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.
The thing with being human is that we have ups and downs, good days and bad, and if we are recovering from or getting through some difficult or challenging experience, then that is not always linear.
Today I’ve had to take a bit of ‘time out’ for myself as I am re-experiencing some challenges with my health. We can sometimes be quite hard on ourselves when we are having those days when we feel the struggle a bit more than on others. If we’ve been making progress in an area of our life, and then feel like things are going ‘backwards’ then that can be tough too – but progress is not always linear, as I’m sure most of us well know.
In this pandemic year, perhaps you’ve experienced your fair share of contrasting days, ups and downs, good times and bad. I wonder how you are doing today? You know one way we can help stay in a more positive frame of mind on those particularly challenging days could be to set the smallest of goals.
We need to shift gears at times, and take things at a slower more moderate pace, focusing on self care, but at times when we’re struggling it can be hard to get going and some of us have the tendency to be overly critical of ourselves in such times.
How about setting the smallest of goals like making the bed, or having a healthy lunch, or doing a few stretches? Maybe that’s all you can manage, and that’s ok, but maybe you’ll find the momentum to do something else, leaving you in a better frame of mind for the rest of the day, or at least feeling like you have accomplished a goal, even if you feel like it is the smallest of goals.
I was doing pretty good today…until I wasn’t. For a number of years I was finding life difficult and overwhelming on a number of levels. I’ve worked pretty hard, and God’s grace has carried me forwards, and I’ve recently been in a place of building myself up. However, sometimes as we seek to press forwards, despite all of our best efforts, there can be an internal challenge to get to where we want to be and feel how we want to feel. Sometimes we just want to feel ‘ok’, but that might seem like an impossible dream.
If you’re struggling just now, I’m sending you a great big virtual hug and lots of compassion.
Especially in this pandemic year we may find that we go through ups and downs and that’s ok. Some of the things we struggle with might be to do with what’s happening this year, but then other things may be internal and seem to come ‘out of the blue’ and can be ‘triggers’ of some form or another. It can be tough, especially if you feel like you’d been making progress. But it’s ok. It’s ok to learn to sit with those uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and emotions until they pass (and eventually they will), and to take the next step to begin again. You’ve come this far, and if you need a well done from someone, then I am giving it to you right now, friend.
*Well done* – whatever it is you have faced or been going through or are going through now, it is something you are or have persevered through and possibly in the most difficult of circumstances for you – so well done. I’m proud of you, even though I don’t know you, but I know what it is to be human. I know what it is to struggle, to suffer, to feel weak and broken, and I also know what it is to get up again. And again. And again. And chances are if you’re reading this and relating to this, then you do too.
It’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to be doing fine for a while and then not to be doing fine. You’re human, that’s part of what it is to experience our frail and fallen lives in this world. It’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to need grace and it’s ok to be humbled to a place where you need to ask for help. I believe there is an amazing grace for us all, in fact, I know that the Grace of God has saved me and brought me this far and is giving me Peace and renewal day by day. It’s not always been easy, perhaps it isn’t meant to be. But I have a Saviour, a Friend, a King, to turn to and Who loves me through the dark times as well as the more joyful moments of life.
Whatever you think or believe or whatever you don’t believe, know that the moment you are in will pass. You will find the strength to not be ok. You will find the strength to sit in those uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, and to get up again. So take heart my friend, this too will pass. You are not alone. ❤ 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
I talked about the way our busy, fast-paced lives can leave our minds racing, even when we physically stop at the end of the day, and the ways in which our use of technology can contribute to this mental and emotional overload, while also highlighting the personal benefits of blogging as a use of technology. I explored ways in which slowing down, creating more space and time to do things that benefit our wellbeing, creativity and taking time out of the usual busy lives we live, can be beneficial to us on so many levels.
And here we are, in 2020, and many if not most of us have found ourselves, by default of the pandemic, ushered out of our busy day to day lives and routines and into a slower, more ‘removed’ kind of a lifestyle.
Of course, there are so many of you who have not had the chance to slow down this year. Those of you to whom the rest of society owes a huge debt of gratitude. Those who are front line or key workers, whose lives have only got busier and perhaps more stressful as you care for the sick, the vulnerable, deliver essential supplies of food, medicine, and so forth.
So many of the rest of us, however, have found ourselves spending much more time at home, perhaps working from home, maybe isolated and living alone, or seeing only immediate family members as the restrictions that the Coronavirus pandemic have brought upon us, continue to refashion the ebb and flow of our daily lives.
Yet, how many of us have been able to embrace this as an opportunity to slow down and look after ourselves and those around us, as we may have wished to be able to do a year ago?
With various health issues, I have often ‘dreamed of’ being able to work from home in the past, but was never granted the permission to do so, yet this year, many other mainly office-based workers like myself have been able to benefit from working from home as the new default in this public health crisis. I have personally found this beneficial, yet I know of others who have really struggled with working from home, and am aware of others still for whom being at home is an unsafe or unsettling environment.
Isn’t is strange when the things we may have hoped for become reality but through very unexpected circumstances? In 2020 we’ve seen our world be turned upside down by the pandemic, and across the world despite us approaching October and the end of the year, countries are still trying to navigated these uncharted waters, and find a balance between protecting public health and keeping economies afloat, all in the midst of some key political and social events in certain parts of the world.
I wonder where you are from and how you have been managing the changes this past year, if any of the changes have been positive for you, or what has been particularly challenging. I wonder how your country has responded to the Coronavirus crisis, and what you think could be done better? What were your thoughts around this time last year?
I’d like to think that looking back in a year from now, we will see progress, on a global scale, and green shoots of recovery, yet there are many challenges ahead, and in many places across the world, it seems that governments, medical professionals, and scientists are at the moment ‘fire fighting’ to address the immediate damage while trying to plan and prepare for the longer term.
We may not have a great deal of control on what happens on a global scale, but as we approach the autumn and winter of this year, we are once again reminded by nature’s gentle changing of the seasons (and as I write I observe the beauty of the juxtaposition of green leafy trees with bright autumnal reds and oranges beginning to appear), that it is time to slow down, reflect and move from one season to the next.
Many of us may have physically slowed down, but as described in my post from this time last year, are our minds still racing and overloaded even when we stop? Have you been given a chance to take time out of the busy day to day of your previous life, and are you yet still overwhelmed by the constant stream of bad news that we’ve been hearing this year?
Do you have any stories of inspiration of how something positive has come out of this collectively difficult year, or how you and your community have responded to help others?
Have you embraced a slower pace of life? In this year where we are all in such need of encouragement and community even as we perhaps are physically isolated, do you have any words of hope to share here? It would be an honour to hear your stories, but in the meantime, try to remember to take every opportunity you can to seek Peace and pursue it, even in the midst of the storms. Be blessed. x
Words of Encouragement (9):
*Know when to take time out*.
As I explored previously in the post about ‘How much news is too much news?’, this one comes having just watched the news, and feeling that restless unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach, and the sense of stress in thinking about and acknowledging what our fellow human beings are going through in this window of history. Even safely tucked away from it all in my quiet flat, the news can still get right to us….and for those who are particularly empathetic it can touch us to the core.
We need to learn how to process things through this experience, this season. And we need to know when to take a step back, to take time out. This is especially true if we are in any position of responsibility or supporting or caring for other people. This might be on many levels or on one or two, but the principle holds true regardless. Your responsibilities might be your work, your volunteering roles, your parents, your spouse, your friends, your children. It could be the role you find yourself in in supporting and encouraging other people, in putting food on the table, in supporting colleagues and others, and you therefore need to know what your ‘triggers’ are in terms of when that feeling inside begins to get too much. When anxiety, stress or fear begins to overtake you.
At such times, step back.
Take some time out and rebuild yourself, nurture yourself, do something perhaps creative, artistic, musical, relaxing to take your mind and attention and emotions off this terrible situation we find ourselves in.
Take time out and take a break so that when you come back you can come back stronger, you can be there for yourself as well as those around you who are depending on you, and so that you can be purposeful in how you use your days so that you can and do make a difference for the better in the lives of those closest to you, and even in the lives of those you don’t know, by doing the right thing.
If you’ve read my earlier post at the beginning of February (2020), you’ll know that I feel compelled to continue through this month with the theme of ‘Rest’. If you haven’t read my earlier post, in summary I had a great January, yet at the start of February I have felt tired, ‘under the weather’ and not in the best of health. As such, as I often ‘theme’ my months to help me have a better focus and direction, as well as to feel more positive as I move through the year, I am honing in on the idea of rest.
Well friends, ‘life as it happens to be’ is happening as it is, unfolding one step at a time, and I hope you’ll journey with me as I discover more about rest this month. If you’ve been following me for a while, or have looked back at my posts over the past few years (since mid 2017 when I started this blog), then you’ll know that I do like to have myself an at home ‘retreat’ or two throughout the year. Sometimes these have a particular focus such as faith, or a writing retreat, or creativity. I hadn’t planned to start thinking about one so early on in the year, but it seems that I need to for my own wellbeing.
At home retreats can be fairly simple, with relatively little planning and preparation depending on how organised you generally are, or you can put more time, thought and effort into things depending on your needs. I have written about planning retreats in the past. With where I am at right now, I think the planning process itself is something that is good for my mental health, if that makes sense. It helps me not to allow myself to feel overwhelmed or give in to the lack of energy, or to feel ‘frazzled’ that I can’t keep up with things at home what with working full time and feeling a little less than my best at the moment. Some people have holidays coming up at this time of the year, but as I haven’t got anything in the diary just yet, the planning gives me those similar kind of happy ‘vibes’ and something other than the day to day routine to put my attention and focus into.
Do you ever find that planning even the simplest of things, trying to make something special out of the ‘ordinary’ helps to keep you in a positive and healthy frame of mind? I think the process of doing a little bit at a time with the build up to something, even if it’s a weekend of restfulness, is quite special, particularly after the Christmas and festive season for which there was the lovely build up and collective nostalgic feeling which with the season has now passed.
Therefore, I’m inviting you to journey on planning a restful retreat one step at a time, easy does it, no stress, more rest! If you like, please join in and carve out your own little pockets of rest this month. xx
Everyday stresses can add up over time, and if we’re not careful we may experiences a wide range of negative effects from anxiety, depression, burnout, fatigue, a sense of being overwhelmed, trapped and frustrated, backed into a corner, to name but a few.
Having come through times of intense stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, fatigue, etc. due to a range of challenging circumstances, I know how important it is to be mindful and aware of when these little ‘niggly’ things that occur day to day begin to trigger even a hint of those feelings.
If we allow things to build up and up (which, I truly know, friends, can be difficult not to) then our bodies and nervous systems will begin to move from a state of calm, rest, efficiency and productivity, to being hypervigilant, and in fight-flight-freeze mode. Stress hormones will build up and this will affect our thinking, cloud our judgement and affect us physically. We may find it difficult to sleep, we may turn to comfort eating, or feel too stressed to eat, and so on and so forth. You get the idea. Perhaps, like me, you know it all too well.
Did you remember to breathe?
Sometimes I ‘forget to breathe’. Obviously, my body will be breathing, but what I mean is sometimes I get into a rigid state where I’m kind of holding my breath without even realising it, and therefore not getting a sufficient supply of oxygen for my wellbeing, and for regulating my nervous system.
Did you know that something as simple as breathing well is so powerful in regulating our nervous system, and promoting our wellbeing? And yet so often so many of us seem to ‘forget this’. We breathe from a ‘shallow’ place and don’t allow a full intake or exhale of our breath. Once we begin to be aware of our breathing and to intentionally practice doing it ‘better’ then our nervous systems are able to ‘calm down’. So, for your own good….”Don’t hold your breath!”.
What are those ‘little things’?
Sometimes life throws us into challenges where we feel like we may well sink if we don’t ‘swim’ to survive. At times life is so tough that our ‘default’ is to operate on fight-flight-freeze mode, simply to survive an intensely stressful, emotional, challenging and / or traumatic situation.
However, even at times when we are in those more calm and peaceful seasons where things overall are going well, our bodies and brains can be overstimulated and create a ‘stress response’ within us similar (or equivalent) to that fight-flight-freeze response.
Can you see yourself, or relate to what’s happening, in any of the following scenarios?
You all know the feeling. You’re on the way to see your friends for a great day out, but you can’t find the keys to your car, when you finally do and are on your way you then get caught in traffic and you worry that you’ll be late, you arrive just in time but can’t find a parking space, you’re feeling anxious because of angry drivers that you’ve encountered and before your great day out has even started, you kind of want to be back home where you can crawl into bed.
Finally you meet your friends and it’s great to see them. You hug and you’re reminded of why the stress of the journey was worth it. As you catch up over coffee, the noise around you and the multitude of conversations going on from other people leaves you feeling a bit disoriented. You try to listen to your friends but it’s difficult to ‘tune out’ the noise and ‘tune in’ to hear their conversations. When things finally quieten down your friends begin to share updates about their lives. They’re doing great, you’re happy for each other, but some things in the conversation seem to ‘trigger’ you and they seem insensitive to it. You listen patiently and are as encouraging and loving a friend as ever but something doesn’t feel quite right inside. A few of your friends get up to buy something to eat and you’re left alone with one friend. You’re by nature a ‘listener’ and you’ve listened attentively and shown genuine interest and contributed here and there to the group conversations. However, alone with this person they seem to ask you question after question after question. It’s been a long time since you’ve seen each other and it’s nice to catch up but you feel stressed, uneasy and needing your own space. You hope that the others will come back soon so that they dynamic will feel more ‘balanced’ once again, as far as is possible with a range of personalities, and a mix of ‘introverts, extraverts and ambiverts’. All in all by the end of the day you’ve had a lovely and a pleasant time, but some of the ‘little things’ have got to you and you don’t quite understand why you’re feeling so stressed after a nice day out.
You’ve landed your dream job. You got through the interview despite your nerves, impressed the new bosses and are finally where you’ve wanted to be for oh so long. Things are going great. You manage to push past your first day nerves, the disorientation of not knowing anyone, and having to get to know a lot of new faces, names and ways of working. After a few weeks into your dream job you’ve built some rapport with colleagues, feel comfortable and confident in what you’re doing, know the ‘lay of the land’ and where to get lunch, where different offices are and what your day to day routine is like. You’re really pleased with this great new step in your life, but somehow everyday you feel a bit of a ‘gnawing’ in the pit of your stomach, and a feeling of nervousness and stress rising up within you. The dream job you should be overjoyed about and looking forward to going to everyday doesn’t leave you feeling the way you had hoped. It’s not the job itself – it perfectly fits what you had wanted to do. It’s not the location – it’s ideal for you and the building and the facilities are great. It’s not the ‘vibe’ of the organisation, people are friendly and professional. It’s just that one little thing. That one colleague who hasn’t taken so well to you. The one who rolls their eyes, who makes subtle flippant remarks that you are sure are about you, who is overly friendly to everyone else but ignores you or responds abruptly and provides as little help or good will as possible. The one who does so many ‘little things’ that are hard to pin down as being ‘problems’ in and of themselves, but who gives you that feeling inside your chest, the one that leaves you feeling somewhat stressed. Why can’t you just ignore it, shake it off? You try but it seems to leave you feeling drained nonetheless.
You’re really thankful to have good and close friends. Or perhaps you have a loving partner or spouse. You’re so grateful for the people in your life. It’s just that sometimes you feel the need for your own space, sometimes they do or say things that make you feel stressed, sometimes you find yourself putting your needs aside to help them, to keep them happy. But those little things, they still get to you a bit, don’t they?
Life is going great. You’re doing well in your job. You’ve got good friends. You’re quite healthy. No family drama. No major life crisis. But you can’t quite seem to keep up with all that you have to or want to do. You live alone. The dishes have piled up. There are things needing done around the house. You want to get on top of things, but you’ve got to manage so many things yourself, and you spend so much time doing things yet before you know it things need to be done all over again, and you haven’t even got to that ‘to do’ list of things needing fixed, repaired and so on and so forth.
Or you’re a working mum, you love your family, your kids, they are everything to you. But sometimes they just don’t listen. They leave things lying about. They seem more interested in their phones and their friends and their computers than they do in connecting with you. You feel unappreciated, stressed, you love your life, your family, your job, but sometimes those little things…leave you feeling a bit stressed, frustrated, in need of a holiday on a beautiful desert island with a good book, all by yourself! Do you know the feeling?
Taking a step back:
We don’t need to be going through a trauma or a life crisis for things to become stressful. Sometimes the ‘little things’ in life can leave us feeling overwhelmed. And if we let them build up then at some point they might just ‘bubble over’. Have you ever ‘snapped at’ someone who really didn’t deserve it, not because of them, but because you allowed different stresses to build up over time and this was just the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’? Have you ever burst into tears, or just ended up so fatigued that you couldn’t do anything? Have you let the ‘little things’ in life get the better of you?
Or are you just beginning to notice them? Don’t let the ‘little things’ build up and overwhelm you.
Sometimes we need to try taking a step back. Sometimes that can be difficult. Sometimes it involves saying ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ to someone and facing the ‘fear’ of not meeting their expectations of us for the sake of preserving and maintaining our own well being. In order to do so we need to know and be aware of what we need, we need to work on managing ours and other people’s expectations in a healthy way, managing boundaries and taking good care of ourselves.
Sometimes we need to take a step back, remind ourselves to ‘breathe’ and do something to nurture ourselves.
What are you going to do today to make sure that the ‘little things’ don’t cause you to feel stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated or a bit lacklustre today?
Remember, it’s never a little thing to take care of your own wellbeing! x
In my last post (21) I wrote about taking time out just to ‘be’ and to enjoy doing nothing in particular. This post explores taking time out to reflect and to deal with some of our ‘stuff’. Not the stuff in our attics, spare rooms, garages or basements – but to spend a bit of time sorting out what’s overflowing from our ’emotional junk drawers’ in our hearts and minds.
Hopefully we’ll all have a bit of time this season where we can have even at least a day or two to ourselves to rest and reflect. If we think we don’t have this time, then maybe we are not being intentional in making this time for ourselves (time we would otherwise spend watching TV perhaps).
The new calendar year will be upon us in a matter of weeks, and the general mood of new years, and beginnings of various sorts tends to be geared more towards action rather than reflection. Those around you, as well as the things you read and see in the media, will be imparting messages of goals, things to accomplish, plans and experiences.
This time of the year, however, lends naturally to reflection, to taking time to pause and ponder, to rest and be thankful, to look back before looking forwards, to re-evaluate where we are and where we need to go. It is also a time for being honest with ourselves and taking time to deal with some of our ‘stuff’ emotionally and mentally.
We can choose to view some of our struggles as blessings. For example, this time of year can bring certain things in our lives more sharply into focus. Light might be shed upon our true feelings and motives, for example, the sociable nature of this season might reveal our inner loneliness; the frivolity and consumerism might pull on our heart strings to search for something deeper and more meaningful in our lives; the end of one year might nudge us into reflection as to whether we have made the best use of our time or simply been frittering it away.
As much as we need plans, and to take action, we also need to do this purposefully and to do so requires quieter times of thinking and reflection.
Moving forwards also requires letting go of some of the burdens that we carry. We might be allowing things from our past to hold us back from stepping into the future that we long for. Perhaps we need healing, need time to seek counsel, therapy and to get help with how to deal with traumas or difficulties in our lives. This can be a long road, but we have to start somewhere and we don’t have to do it all at once. We often face a ‘stop-start’ process in any journey of self-reflection, repentance, healing, recovery and change. But the thing is to start, to reflect upon what is needed to go from where we are to where we are meant to be.
I am blessed in that I don’t take this journey alone. Jesus Is my Shepherd, King, Healer and Lord, and He leads me forward with grace and peace. There is healing that only He can bring and things that only He can do. There are also certain things that I must do to cooperate and participate in the process – things like renewing my mind, working on difficult issues, forgiving, letting go, and reframing the way I think about difficulties I have experienced. These things, like the changing of the seasons take time.
But it’s important that we do take time to reflect upon our lives and to consider what things we have been ‘stuffing down’ deep within our hearts, and into our subconscious that we hope will just ‘go away’, things that actually in their time need to be dealt with in order for us to go forwards in our journey with a greater understanding, appreciation of life, sense of identity and purpose.
Will you give yourself some time to do just that this season? You need and deserve it. x