Anxiety is not uncommon, especially, at the time of writing, in a global pandemic.
Sometimes our anxious thoughts and imaginings can render us immobile and ‘incapable’ of doing something useful or productive. We might even slump into a depressive state where we want to hide and retreat.
If you are struggling with your anxious thoughts and feelings, as well as the practical steps that I have highlighted in other blog posts (simply do a ‘search’ for ‘anxiety’ on my blog and you’ll find lots of helpful articles), you might feel the need to have an outlet for your thoughts.
Talk to Someone who cares about you:
A helpful thing to do to rationalise and untangle some of our difficult thoughts could be to talk to someone who knows you and cares about you and who will listen. If you feel like you don’t have such a person in your life, maybe you can phone a mental health helpline to talk through things with someone or even contact a doctor if you need to. Talking to a trusted friend or family member, even if it isn’t face to face, can help to alleviate your feelings of stress and anxiety and they may be able to help you make sense of some of your thoughts, or even offer a better or more helpful perspective on things. Talking things through can help get you out of your own head space, especially if you are not able at the current time to make sense of things or find a better perspective.
Write it down:
Writing can help externalise thoughts that you are keeping bottled up inside of yourself. As well as writing to make sense of things for your own well being, you could also try to think of ways in which you would help a friend who was struggling with the things you are just now. Imagine or think of what you would say to someone who needed help or encouragement with the problem you are facing, and try to apply that kind and encouraging advice to yourself. Perhaps you could even try blogging about your experience to share and find connection with others.
On a similar note, we can feel much less alone when we are able to read or hear about other people who are going through or have overcome things that we might be finding challenging. In a pandemic you are not alone in feeling anxious and uncertain, and you might be able to connect with others of a like mind and help each other through. As a note of caution, try not to focus too much on things that are problematic, but try to find solutions as you read and learn more about things you and others are experiencing in life.
Break things down:
When our thoughts get the better of us, it may be because we have too little distance from them. Try breaking things down. If you have a thought that distresses you, why not write it down, and analyse it to find a more helpful perspective, or ask a friend or family member to help you with this.
For example, if you have a thought ‘I just don’t know what’s going to happen or how I’ll handle the future’, take a step back from it, take a look at it and how it is making you feel, and find a better way of looking at it that will help you move forwards.
Know that many, many people right now have such thoughts and fears. Maybe we don’t know how we’ll handle a big, unknown future, but can we handle the next five minutes, the next day? If that seems more manageable start there and build on from that, write down some practical steps you may need to take in looking at future plans or decisions, and ask someone for help and advice so that you don’t need to go it alone.
Take a break:
It can be hard focusing on the negative cycle of thoughts all the time, so make sure you don’t do that. Easier said than done, right? Find something that will intercept your thoughts in a more productive way, for example, plan some small activities that will absorb your mental energy and focus. This could be something like cooking a meal, or making a simple sandwich or a cup of tea. It could be taking five or ten minutes to engage in a creative pursuit. It could be taking time to read a book, or a helpful blog, or to talk to a friend.
Following on from the above, planning little activities or ‘chunks of time’ can help add structure to your day and can help move you through the day in a less anxious way. Knowing what you have to do in the morning, afternoon and evening can help take you away from a whirlwind of thoughts and can help you find enjoyment and productivity along the way.
Look to the needs of others:
Sometimes looking away from our own thoughts to the needs of others can be a real help for ourselves too! Helping someone else, even in a small way, can take our thoughts outwards, so that we can focus on the needs of someone else. It will help us realise that we are able and capable and can do things that bring comfort to someone else as well as receiving help which is totally ok too.
Fresh air and outdoors:
As well as looking to the needs of others, we can look up into the beauty of the world around us. We face so much of the world that is negative through our computer screens and the constant stream of news that we receive. Looking at the natural world can really help to calm our minds and nervous systems, and even bring new thoughts to us.
As well as looking up and out at nature, we may find the benefit of reaching up in Faith. ❤
I hope some of these tips have been helpful for you. You’ve made it another day in this pandemic, and if you’re feeling anxious, know that you’re not alone. Take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and try to find something to enjoy today, even if in the smallest of moments.
You will find so many different posts and articles throughout my blog regarding help for mental health. I realise that sometimes we need a fresh reminder, and on difficult days something ‘short and sweet’ can help when we don’t want to read too much.
So, I’ve decided to start a new series, with quick tips.
Tip number 1 is if you are struggling with your thoughts and feelings, take a few moments away from your computer, your phone, the news, etc, and if you can, step outside in nature. Look up, notice the textures of things around you like leaves or trees, sense the air on your skin, and immerse your senses in what is around you. If you can’t go anywhere, perhaps you can look out of a window, and take some time to observe what you can see or hear.
If you don’t have much of a view, then maybe there is some other way that you can find to ‘look up and out’….to look away from your difficult thoughts and feelings – can you look to help someone else, or to do something creative, or to pray, even if for a few moments at a time? It may not solve all of your problems at once, but it may give you those few minutes of ‘respite’ that your brain and heart need right now.
So, take it easy, step away from your worries, and look up and out. x
I find that despite the pandemic, there is something quite calming and anticipatory about the Advent season. As a Christian, a follower and worshipper of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as strange as it sounds ‘I look forward in anticipatory remembrance’ of His first coming into the world as the Incarnate Christ, God humbling Himself in Human form to be Emmanuel, God with us, and Saviour of the World!
Other people look forward as well as Christmas approaches to a time of rest, perhaps, with a few days off work, and possibly even the chance to spend time relaxing with friends and family. This year certainly looks different to what we are all used to, what with the pandemic and all! Yet, there is something about this time of year that can for many be both a season of calm and of anxiety.
For those of us who will get some time off work and time to relax, and for those of us who enjoy Christmas, this is something to look forward to, even though there may be particular challenges this year.
However, in a ‘normal’ year, there is also a sense of anticipation in a way that might bring us unease. When Christmas passes, we know that soon to follow will be boxing day, perhaps some more days of rest, and then eventually we will take down the tree, the decorations, and before we know it we will be ushering in a ‘new year’ and many of us will be back to work.
I remember writing last year about how I was preparing for the start of the new working year as I finished up with work before the Christmas holidays 2019. Feel free to take a look through my posts from this season last year for inspiration.
At the close of a year, we tend to comfort ourselves with the anticipation of a new year. As 2019 was drawing to a close, many of us took inspiration from the thought of a ‘brand new year’ and a ‘brand new decade’, and I’m sure I’m not the only blogger who noticed and also wrote about the idea of 2020 vision being a concept that had been brought to the fore, and one which we could apply to our own lives.
Yet, 2020 has certainly not been something that any of us could have anticipated in our plans or vision for that year or the next decade.
Yet as we approach 2021, I would encourage all of us to have an attitude of ‘preparedness’. Let’s explore what this might mean, and what it could look like….
2020 and mental health:
If like me, you’re somewhat of a ‘veteran’ with mental health challenges (c-PTSD, clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks, etc), then you may already have had some ‘coping mechanisms’ under your belt which helped you and I to deal with many of the challenges of 2020.
I am inclined to believe that there will be a fair few people this year, and perhaps some among you reading this, who have experienced mental health challenges this year in the pandemic even if you hadn’t really experienced this before.
Perhaps many things have come as a shock to you, and like some of us before, you’ve experienced things mentally and in your body’s response to stress that ‘freaked you out’ a bit, I guess for want of a better phrase. Anxiety for example can be very scary when you don’t know what’s happening when you experience fight/flight/freeze, racing and intrusive thoughts and don’t have any idea if you’re going mad or about to faint or die, etc! It takes time, work and learning to understand what is happening to us and to find the right tools and techniques to get stronger and manage these unwanted experiences.
As we approach 2021, we may be faced with the uncertainty of what lies ahead, but we can begin to prepare ourselves and build upon our resilience even as the new year perhaps seems to ‘loom’ ahead of some of you. How can we do this? Let’s think about some options:
Tools for resilience:
Begin to identify whether you have had any particular mental health or other health challenges, seek support and research ways in which you can make progress and build strength and resilience.
Take a fresh look at your finances, and start thinking and planning ways in which you can better use your resources.
Consider the opportunities that you may have to meet that at the moment seem like challenges – do you need to adapt the way in which you work, do you need to apply for a new job, do you need to change your day to day routine or consider your caring responsibilities?
Build a network of contacts whether help from professionals or supportive friends so that you are not facing the new year alone.
Re-evaluate how you have been spending your time, and what might be draining your energy, resources and mental wellbeing, and think of the small steps you can begin to take to make positive changes in your life.
Think about self care as being part and parcel of day to day life, and build in nurturing activities every day. These can include looking at what you eat, your water intake, the information you are taking in or should leave out, whether you are getting time outside, time to reflect and be still, exercise, and whether you have time to do things that your mind can enjoy and grow from such as learning or hobbies.
Find inspiration and mentors from the people around you or from what you read or watch online. There is no shortage of inspiring people if you just begin to look for them.
Feed your faith and not your fear, and consider what you spend your time thinking about and how you can begin to change your thought patterns.
There are so many more things we can do to build resilience as we approach the unknown, and we can look at more of these later and in more detail. But for now, know that you are not alone, you are capable, you don’t need to sink under the pressure of the challenges we face, you have a safe and endlessly encouraging place here with my blog, and from someone who has lived through many real challenges, and there are ways and means for finding help, support and empowerment, even if you don’t know exactly the next step to take right now.
The fact that you are reading this and have read to this point shows that you are able to find a starting point for resilience building and seeking out positive and inspiring content and people, so keep taking those next small steps, know that I am right here with you, and never give up.
Ultimately, thought we need something far Greater than all our tools and techniques to get us through – we need deep, true and lasting PEACE which can come only from The Prince of Peace Himself, Jesus Christ, through Whom we can have real experiential Shalom – a Peace with God through reconciliation and forgiveness of our sins because of the Price Jesus paid in His flesh through His death on the cross and His Resurrection. Without Him, I could only have temporary fixes, but even in my darkest or most difficult moments in life, in His Hands I am always Secure and have an eternal and enduring Peace with God and a Love that strengthens me from within. I hope you know the true Shalom of Jesus too. Be blessed.
There will be days in this pandemic, and generally in life, where things just aren’t going right. Maybe things are actually going wrong, with a variety of external challenges, or maybe your circumstances are just fine, but you are not.
I had one of those days yesterday. Circumstances fine, but me not. Some of my long standing health issues were getting the better of me and I ended up sleeping for most of the day. I haven’t done that all year so it was unusual for me. I’ve managed to keep myself going, being relatively productive, and manage some kind of routine despite the ups and downs, but yesterday it just wasn’t happening. It was one of those days when psychological distress, depression, anxiety and all the rest came upon me afresh. In recovery from anything, we know that there are ups and downs. My lovely mum reminds me that this will pass, it won’t last forever.
And so today is a new day, and there are still things within me and in the world that could cause me distress and anxiety. I started the day early because I slept so much yesterday. I started the day with prayer and Scripture, and here I am at 11.20am writing my blog post.
The thing is though, we all have those ‘off days’ and we need to try to keep in fine balance a healthy means of giving ourselves a break and moving forwards so that we don’t get stuck.
Sometimes though, and I know from experience, we either don’t give ourselves the chance, or circumstances don’t give us the time or space to take a break and the result is emotional and psychological burnout and sometimes physical ailments that are an expression of our bodies inability to cope with the unceasing stress.
Thankfully, this year, I don’t have the burden of a daily commute, or of my sensitive brain having to deal with an avalanche of day to day stimulus by way of sounds, conversations, sights and so on – it can really take a big toll on me day to day, so that’s a massive blessing and relief.
Where am I going with this, for you? Yeah, take a break, my friends. Give yourself a break mentally. We are going to have ‘off days’ in life, and we will get back up from them again, but it’s ok to listen to your body and your mind if it’s just too much sometimes. Hold this in balance with a forward motion in life so that you don’t get ‘stuck’ though.
Where are you today? What’s going on with you? What do you need to take a step back from, and what do you need to embrace?
Take a break and take time out to rest. Your mind needs it, and hopefully you will feel that good bit better for it. Also give yourself a break mentally and emotionally. You and I were never meant to bear the burdens of the world but sometimes we feel the weight of them, so we need to learn to let go and focus on what is ours to tend to, and not that which is not.
Take a break today friends, and give yourself a break too.
I’m fairly sure that if you are reading this, and are looking for ways to better care for yourself and others during this pandemic, then you are likely to have encountered some challenges along the way this year.
I mean, really, which of us haven’t encountered challenges? I’m sure we are all dealing with something. That being said, how we get through things can have a lot to do with not just our circumstances and means of help, but also how we process (or don’t) the things going on in our lives.
Let’s take for example somebody does or says or doesn’t do something to you and this stirs up your emotions, you start thinking about the situation and feel almost ‘stuck’ in your thoughts, and you *react* to things in a visceral way. There may be certain situations in life when an immediate ‘gut’ or visceral reaction is appropriate and even necessary, such as if you or someone else is in immediate danger and you need to do something instantly, but in the main, this kind of response is not helpful, to ourselves, other people, to resolving the situation, or to our wellbeing.
If you think about what you’ve had to take in this year, even if you’ve not had a lot going on in your own personal circumstances, the chances are you’ve had to process quite a lot. The fact of the pandemic itself has been a big thing for us all. Then there has been the various lockdowns and easing of restrictions, the daily ‘count’ of deaths in some countries where we are presented this in the news or by politicians’ daily briefings, social and political unrest, the situations of friends, family members, colleagues or acquaintances, our own day to day routines and the impact on our living, job, relationship and mental health situations, and so forth. Whether you have experienced the ‘big’ things hitting you this year, like grief, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loneliness and isolation or other health concerns or you name the thing that you’ve been dealing with, or if you are somehow coping or trundling along without a great deal of change in your personal situation, either way, the fact that we are in a pandemic year will have impacted you in some way, and it is important to take note and take account of that.
The reason I say this is because living through these things in a ‘reactive’ way can be damaging to our health and can also impact our relationships and be damaging to those around us. Can you think of anyone you know who when they see a news story that raises a reaction in them, they start calling people names, or swearing, or getting agitated or anxious? There are a lot of people reacting in such ways at the moment. This impacts their immediate physical, emotional and psychological health, and most likely not in a good way.
If you are that person, soaking up the news and experiences of 2020 in a very reactive way, then chances are you are causing yourself some damage. So what’s the solution?
I’ve found in recent weeks that things have been affecting me such as work stress, or changing dynamics of friendships. When I get those ‘warning signals’ in my ‘gut’ so to speak, when those anxious thoughts and feelings start to arise, I know that it’s time to take a step back, to take a break, to take a few deep breaths and get a bit of space from the situation and focus my mind on something calming and grounding.
Doing this can produce an almost ‘immediate’ effect on our nervous systems. However, in itself, it is not enough. We not only need to get distance and calm ourselves down in the immediate situation, but we need to put in a little bit of effort to make sure we are giving ourselves the time, space and chance to process our thoughts, our feelings, our instinctive reactions so that we can move forwards positively and actively rather than reactively.
There are various ways that we can process what we are dealing with and it is probably good to have a range of ‘tools’ and techniques to hand, and it is good when we can also find ways to use what we learn to benefit other people.
So what could you do?
One thing is finding a way to externalise your thoughts and feelings. This could be by writing or journaling, for example.
Talking to someone else can also be a very helpful way to diffuse intense emotions, and can help give us a more balanced perspective, as well as helping us feel that we are not so alone in dealing with our problems, challenges and issues. If you are physically alone, perhaps you could have a few friends or family members that you can talk with every now and then, on the phone or online. And if you feel like there’s no one in your life that you know who you can turn to, then perhaps you can seek out some helplines that you can phone. I have done so in the past in times of depression, anxiety and crisis, even though I have friends and family members. Sometimes we need to just talk to someone else, because maybe those close to us aren’t available or we don’t feel comfortable always turning to them. Sometimes we just need to hear the voice of another human being and chat things through and that’s perfectly ok, and definitely not something to feel ashamed about. That’s what they are there for.
Creativity can also be a balm to troubled emotions and it can also be a stepping stone into community where you can link up with like minded people, and these days there is so much going on online, even if you don’t wish to connect personally you can still find sources of inspiration by watching or reading about what others are doing and this may help you as you seek to process or externalise or express your own thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences. Creativity could be expressed in a variety of ways such as art, music, song, dance or play or so many other things.
Community can also be a source of easing our inner tensions, diffusing pent up emotions, sharing experiences and letting us know we’re not alone. For me, keeping a sense of connection with church and other Christians has been an encouragement, but at the same time, sometimes we need to be careful that we aren’t left feeling alone by being a part of a group, which can happen from time to time. Try to find a helpful balance for you.
Nature is also a source of calm for me, that helps settle me down and release those ‘reactive’ thoughts and feelings. It helps lift my mind and take my mind off certain negative trains of thought.
There are many more calming and soothing things you can do to gain space, perspective and help process your thoughts and experiences and it is so important to do so to enable you to act rather than react to situations.
That’s not to say everything will somehow sort itself out, but you will be in a better place to make positive decisions in your own life in response to what you are facing. I’m personally finding it necessary to reassess some of my friendship dynamics this year so as to avoid being taken for granted for example, or even forgotten about, and so that I can protect my mental and emotional health as well as that of others. I’ve found that even though I’ve been really productive at work this year, working from home, that doesn’t necessarily stave off the stress that accompanies work at times, and it is my responsibility to step back, and find a healthy balance for myself so that I can act positively rather than simply react instinctively to ongoing challenges and situations.
So what about you, friends? Does any of this resonate with you or do you find it helpful? What do you do that helps you? Whatever you are going through this year, I hope that you will take the time, and find a way to step back, process, and move forwards in a way that will contribute to your health, happiness, wellbeing and that of those around you.
Take care, stay strong, and sending each of you uplifting prayers for this day and those ahead of you. Peace. x
I’ve been appreciating the benefits of some of the self care elements that I’ve explored in previous blog posts in this series. Those such as having a structure, order and routine / purpose to our days, healthy habits, and boundaries of various sorts, and so forth.
For example, today I was able to have a reasonably productive morning routine, check in with work, meet some key deadlines and correspond with colleagues on various issues, update logs, and keep things on track for myself and other people in related teams. I took a short break for exercise, food and a bit of fresh air by stepping outside for a few moments. That being said, I have been having tension headaches for the past couple of days. Although as someone who feels more energised in solitude than in busy atmospheres of a lot of company / people (which my usual office life would involve…I suppose you could call me an introvert then, and I’d happily embrace that term – someone who loves company in smaller settings with deeper connectedness, loves her own company, and feels really stressed out and anxious with the overload of information from busier settings), I still have found a sense of stress during my working day from time to time.
I love working from home far more than working from the office, as I still can keep in touch with a few close friends by email, without the stress of all the other people and goings on and commutes and office politics, etc! Even so, having routines, structure, and self care in our days doesn’t mean that within these we don’t feel a challenge to our wellbeing.
Taking what I’ve decided to term a ‘wellbeing break’ is making a sort of commitment to yourself that your wellbeing is important. Although the structure of a working day from home, if that’s your situation, might be a positive, in and of itself it isn’t enough. Within that structure you might experience stresses of emails, demands, expectations and deadlines from other people, and that can affect up physically, mentally and emotionally in a variety of ways, which can lead to a build up of stress and we might not feel or be on top of our game.
So within those structures and boundaries, it is important to learn to listen to what our bodies are saying to us. I realise that the tension headaches start to appear when I am working and even though I might be doing a great job from my boss’s perspective, the external output isn’t necessarily all we should be focused on. So if you are feeling a bit stressed or unwell during the day, take time out to check in with yourself, and do something that will help you feel well and get back on track. This could be switching your computer off for a while and coming back to tasks later, getting some fresh air, eating something healthy or exercising, doing something creative and so forth.
I think we need to be able to manage boundaries and expectations with ourselves and each other and this also involves working on our communication. We don’t need to rigidly stick to our desks when working from home for a set number of hours, as it is important to take care of our wellbeing too, and that may make us far more effective and efficient and helpful to others in the long run.
I’ve talked about things that I’ve experienced, but even if your situation is completely different to mine, and even if you are taking steps towards looking after yourself, which is wonderful, in the middle of those positive things, you might have ups and downs, and that’s ok. So, if your body is telling you something for example, your head hurts more, you feel tense, stressed, anxious, worn out etc, then listen to it, take a ‘wellbeing break’ and find out what is going to work for you to take care of yourself and notice and respond to those often uncomfortable, but so very helpful and important internal cues.
Take care my friends, and remember to take it one step at a time. x
It’s been a few days (or is it weeks, I’m not sure? It’s hard to keep up with things in a pandemic!) since I last wrote in this Self Care in a Pandemic series.
The world has changed a bit since the last instalment, that’s for sure! I imagine that no matter what country you’re reading this from, there will be something or other in 2020’s news that challenges you. Perhaps one of the most reported on news stories of the day is that of the American election results (you know, the episode in which Joe Biden won over Donald Trump).
Take a step back and examine your reaction to that, if you had one. And now, breathe a sigh of relief as I reassure you that that’s all I am going to say on the matter because I know that there are a lot of strong feelings on both sides, and that there will be various responses from people in different parts of the world as well as on different parts of the political spectrum in America. I’m writing this from the United Kingdom, by the way, but it’s still a big story here. But I’m drawing a line, or a box around the topic, and putting a full stop right here, and moving on to the topic of my blog post.
Why? Because the topic of my post is on boundaries and particularly how they can help us manage self care in a pandemic.
Boundaries can help you to guard your heart:
When we are able to practice the fine art (and it does take practice, perhaps with constant learning over a life time, depending on the people and circumstances and states of mind and emotions that we come in contact with and experience!) of setting healthy boundaries, we may be better able to navigate our way through stressful or uncertain situations.
2020 has definitely been a year of global stress, challenge and uncertainty on a number of fronts.
What we’re thinking about at the moment is how things affect you. These ‘things’ whatever they may be, may have something to do with the pandemic, the challenges of 2020, or may be things that you have been dealing with before all of this.
Without healthy boundary settings in our lives, it probably won’t be too long before we become undesirably familiar with some or all of the following words and realities in our lives:
Burnout; anxiety; depression; fatigue; stress; worry; ill health; compassion fatigue; feeling used; fear; loss of control; mental illness; resentment; trauma; overwhelm….and so the list goes on.
Can anyone relate to this? I certainly can, and it’s not just because I’ve experienced trauma and anxiety and depression and challenging circumstance in my life. Say for example, I had never encountered any such challenges, I would probably still be able to tick off a fair few of those words in my experience. One of the reasons for this is that I am a naturally compassionate and empathetic person, and there have been times in my life where I have put other people first in many different situations to the detriment of my own wellbeing. For example, always showing up for friends, or being the shoulder to cry on, or being there to cheer them on and support them while they celebrated great things happening in their life that weren’t happening for me. I was the friend who was always there, and I was that friend even during times of severe depression, complex PTSD, anxiety, weakness and so forth. On top of that, sometimes life circumstances may challenge us even if they are not hitting us ‘hard’. Maybe you’ve had a terrible job or family situation, but even if you have not, the daily stressors of life can all add up and the drip, drip, drip of a life lived without stepping back and examining our boundaries can lead to burnout too.
So let me ask you a few questions for you to take a bit of time to ponder. It may be difficult for you to work through these but sometimes that’s where the path to wellbeing starts – with challenging things we’ve simply accepted or things that have been heaped upon us by others.
Healthy boundaries, especially in a time of a global pandemic can relate to a variety of aspects of our lives, and if I miss any out that are particularly important to you, feel free to share in the comments.
Boundaries within the structure of your day:
Do you have a sense of structure in your day to day living through this pandemic? There is so much outwith our control, but there are things we can do for ourselves that will promote our wellbeing. With flexibility built in, do you have at least a loose idea of what your day may look like in terms of sleep patterns, healthy eating, exercise, how you spend your time, connections with work, friends, family and rest and time by yourself? These can change day to day and that’s fine, but if you feel that any or all of these are in a ‘free fall’ and are causing you great stress and anxiety, then perhaps it is time to think about setting yourself some fundamental self care boundaries.
Mental boundaries / information boundaries:
We are not machines. We can’t take in endless feeds of information and not be impacted by it. We don’t process all of this information in under a second, we need time, space and emotional energy to be able to take in, and process the information we are consuming day by day.
So my second question for you is are you allowing yourself mental boundaries in your daily living? Are you finding yourself so stressed out by the news and other information that you are consuming that it is impacting negatively upon your wellbeing? Of course, so much of what is going on in 2020 is overwhelming. But are you allowing things to encroach too much into your mind and life? Are you making any unhealthy choices for yourself? Do you watch, read, listen to or discuss the news more than you are able to properly handle? If so, can you decide to make more structured and healthy choices such as limiting your exposure to what is necessary and helpful and also making sure that you are filling your mind with positive things throughout the day? Are you giving yourself time and space to process your thoughts, feelings and emotions?
Do you have creative or other helpful outlets in your life that can help you maintain a better sense of wellbeing?
Connected to the above, a lot of the information we may be consuming may relate to the fact that while physical boundaries may be more apparent in our lives in a year in which physical distancing, lockdowns, restrictions and so forth have increasingly featured and served to separate us from each other in different ways, we are also faced with a perhaps at times ‘encroaching’ sense of so-called ‘connectedness’ with others. This can lead to a different kind of emotional and informational overload if we are not careful to set healthy boundaries.
For example, while technology can be a good servant, it can be a tough master, as some have said before. Are you finding it hard to keep up with commitments online whether for work, family or leisure? Are people more and more in your own space even though they are not physically there? Is it time for you to reassess what is healthy in this regard and to take a considered and thoughtful step back, even if for a time?
Do you have more emails, text messages, video calls and expectations than you can personally cope with? Do you feel stressed, guilty or overwhelmed by any of these?
As an empathetic person, I sometimes find that friends who I’ve known for ten or fifteen years may at times choose to contact me only when it suits them and then off load all their problems onto me, because I do care and want to be a good friend, but they don’t use the resources already available in their life. Do you ever find that yourself? Do emails appear in your inbox that are very one sided and that stress you out and as a ‘good friend’ you feel you need to be supportive? When someone is in crisis, then sure, do what you can, but try to help them in a way that is empowering for them and for you and that does not foster a detrimental dependence for either of you. If you are metaphorically drowning, then don’t allow someone to jump on your back and try to save them, or both of you will drown! I love to help and encourage people, and I’ve had times when I’ve been in ‘crisis’ and need, and been the weak one in a sense, but think carefully about the dynamics that are helping you and your friends move forward in your lives and those that might just be detrimental. Mutual respect and being brave enough to ask the right questions or voice our concerns can lead to stronger and longer lasting and more empowering friendships, so if there is something that is just ‘too much’ for you just now, try to figure out why and what more healthy choices and responses you can make for the good of yourself and for other people.
Sometimes the people in our lives aren’t in crisis, but they just get habituated into venting to us, and sharing only the negatives with us, even when they do have good things happening in their lives. They may not stop to ask how we’re doing, and don’t hesitate to pour out their ‘stuff’ onto us, when they may not need to. I have experienced this with friends in my life, who email just because they want to offload. I understand that it’s a hard time for people, but sometimes setting those healthy boundaries can be far better in the long run.
Do you relate to any of this? Do you need to set some boundaries in your relationships and friendships with people? Do you need to take a step back and think of a kind way of communicating, even if that is as simple as spacing out the time in which you respond to other people’s unhealthy or detrimental expectations of you, so that you can guard your own wellbeing and in the long run empower both yourself and others?
Think about the things you are physically consuming in your life: this might be, as discussed above, in terms of news, other people’s problems and other information sources, but it may also be to do with what you are eating, drinking, buying, spending your energy and time on, and so forth.
Feed your soul with Love, Grace and Truth and it will grow that little bit stronger even in the midst of adversity. Feed yourself with junk and your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing will suffer.
Do you need to think more about establishing healthy boundaries in your life?
Boundary setting can sometimes feel like a scary or negative thing. We don’t want to hurt other people, we feel we need to keep up with the news, we worry about the ‘what if’s’. But when we are able to take a considered approach to setting boundaries we can move in the direction of improved mental, physical, emotional and relational health.
When we feel better in ourselves because of healthy boundaries with ourselves and others and information, then we feel more energised and positive in our lives, even in challenging times. When we take care of our wellbeing, we are better able to take care of those we love, and be better friends in the long run to the people who matter to us. When we don’t overload ourselves, we can do our jobs better, or if we are in a tough situation job-wise, we can have clearer heads and hearts to begin to seek solutions.
Boundary setting is not a be all or end all to living well in this pandemic or in life. I believe we all need The LORD Jesus’ help and that’s another choice we have to make for ourselves, but when it comes to these accessible and practical things I’ve mentioned in this post, then we can move towards coping better, living better, and who knows even beginning to thrive in adversity.
There is so much out of our control, but let’s take a bit of time to think about what is in our control, to be graceful towards ourselves and our friends, family and loved ones, knowing that we’re all going through a year unlike most of us have experienced before on a global scale, and everyone has issues, some of which only they know about. Try to set healthy boundaries that will empower you to move through your days in a way that is good for you and that will also in the long run be good for those around you.
This is a lot to think about, so take your time over it if you are inclined to do so, ponder things in your heart, and be gentle with yourself as you make the necessary changes little by little, day by day.
Take care of yourselves, and sending you so much love, and prayers for brighter days ahead. Peace. ❤
How many sheep do you need to count before you can fall asleep? I’m not sure if an answer has been found to that conundrum, but I am sure that we have all heard time and time again about the benefits and importance of sleep.
Sometimes, however, we just need a gentle reminder. At the start of lockdown in March (in UK) I was in good company among many others who were having vivid and sometimes disruptive dreams. It wasn’t altogether out of the ordinary for me as I went through a time for a few years when almost every night was a battle to get through sleep-wise. Thank God for His Peace in my life now, and more ‘normal’ sleep than before. However, conversations opened up among friends that they were having vivid, unsettling dreams and were struggling with their sleep too. I started noticing articles online from psychologists and medical professionals regarding this phenomenon in the pandemic. Perhaps it has been an issue for you too?
It is hardly surprising with all the new and at times overwhelming information we were having to process at the start of the pandemic. Have we grown somewhat ‘used to’ hearing these things on the news and have they become part of that oh so unpopular ‘new normal’? Our vocabulary has changed in 2020, and we are using words and phrases in common parlance that would have seemed strange to us a mere twelve months earlier. Maybe we’ve found ways to adapt, cope and be positive as time goes on? Maybe for our own mental and emotional wellbeing we’ve distanced ourselves from the facts and figures and human toll of the pandemic for the most part in order to get from one day to the next.
However, things keep changing, and with winter approaching, people are facing new concerns and having to process a whole host of new information. For example, in the UK, we have varying restrictions due to the pandemic in different nations (Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales), and even within the 4 nations, there are differing regional rules and protocols. Some regions and cities have re-entered lockdown or a form of lockdown, there are different rules with regards to the closing times of certain premises and such like. On top of that, there have been restrictions on visiting other households and a ban on this in Scotland apart from a few notable exemptions. And with winter approaching, people have concerns regarding how they will survive on their own, whether they will be able to see friends and family, whether they will have enough money to make ends meet, whether their family members will be ok in care homes, or whether supermarkets will once more run low on certain essential items.
All this can make for restless nights and troubled sleep. We know that we need to take care of our sleep and I for one do tend to struggle with this, but it is worth reminding ourselves that it may well be time for a self care ‘check in’ in this regard.
When was the last time you got a full 7 or 8 hours sleep?
Are you giving your body the chance to process, restore and repair itself as is needful, with a good sleep routine, as far as is possible?
Are you regularly staying awake through the night or avoiding going to sleep?
Do you give yourself the chance to nap during the day if you need to?
Are you oversleeping, which in itself can be detrimental?
We really need to focus on this aspect of self care, especially if like myself you struggle in this area. Even if all you can do is make small changes for the time being, please seek to do so and keep taking positive steps forwards because in order to stay as fit and healthy as you can, maintain a healthy immune system, and look after your mental, emotional and physical health and be there for others if needful especially as winter approaches, then moving towards better sleep needs to be a priority for us all.
Check in with yourself today. Think about what your personal challenges are in this area and what you can do to overcome them. Is there anything by way of a calming evening routine that you can implement in your life? Do you need to stop watching, reading or listening to the news earlier in the day? Are you giving yourself enough time and opportunity to process what is going on in your mind, and to allow your body and brain to do this at a subconscious level through the restorative blessings of sleep?
I’m sure we are all in need of at least a little (if not a lot) of improvement in this area, and I wish you all the very best with it. Perhaps this can be the gentle nudge in the right direction that you need.
It’s autumn / fall season once again, and right now I have a beautiful view of auburn, orange, red, gold and green leafy trees. I am delighted, now that I am out of the city once more, to be able to watch squirrels scamper in my parents’ garden, to see magpies and a garden fox and to hear birdsong. In the city where I usually live, there are plenty of parks and green spaces, but in order to get to them I have to walk through the city, cross traffic and share the space once there with other people. In this pandemic year, it is a welcome relief to have some quiet space, to simply be able to look out the window and see trees and birds without having to go anywhere to enjoy such a peaceful autumnal scene. I find that watching the leaves gently shiver and the branches sway in the breeze calms my mind somewhat.
Yet, we may face seasons in our lives when our surroundings are not conducive to rest, whether because of other people, circumstances, stressors or events. Further still, we may also experience times where regardless of whether our external environments are peaceful or problematic, our own psychological processes cause us pain.
I am well versed with such struggles. I know that a troubled mind is not necessarily calmed by peaceful surroundings, and I also know that in difficult circumstances we may find a resilience to overcome the odds and challenges that we may not have realised, despite the suffering that may bring us to such a realisation.
Whatever situation you find yourself in presently, it is important to consider your thoughts. I have written many articles on this previously so if you are interested please browse my blog if you need encouragement with your thoughts, mental health and well being.
This year has been a lot to process. If like me you’ve ever experienced times of ‘burn out’, you’ll know the awful feelings of stress, anxiety and heightened fight-flight-freeze responses that living in a reactive state to your circumstances can bring.
When we’re always on the go, always wound up, battling racing thoughts and constantly on survival mode, then our bodies react with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and this can take a toll on our long term physical, mental, psychological and emotional health if left unchecked.
That’s why it is so important to have a way to process your thoughts and experiences in a healthy way.
To do this, you need to try to carve out time and space for yourself where you are not simply absorbing information (as we explored in my previous post), and where you can be still and allow your mind to try to make sense of whatever is going on with you.
It can be hard to know where to start, which is why I will explore this topic further in subsequent posts, but a good starting point is to begin with an awareness of the importance to give your mind space and time away from the noise in order to rest, reflect, process and organise as well as to heal from stress, traumas and such like.
Maybe you can start by thinking about whether this is important to you, and if not, why not? If you are not taking care of your mind, then perhaps you should be because your mind matters – you matter.
Set aside some time today, even if just a minute to begin with, to quieten your thoughts, focus on your breathing, and to become aware of what is bothering you or causing you stress or anxiety, or to simply enjoy the peace of the moment you are in.
I will follow this post up with one on the benefits of journaling as a way of processing your thoughts, so for the meantime, remind yourself of the importance of looking after your mind and your mental health as a crucial part of self care in the pandemic, and together we will explore more practical steps as to how to take this forwards.
*Your children are looking to you. Who will you be for them?*
Children are far more perceptive than many of us realise. They pick up on subtleties and sometimes keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves when they are unsure of things.
Whether or not you have children of your own, it is likely that there will be young people in your life, who need stability and security from the adults around them.
If your children are younger, perhaps you may be able to shield and shelter them in a safe little cocoon away from the world. They may be too young to understand what is going on, and only know that their routine has changed and you may be able to give them a safe and positive experience through this.
Yet, even young children can pick up on things from adults that we sometimes fail to pay attention to.
For older children, teenagers and young adults, this may be a much more confusing and unsettling time, and chances are, how they get through this will impact upon how they do for the next few years in their lives in terms of resilience, outlook on life and even mental and emotional health and wellbeing.
It might be easy to get caught up in the immediacy of this pressing situation, but they need you to be their role models, their leaders, their examples. In a world where greed and selfishness is coming to the fore, can you be kind, giving, selfless? Are you showing them an example of fear or of faith and courage? Are you providing them with the learning opportunities to build skills and resilience to face an unknown future? What are the certainties that you can lay down for them?
We are all examples to children and young people in some way, even if we don’t have children of our own to nurture, love and protect, we still have a part to play, whether as teachers, aunts or uncles, friends and mentors.
Teenagers who have not been able to sit their exams this year may feel like it is a catastrophe in their own personal lives. Do they have the space to talk about and express how they are feeling? Can you and we assure them that actually there are so many opportunities that don’t depend on exam results and that we are all living in changing times where we will have to adapt and learn, and that they *do* have a hope and a future. If you don’t believe this yourself, if you are doubtful and fearful, it makes things a bit more of a challenge to them.
Pay attention to the mental health of the young people in your life, and set the examples that they need you to be right now. Let them know that there is a way forwards, and that there is hope. And above all, listen and love and provide a sense of security and safety so that they can grow through this and not be crushed or overwhelmed by it.