Tag Archives: resilience

Self Care In A Pandemic (67): Ups And Downs Are Normal…

Perhaps you’ve been making strides forward in some area of your life, or even managing to keep a relatively even keel at various points throughout the pandemic and through lockdown if you are also in that situation.

Maybe you’ve hit some rough waters and things feel a bit more ‘up and down’ as you try to hold on through choppy waters.

That’s ok, friend. It’s quite normal. It’s part of being human to have good days and bad.

What we can do though is to keep seeking to build in resilience into our day to day life and habits. Sometimes I feel like I might be seeing light break through an area of my life that has been challenging for a while, only to realise that my heart and mind are uncovering other areas that need focus. That’s ok too.

If you’re beginning to feel a bit unsettled, don’t worry, it’s normal, and it won’t last forever. Take a breath. Gather your thoughts, try to get some perspective, pray and reach out for help if you need to.

Another thing you can do is continue to think about your ‘self care toolkit’. I may have mentioned this before, but the thing with our minds is that we can so often forget the good learning we’ve done and when we begin to feel all a bit ‘at sea’ again we may feel flustered and not sure of what to do next.

What is in your self care tool kit? What tips and tricks do you do to help you keep calm, stay grounded, and take the next step forwards? Perhaps you need to remind yourself of these or write down some new ones so that you can bring your thoughts back to things that will help you move forwards.

And remember that in moving forwards, the smallest of steps matter. It might feel monumental on a day in which you’re struggling to simply get out of bed, make your bed, shower and get ready and to look after your body and mind. Be kind to yourself. These small steps matter.

Here are some tips that you can incorporate into your own self care routine when you are having some ups and downs:

  • Remember to breathe properly. This helps to calm your nervous system and those racing thoughts. Breathe in through your nose for 5 counts, allow your belly to expand. Hold for five, and breathe out slowly and deeply through your mouth, expelling the air, for a count of 7. Repeat as often as you need to.
  • Get a bit of fresh air to clear your head. If you can’t go outside for a walk and if you don’t have a garden, try to open your windows from time to time, look up at the sky, and feel the fresh air on your face. Even a few moments of this can add a feeling of refreshment to you in a difficult moment.
  • Stay active. Maybe you’ve got a good exercise routine going. Try to keep things in balance so that you are neither over doing things or being inactive. Do things for the right reasons to look after your body and mind and not to ‘punish’ yourself. If you don’t know where to start, try some stretches, move your body a bit and do whatever it is in your capability to do even if for a few seconds or minutes to begin with. Your brain will start to enjoy the movements you give your body and you may just find yourself taking the next steps.
  • Eat well and drink plenty of water. Maybe you need to change your lifestyle considerably if you have unhealthy eating habits whether over indulgent, eating the wrong foods, or eating too little or too restrictively. Know that it’s ok to start small. Ask for professional help if you need to, there are so many resources out there, don’t feel that you are alone. Set yourself the challenge for making small changes to be more healthy and give yourself a ‘pat on the back’ when you accomplish each small task.
  • Read. Reading is good for the mind. Try also to learn new things, study and watch or listen to something educational. It’s fine to enjoy entertainment but our minds also need stimulation and learning otherwise they can get caught up in all kinds of negative mental health loops. Sometimes a good distraction and learning something new can work wonders and build new positive neural pathways and connections.
  • Keep in touch. We all need each other. Try to figure out who the right people are to have in your life right now and how you can mutually encourage each other and try to avoid toxic relationships, and try to get help if you need to.
  • Invest in your long term mental health and overcoming things that are detrimental to you or are road blocks to you. Maybe you have long standing issues or traumas that need to be addressed. Try thinking of ways to move forwards with these and know that it’s ok to go slowly if you need to. We all have something to overcome, you are not alone.
  • Keep healthy hobbies near at hand. Whether they are crossword puzzles, colouring in books, model making kits or cross-stitch, a musical instrument, sketch books, a pen and paper to write your thoughts, whatever they may be try to make it easy for yourself to pick up your hobbies because they are good for you.
  • Help someone else and gain perspective. Sometimes we can feel swamped with our own worries and problems and anxiety can take over. We can seek ways to help other people or even be more aware of the needs of others and this can help us gain a better ‘mindscape’ too. Don’t be overwhelmed or take in too much information that you can’t handle, but do try to look to the needs of others and help other people where and when you can, but try not to overload yourself or become overwhelmed by it.
  • Monitor your news and social media intake. Know the facts but take a break too. Have some distance from all the bad news of the world from time to time and make sure that you are looking after your mind and what you allow yourself to think about.
  • Take a break. Sometimes slowing down and focusing on the small things of life can work wonders. Make a cup of tea or whatever it is you like and slow down and take time to enjoy some simple moments.
  • Sleep routine. This one is a struggle for many of us but try to allow yourself good hours of rest. Maybe you struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep for various reasons. Do what you can to calm yourself down and make your sleep area cosy and comfortable and try to stick to as regular a pattern as possible and make sure you get enough rest.
  • Be thankful and try to be positive. In the midst of the storms we still see rainbows. Write down three things you are thankful for today, or simply take the time to be mindful of them or give thanks for them.
  • Make time for the things that you enjoy.
  • Have faith.

We all have ups and downs. It’s ok. Try to look after yourself and remember that one small step at a time still matters.

Take care. With love and prayers that you will stay strong and keep persevering. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (62): Work On Your Character…

Initially all the changes we faced in 2020 when the pandemic really started to impact our lives and shape our day to day realities, left many of us in a ‘survival mode’.

We were compelled into thinking about the immediate practicalities and concerns we needed to get to grips with in order to keep our loved ones and ourselves safe.

I’m sure we all remember the news articles and ‘toilet paper-gate’ in those early days when people were struck with panic and started hoarding essentials for fear of shortages amid the lockdown.

I realise that for many people things are by no means easy now, but in general in a variety of countries we have now established ways and means of managing these new day to day realities of living life in a pandemic.

Working from home has become a default for many people, even if we are still not fully equipped and established quite yet. Home education is a ‘new norm’ for some, and it’s no longer a novelty or new inconvenience to be ordering groceries and then spending our time carefully disinfecting them. These are all part of the rhythm of our new lives, as is social distancing, delivery people leaving parcels on our door steps rather than handing them to us, and so forth.

Some people in society are really hard pressed, such as those working in the ICU, people facing abuse in other frontline settings such as shop staff, and those for whom Covid-19 has had a knock on effect upon their finances, family situation and living situations. Some have become homeless while others are going to food banks for the first time.

I suspect that for many of us with the time to read and write blogs, we may be in a more comfortable situation not living hand-to-mouth on a day to day basis and not having to worry about where we will live next month.

For those of us who are no longer in pandemic-survival-mode, and for those of us who still are, we all have the opportunity to dig deeper and work on our character.

We are being pressed into thinking about many things, some of which many of us prefer to avoid in the general day to day run of life. Death and what happens next is one that is key to think about. I personally believe that there will be a judgement, and the only way to be right with God is by seeking His forgiveness and new life through Jesus Christ. That’s the biggest eternal need of all. Yet we also have other issues that we need to consider such as how we think of and relate to others, how we use our time, and whether we are developing ourselves in a way that will bring kindness into the world around us. We may be humbled by our circumstances and this may open opportunities for us to realise more of our humanity, our need and to develop thankfulness, perseverance and resilience.

So wherever you find yourself today, think of the ways in which you can be developing your character in this pandemic. Think of the person you are and want to become, and how you can use all of your experiences for the greater good, even and perhaps especially those which have been difficult for you.

Take care, as always friends, stay safe and never give up. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (58): Don’t Stay Down For Too Long…

It’s understandable that things may get you down. The times we are living in are, after all, *unprecedented*, as we keep being told.

There’s a lot going on, and I understand that. You know in your own life what you have going on. On the other side of a computer screen, perhaps even on the other side of the world, or maybe closer to home, I, the person writing this cannot see into your heart or know your deepest thoughts, hurts or fears. Yet I do know that we share a common humanity, and I do know from experience that sometimes life can be very hard.

Sometimes life, and being human, can really get us down. I hear you. I feel that. My encouragement for you today, however, is not to stay down for too long. The wisdom book of ‘Ecclesiastes’ tells us that there is a time for every matter in life.

“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3).

Ecclesiastes 3 NKJV – Everything Has Its Time – To everything – Bible Gateway

And in our own lives, we can see that there are times of suffering, times to grieve that suffering, times to be alone, times to be helped by other people, times to build up, to get stronger, and times of joy too.

If you are in a season of strength, keep going strong, keep building what is good, keep doing what is right. If you are in a place of pain, then take solace that you are not alone. In all of humanity across the ages people have felt feelings similar to what you are feeling, even if you feel like you are the only one. Yet, those times did not last forever. If life, if the pandemic, if being you is getting you down right now, that’s ok – it’s ok to feel all of those raw and real human emotions. But don’t let it keep you down. There is a time when we may get knocked over, but there is a time to get back up again, and again and again if need be. Be strong. Be courageous. Let your faith be far, far greater than your fear. You don’t need to have it all together or all sorted out, but don’t stay down for too long.

Do you remember that a few posts back we talked about daily habits, and about building new habits into our routines? Perhaps I will check back with you all properly shortly and we can do a progress check together. However, these simple tools that we use in our day to day lives can help us when the going gets rough. They can provide prompts that can help leverage us up and out of the pit of despair and into taking the next step of action.

Today I ‘brainstormed’ some ideas for myself. I made a list of what the people who inspire me do or have done to make progress in their lives. The three people I focused on are people who I don’t know personally but who are famous (and I mentioned them in my last post and some previous others: Lizzie Velazquez, Katie Piper and Nick Vuijicic). I’m looking for help and inspiration in the ‘what next’ of life. How do I take the next step, what do I do next, how do I get stronger in this journey of recovery and overcoming so that I can confidently thrive in life even if that seems a few steps ahead of where I am right now?

The list was impressive, encouraging, insightful and helpful. It was both inspiring and practical and down to earth. Yet it was not something that was simply handed to me. It took me time and thought and effort to come up with. And it helped me to realise that I am already doing many of the things that my role models are doing, even if on a very small scale. Yet one thing we all have in common is that sometimes we have all just had to take the tiniest of next steps even if they don’t seem to be that impressive at the time. They all add up.

Perhaps this is something you can do for yourself. Maybe you can think of a person or some people that you look up to in life, whether you know them personally or not, and make a list of the qualities, characteristics and attributes that they have that you aspire to. Write down some of their practical achievements. List some of the things about them that you admire. And begin to put into practice some of those things that you want to also be part of your own life. The chances are that you already do some or many of these things, even if in little day to day ways. Small things matter. Small steps, goals, achievements all matter. Repetition of these small things also matters, which is why I may reiterate some of the same advice that I have shared in a variety of ways, because we need that healthy positive reinforcement.

If you are feeling down, try not to stay down for too long. Even if it seems like a long season for you, one that isn’t a particularly happy one, try to think of the lessons that you can be learning, the resilience you can be building, and the seeds of faith and hope that you can be sowing. For when you come out on the other side, you may just be that stronger person for someone else to look up to for help and advice.

In times of need, when life has been weighing heavy upon me and I’ve felt crushed, there was always a sense of disconnect with people who although well meaning told me that they hadn’t ever really suffered. Their kindness was appreciated of course, but I never felt the comfort I needed from someone who had been there. Maybe you are or will be that someone who has been there, for someone else. Be strong, be courageous, don’t let the difficult season get you down for too long, for there will inevitably be a new season after this, for which you will want to be ready.

If you are not down, try to remember that you may be able to be a helping hand for someone else who is.

Be strong, be courageous, look up with faith, and take that next simple small step forwards.

Love and peace to you all, dear friends. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (30): Build Your Resilience….As Gradually As You Need To….But Keep Building….

I find that despite the pandemic, there is something quite calming and anticipatory about the Advent season. As a Christian, a follower and worshipper of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as strange as it sounds ‘I look forward in anticipatory remembrance’ of His first coming into the world as the Incarnate Christ, God humbling Himself in Human form to be Emmanuel, God with us, and Saviour of the World!

Other people look forward as well as Christmas approaches to a time of rest, perhaps, with a few days off work, and possibly even the chance to spend time relaxing with friends and family. This year certainly looks different to what we are all used to, what with the pandemic and all! Yet, there is something about this time of year that can for many be both a season of calm and of anxiety.

For those of us who will get some time off work and time to relax, and for those of us who enjoy Christmas, this is something to look forward to, even though there may be particular challenges this year.

However, in a ‘normal’ year, there is also a sense of anticipation in a way that might bring us unease. When Christmas passes, we know that soon to follow will be boxing day, perhaps some more days of rest, and then eventually we will take down the tree, the decorations, and before we know it we will be ushering in a ‘new year’ and many of us will be back to work.

Preparedess:

I remember writing last year about how I was preparing for the start of the new working year as I finished up with work before the Christmas holidays 2019. Feel free to take a look through my posts from this season last year for inspiration.

At the close of a year, we tend to comfort ourselves with the anticipation of a new year. As 2019 was drawing to a close, many of us took inspiration from the thought of a ‘brand new year’ and a ‘brand new decade’, and I’m sure I’m not the only blogger who noticed and also wrote about the idea of 2020 vision being a concept that had been brought to the fore, and one which we could apply to our own lives.

Yet, 2020 has certainly not been something that any of us could have anticipated in our plans or vision for that year or the next decade.

Yet as we approach 2021, I would encourage all of us to have an attitude of ‘preparedness’. Let’s explore what this might mean, and what it could look like….

2020 and mental health:

If like me, you’re somewhat of a ‘veteran’ with mental health challenges (c-PTSD, clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks, etc), then you may already have had some ‘coping mechanisms’ under your belt which helped you and I to deal with many of the challenges of 2020.

I am inclined to believe that there will be a fair few people this year, and perhaps some among you reading this, who have experienced mental health challenges this year in the pandemic even if you hadn’t really experienced this before.

Perhaps many things have come as a shock to you, and like some of us before, you’ve experienced things mentally and in your body’s response to stress that ‘freaked you out’ a bit, I guess for want of a better phrase. Anxiety for example can be very scary when you don’t know what’s happening when you experience fight/flight/freeze, racing and intrusive thoughts and don’t have any idea if you’re going mad or about to faint or die, etc! It takes time, work and learning to understand what is happening to us and to find the right tools and techniques to get stronger and manage these unwanted experiences.

As we approach 2021, we may be faced with the uncertainty of what lies ahead, but we can begin to prepare ourselves and build upon our resilience even as the new year perhaps seems to ‘loom’ ahead of some of you. How can we do this? Let’s think about some options:

Tools for resilience:

  1. Begin to identify whether you have had any particular mental health or other health challenges, seek support and research ways in which you can make progress and build strength and resilience.
  2. Take a fresh look at your finances, and start thinking and planning ways in which you can better use your resources.
  3. Consider the opportunities that you may have to meet that at the moment seem like challenges – do you need to adapt the way in which you work, do you need to apply for a new job, do you need to change your day to day routine or consider your caring responsibilities?
  4. Build a network of contacts whether help from professionals or supportive friends so that you are not facing the new year alone.
  5. Re-evaluate how you have been spending your time, and what might be draining your energy, resources and mental wellbeing, and think of the small steps you can begin to take to make positive changes in your life.
  6. Think about self care as being part and parcel of day to day life, and build in nurturing activities every day. These can include looking at what you eat, your water intake, the information you are taking in or should leave out, whether you are getting time outside, time to reflect and be still, exercise, and whether you have time to do things that your mind can enjoy and grow from such as learning or hobbies.
  7. Find inspiration and mentors from the people around you or from what you read or watch online. There is no shortage of inspiring people if you just begin to look for them.
  8. Feed your faith and not your fear, and consider what you spend your time thinking about and how you can begin to change your thought patterns.

There are so many more things we can do to build resilience as we approach the unknown, and we can look at more of these later and in more detail. But for now, know that you are not alone, you are capable, you don’t need to sink under the pressure of the challenges we face, you have a safe and endlessly encouraging place here with my blog, and from someone who has lived through many real challenges, and there are ways and means for finding help, support and empowerment, even if you don’t know exactly the next step to take right now.

The fact that you are reading this and have read to this point shows that you are able to find a starting point for resilience building and seeking out positive and inspiring content and people, so keep taking those next small steps, know that I am right here with you, and never give up.

Ultimately, thought we need something far Greater than all our tools and techniques to get us through – we need deep, true and lasting PEACE which can come only from The Prince of Peace Himself, Jesus Christ, through Whom we can have real experiential Shalom – a Peace with God through reconciliation and forgiveness of our sins because of the Price Jesus paid in His flesh through His death on the cross and His Resurrection. Without Him, I could only have temporary fixes, but even in my darkest or most difficult moments in life, in His Hands I am always Secure and have an eternal and enduring Peace with God and a Love that strengthens me from within. I hope you know the true Shalom of Jesus too. Be blessed.

Peace. x

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