Tag Archives: role models

Self Care In A Pandemic (25): Learning to Look At Things Differently….

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><strong>An example of positivity:</strong>An example of positivity:

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">When lockdown initially started in the UK, one of my role models, Katie Piper (please, please look her up if you don't know about her already – she is a fantastic example of an overcomer if ever you needed one!) was asked on a breakfast TV interview how she and her family are coping with being 'stuck at home'. When lockdown initially started in the UK, one of my role models, Katie Piper (please, please look her up if you don’t know about her already – she is a fantastic example of an overcomer if ever you needed one!) was asked on a breakfast TV interview how she and her family are coping with being ‘stuck at home’.

Katie, a self-confessed survivor and thriver (despite being the physical victim of a brutal assault and acid attack in 2008, with the multiple traumas and stages of physical and psychological recovery that follow from that) was very quick to challenge the language of the question asked and turn it on its head. Instead of complaining about being ‘stuck at home’, she was quick to show her gratitude for being ‘safe at home’. Katie’s awareness of the power of language and thought is, I believe, a crucial aspect of her resilience and recovery. She is now an ambassador for burns survivors, has a charitable foundation to help others who experienced similar things to her, is a wife, a mother of two little girls, an author of various biographies of different stages of her recovery journey, and of self help and encouragement books. She has her own beauty product range, has hosted various television documentaries looking at the lives of people who suffer from being stigmatised by society for being ‘different’ in some way, and has also had a stint training with the Police for another television programme she was involved in. She has been on the television programme ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in the UK, and has run marathons for charity, and continues to push through the negative attitudes of a society that still judges people based on appearance. Recently after an eye operation which was required because of ongoing injuries due to the acid attack, Katie was ‘trolled’ on social media by people abusing her verbally because of the damage done to her face. Personally I and many others think she is a beautiful and brave human being and she continues to speak out and raise awareness about social stigmas and the way we should treat each other. She has another speaking tour planned for 2021, obviously depending on how things are with the pandemic, but at the age of just 37 years old she is a formidable force of recovery and positivity.

I’m currently re-reading a book of hers that I read earlier this year. It’s called ‘Things get better’ and it starts out with Katie describing her ‘rock bottom’ after her attacks and awakening from a coma, so marred by the acid that she was barely recognisable to her own parents, and she longed for death. In severe psychological and physical trauma, the prognosis for her by most of the experts was extremely bleak. She was not expected to walk properly or be able to live independently and it was considered hugely likely that her mother would have to be her full time carer for life. Now just look at her go!

Katie, despite being desperately crushed and broken by her experiences, found a way to challenge her thinking patterns from victim to survivor (and in my opinion to an overcoming thriver, if not ‘superstar’ 🙂 ).

How can we look at things differently?

I wonder if you and I can take something from this incredible example? I think as a starting point it’s good to be honest with ourselves with where we are in how we are thinking and feeling about things in this pandemic. But let that be a starting point rather than an end result.

Maybe we’ll find we have some things in common with what we are being challenged to overcome.

  1. I haven’t properly been outside the house for a long time. I’m missing nature, the fresh air, being in parks or by the beach, and I’m struggling with the low light levels of winter. Maybe you have similar feelings of being cooped up, restricted or ‘stuck’ or feeling ‘down’ in some ways.

How can we look at this differently? Well, for a start, I am thankful that I have windows from which I can look at the outside world from. I’m thankful that in this cold and somewhat bleak winter season in Scotland I am safe and cosy indoors, that I have a home, and I can enjoy fresh air if I want by opening the door and stepping outside, even if not to go ‘out out’. I am thankful that I have been gifted with an imagination and a memory, and that I also have photographs that can prompt me of reminders of enjoyable times. I can think of times spent at the coast, of sunsets at the beach, I can remember the glistening of sunlight on water, and I can remind myself of walks in the park, and of travel adventures that I was blessed to go on in times past. I can choose to enjoy the cosy things that being indoors can afford me such as daydreaming about such times, imagining a positive future, or watching something inspiring, reading, spending time with family (now that I am blessed to no longer be in complete isolation as I was for the first half of the year), writing my novel, writing my blog, emailing my friends, drawing, colouring, playing my violin, spending time with God, and so the list goes on….

(not to forget getting cosy and watching Christmas movies! 🙂 ).

From what appears at first to be a negative, we can draw out so many positives by looking at things differently, and choosing to keep doing so!

2. I’ve been struggling with my mental health a bit, and I’m sure you can probably relate to this somewhat.

What positives can I / we draw from this? I’m appreciative of the time to think things through, to process, to read inspirational books and to help other people through my blog as I seek answers myself. The extra time being at home gives me a chance to do some of that deeper psychological work to build mental resilience and mental fitness that will help me and other people going forwards from here.

What positives can you draw from your challenges? Have you found opportunities opening up with other people to talk about mental health issues, which are extremely common in society, but not talked about enough? Have you been able to challenge stigmas or assumptions in yourself or others regarding issues with mental health? Are you able to talk about things more freely or with as much openness as you would a physical condition such as a broken leg, something which society does not stigmatise, or are you able to see the need to move further towards such open and honest conversations for the good of everyone involved?

Have you been able to reach out and ask for help, or are you able to provide some support to someone else? Have you grown in awareness of something you might not have been so aware of before, because of some of the issues that have come to light through the course of the pandemic? These can all be positive stepping stones individually and societally.

3. Missing people:

For the first half of the year I was in almost total isolation, and I am proud of myself for managing as well as I did, and for writing to encourage other people through that season of aloneness. I built up my own resilience, and showed concern for others, and made it through the more difficult days positively and having achieved various goals. I’m with family now, but I am missing my friends.

I wonder if you can relate to any of this? Do you live alone? Are you with people but feeling stressed or lonely? Are you missing friends or family that you would have wanted to see this Christmas or holiday season?

Can you reframe your thinking about this?

Can you identify ways in which you have shown resilience, compassion or grown in character or understanding? Have you grown in awareness of the needs of those around you and of more vulnerable members of society? Could you grow in gratitude for the special times you have had with other people, or have you become wiser in the company you keep and where you spend your time in terms of relationships and friendships with other people so that they become more deep and meaningful and so that you make wise decisions about people who may be ‘toxic’ or draining influences?

If you are happy and flourishing at home with your family, could you spare a thought and commit to an action of kindness for someone who is not? There is so much suffering out there, maybe you could add one small act of kindness towards alleviating that for someone?

If you are struggling are there positives you can find, or are there people you can connect with remotely, or are there other things such as skills you can use your time alone to build?

Sometimes it can seem very hard to find a positive from a negative situation or feeling, yet if we learn to see things as challenges rather than obstacles, we can grow in resilience, in fortitude, in positivity, in character, and we can learn to lead the ways as encouragers for those around us.

And remember that it is perfectly ok for you and I to start small. We may be inspired by people but we shouldn’t feel overshadowed by them. Our lives and our choices matter, even the smallest of choices. Personally I know that it is only by God’s Grace and the Sustaining Power of The Risen Lord Jesus Christ that I can do anything, and I am grateful each day for His mercies new every morning and His renewing strength at work in my life. It is a Strength that allows me to be weak, to be honest, to be vulnerable and also that gives me the grace to persevere knowing that I am never alone, and it is not all up to me.

What are you struggling with today? Be honest with yourself. Is there a way that you can change your obstacle into a challenge to be overcome, triumphantly? A thought may seem like a little thing, the smallest of steps forward, but it is incredibly powerful, and it is well within your grasp to choose how you will think about your issue at hand.

Stay safe, be strong, live this day with renewed hope. xx

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Self Care In A Pandemic (3). Bad News, Good News, and Role Models…

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.

Be brave, friends, stay strong, be blessed. x

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Mental Health….Let’s Talk….Technology.

I want you to feel, no matter who you are or where you are in life, that in visiting my blog, you will find encouragement and hope. 

It is the final day of Mental Health Awareness Week today in the UK…but let’s keep the discussion going. 

Today, I want to encourage you by talking about living life in an increasingly digital world. As human beings, we are created for connection. We all need healthy relationships and connections, but as each and everyone of us know and have experienced to varying degrees, we live in a broken world and a fractured society, where the very relationships that are supposed to bring health and wellbeing and add something wholesome to our lives can actually be destructive, hurtful and a cause of great emotional, mental and even physical distress.

We live in an increasingly ‘connected’ world. People are constantly ‘engaged’ with some form of communication: look around you and you’re bound to see someone, even if that someone is yourself alone in a room, ‘plugged in’ to a laptop, a phone, a device of some sort, and chances are you’re not simply engaged in researching a topic. People are constantly looking for connection, validation, to be ‘liked’, for our lives to be considered worthwhile, important, ‘enough’. 

And yet, the sad thing is, family members, friends, colleagues, strangers can be sitting side by side, seemingly ‘communicating’ with somebody online, and yet ignoring the real life human interaction available to them, while scrolling through pictures of other people’s filtered lives and feeling none the better for it. 

I think it was Gretchen Rubin, author of ‘The Happiness Project’ who said that technology is a good servant, but a bad master. How true! It is great to be able to communicate with friends and loved ones across the world, in other towns, and to learn new things, to grow and develop and be encouraged, and build helpful connections in our shared humanity, and link in with people of similar mindsets and interests. But our engagement with technology has its place. 

I am seeking to be more aware of how I use technology in line with my core values, and one thing I feel strongly about is that I want to use my experiences to help other people. 

Friend, do you not notice a disconnect in your life, when you are overly ‘connected’ online? Are you aware of what impact the constant stream of auditory and visual information is having on you and your mental health?

In any healthy relationship, boundaries are gradually established for the good of both parties. Let’s think through the boundaries we are setting with ourselves in our relationship with technology and the online world. 

  1. Know Yourself

A good place to start is to do some soul searching, away from the computer or internet, and get in touch with what is important to you in your life, your core values, your sense of purpose, and what connection means to you. 

Personally, as a Christian, before coming to know the Lord Jesus, I often felt utterly alone in the world. I’m of the ‘Millenial’ generation, and probably in the last age group to remember growing up without technology. Some kids in secondary / high school had phones, but all the phones were capable of was phone calls and texts, and it was only a few people who had them. As a teenager, I wanted to question and swim against the tide of society – I never wanted to go out and get drunk or mindlessly do things many peers wanted to do – I wanted to find God, to be spiritual, to be kind to nature, to become a writer, to travel, to find my purpose on a deep level and to put something valuable into the world, to make a change, to advocate for human rights, and animal rights….possibly as many teenagers in one way or another still do. But I was resistant to technology, and how it seemed to be ‘creeping up’ on society, yes, it was good to use the internet on my parent’s home desktop PC, but I refused to get a mobile phone until I literally was compelled to by my mother when I was aged 20, and even then I got an old school basic model that probably now belongs in a museum, and all it was capable of doing was calls and texts….it was really more for my mother’s peace of mind than something I desired. I floated my way walking in parks and near rivers near my beautiful university, studying English Literature, Politics, Gender Studies, Human Rights, International Development, and longing, dreaming of being a writer, and pouring out my heart and thoughts through the written world – ‘old school’ style using actual pen and paper 🙂 

Yet despite my daydreaming, my heart was broken, and I was a fragile, fractured little bird who had been tossed by tempest and not comforted. My inner pain was great and unseen to the world, and before knowing The Lord Jesus I felt deeply alone inside despite having people around me. I do think however we were more ‘connected’ growing up without obsessing with our phones and having them only as a means of communication to let people know where we were or for emergencies. Since becoming a Christian, I have despite painful years of healing and various challenges, and sometimes spells of loneliness, never actually been Alone, and never felt alone in the same way as I once did. I believe the deepest need of the human soul is love and connection – with the One Who Created us. Yet, I digress, this is not a sermon, and is not just for believers, it is a post for everyone.

What I want you to be aware of is *why* you are seeking connection from technology, and that you need to establish boundaries with it. There was a time when I realised I needed to set boundaries for the sake of my mental and emotional wellbeing because I was encountering several posts from friends about their relationships, marriages and babies, or even travel and other significant life events….and it was getting me down….feelings that were there already were exacerbated by the ‘comparison trap’ …. I have no doubt that you also face this in your online experience even if the things you are drawn to compare with are different from those I mentioned….maybe they include body image, health, fitness, life goals and such like. 

So get to know yourself, your values, how your use of technology either lines up with them or not, and what your personal mental health struggles might be. Set some boundaries so that you already have in mind how using technology will be a positive and healthy experience to you and don’t like we all too often do, just get drawn into the next click or ‘conversation’ / debate. 

2. Strike a Balance

While there can be many benefits to our mental health in using technology – for there is a whole world out there where we can find support, information, shared experiences, helpful resources, friendships, inspiration, new opportunities, passions and projects – there can also be many ways in which engaging with technology can cause us mental and emotional distress and can cause us to disengage with real life and human connections, and even find ourselves in a disconnect with ourselves.

Try to use technology purposefully and know what your purpose is before you ‘power up’ as it were. That will give you a sense of satisfaction and you will have more control over the effects on your mental health if you do. Know when it is time to switch off, and to connect in the analogue world. Find out how it feels to walk in the rain, or barefoot through the grass…without feeling the need to document it or share it with anyone else, unless perhaps the someone else is someone you are connecting with in that moment and shared experience. Walk outside and experience the fresh and vibrant colours and life and sounds around you – have a time and space for capturing that whether on film or photo, but then also make time to leave those things at home, or in your pocket, and simply LIVE IT. It will be so good for your soul, your mental health and your emotional wellbeing and sense of connection with your own life. Too often we feel rushed and hurried and bombarded with information, that we can be left feeling lonely, isolated and as if we are watching our lives go by rather than living them, when we face this disconnect. Real life relationships are where real connection is found, even if that relationship is a solitary one with yourself thinking, reading, or reaching out to God in prayer. Relationships take time, work, attention and commitment, so put the phone down and realise that what is before you is so precious, and not everyone needs to know every detail of what is sacred to you. Don’t let your real life relationships and your mental health crumble because of being overly ‘connected’ or merely plugged in to the online world. Savour what it is to be human, to be present in the moment and to be with the people you love, or build upon the relationships you find challenging without the help of a screen to do so all the time. 

3. When you are online, seek out the positive

Your mental wellbeing *can* benefit from your online connections. Hopefully someone somewhere might have benefitted from reading this post. I do hope so. I see other people like me who have gone through various challenges to their mental wellbeing, who use their online presence to reach out to and connect with other people, and who use their experiences and what they have learned to help others who might be facing similar challenges in life. You have a wealth of experience at your fingertips, and in your heart. Seek to benefit from positive role models, and add something positive to help someone else too. Being purposeful and thoughtful in our use of technology is sure to help our mental health as well as setting boundaries and knowing when to take a break.

arms bonding closeness daylight
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