I’d feel particularly productive, creative and motivated and I could use the time well, but on the whole that plan and intention just seemed to slip by the wayside. After work I’d come home and would have to organise dinner (however quick and simple that might be for a bachelorette! 🙂 ) but I’d also want to use the time just to unwind, or on a good day maybe go for a walk or do some exercise inside, and of course I’d get caught up in frittering away my time online. Additionally on one night of the week I’d attend a Bible study and prayer group, and throughout the week I’d also make time to pray, so really the writing after work plan wasn’t fitting in with my lifestyle and concentration levels after work. I have in the past taken time off, 5 days I think which in addition to the weekends gave me a lovely 9 day stretch of time to focus on working on my book. I don’t know about you with your creative or other pursuits, but I feel that with creative projects you can’t merely schedule in a little bit of time every day to really do your best work. Blogging helps me to write regularly, and it doesn’t require the same amount of emotional and mental concentration as writing my novel does, but it is so helpful in keeping up the practice of writing on a reasonably regular basis (although I apologise for the times when I seem to go ‘AWOL’ due to life getting busy). I also write regularly as a part of my role at work doing policy and research work, but that involves formal business writing, which although I am quite proficient in, for the most part it isn’t such a passionate affair for me as creative writing is. 

For me, setting aside focused creative writing time involves a build up and a cool down in a sense. The build up, or preparatory time is moving out of the zone of my Monday to Friday work schedule and easing myself into a more creative ‘space’. Over the past few days, since Thursday (it is Sunday as I write this) I have been gently easing into this by blogging about preparing a personal retreat, and then getting my home organized a bit so that I won’t be overly distracted by pending housework (although there is still some stuff needing done, but isn’t there always? It’s important to have some set aside tidy space to be creative, but at the same time to ensure we use the time fully even if that means we need to attend to other less pressing ‘chores’ in other rooms at a future time. Boundaries need to be drawn around our set aside time so that we can pursue our dreams and not lose them in the midst of the day to day of our lives). I also spent some time sitting quietly with my thoughts, processing some emotions including difficult ones, and I have been spending time in prayer and resting, walking outside and engaging again in adult colouring in. These things may seem unrelated to the task at hand, but it sometimes takes a little time to allow our minds to inhabit a focused creative space to engage more fully in a specific project. 

However, I also realise the importance of not allowing ‘preparation’ – both internal and external – to become a distraction from what I actually want to use the time for. And it can so easily become a distraction, because for some strange reason we can tend to find reasons to not focus on the things in life we love to do and create. 

So, all in all, this blog post is me giving myself a bit of accountability by sharing it with you. This is ‘life as it happens to be’ for me right now, and you are all an important part of that journey. So hopefully this will allow me to move more determinedly out of the preparation space and into inhabiting a focused creative space. I may or may not leave my home over the next three days, we’ll see, and hopefully if you don’t see much from me on my blog over the next few days that will mean I am being productive and creative elsewhere, and will have more to share with you on my ‘return’. If however, you do see more of me here, feel free to give me a sharp reminder to stay focused and stop procrastinating, and get back to it! 🙂 

So, over to you  – do you have any creative projects or ventures planned this year? I wish you all the very best with them, and with your reading and blogging. xx

 

  • Writing Goals: For the sake of keeping myself accountable, I think I should specify some writing goals to achieve during my time. As much as I’d love to say my goal is to write for, say 8 hours a day for the next three and a half days, that may be a little unrealistic and discouraging if I don’t meet that. It takes time to read over what I have already been working on (for the past several years!) and quality is important, not just quantity of time or words. So instead, I’ll set a minimum standard and aim for writing (not including re-reading time) at least 15 minutes every hour for a minimum of 7 sessions a day. I hope and intend to write for a few hours at a time, but at least this way I am not adding extra pressure to myself during the creative process, but am setting goals and boundaries to ensure that I don’t just fritter away my time and not get anything done. Here goes….wish me well 🙂 x