Tag Archives: self care

Self Care In A Pandemic (56): Keep In Touch and Nurture Your Relationships…

Perhaps my previous post of a few minutes ago was fairly profound, therefore I will juxtapose it with something more practical, but no less meaningful.

Friendship, true friendship is a gift, especially in these changing days. While I have posted previously about changing dynamics with some friendships, and the sadness of that and the need for changed boundaries, there is also something beautiful, uplifting and encouraging in connecting with those people who we can share this journey with. We all need encouragement in these days, and we need to surround ourselves with voices of encouragement, understanding, compassion, kindness, inspiration, and hope. We need to strive to be those kind of people too, and perhaps foremost before looking for those qualities in others.

As the saying goes, ‘birds of a feather flock together’. The more you are the kind of person you want in your life, the more you will be able to connect with others with those qualities and bring out those aspects in each other.

Understanding:

It’s important to understand that everyone is going through their own thing just now, even if we can’t see it on the surface. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt if they haven’t connected with us, and perhaps take the initiative in being a caring friend and reaching out to them to let them know we’re thinking about them.

Nurturing:

When we do have friends that we connect with, it is important to take time and make the effort to nurture those friendships. Some people might say, ‘I wish I had such a friendship’, but these things don’t just happen, it takes something on our part, it takes love, patience, kindness, generosity, giving, understanding and reaching out for the good of the other person. When that is reciprocated, we can begin to see the blossoming of true friendship over time.

Think about the people in your life just now, whether friends, family or other connections. Try to nurture these connections that are mutually edifying. It is a real blessing to have people to share with in these trying times. Even if you feel alone, try to nurture your friendship with yourself as a starting point, perhaps connect with acquaintances, or neighbours in a safe and socially distanced way, or make new connections online.

Small gestures:

It can be all too easy to get caught up in the day to day of ‘getting through’ in this pandemic. But remind yourself of how important the people around you actually are. While some families are having to face loss, let us think about the blessing of the people that we have in our lives right now. Take some time to make an effort to show that you care and are thinking of someone. Take time to nurture the good friendships and relationships you already have.

Take a step back:

For some, you may have to think about taking a step back from people who are pulling you down, being a toxic influence in your life or detrimental to your emotional and psychological wellbeing. While you may have to still have some people in your life (like a boss / manager) for example, you can still set your own internal boundaries so that you can continue to stay strong and positive for yourself and the people around you.

Appreciation and Gratitude:

With so much going wrong in the world, and with seeing so many unkind acts from troubled and troublesome people, it can do us much good to take time to appreciate and be grateful for the lovely people in our life, or if you feel you don’t have anyone, the lovely influences of people you don’t even know but that you have heard about, read of or seen in the media. Maybe you could show your appreciation in a practical way, even to someone you don’t know personally, by writing a letter, sending an email, a text or just checking in with someone.

Let’s take the time and care to appreciate those around us, to nurture and build those connections, and to help and encourage each other into better days.

Peace and Love. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (54): Work From Home & Weekends…

Hi Friends,

I hope that you have had a safe, healthy and peaceful first week of 2021. I hope that if you have faced challenges along the way that you are digging deep and finding a resilience within yourself to persevere and a faith to look beyond yourself for greater strength.

Although this post title aims at those among us who are now or currently working from home in this pandemic, I think some of the main principles can apply to all of us. It can be easy when there is no physical boundary between work and home life to let the psychological boundaries blur a bit.

Have you ever heard people say, leave your work at work and don’t bring the burdens of the office (or other work place setting) home with you? That can be a huge challenge in and of itself, but what about when work and home are in one and the same setting?

Some of you may also be trying to juggle home working with daily routines and other aspects of family life such as child care, parental care, home schooling / education and the list is as endless and unique as the differences in our lives.

Whatever your scenario, it is important to have some emotional and mental boundaries even when you can’t have concrete physical boundaries. Just as we looked at in previous posts about the importance of having boundaries between ourselves and our news intake and also boundaries in relationships and in other things that might be emotionally or mentally demanding, we also need to establish healthy boundaries between the different aspects of our lives.

Some things at work this first week back have been bothering me, but I need to remind myself that the weekend is a time when I would normally be away from the office physically. Although with home working I could check my work emails when I couldn’t before after leaving the office, it is important not to allow the boundaries to blur too much.

If we are to care for ourselves we need to set aside time to nourish ourselves, to rest, to spend time with the people who we love and who love us whether in person or online or by telephone or some other means so that we can be recharged and ready for the week ahead.

During lockdown I’ve been so fortunate in that my church has had online services that have been broadcast on You Tube. This has helped to remind me of when it is Sunday and to purposefully set aside that time as I normally would. I’ve had more time to set aside during the days as well for time with God, prayer, worship and building myself up spiritually and sharing with others.

However, sometimes we can get caught up in things as the days and weeks go by. The past year has been a challenging one globally and the recent events of January 2021 for anyone who has been watching the news and seeing the …..(pause to try to think of an appropriate word)….indescribable events in America, we know that there may be challenging times ahead for the world in 2021.

We need to maintain our wellbeing and resilience, and we all have a variety of commitments, duties and tasks to attend to in our daily lives. Maintaining mental and emotional boundaries between these is so important.

As the days go by I will continue to share tips and ideas with you regarding what I find helpful that you may also find helpful. However, this post is more of a general reminder as we reach the close of week one of 2021 that this is an important point and aspect of your life to bear in mind.

People will try to encroach upon you even from a distance, even when working or studying from home. It is ok and it is good to give and take but don’t become depleted of your strength and resilience. Don’t let things blur together so that you are no longer demarcating time for yourself to rest, recharge and recover so that you can become stronger and stronger for the days ahead.

So on that note, I wish you all a happy weekend. Thankfully I don’t see blogging as work but as enjoyment, so you can expect to hear from me again very soon for more encouragement and reminders that it is important to care for yourself as well through this pandemic. x

Stay safe, stay well. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (50): Be Informed, But Not Overwhelmed…

I’ve written about managing our news intake in the pandemic, before. I remember writing a post around March 2020 on this, and perhaps I’ve also mentioned it in subsequent posts. I think it is actually helpful for us to be reminded of key themes as we continue on this journey, especially at key points in the calendar.

I’m revisiting the idea of managing news intake so that we stay informed but don’t become overwhelmed by it all, because we’ve crossed over from the Christmas holiday and new year festive season to being in that ‘new year, new start’ mode.

Some of you may not have had a break from work. My special thanks, gratitude and appreciation goes out to all of you who are front line workers. Some of you may be full time bloggers so perhaps you’ve not had to shift gears or mindsets so much. I personally blog as a ‘hobby’ (although, who knows in pandemic times it may be something I’ll have to look into at some point in making it a ‘side hustle’ but for the moment it’s all done in my own time and I don’t earn anything from it). I have a full time job wherein in ‘normal’ times I’d be heading back to the office, but for the time being I’m (thankfully) working from home.

Yet, at this time of year I need to keep on top of what is going on in the news at least on a local level. I may need to pick up a work laptop soon, I may need to travel in and make arrangements for that, and there had been talk previously of working part time in the office, which I am not keen on myself, but I still need to stay informed with what my employer and what the government are saying.

Perhaps you also are shifting gears mentally as we make our way through the first month of this new year. It always takes a bit of getting used to. Maybe at this time you will have to engage a bit more with the outside world for your job, or if you need to take your kids to school and so forth. Maybe you’ve started upping your news intake.

It’s good and important and perhaps vital in times like this to stay informed of what the pandemic situation is, however, we need to maintain a healthy balance between that and protecting our mental and emotional health.

It can become all too easy to become caught up in things and to jump from one news story to another, allowing ourselves to become overwhelmed and emotionally burdened by it all.

So this is just a friendly reminder to you to hold things in a balance. Keep informed but don’t allow yourself to get sucked into over checking the news because it does impact you whether you realise it or not.

Take care of yourself, remember your wellbeing and that of your loved ones, and seek to be informed in a healthy, balanced and productive way. x

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Book Recommendation

Hi Friends,

If you’ve been enjoying my ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series (I think we’re on number 40 something already!), don’t worry, this is just a momentary pause in the proceedings while I share a book recommendation with you.

Today I finished re-reading Katie Piper’s very helpful book “Things Get Better”, for the second time.

I’m inspired and uplifted by Katie Piper’s input into the world. You may already know her story and journey of recovery from victim to survivor to thriving overcomer, as I see it, but if you don’t then I’ll leave it to you to do a little internet search to learn more about the woman in her own words.

I first read her autobiography, “Beautiful” a year or so ago, and I then read the continuation of that “Beautiful Ever After”. These are autobiographical accounts of how she suffered after extreme attacks, and how her experiences of life from rock bottom to receiving medical and psychological help, then finding faith which she mentions briefly, and finding in herself a fighting spirit to recover and then to set up a charity to help other people. She thought she would never have any kind of life again, but now is thriving doing work to help other people and even has a family of her own.

This book, however, “Things Get Better” is one which could probably be classified in the ‘self care’ genre. If you are struggling with anything in life, you are bound to find inspiration and practical advice to help you take the next steps forward, and know that you are not alone.

It has really helped me, as Katie starts out the book with a chapter on her experience of ‘Rock Bottom’ in life. Can anyone relate? She describes her recovery journey, and how to overcome set backs and plateaus and keep moving forwards.

If you are facing recovery of any kind, or have issues in your life that you are trying to overcome that you need some help and direction with then this is a very accessible book that may just help and encourage you to find and take your next step in your healing journey.

Even if you don’t think these things apply to you, it might be a fascinating read if you are trying to relate to someone else who is needing some help or support in hard times.

So, that’s my first book recommendation of 2021. I gained from it so much that I read it twice, and so I thought I’d share it with you as well in case you are also able to benefit.

Take care, and keep an eye out for the next blog post in my ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series. x

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SELF CARE IN A PANDEMIC (46): NEW YEAR’S Day…REFLECTIONS ON THE YEAR GONE BY – PART 2…

Happy New Year, friends. Welcome to 2021. How does it feel reading that? Perhaps it’s a sentence or phrase that will bring forth mixed thoughts and emotions.

By way of a reminder, I had been writing a recap of the year gone by and seeking to glean some lessons learned. Here’s Part 1 of this post: Self Care In A Pandemic (45): New YEAR’S Eve…Reflections on The Year Gone By – Part 1… ‹ Life as it happens to be ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

I stopped at the point when the United Kingdom went into a full lockdown on 23rd March 2020.

It was a drastic situation that caused for drastic measures and decisive action. I’m not sure that we saw decisive action from the government throughout the pandemic, unfortunately, but I did find myself feeling more grateful for living North of the border in Scotland where Nicola Sturgeon seemed to tighten restrictions more and quicker than in England. That said, perhaps we should have gone into lockdown a lot sooner with what we were seeing in and learning from other countries not too far from home, such as Italy and France. Even with hindsight, the decisions being made were challenging and difficult for all concerned.

The drastic measure of lockdown meant that there was an inevitable but unplanned for knock-on-effect on other important issues. For example, people who suffered from domestic abuse were in fact trapped within their own homes, non-covid related operations and hospital visits had to to be postponed, rescheduled and deprioritised because of the huge pressure upon our health service as numbers of cases rose.

I kept a notebook, a ‘quarantine journal’ as it were to make sure I wasn’t succumbing to the negativity all around me and seeking to see progress in my own life and learn lessons along the way. It’s a keepsake journal that I am still working on, but one of the pages I included is titled “Vocabulary of a ‘new normal'”.

Vocabulary of a ‘new normal’:

It’s interesting looking back on things that were new concepts to our daily lives that have now become common place, everyday things that we hardly think about as much.

When we went into lockdown in the UK, I was in my own flat / apartment where I live alone. I went through the first stint of the lockdown on my own with no human contact (IRL – In Real Life) for around a total of 6 months (give or take a couple of occasions where I was able to visit my family after the easing of Lockdown 1.0 in July, and a socially distanced meet up with friends, or seeing a delivery person or concierge).

I learned a lot during that time, and I see that time as precious in terms of the healing that I was able to focus on for past issues, the reprioritisation and insight I gained into friendships and the lack of awareness and understanding people had of someone in my situation living alone in a pandemic, and the value of daily conversations with my family over the phone.

However, I digress. 2020 brought with it a vocabulary of a ‘new normal’ and some of the key terms that came to the fore during that time that I noted down were as follows:

-Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.

Essential Items.

-Daily Walk / One form of exercise only once a day.

Shielding

Virtual Meetings / Zoom / Teams

Furlough / Extension Period

Air Hugs

Covid-19 / Coronavirus / Novel Coronavirus

Covidiot / Covid warrior

Shop your wardrobe

Toilet roll hoarding

Daily briefings

Hand sanitizer / disinfectant / PPE

WFH (Work From Home) / Home Schooling

Super Spreader

-Antibodies Test / Asymptomatic / Incubation Period (14 days).

Honestly, the list goes on…..and on….over two pages. I think I drew a metaphorical line under it because of how much I could have kept on listing.

But you get the picture; things that were not part of our everyday lives – such as facemasks – have now become part and parcel of ‘normality’ as we’ve moved through this pandemic and continue to do so.

I have to say that my favourite new term has probably got to be ‘Clap For Carers’. Do you remember when we used to clap for our health care workers, our delivery drivers, supermarket people, and frontline staff at the height of the first wave (first wave, there’s another term!). Perhaps in some countries you still do.

We’ve seen so many heroes throughout this rough year, and I am so grateful for each and every one of them, and perhaps some of you reading this are among those heroes. We’ve also seen people in all different walks of live reaching out to help communities.

Community Blessings and Struggles:

As mentioned, our communities have at times come together for the greater good. We’ve seen the NHS staff and other health care workers in other countries going above and beyond to help save lives. We’ve seen people helping out with food bank initiatives, charities, reaching out to lonely people, checking in on their neighbours. I’m personally grateful to have had the chance to do a bit of research work with my job around public health and safety at work for reintroducing services and also to be a ‘shielding helpline volunteer’ to help get essentials to residents who are vulnerable because of underlying health conditions. I’ve been grateful to be able to use my writing to encourage other people far and wide as well throughout this year, even if these efforts are a small offering amid much greater sacrifices of others. There is value in all of us playing our part and doing our bit.

However, we’ve also seen tensions and unrest in our communities, from the racial issues coming to the fore of mainstream society (things that minority people like me have had to deal with and suffer through in some form or another throughout our lives) and we’ve seen brief ‘moments in time’ of awareness, activism and insight that should have been there decades ago. We’ve seen tensions in our local communities and have watched divisions in America or perhaps some of you have been living through those, with the recent presidential elections. There have been a whole host of other issues in individual countries, communities and even families and yet we’ve made it through somehow, some with losses and pain along the way, and others with less of a struggle or even opportunity for growth.

Lessons:

There have been so many opportunities for lessons this past year of 2020. Now that we are in the first day of 2021, perhaps we have renewed momentum as we collectively face and embark upon a ‘new year’. Perhaps we have gained greater insight into ourselves, our own lives, our priorities and purpose, or perhaps some have barely made it through and have struggled. Either way, the pandemic isn’t over just because we’ve reached a new year, and there is still work to be done, responsibility to be taken and lessons to be learned.

I’m hopeful for the future, but I also think we need to live diligently day by day.

I’d like to take these reflections to a next stage with my subsequent posts as we move from global and local to individual and as we together see how we can reflect upon the lessons we individually have learned and how to move forwards with hope and strength into 2021.

I am considering sharing some guided reflections and journal prompts and ideas for goal setting, so stay with me as we forge ahead, stronger and more courageous as we embark upon these new days together.

Blessings, Peace, and Happy New Year to all. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (41): Encourage A Frontline Worker…

You could say that self care and caring for others go hand in hand, in a way. I find that the source of self care is in being Loved, and that comes from the ‘Up’ connection with God caring for us, enabling us to be good stewards over the life He has given us. As we are ‘filled up’ in being the fullest people we can be, by His Grace, and in taking time to take care of ourselves, to rest, to be refreshed and built up in the Truth of who we are, then we are better able to ‘give out’ to other people too.

Whether or not you believe that, most people would agree quite simply that ‘it’s nice to be nice’ and that we can all benefit from being kinder to each other and encouraging one another.

A group of people that definitely are worthy of our kindness, respect, encouragement, gratitude and love are the front line workers who tirelessly day after day put their own safety on the line to protect ours.

Do you know any such people? Are there any frontline workers in your life? Can you show your appreciation or encouragement to them?

Perhaps you could be a supportive friend that they can turn to when times are tough and they need to ‘vent’ or courage to keep going.

Maybe your role is more from a distance – could you send them a text, a card, an email or a gift to let them know you are thinking of them, or to simply say ‘well done’?

If you don’t know anyone personally, can you be part of a bigger movement within our communities that are doing things to show our support or appreciation for frontline workers?

Is there someone in your family in the frontline of the pandemic who would be grateful for some encouragement?

Perhaps today is the day to show our support for the people who are doing so much to keep our communities safe. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (38): ARKs – Acts of Random Kindness…

This year sure has had far reaching consequences. Something unseen to the human eye, a virus, has caused devastation far and wide. There is debate as to the causal factor that started the initial spread of the virus, but whatever you are lead to believe on that count, I am sure most people would agree that it could have been caused by one small act.

Just as devastation and destruction can be far reaching and have consequences impacting the whole globe, let us have faith and believe that small acts of kindness and love can also have far reaching consequences. Whether or not they impact people across the world we may never know, but they could change the day or life of one person.

Has anyone ever shown you a kindness that you did not expect? Didn’t it make you feel more hopeful and like passing it forwards?

In these difficult days, let us be the people that hold forth hope with Acts of Random Kindness – ARKs that offer some shelter and respite from the storms and flood waters of life.

How can you take this thought and pass it on?

Let’s once again ‘brainstorm’ some ideas together and if you wish to share some kindness here, please comment below so that someone perhaps in another part of the world can take forward your idea and inspiration and touch the life of someone else.

What can you do?

– You could write an encouraging blog post of your own.

-You could get in touch with someone who is lonely.

-You could send a letterbox gift (if it is safe to do so) to someone who might need the encouragement.

-You could offer to pay for a friend’s grocery shopping.

-You could offer your skills and talents for free for example to a local business that is struggling by setting up a website for them.

-You could donate to a charity, foodbank or raise money yourself for a good cause.

-You could do so many things, many of which I can’t think of right now – but if you want to inspire me or others, then please comment below.

Let us shelter each other in our ARKs and help each other sail safely through the storms of this pandemic. x

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Self Care iN a pANDEMIC (36): cONSIDER THE cOMPANY yOU kEEP…

This has been one of the strangest of years many of us have lived through in terms of world events. While many among us have faced our own challenging times previously in terms of our personal life journey, I’m too young to be able to remember anything quite like this pandemic that reached into every part of the globe. The older generation that lived through the second world war, will have many more stories to tell and the things they faced were probably far more frightening than what we are facing today, but nevertheless 2020 has been quite a year for us all in terms of the pandemic!

It’s been a year that has prompted us to make changes, slow down, speed up, take action and think more deeply. One of the things we may have been made to think more deeply about is our friendships, relationships and the company we keep.

As someone who is not white, and who has suffered from racism in my earlier years particularly as well as sporadically in adulthood, the issues that came to fore with some of the BLM movements opened my eyes to the sheer lack of awareness of racism among those brought up with privilege, as well as ongoing prejudices. I’m aware that some friends sought to become allies. Other people let go of former friendships or loosened ties with certain people whose opinions were brought to light as prejudicial and unacceptable.

All of that aside, 2020 may have also prompted us to look at the deeper things of life and whether our close connections are meaningful or detrimental or toxic in some way. I’m blessed to have many good friends, but even then I realised that some of them are wrapped up in their own lives and could not begin to understand what it was like to live alone in a pandemic for several months. I also realised that as an empathetic person some of my friends take advantage of me and use that side of my nature, perhaps not intentionally but they do it nonetheless, without asking if I’m ok but just taking advantage of my kind and caring nature.

Going forwards, I find myself asking where I should be spending my time and which people to focus on in terms of building relationships. Sometimes friendships just drift apart because of different life stages although this is not always the case. For several years I’ve been the friend showing up to my other friends’ occasions from engagements, weddings, baby showers, births, birthdays, children’s parties and so forth (and I’ve had none of these occasions myself, other than birthdays, and no one ever thinks of celebrating or acknowledging their single friends in such a way). I’ve been a very giving person but at times feeling like I’m on the sidelines of my own life it has caused hurt, emotional fatigue, pain and burnout. Not to say that my friends haven’t been there for me through ups and downs, they have, but in this pandemic, many of them shared with me that they were really enjoying their lives and times with their families and just didn’t stop to think or really care what I might have been going through alone. Being alone (with God) strengthened me, but it also awakened me to rethink some of the dynamics of my friendships. There have been probably three or four key people outside of my family where from a distance we have been able to support and encourage each other and that has been a great help. Yet, it does lead me to think and ask you whether it is a good time to consider our connections, going forward and as we approach 2021?

Friendship dynamics change:

Friendships, true friendships are a blessing. They also take work and commitment and effort on the part of both parties. Sometimes friendships change as life changes or as we change. Rarer still are those friendships that last a lifetime through different seasons of life and through the ups and downs.

So, how do we know whether to hold on or to let go?

I find myself considering whether a friendship is one in which I am able to encourage someone to think about or draw closer to Christ, one in which we are able to mutually encourage each other in our faith, or where we believe different things, one in which we can enjoy fun, share our thoughts and build each other up in some way and share life (even if socially distanced).

If a friendship is toxic, then am I able to provide a good influence, or is that person simply dragging me down? Am I being taken for granted or made to feel miserable? We may not always be meant to let go of people, but perhaps we should be lessening the time we spend with certain people, and reconsidering our boundaries. Even when a friend is not a toxic person, perhaps something in their life triggers something in ours. Maybe they are always talking about or sharing something good in their life that makes us feel sidelined, overshadowed or alone – maybe they share their struggles and overburden us just because they can and we are good listeners.

As we approach 2021 we need to find a healthy or healthier balance between nurturing our friendships and relationships and taking care of our own wellbeing.

Sometimes this will mean considering whether to reassess our boundaries, let certain toxic people go, or move on. It may involve putting in more effort to strengthen bonds, to exercise forgiveness, commitment, love and compassion or to open up conversations to the ‘blind spots’ they or we may have and to seek to make things better. It may even mean taking a bold step to reconnect with or apologise to someone we have lost touch with or hurt or to forgive someone who has hurt us.

Where do you find yourself at the end of this year?

Has the pandemic affected your relationships or highlighted a need for change, for forgiveness, reconciliation or for stronger boundaries?

I hope you take your time and act from the heart with love, forgiveness, and wisdom and take care not only of the people in your life, but of you as well.

You matter. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (31): make Time To Play…

As Christmas approaches, we may find that even in a pandemic, and even for some who are possibly going to be spending Christmas day alone, that we still have ‘to do’ lists.

It’s important that despite the things we want to try to ‘fit in’ to make the most of our time (or just to keep on top of our daily lives) that we also find some ‘down time’ to rest and play. For some of you who like that greater sense of control, perhaps it is actually something to include on your ‘to do’ list. lol 🙂

What I’m saying is that it’s important to rest, to play, to take time out and to not feel bad about it. The shortest day has passed and now, daylight hours for most of us will begin to lengthen. We will be looking forwards to Christmas in a few days, which may be a quieter or more solitary experience this year for many, and then we will approach new year 2021.

These collective events and experiences always intrigue me as there is something of the ‘collective consciousness’ about them. That is to say, unlike in times in our own personal life journey’s when there may be a significant event, date or change point, due to how much of the world lives according to the Gregorian calendar, we share these experiences, even if our individual lives differ significantly from one another.

Come the new year, like it or not, we will be out of ‘holiday mode’ and even if not much else changes, we will have to consider things like how to move forwards with jobs, living situations perhaps and other things related to our own change points and also to changing regulations related to the pandemic.

So use some of this time, without guilt, to relax, rest and play. It’s important for your wellbeing, as long as what you choose to do is actually good for you or restful, so choose wisely.

What do you like to do in your ‘down time’? Do you watch films, play games, go for a walk outside if possible, paint, draw, listen to music, chat to a friend, curl up and read a book or simply lounge about for a while?

I hope you find the chance to catch your breath, to rest, and to look forward in Advent to the True Light of Christmas.

Peace. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (26): Be Kind To Your Mind…

Hi everyone, glad to be with you on this journey.

Do you ever find that you tend to write about the things that are challenging you? If so, you’re in good company 😉 I’ve titled this post ‘Be Kind to Your Mind’ precisely because this is the advice and help I need myself right now.

You know those times when outwardly things seem to be ‘fine’. Someone asks you how you are, and you reply ‘I’m fine’ as that generic and perhaps helpfully deflective catch-all phrase that barely touches the surface of how you actually are. A handy phrase for those social situations when you’re not entirely convinced that the person asking how you are actually wants to know, or is just offering you a pleasantry by way of an added extra to ‘hello’.

Well, in that case, ‘I’m fine’. Psychologically, my mind is going over various things (ah….I’ve become one of those people who then proceeds to tell you a little of how I actually am, even though you didn’t ask 🙂 lol. I guess that’s permissible in the blog-o-sphere where you can subtly tune out or close the page and I’d be none the wiser! I hope you don’t though 😉 ). Yes, as I was saying, I’ve been having ‘stuck thoughts’. Memories that made me feel bad at the time, things that seem to ‘trip me up’ from time to time. My mood has also been a bit of a struggle as I fend off depression. I’ve come a LONG way. I need to acknowledge that. A few years ago I was getting treatment for severe clinical depression, severe and debilitating generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks and complex (‘severe and repeated’) PTSD. You’d think a few ‘sticky thoughts’ wouldn’t be such a big deal, but when it comes to the mind, you can never be too kind to yourself.

You see, our minds don’t store all information in a linear, chronological or systematic way. Where events are tied to strong emotion or trauma or feelings such as shame, fear, fight and flight, freeze, disgust, self hatred, humiliation, rejection, abuse, even if looking back as an adult logically those things may not in the grand scheme of things seem all ‘that’ bad (for example the wounds of verbal abuse when growing up in front of peers) those events become memories that are stored haphazardly, chaotically and often tied to intense emotion. Now, if like me, you experienced a stream of such events over time, building up, and consequently knocking you down, wearing down your self-esteem, sense of identity, selfhood, worth as a human being, the result can be trauma, dissociation, body dysmorphia, depression, anxiety, and all that kind of stuff.

We can move from season to season, stage to stage, putting one step in front of another in life, but the ways our brains store information don’t always add up to a nice neat ‘film’ of events in our minds. Flashbacks occur when those intensely emotional ‘memories’ haven’t been processed and stored properly in our minds and they often recur again and again intensely until we get help to deal with them. It’s like a scene from a scary movie flashing on the scene of your mind and bringing forth an intense emotion.

Well, that’s a lot to deal with in one post….but I want this to be helpful for you and I both. Our minds are fragile things, yet they are also powerful. Maybe you’re going through a lot right now. Maybe you’re struggling to process things. Maybe your mental health is really beginning to suffer. Maybe you just need to know you’re not alone and you’re not going crazy.

So, here are a few pointers if you are struggling.

  1. Know that you’re not alone, and it is ok to ask for help. In fact, it’s more than ok, it’s heroic and brave in many ways. Find out what professional help is on offer if you need it. Please don’t wait and suffer as I did by placing a stigma on yourself. You’ve probably been through a lot, and minds need to be cared for just as much as bodies do. There is no shame in getting help. If you don’t need to go down that route maybe it’s worth calling a helpline, speaking to a trusted friend or family member, or joining a group of people who can help motivate you from where you are to where you want to be.
  2. Please don’t suffer in silence. Externalise things. Ok, so maybe point 1 is a bit too much for you at the moment, but there may be other ways of getting things out of your head, so to speak. Try writing things down, expressing things creatively or letting someone know maybe not in detail if you don’t want to yet, but just let someone know you’re going through a bit of a difficult time.
  3. Read to be inspired. Sometimes we can find great help and direction from others who have ‘been there’ before us, or who are going through something similar right now. I find that while in my peer group there may not be many people I can relate to about such issues, although there are one or two for whom I am grateful, I can find my ‘peer group’ from people’s lives stories, their blogs, books or videos online. There is so much out there to help, encourage and inspire, and if anything you will see that you are not alone. There will be someone out there who while not having an identical experience to you will have gone through something you can relate to and find strength from.
  4. Positivity. Try to fill your mind with things that will build it up and make it a safe and happy place to be. Get creative, look at beautiful pictures, watch an uplifting film, talk to people who are positive, read blogs and books that inspire and give you hope. With so much ‘doom-scrolling’ going on in 2020, your mind deserves a break!
  5. Share your positivity. Grow in those mental positivity ‘muscles’ by sharing your positivity by externalising it whether by telling someone something encouraging or writing it in a blog post and passing it on.
  6. Share what you have learned from your struggles. Similarly, there is much to be gained by sharing your lessons with someone who may be struggling in a way that you used to. Let’s all keep encouraging and helping each other up and using our words for kindness.
  7. Light relief. I guess this could refer to a couple of things – light levels and laughter. We all need to laugh and it can be so good for the mind, even in trying times. Also, in winter, try to get a bit of sunlight if you can or try not to wallow away in dark rooms in your home – turn on the light. Spiritually, I can always encourage you, particularly in this season, to Seek the True Light of Jesus Christ to light your life path and lead you safely on. 🙂
  8. It will pass. Know that whatever mental health or other struggle you are going through just now, it will pass. Try to think of your tricky thoughts as leaves upon a stream and allow the waters of your mind to take them gently away. If this is constantly difficult, you may need to get some extra help, and I hope you will find the right resources for you where you are, and if not in person, hopefully on the internet.
  9. Be Kind. It’s hard being a human. We often have to deal with a lot and it can impact our mental health. Be kind, kind, kind to your mind. Water it like a little flower, nurture it like a beloved friend, be kind.
  10. Keep learning, and keep up with your hobbies, and set small achievable goals. Ongoing learning and hobbies or creativity in general can work wonders for mental health, as can setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound) goals for ourselves. Routines are also good for giving our minds a predictable structure, which can also make spontaneity all the more fun when we break free from the patterns from time to time. But we do need a dose of structure, and predictability even if that is as simple as making your morning cup of coffee and then seeing where the day takes you from there if that is your personality type. But keep learning, play games that will help with your mental agility, ‘stay in training’ mentally, and you will build up that resilience.

And even if all of that is too much to take in at the moment, simply know that you are not alone, you are Loved, you are worthy, you are important simply because you are a human being and you are you. You are unique, you have so much potential, and even right now as you are if you are feeling broken, worthless, downcast or bad in someway, you are still valuable, a treasure, and I value you and know that you can do great things with that remarkable mind of yours.

So be kind, be kind to your mind. x

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