I sometimes feel that writing is a gift through which we can better understand our life’s journey.
It gives the seed of a thought expression, the opportunity to ‘dance’ into life and then perhaps more profoundly to be noticed and nurtured and watered into life by a reader.
It is quite an exquisite thing to realise that one’s thoughts can connect with those of another.
I’m writing just now to discover those seeds of thought that perhaps need to be planted and watered in order to find their true expression.
What I’m thinking of right now is the gradual movement into a season of more peaceful healing. For years I have been in recovery from complex PTSD and literally battling demons, but greater is He. My Creator, God.
Sometimes when our painful symptoms are alleviated we might think that we can press on into the next stage, whereas what we may really need is simply to slow down and gently take the time to fully heal. It is a real gift to be given time and space to work things out, to allow the healing waters to soothe the troubled soul and mind and to restore what has been broken or frozen in fear by the darkness. God Is Good. The healing that once seemed impossible is beginning to bud and bloom and a new day is sure to follow.
Every now and then we need to remind ourselves to take the time. To accept that the wounds may be deeper than we would like to face, and to give ourselves that time to be restored by the hand of our loving Creator. There are things we can do too for ourselves, being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Yet, the tracks of years of thinking in one way may take time to be washed away as we lay down new tracks, those of life giving thought, as we think of what is true, noble, good, pure, excellent, praise worthy.
There is a time for healing. A time for all purposes under the sun. And perhaps this is your time as well as mine. Give yourself the gift of accepting that time. You may have to face difficult things but soon enough the path will get smoother, either that or you will get stronger and the challenges will no longer seem insurmountable. There is a place of peace and restoration promised to us in Christ for the healing of our hearts, for the mending of the broken-hearted and the grace that gives us the gift of complete forgiveness…which as we let ourselves receive it and as the chains that fettered and bound us gradually fall away, leads us to walk ever gently into true freedom.
Don’t be disheartened if it takes time. Give yourself the gift of that time, and I will learn to give myself that gift also. The darkness and the lies are never greater than the Beauty of Truth and Pure Love that has come in Christ to set us free. So know that you are valuable, worthy of healing, of forgiveness and love, and take time today to rest in that.
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?
I’ve touched upon aspects of self care and wellbeing in previous sections of this guide, including eating and sleeping well, taking walks, looking after your mental health and including exercise into your routine, and making sure that you have enough supplies for your health conditions such as medicines.
However, it’s a good idea to remember to look at your health and wellbeing in a holistic way and to think of what the main things that might affect you could be.
As we near the end of November, I’ve noticed a few things in my own life, so I thought I’d share them with you.
Firstly, I feel like hibernating. I’ve noticed that my body, mind and mood are being affected with this wintery season. It gets darker a lot quicker, light levels are lower, and there is a drop in temperature. I feel like with the natural cycle of the seasons, my body too is winding down and preparing for rest. Actually, if I didn’t have to work I’d probably be napping during the day like a curled up little hedgehog! 🙂 I’ve given out a lot of good advice such as maintaining exercise and healthy eating habits, and getting enough rest and sleep as well as staying active, but when it comes to it although I have been trying to do these things I am feeling a little sluggish and looking forward to not having to do very much.
Secondly, the desire for hibernation is coupled with a season of activity – which may not be such a bad thing, but it also means having to be realistic about what I can actually manage, and to pace myself. I’m blessed to have friends to meet and events to attend and things to prepare for, but it’s not always easy to ‘keep up’. As our bodies are perhaps slowing down and preparing for a time of rest we seem to try to pack in as much festivities as we can, and on the one hand that’s a good thing in making sure we don’t end up in a ‘slump’ hiding away from the world and perhaps giving in to low moods, but on the other hand it also means that we don’t have endless amounts of energy and so to stay well we need to pace ourselves and to be wise and selective in how we use our time as well as caring for our bodies and not over indulging.
Thirdly, it is the season for coughs, colds, sore throats and infections! And it’s hard to avoid these altogether, but it is something we can try to prepare for in advance.
So, what are the takeaways or key points that you can glean from all of this?
Accept that your body may react to the changing of the seasons by naturally slowing down, and that this may leave you feeling a little sluggish, tired or lethargic.
Pace yourself and try to maintain as much balance as possible between rest and play.
Listen to your body, and if you can slow down and wind up on big work projects, pace yourself with social events, don’t overpromise or overcommit to doing things, be flexible, be kind to yourself and manage the expectations of yourself and others and prepare a winter survival kit for coughs, colds, and also for any other important aspects of your life and safety. You might want to also have a winter survival kit in your car just in case of emergencies!
In summary, be realistic and take it easy. There may be a good reason that nature slows down at wintertime and it may be good for us to do so too.
Helping others is often very good for us too. As the winter season draws in, it is not uncommon with the drop in temperatures, the low light levels, and shorter days for out mood to also drop.
We can become sluggish, lethargic and inwardly focused if we are not careful. Offering to help someone else can help us to keep an outward focus, think about the needs of other people, feel more productive and be more active.
You don’t need to overstretch yourself, but if you are in the position to, why not offer to help someone else with something?
Does your mum need help to organise a family event? Would your wife appreciate your help cooking dinner? Can you pick up some things from the shops for your elderly neighbour while you are doing your own shopping? Can you help a younger brother or sister prepare for their nativity play? Can you help with organising a particular event in your community, or babysit for a friend so that they can get a bit of a break?
Helping others ‘survive’ and thrive this winter can also go a long way to helping ourselves too. x
The seasons of the year remind us that change is an inevitable, and thankfully purposeful, part of our lives. Autumn is a beautiful conundrum: we are mesmerised with the beauty of leaves turning vibrant shades of gold, orange, red and yellow – yet what is actually happening is that these leaves are changing, dying and falling away. One season of life gives way to the next, and the spectacular thing is that there is great beauty and vibrancy in Autumn before winter sets in…a beauty which is at the same time a decay and the falling away of old things.
I find this both strange and captivating. Autumn is truly beautiful to me, glorious even, and many other people also find it wondrous – yet who really celebrates decay in any other aspect of life? It’s quite an unusual thought when you reflect upon it.
I think God gives us gifts in the lessons we can learn from the changing of the seasons. There can be beauty in transitions, even ones which mean letting go and moving on.
I think this post in my Winter Survival Guide may be challenging for some of us. There is a tendency among human beings to want to ‘hold on’, or if we want to let go, it doesn’t happen without struggle. We don’t let go of aspects of our lives by seeing them bursting into beauteous colours to gracefully float away in their appointed time, but this is one of the lessons that this season teaches us – the beauty and even majesty of change, of life giving way to life, through death (and isn’t this the message of The Cross). And there is a time and season ‘for every purpose under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes).
If we allow the lessons we are gifted through the changing of the seasons to be an opportunity to reflect upon our own lives, then what is this season saying to you? What can we more generally as human beings learn from it?
I certainly don’t have all, or even many of the answers on this one, but maybe we could find some points of reflection about our lives in the following:
Beauty and Gratitude in life’s changing seasons: Perhaps you are facing some poignant changes in your life. Maybe you are in a season of life where you have ‘grown up’ children who are leaving home for the first time, and it is a bittersweet transition for you. In what ways can you truly take time to reflect upon the beauty and the gifts that you have enjoyed, and how can you gracefully let go as one season of life gives way to the next as your children move into another stage of their lives? What ways can the ’empty nest’ – the feelings of sadness, loss and parting be looked upon for their beauty, vibrancy and life? As these previous seasons fade to memories, what aspects of ‘spring’ in the seasons to come could you be looking forward to?
Acceptance of loss: Maybe what you or someone you know is facing is actual loss, as you deal with bereavement. Is this a time you can spend reflecting upon the good times, and learning to celebrate the life that was? Or maybe you can helps someone else who is grieving to find comfort and hope in this season, maybe it can be a time of quietness, solitude, ‘hibernation’ in a sense, to come to terms with things as they change.
The parting of ways: Often times we feel reluctant to let things change or to embrace and step into change. Think about the things in your life that you have held onto, even though it was time to let them go, because you were anxious about the unknown, unfamiliar or unexpected. Sometimes ‘leaves’ fall from our lives seemingly without any rhyme or reason, and we are faced with the choice whether to let them go. Sometimes it is right and good to seek to hold on to something, to work at reviving it, nurturing it, bringing it back to life, and health with love because it wouldn’t be right to simply let it go. A marriage for example – maybe it is changing, maybe facing decay in aspects, but it would not be right for the couple to simply give up on each other. Maybe one is already giving up, but the other has to fight to keep things alive, to nurture, to care for, to bring life.
At other times however, things do just seem to naturally ‘fall away’. Friendships for example. This is something I am facing at the moment – a friend of several years has silently moved on – it is something they have done with other friends as well, and so I reached out in love and have left it up to them as to whether they wish to connect, but otherwise to say a loving goodbye if that is what they wish. I have been met with only silence, and so all I can do is pray, and let go. There is a time and season and reason for some friendships and sometimes those seasons pass and we need to allow the dead leaves and dead things of our lives to fall away.
Perhaps you have been reflecting on the friendships, relationships, acquaintances and connections in your life, and you have decided to intentionally let go of certain people, with it not necessarily being their choice. Maybe they are not ‘life bringing’ connections and you feel it is best for you to move on. Perhaps you could reflect on how best to do this in a loving way, and where possible if appropriate to offer some explanation to the person. Understandably this isn’t always appropriate depending on the nature of the relationship and how unhealthy or detrimental it might be, but it is nonetheless something that you can take time to reflect upon.
Things, things, things! Maybe the ‘dead leaves’ of this season in your life are in fact certain material things that you no longer need, use or appreciate. Perhaps their falling away from your life, as you let them go, could bring beauty to someone else’s life. Maybe the ‘letting go’ in this season for you could be a good old de-cluttering and instead of a ‘spring clean’, having an autumn / winter clean!
What are some of the things you no longer need that someone else could benefit from? Clothes, books, toys, household goods, furniture, and so forth. Letting them go may benefit not only the people who can make good use of them, but also free you up to enjoy a ‘lighter load’ and the opportunity for a new season. Maybe you don’t need to get rid of things as such, but just unsubscribe from things – emails, newsletters, subscriptions, etc. Do you really need to hold on to them, or is it the season to let them fall away by choosing to intentionally let go?
Priorities: Sometimes our priorities or projects get old, start to decay, and it becomes time for us to let them fall away. Maybe they once served a purpose, but now they no longer do, or they are just time-wasters, and maybe take our time, attention and dedication away from other more important aspects of our lives. Perhaps when you were young, carefree and single you could spend as much time as you liked doing whatever you liked but now that you are a parent you need to refocus your priorities as your child is far more important than your hobbies or even your career. Maybe you need to make an intentional shift and let certain things go, or at least lessen your time spent on them so that you can nurture new life in other areas of your life. Maybe you are young, carefree and single, but some of the ways you are spending your time are dead priorities, and not even that important after all – maybe it’s time for you to let some of that go so that you can invest in bringing life to more important things such as nurturing yourself, your mental health and wellbeing, your friendships and family relationships, building upon your skills and pursuing your dreams.
When the dead leaves are our own thoughts, attitudes or characteristics: Many if not most of us get stuck in unhelpful patterns of thought. We hold on to them because they are familiar even though we know them to be destructive. What would happen if we let them go? Of course, it’s not so simple with our minds as to simply see thoughts fall like autumn leaves, but we can make a decision to do the hard work to let go of unhealthy thoughts, to stop believing lies about ourselves or our lives, and to choose to allow new, positive, true, beautiful, kind and noble thoughts to spring to life in the next seasons.
Letting go of good things: What if the things we need to let go of are good things? There is nothing wrong with them as such, but they just no longer belong in this season of our lives. It can be hard to recognise these at first, but perhaps slowly the realisation dawns upon us – maybe they just no longer are quite the right fit for us. You might have some profound thoughts on what some of these good things in your life might be. I feel like I ought to be able to come up with something at least moderately deep and meaningful to give as an example, but actually the only thing I can think of right now is the Planner I use. I’ve used this type of Planner for the past two years, I absolutely love it and there are so many good and great things about it, its format, set-up, how it helps you see and plan out your goals and for the first year and a half I was making some really good use of it. However, as good as it continues to be, for the Planner hasn’t changed, I’m not really making the most of it anymore because I have changed – the way I do things, the amount of time I can spend doing my Planner in a certain way – it continues to be good, lovely and wonderful, but I think it is nearing the end of having served its purpose for this season, and maybe in the new year I will have a different planner, a different system or way of doing things that works better for me for where I am right now. Maybe it’s just time to let go! 😉
So, what about you? What are the leaves that are falling away from your life in this season? What are some of the things you think you may need to let go of? What have I missed that maybe I could be encouraged to reflect upon? As always, happy to hear your thoughts.
If it’s anything, this time of year is the perfect time to snuggle up indoors and to have a cosy night in, whether that’s on your own or with your loved ones or friends. I love putting on some cosy and comfy clothes, warm socks and curling up on the couch to watch a good film, box set or TV programme.
In the UK, you know it’s autumn / winter time when ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ comes on the TV. It signals the countdown to Christmas and it’s become a bit of a TV tradition for me at this time of the year.
What are your favourite films, series or TV programmes to watch that make you feel cosy during the winter seasons? Do you have an equivalent in your country to the show I mentioned? Whatever you choose to do, stay warm, cosy, healthy and happy! 🙂 x
I’m a chai tea latte kind of a girl. Just saying 🙂
These seasons quite often not only get a lot colder, but become much busier as well. For a lot of us busier can equate to things being more stressful. However, all is not lost, as with the approaching winter season, coffee shops, cafes, tea rooms and the like all start introducing those wonderfully named and flavoured festive drinks to keep us warm, cosy and happy.
So don’t be afraid to take care of yourself and take a break. Self care is important all throughout the year, but during the winter seasons we can sometimes put ourselves last while trying to tick a lot of the boxes on our ‘to do lists’ while also trying to be charitable, helpful, get things done and keep everyone else happy.
A cosy break and a hot cuppa every now and then can do wonders. Especially with so many new varieties of flavours to try, it is the season to be cosy! Or even to sit in your own home on your own, with your family or a friend or two and sip a hot drink while eating some sweet treats and catching up or watching a film….or even, writing your amazing blog posts!
It’s also nice to remember others at this time of year, and extend a ‘cup of kindness’ yet as Auld Lang Syne. Maybe that cup of kindness could be in the offering of a hot drink to a homeless person out in the cold on a winter’s day. As we care more for ourselves, we also are able to care and give more for others.
So, what festive flavours take your fancy? Hot chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon sticks, pumpkin spice, mulled wine, toasted marshmallow, gingerbread latte, or something equally exciting that I haven’t heard of before? Drop me a comment and let me know what your cuppa of choice is. Personally I think you can’t beat a good old fashioned tea, or chai tea latte (with cinnamon), or of course a good old hot chocolate on a cold winters day!
A beautiful analogy of life is winter. The latter seasons of the year one might compare with the changing tones and mood of life as one ages. As with a carefree youth and young adulthood, the beginning of the year is often filled and overflowing with doing things, getting things done, making plans, achieving, going places, exploring, dreaming, figuring things out, seeing the world, and finding one’s passion. How many of us look upon January as a fresh new start, and begin dreaming of and planning for the wonderful adventures in the year ahead? However, as time moves on, and the year draws to a close, as things mature, and aspects of life fall away, the mood becomes somewhat more pensive, more reflective, a time for thinking, for evaluating, for finding meaning, for ‘taking stock’.
The winter months provide a perfect opportunity for ‘taking stock’ in a number of ways. It is a good time to consider how you have spent the past year, whether you used your time wisely, faced your challenges bravely, have grown in character, have shown love, lived out your purpose and made the world a little kinder than before. It is also a good time to ‘rest and be thankful’, and to think upon our individual journey through life, our faith, our personal beliefs and whether we have found the answers we have been searching for, whether indeed we have been asking the right questions of our short lives on earth in the first place (questions which yield answers of eternal significance), whether we have to ‘dig a bit deeper’, or whether we have been ‘frittering our time away’ and wasting the gifts, talent and time given to us. These deep things are definitely a reason to pause for thought.
However, on a much lighter and more practical note, this time of year is also a good opportunity for taking stock of the day to day things of our lives. Perhaps thinking about these practical things is more to your liking, so here are some suggestions of where you could start.
Take stock of what you have at home, what you need to let go of, and what you need to stock up on.
For example, do you have the things you need to see you through this season? Things such as medicines, cough and cold supplies, a stock of food in your pantry including all of those helpful non-perishable items, toiletries, first aid kits, warm clothes, and so forth?
Before going out and buying all of the things you need for winter time, have a look through what you have already got and make the best use of those items. As my Mum still tells me, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” (Wise words, thanks Mum! 🙂 x ).
Similarly, if you have more than you need, or have gone through the year not using what you have such as clothes, then consider donating some of these items to people who will get good use out of them. This is something that I keep meaning to do, but need to actually put into action this year. If I’m not using it, shouldn’t I give someone else the chance to?
Having taken stock of what we have, what we can let go of, and what we need, it’s a good time to ‘stock up’ for the winter – especially for those cold nights when you don’t feel like going out to get something from the shops, having something at hand comes in very useful!
So over to you – what are the types of things you are taking stock of this winter season, whether practical or more in terms of your values and life journey? Do you have any hints and tips to share with the rest of us?
It may only be the beginning of November, but soon we will be made more aware of the festive and holiday season approaching. If you live in America there is ‘Thanksgiving’ in November, and among other Western countries you may be approaching Christmas, New Year and / or other faith-based or holiday celebrations.
The most wonderful time of the year?
It certainly can be ‘The most wonderful time of the year’. But if we’re all honest with ourselves, we know that it isn’t always the case. Sometimes the most wonderful time of the year can serve to highlight the pain and difficulties of life all the more starkly because of the sharp contrast with how we feel things ought to be.
Reflections and moving forwards:
This year I’m looking forward to and trusting God for a happy, Peaceful and healthy Christmas with family and friends and as a Christian, celebrating my Wonderful Saviour. However, Christmases haven’t always been bright for me. I won’t go into details but there has been light and shade over the years, and it hasn’t always been easy. A few years ago, I was at the point where I just had to open up to my family about how bad I was feeling – and I faced the guilt of telling them, on Christmas day that I was having suicidal feelings. I felt like I had spoilt things, but they were so loving towards me and to cut a long story short it was the beginning of some very difficult steps for me to get professional help with severe clinical depression, and to be diagnosed with complex PTSD, and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. The joureny over the next few years proved to be very tough, but with perseverance I got help, support and am here feeling much better and more purposeful today. Without God moving in my life to hold me and support me and move me forward one painful step at a time, I wouldn’t have got to where I am, so I am very much looking forward to a blessed festive season after some not so good times.
Where do you find yourself?
Perhaps you find yourself looking joyfully ahead. However, I know that many of you are probably having to just put on a brave face and you are feeling pretty low about things, or maybe you do have happy times ahead but you feel stressed about the effort and organisation that will fall to you in making them happen.
Take a moment to reflect upon how you feel and what your thoughts are knowing that this time of year is approaching once more. Give yourself time to feel and to think what you think and to ask yourself what changes you can make to make things better for yourself and for others.
Burdens come in many forms:
We can learn to look at our challenges as opportunities, however, for the most part hard times are just that – hard times, and we somehow have to struggle through them. You might be facing anxiety, family problems, depression, bereavement which may be particularly poignant at this time of year, separation, loneliness, ill-health, loss of some sort, poverty, homelessness, broken relationships and friendships, isolation or a whole host of other pressures and painful things.
Maybe you have more than one of these things weighing you down.
What can you do?
From what I have learned in my life, my encouragement to you would be to start getting into the mindset of preparing yourself to ‘cope’ if need be, right now. That way you will have some time before things get really ‘in your face’ about how happy you should be and before you are unable to avoid the constant stream of conversations, advertisements and shop window displays.
Have a plan:
Start now, in early November, with some set-aside times of self-reflection. While the month is still pretty quiet (in terms of societal pressures as I realise that you may have a lot going on in your own life right now), find a way to carve out some time for yourself to do some thinking. With the pressures in your life you may feel like you have ‘no time’, but you do – it’s all about finding something that will work for you. Perhaps if you only have five or ten minutes at a stretch you could get a notebook and over a few days or weeks whenever you get the chance begin to think and plan how you can look after yourself during these challenging and maybe painful holiday seasons.
Meditation, quiet time, journaling and knowing your triggers:
Ok, so now you have some time set aside, what do you do with it? Here are a few ideas to get you started. Silent reflection / meditation and listening to how you feel. Journaling to express your thoughts and feelings and to externalise what is going on with you and maybe even to figure it out. And very importantly, learn about what your ‘triggers’ may be (things that can ‘set you off’ on a negative emotional or cognitive decline).
As to meditation, quiet times and journaling I think you can find what if any of these works best for you so I won’t go into more detail on those. Knowing your triggers is crucial and I encourage you to take some focused time to really think about what these may be and plan ‘safeguards’ around them. Spend time observing your own moods, thoughts, behaviours and make a note of what kind of things make you feel bad, brainstorm, write them down and come up with a list of the most prominent triggers that you foresee yourself having to deal with.
A list of triggers, noting how you ‘cope’ and creating a wellbeing plan:
Now that you have established the things that could trigger you into falling into a bad place, it is important for you to take time to reflect upon some of your unhealthy ‘coping mechanisms’. Be really honest with yourself and write down what these might be. For example, maybe you turn to alcohol, comfort eating or something more harmful to ‘numb the pain’. Maybe you isolate yourself, ruminate, allow yourself to sink further into depression, sleep a lot or self-harm or push people away. There could be a whole host of damaging and unproductive ways that we find to deal with the most painful things in our lives and it is important to know what these are. It is also so important to commit to choosing a healthier way of dealing with things and making a plan and a strategy of getting through.
Where do I start?
This may all sound well and good in theory, but maybe you feel overwhelmed by these suggestions in and of themselves. Therefore, I am going to use some real and hypothetical scenarios to illustrate how you may go about coping with things and you can use this as a template for your own self-care and wellbeing plan.
An example of a wellbeing plan.
Ok, so imagine that you are facing a difficult situation this year of having health challenges, facing loneliness, anxiety, depression, change of circumstances, and the breakdown of a friendship or relationship.
You’ve given yourself the kindness of time to think about what’s really going on with you and to process some of it, as well as to think about what might be your ‘triggers’.
Some of the triggers you face include the following:
Crowds and busy places make you feel anxious and unwell.
You don’t have anyone to talk to about how you feel and you feel like you ‘ought’ to be happy or you’ll ruin the mood for other people, and so you try to cope with the depression on your own.
Things have got worse for you health-wise and you feel overwhelmed and alone.
You are struggling with the breakdown of a close friendship or relationship and don’t know how to deal with it, you know that you’ll soon be surrounded by all of the ‘picture perfect’ scenes in films, advertising, social media and among your friend or acquaintance circles who are in a happy place in their lives.
You are having to deal with stressful family situations and don’t know how you’ll cope with the enforced times together that you have to be a part of.
You know some of the things you turn to that aren’t helpful for you. You know that you’ll want to escape and so you isolate yourself, you indulge in negative coping mechanisms and isolate yourself all the while these things make you feel worse.
A better way forward:
You know that you don’t want to fall into the slippery slope of negative emotions, thoughts and reactions, and so you plan some ‘self-care’ and contingency plans to keep you safe and even enable you to enjoy some of this season despite what you’re facing.
These contingency measures will be very specific and personal to you, but to help as many people as I can in a general way, use this ‘Checklist’ that I’ve come up with as a guide:
Health: Give yourself time to get the healthcare and professional medical advice that you need. Listen to your doctors and those who have your best interests at heart, and ask them for their help and advice in what you should do and how you might be able to cope better.
Isolation / Loneliness / No one to talk to: You may feel like there is no one to talk to, but try making a ‘contact list’ of people you can turn to for general support and in case of an emergency. You might feel bad being at the stage of having to do this, but believe me I had to do this for a long time, I’ve been there and eventually you will get stronger so don’t feel bad if you need to lean on people from time to time.
Think of the people in your life who care about you. Do you have a trusted friend, or a few good friends, a family member, pastor, colleague, relative that you can turn to and confide in? You may find that they in fact care a lot about you, your well being and will be there for you in whatever capacity they are able, so please reach out to such kind people of noble character if you are blessed to have them in your life. If you don’t have this, then please know that you are never alone. I have also had to turn to ‘crisis helplines’, phoning the Samaritans and talking to doctors during tough times – they may not have been ‘friends’ as such but they were a lifeline for me, and sometimes you need someone to talk to and those in the caring professions are often a good and safe source of support. Make a list of contact numbers you can call and reach out to, and also be aware that nowadays with technology there are a wide variety of ways you can contact professionals such as by text, email and video conferencing.
If you are a bit stronger in yourself maybe you can reach out to others in similar situations or even those who are in greater need such as through volunteering, meeting groups of likeminded people and seeing what’s going on in your community.
Be sure to plan in some ‘happy times’ even if you don’t necessarily feel happy inside, create opportunities for positive experiences as far as you can manage. This may be planning a lunch, dinner, cinema outing with friends or a friend. It could be going for walks in the park or getting away somewhere refreshing by yourself. There are so many possibilities but you may have to plan ahead before things get busy to ensure you have something in place.
Diet and exercise: Plan in ways that you can stay well and healthy as much as possible as what we eat and how we use our bodies has a big effect on our mood and mental and emotional wellbeing.
Know when to say ‘no’: You may have certain social and familial obligations to deal with. There may be commitments you need to uphold. But there is likely also to be a lot of things going on that will simply drain you, so you need to know what these might be and how to keep yourself well – you don’t need to say yes to everything.
Practice gratitude: even in the hardest and most challenging of times you can find something to be thankful for, a lesson to be learned for the future, and a lesson that will someday help someone else if you choose to learn and grow from it. So try to find the silver linings rather than allowing yourself to be oppressed by the clouds.
Positive distractions: For when things begin to get on top of you, know what positive distractions you can turn to such as hobbies, a musical instrument, a favourite TV show, a walk in nature, painting, art, writing, blogging, journaling, exercise, chatting to a friend on the phone, model making, etc. Do something that will absorb your focus and help you move forward that one next step at a time.
Plan ahead: You may have a lot of practical things to consider, from organising festivities to managing finances, paperwork, and other ‘grown up stuff’. Plan for these so that they don’t get lost or forgotten when you are perhaps struggling emotionally and mentally. Break things down into smaller, clear, focused and manageable tasks and check them off as you go. Keep your list somewhere where you won’t lose or misplace it, and this will help you stay on track and not get into further challenging situations because of something you may have let slip or forgotten to do.
Next steps: Ok, so life isn’t quite how you hoped it to be. You’ve felt like giving up and giving in, but you’ve chosen the better way – you’ve chosen to keep on living and looking for a way to cope, to survive, to move forward and ultimately to get stronger, to thrive and to see good come out of these challenges. One of the positives about this time of year is the opportunity to embark upon a ‘New Year’. You may look upon this as a flimsy human-made demarcation of time, but you will be in amongst a lot of other people seeking to improve their lives, their wellbeing and their circumstances. Try to thrive from the positive vibes that are encouraging this forward thinking and goal setting and look at the bigger picture of your life. Ok, so you’re not where you want to be but faith tells you that you can be in a better place, so spend some time figuring out what you want moving forwards, what you need to do and to change and what the next practical steps might be and take this forward with you to a hopefully better and stronger year ahead.
Be blessed, and stay strong friends. You are loved and you are never alone. xx