The past few years have been quite a big learning curve for many. We may have learned some deep lessons, but being human it can be easy for us to forget what we have learned.
As humans, we often worry so much about the future or think too much about the past that we miss the day that we are in right now. The only thing that we can presently work with. We often let fear come in the way of faith.
I’d like to explore a few thoughts as they come to me.
During the pandemic, I really missed interacting with people, going for walks in the park, worshipping in church and being with other believers who know personally that Jesus Christ Is The Way, The Truth and The Life, and being nurtured and fed together in Him. I missed seeing the cherry blossom trees, and ducks and squirrels and just going with my camera out on walks and having a bit of independence.
Today I enjoyed all of these things. And I enjoyed coming home to my flat. I must admit, however, after church and spending time with some new people and a friend I know quite well, I felt a bit lonely. In the park there were couples and families walking and I found myself wondering about my own life and being on my own.
We can so often miss what is right in front of us in the here and now either by the thoughts going on in our minds that could be to do with the past, or just longing for something or someone such as companionship.
During the pandemic many of us experienced a range of emotions and thoughts, including the more pressing realisation of the shortness of time. When living in day tight compartments, and in a situation when you are faced with your own mortality, you gain perspective that any day could be the last one. Therefore, in some ways we become more present, in the present.
The now and next
We are created to hope. To hope in the future, and for believers in Christ, to hope for the reality of His coming again, and for the very real place of perfection that He Is preparing for us. Being present with Christ today means being aware of His presence and purpose in today, and of making the most of every opportunity. Yet, sometimes on an earthly level we think about the ‘what next’ of our own lives, perhaps in terms of finding that someone special, especially if we’ve waited a long time. Yet there is also the realisation that people lose their spouses or friends for a number of reasons. The only constant and comfort is Christ.
Appreciating what is, not what we wish things were.
Life is very troubled in this world at present. For those of us who are in relatively good circumstances, perhaps in those moments when we are tempted to think about what we lack, whether we are feeling lonely and want a companion, or thinking about what we think would make our lives feel better or more secure, then we should take time to be more present and grounded and grateful. The things that I missed during the pandemic, I have now.
I appreciate being able to speak to my family on the phone ❤ I appreciate my flat, my food, my health, my clothes, my friends that I can speak with in person or online. I appreciate being able to go for walks and write blog posts. I am so thankful that in this day I know that God Is working out things for my eternal good and that I can pray and intercede for others.
In a world where people are in trauma and lacking so many things and have lost loved ones, I am choosing to be thankful for all the good things that I do have right here and now.
Day tight compartments.
This life is very short. We need to learn to focus on the day tight compartment that we are living in and give all our attention and heart to it, making the most of every opportunity as it comes to us, knowing what to say no to but also knowing what to embrace. Life comes in seasons and each season will pass, so what will we do with today?
Using our gifts and encouraging others
Each day will be filled with tasks to do, duties to fulfil, but also gifts that we can use and encouragement that we can share with others. These may be hidden things that the world does not see, but that are important nonetheless. We do not know what difference it might make.
So while there is so much we cannot be in control of, we can take a few moments to be thankful for what we do have. The time will pass anyway, let us, where we can, pass it gratefully. 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. ❤
We all have this immediate threat to deal with. Currently it is taking up most of our collective consciousness, attention and energy. While in ‘lockdown’ we may initially find ourselves regularly watching the news or keeping updated on what is happening around the world and in our own area. We will also be putting a lot of time and attention into figuring out how to adjust to a new way of being where our freedoms have been curtailed and our routines changed. We will be concerned about practicalities such as health, food supplies, shopping, child care, work, money and so on.
We don’t know how long it will be before this virus abates and before it becomes safe again to have some kind of semblance in society to the lives we lived before. At a minimum it will be weeks, but looking at the reality of the situation it could reasonably be months. We will have to think again and revisit how we will manage the above concerns over a longer period of time, but after we have got some kind of handle on that, and how we will use our time to the best of our abilities, we will also have another opportunity.
At the moment we are in a kind of ‘survival mode’, although our actual lives may not be at risk if we are fortunate enough to be the healthy ones who are safely tucked away in our own homes. Humans adapt to change, and we all will in a strange way ‘get used’ to this new way of life. One that affords us the opportunity to do some deep work, and deal with some of our ‘stuff’. While having spring indoors may be the perfect time for a ‘spring clean’, the real work is dealing with our internal ‘stuff’.
We all have baggage. We all have emotional and psychological pain to some extent, and it’s not going to go away just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic with more pressing concerns.
In the rush and hurry of lives once lived traveling to work, filling our minds with entertainment, sports, distractions, concerts, travel, events, nights out, socialising, trips to the cinema, dinners with friends, taking pictures of our meals and posting them instantly online, we have a tendency to ‘stuff’ our issues down, and they may be bubbling under the surface for years, for some of us they may ‘explode’ and bubble over at times of great stress or change, or even rest when we can no longer distract ourselves from them with more pressing concerns or with frivolities.
You can choose to continue to distract, to fill your minds with escapism, or you can take even a little bit of space and time to truly seek how to live life with a lighter load.
This catastrophe has show us that none of us are sufficient in and of ourselves (and if you are like me and have lived many years in weakness and fear, then you will already be well aware f that fact).
It is a time to look at what are the flimsy crutches you have been using to prop yourself up, and which have now been pulled away from you. What will actually keep you standing through this storm? Are you going to continue to cling to the idols of distraction and entertainment or are you going seek a bit deeper?
What are some of the things you have been shoving down that you can no longer avoid facing up to?
– Fear of death and dying.
-A broken heart.
-A troubled past.
-A struggling or broken relationship.
-Prioritising work over your family.
-Never having enough time for other people.
-Fear of being alone.
-The scars of separation, divorce, family conflict.
-Mental health struggles.
-Your fear of the future.
-Your ideas of what it means to be ‘successful’ in life.
-Your worth or value as a human being, in comparison with those around you – doesn’t this tragedy show us that from Princes to Paupers, we are all essentially the ‘same’ and equally vulnerable.
-The people you haven’t spoken to for years, but wished you could reconcile with.
-The things that might be left unsaid and done before it’s too late.
-Your children’s futures.
-What you think will happen after death.
-How you want to spend your time before you die.
-What kind of legacy will you be leaving.
-Should you make that will?
-What do you look to for hope and comfort?
-Why you have resisted getting in touch with that person, and whether you will regret it if you don’t.
-Your freedom to live.
-Childhood trauma and pain.
-Confidence issues to step up and be the person you were born to be in this world….while there is still time.
We have an opportunity to choose not to carry bags of regret throughout the rest of our lives, however long or short they may turn out to be. Only you know what is in the ‘junk drawers’ of your heart and mind. Is it time for a clear out? Is it time to face the fear and open the drawers? Is it time to ask for help from someone who can actually take these burdens from you?
Maybe it is or it isn’t I don’t know. But it is definitely a time for us all to think and to reflect more than we usually allow ourselves to do.
Most people have a cause or purpose that is close to their heart. At the core of all of mine is the desire to live for the Glory of God because of His great love in laying down His life to forgive me, heal me, cleanse me, give me new life and make me His forever.
You could say that is the centre of the ‘wheel’ out of which come several other ‘spokes’.
Some of these other spokes include involvement in my church and various initiatives to help others; being there for my family and friends; nurturing and building up younger people where and when I can; writing my book; personal development; recovery. It also includes the desire to inspire other people, to encourage people to overcome mental health challenges and lead a better quality of life, to build people up, and to help those who are struggling with things such as bullying, PTSD, depression, anxiety and so forth. This is just one part of my life, but an important one, and one which my blog is a key avenue for reaching out with advice and encouragement, guidance, tips and tricks, sharing personal experience and sharing hope. Why is it important? Because people are important and my story of struggle has led me to one of being an encourager, of speaking ‘life’ through my words, and I am thankful that this blog platform gives me an avenue of opportunity to do that.
There are many other causes and things that are close to my heart or that I care about and seek to be involved with in some way or another, even if my efforts are little. At one point in time, and linked to the work I was doing about a decade ago, my ’cause’ or passion was focused on praying for and raising awareness about victims of human trafficking, and also other ‘spokes’ related to the persecuted church, environmentalism, reaching out to older vulnerable people, and homeless people, and being involved with international human rights charities. Each spoke had its own little place, nothing grand or deserving of any fanfare, just humble little parts of a bigger ‘wheel’ with God at the centre. Each for a season. And the wheels will go around in their time again and perhaps those seasons and ’causes’ will be revisited as a focus of attention.
I have a number of friends who are equally passionate about various things. Some friends work abroad as missionaries, others are passionate about taking up the baton of challenging human trafficking, for others their focus is veganism and have set up charities and groups to further their cause. Some due to their own health challenges are seeking solutions for others in similar circumstances to them, campaigning and advocating for the use of certain treatments. Others want to raise awareness of autism because of their experiences of being parents of an autistic child. Some are keenly involved with environmental causes. Others in raising awareness and fundraising for dementia, Alzheimer’s, cancer, stroke and so forth, because of how these things have touched either their lives or the lives of their loved ones or friends. Some people make their passion, their ’cause’, their charitable inclination into a ‘religion’ of sorts. For me, all these things are a part of a much bigger purpose and to be submitted to God and His plans, purposes and direction.
Whether or not you believe in God, you’ll be aware simply from living in this world that there are many people who want to make a change for the better. In your own life you may think of examples of how certain things have been important to you in terms of social justice, human rights, environmental protection, animal welfare, and so on and so forth at different times in your life. Some people seek to make a change through their jobs, through politics, through joining a group, or giving to charities. The point I’m making I suppose is that there is so much need in the world, and so many people we know have their own particular focus, which is positive in that many people are ‘doing their bit’ to make a change, and that way different changes can be made by a diversity of people all doing something. We can’t all be the same, and we don’t always even have the same focus as we did a few years ago, or that we might have a few years from now. Priorities change, and there are times and seasons in our lives.
While you may be surrounded by passionate people who want to make a difference and who may feel like their cause is of most urgent importance (I personally believe that, underpinning everything else that is temporal, praying for people’s eternal salvation and sharing The Truth of Jesus Christ is of utmost importance), your focus may be different to theirs at this moment in time, and that is probably a good thing as it encourages learning, growth and development. Everyone is building their own part of the wall rather than everyone focusing on bridging just one gap to the detriment of the rest of the structure.
I have a variety of friends who have approached me at different points to get involved with the things that they are passionate about. These might be small things or potentially things that may involve more time and commitment. I wonder if you are the same? These requests might come in the form of signing a petition, attending an event, writing for a website, giving time, money, ideas and so forth. It’s great when we can do our bit, but we can’t do it all and it’s important to know that it’s ok to focus on what is important in our lives without feeling the need to be pulled in all directions.
Everyone has a part to play and everyone will play their part (even if it is just one small scene in this time of their lives) better if they are focused. If many people are asking many things of you don’t be afraid to take a step back to assess your priorities in this season of your life. You are only meant to carry so much. The desire to inspire is wonderful, but acknowledge that the priorities and causes of other people in your life may be different than your own, and that’s possibly a good thing. Keep focused on the part that you were called to play, and inspire others as you go. x
This is more of a ‘life as it happens to be’ learning as I go type of post, rather than an article of helpful advice (although I’ll try to include helpful tips where I can), quite simply because this is an area of on-going learning and development for me.
The different spheres in which we move, and live:
Some of you out there may have particularly unique or fascinating jobs that don’t quite fit a predictable ‘pattern’ of set hours or locations. Maybe your work involves traveling across the world, through different time zones and maybe some of you could get called to work at any time of the day or the night. However, I imagine that most of us who are working adults tend to have a set number of hours for which we are paid to work each week, and in set locations. Even if you work from home and / or run your own business/s, you tend to wake up on a Monday morning (if Monday is a working day for you) knowing where you are meant to be and what you are supposed to do (although, first thing on a Monday morning thoughts about the latter might be a little foggy! : – ) ).
It’s important to have that delineation between work and leisure time, and this may be a particular challenge for people who work for themselves and / or work from home for the most part because the physical and psychological space between home and work will tend to be less defined.
Why is it important to have this distinction? Obviously our lives involve elements of ‘cross-over’ in many respects, however, we need a basic degree of separation in order to protect our own mental and emotional well-being, in order to know when to stop, when to rest, and when to work.
‘After work’ time:
Once we have ‘downed tools’ for the day, we move from one sphere of living into another. For me this involves completing work tasks, ‘powering down’, physically leaving one building to make a short commute to get home. That is quite a clear demarcation for me, as it will be for many of you, with the travel time in between allowing us to mentally process the sphere from one part of our day and life into the next.
Making the most of my time is an on-going lesson for me, and perhaps for many of you. I have quite clear ideas of what my life priorities are, and how I would like to spend my time. I set goals not only at the start of the year, but also try to do this for each new month throughout the year, and on the whole I manage to spend valuable time on each of the areas of life that are most important to me, and that are within my grasp to be able to do so.
However, isn’t it often the case that we can feel ‘rushed’ in our lives and unable to fully give as much time and attention to what we want to do? Do you ‘wait for the weekend’, for your next holiday, or even for retirement? I personally don’t think that’s a way that I want to be living my life, when each day is packed full of opportunity. It’s just that sometimes we aren’t able to make the most of each of our days. Why?
What considerations to we need to take into account that might be hindrances to fully living the life we want to lead?
At work, I’m getting more opportunities to use my project management skills, and to work with others as part of a team to be involved in the implementation and progress of new initiatives. I do like a good plan, and when it comes to successful planning and project implementation at work this can be particularly satisfying. Often projects can fall by the wayside because of poor planning and a lack of comprehensive discussion and brainstorming between the right people. At the moment it seems that I am involved with a good team on a particular project, who have introduced a new project planning tool which is particularly good for assessing progress and making people aware of tasks and relevant deadlines.
When it comes to work, and my work has been quite varied over the years, I am always either ahead of time or on schedule with work tasks and projects.
However, when it comes to all the things I want to do, enjoy and achieve before or after work, I tend to be far more lenient on myself. Does this also ring true for you?
For starters, we are but human, and our bodies and minds need rest and refreshing. We also need to eat and sleep, and preparing a meal takes time, and the window of time between getting home, doing what is needed to sustain us, and then going to bed is relatively small.
Learning through different approaches:
I used to have an idea in mind of the different things I would want to do after work. I realised that I couldn’t possibly do them all, so at one point I would try to set aside specific days for different things such as exercise, playing my violin, going to my prayer and study group, writing, art and creative pursuits, photography, reading, devotional time and so on.
I then tried the approach of ‘going with the flow’, since I already have a very clear idea of the different things I want to spend my time on, and ideas of new things I want to learn and do and people to spend time with.
Yet, the reality of things meant that ‘going with the flow’ of how I felt often resulted in me whiling away an evening eating dinner and watching TV or getting distracted by the online world of YouTube, etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending time doing this to wind down, it’s just that I would feel a little disappointed when I knew that I wanted to be more productive and spend at least a little time doing other things.
I also tried the idea of doing things for a small amount of time and then doing something else. This tends to work quite well for me especially at the weekends, but not always so much on a week night.
Sometimes I think that I’ll do certain things in a week without having any set time or day, and at times this works out for me.
I’ve been working on writing a novel for 12 years, and I’ve been making good progress, however, even with writing being so important to me and a real passion of mine, I sometimes get a bit ‘lazy’ about it, feeling that I need to have longer stretches of ‘set aside’ time to really get going. If you are interested in this aspect of my life, take a look through my posts from last year and the year before when I had my own personal writing retreats, taking time off to just work on my novel and my writing, which was hugely satisfying but also took me out of the ‘real world’ for a time.
One year I marked in my diary set aside writing time every evening – even if it was just a few minutes a day. Suffice to say, this didn’t work for me, and perhaps I didn’t like the self imposed constraints. It is nice to do things spontaneously, but at the same time, we don’t approach work goals that way, so similarly personal goals and dreams need to be worked towards, and time and effort needs to be put in. I don’t want to reach the end of a day, a month or a year, or my lifetime and feel that I ‘frittered’ away my time being distracted by what’s on the TV or the internet, when I have so many dreams to fulfil.
Yet in order to do all these wonderful things, to live the lives we want to, we also need to factor in those practicalities I mentioned earlier of eating well, getting the right amount of sleep, exercising to stay healthy and having time to wind down, relax and do nothing, or just enjoy a good TV programme!
Lately I’ve been aware of the beauty in life of being present in the moment, and enjoying the process of my life, of ‘being’. Enjoying the colours, and aromas of cooking, enjoying staring into space and daydreaming, of not getting stressed if everything I want to do isn’t done, and trying to do some of the important things to me each week.
It can be hard for all of us to keep on top of things at times. We need to do all the practical things from day to day, to maintain our homes, and possibly for many to look after other people as well. I’m all too aware of not letting myself get ‘burnt out’ precisely because I have been in the past, which might be partly why I realise the importance of also spending time doing things that are important to me and life enriching rather than only doing things for other people, while also knowing that helping others thrive is an important part of life too.
A learning curve….and I’m still learning….
As I said at the start, I’m still learning. Being mindful of what is important to me, however, and giving myself the opportunity to take time for these things (even if it is just five minutes at a time) has helped me to make far better use of my time than if I hadn’t spent time reflecting and thinking about things.
I find blogging very satisfying, and life enhancing, and I am glad that I have managed to sustain a regular writing ‘habit’ if you could call it that (although I personally don’t see it at all as a habit, so much so as simply pursuing something that I enjoy doing and hopefully encourages other people). If I didn’t put in the time to do this, maybe I’d just have whiled away my time mindlessly on things that don’t really come up in my priorities in life, such as watching TV, although that’s ok as long as it isn’t the only thing we do with our non-working time.
I’ve found that it has also benefited other people who have told me that my words have brought encouragement to me, which means so much to me. Do you realise that your own gifts and talents have an impact not only in your own life but the lives of others too. You are making a difference in the world.
When we know what is important to us that is perhaps the first step towards making the most of our time. We will find a way and we will keep learning along the way.
Over to you:
Can you relate to any of the thoughts I’ve expressed in terms of your own life and learning? Do you have any ‘pearls of wisdom’ to share with me, and other readers? What are you blessed to be able to spend your time doing, and how would you like to make better use of your time? Do you have any ideas of how you can do things better?
Thank you so much for taking your time to read this and hopefully it has also been time well spent for you. Be blessed. x
I sometimes feel that writing is a gift through which we can better understand our life’s journey.
It gives the seed of a thought expression, the opportunity to ‘dance’ into life and then perhaps more profoundly to be noticed and nurtured and watered into life by a reader.
It is quite an exquisite thing to realise that one’s thoughts can connect with those of another.
I’m writing just now to discover those seeds of thought that perhaps need to be planted and watered in order to find their true expression.
What I’m thinking of right now is the gradual movement into a season of more peaceful healing. For years I have been in recovery from complex PTSD and literally battling demons, but greater is He. My Creator, God.
Sometimes when our painful symptoms are alleviated we might think that we can press on into the next stage, whereas what we may really need is simply to slow down and gently take the time to fully heal. It is a real gift to be given time and space to work things out, to allow the healing waters to soothe the troubled soul and mind and to restore what has been broken or frozen in fear by the darkness. God Is Good. The healing that once seemed impossible is beginning to bud and bloom and a new day is sure to follow.
Every now and then we need to remind ourselves to take the time. To accept that the wounds may be deeper than we would like to face, and to give ourselves that time to be restored by the hand of our loving Creator. There are things we can do too for ourselves, being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Yet, the tracks of years of thinking in one way may take time to be washed away as we lay down new tracks, those of life giving thought, as we think of what is true, noble, good, pure, excellent, praise worthy.
There is a time for healing. A time for all purposes under the sun. And perhaps this is your time as well as mine. Give yourself the gift of accepting that time. You may have to face difficult things but soon enough the path will get smoother, either that or you will get stronger and the challenges will no longer seem insurmountable. There is a place of peace and restoration promised to us in Christ for the healing of our hearts, for the mending of the broken-hearted and the grace that gives us the gift of complete forgiveness…which as we let ourselves receive it and as the chains that fettered and bound us gradually fall away, leads us to walk ever gently into true freedom.
Don’t be disheartened if it takes time. Give yourself the gift of that time, and I will learn to give myself that gift also. The darkness and the lies are never greater than the Beauty of Truth and Pure Love that has come in Christ to set us free. So know that you are valuable, worthy of healing, of forgiveness and love, and take time today to rest in that.
I don’t know about you, but it is a rare treat for me to have an extended period of time off from work. Sometimes I’ll have this time over the summer, but this year I only had a few days off here and there, and I therefore have my longer break from work in the wintertime this year.
It’s nice to not have to get up early in the cold and dark weather to go to work, and to know that for many other people, especially for those of us who are fortunate enough to have office closures over the Christmas and New Year period, we are having a collective rest and break from the normal day to day routine. Of course not everyone has time off and I am especially respectful of those who work over the holidays to keep our communities going, particularly those who work in the emergency services and frontline crisis and care work.
Yet, for many of us, we’ve been long awaiting the Christmas break and are looking forward to a good few days to rest and relax and maybe even ‘hibernate’ a bit.
I’ve already had a couple of weeks off, which has been spent tidying up, organising, decorating, preparing for travel, going away for 6 days to enjoy some Christmas markets, coming back home, catching up with sleep, unpacking, washing, tidying, preparing for Christmas, going to church, preparing myself spiritually and generally trying to get organised. For many of us, the lead up to Christmas seems to bring with it seemingly unending things to do, and the household tasks seem to just keep coming, until we can finally get things all settled, cosy and prepared so that we can have actually have the rest that we have been hoping for and preparing for.
It is easy to get lost in this hustle and bustle, and by the time we do get to ‘put our feet up’ we are more than ready for a rest.
Sometimes Christmas and the holiday period involves spending time with friends and family, and maybe even a change of scene. Once we have prepared and got things suitably ready, had some festive events, and done some charitable acts of kindness, we may find that we are blessed with some quieter days ahead, which will be spent mainly indoors.
Ahead of me is a stretch of 11 days from today – 23rd December until 2nd January 2020 where I’ll be away from my home and spending time with family. We all say it so often, that the time just ‘flies by’ and before we know it we’re in another new year and back in the ordinary routine of things, and feeling stressed again. We sometimes look back and wonder whether we made the most of our time, or whether we ‘frittered away’ our time sleeping too much, eating too much, lazing in front of the TV, and letting days flow into each other in an unproductive blur.
There is a time when we need to rest and relax and just ‘chill out’ but I’m also aware that the holiday season is precious and that I’d like to use my time wisely. However, it is hard to really use our time wisely without knowing what our priorities are, or without having some kind of structure or routine, plan or list of things we’d like to do. It’s nice to be spontaneous, and we don’t always need to plan, but sometimes without any structure we risk wasting time, and for those of us who have suffered from depression and anxiety, some form of a routine is essential for our mental and physical health and wellbeing.
For me, getting back into blogging after almost two weeks away doing other things, provides me with the opportunity to quieten my heart and mind and reflect on how I would like to use my time over the next 11 days.
A simple routine:
Without being too prescriptive, one thing I’d like to maintain is a simple, yet flexible daily routine to add structure, meaning and joy into my Christmas holidays, prioritising what is most important to me. My brain likes to see things written down as this helps me to be wise with my time. So, this is what I’m hoping my days will include:
A healthy dose of rest, relaxation and sleep, incorporating a morning routine where possible, but not putting any pressure on myself to do this.
Focusing on the True meaning of Christmas, and keeping Christ central to my thoughts, and taking time to truly be amazed that God came to earth to be with His people, to save us, to save me, and to deepen my relationship with the God Who loves me.
Having a daily time in Scripture and prayer to God, seeking Him, praising Him, and praying for the needs of others and myself.
Being intentionally grateful on a day to day basis, and taking the time that I don’t usually have to reflect more deeply on the blessings and lessons in my life and to give thanks for them.
Being present and slowing down enough to appreciate the special moments and time spent with family and friends. Appreciating how precious the time we have together is, and enjoying each other’s company and being there for each other.
Taking time to stay in touch with and reach out to friends who I know are struggling in this season due to various circumstances.
Being helpful so that everyone gets a chance to rest and relax over the holidays.
Enjoying food and holiday treats while being mindful of what I eat and not to overindulge.
Keep moving and doing a little bit of exercise, even if just five minutes, everyday, and where possible go out for fresh air and walks so as not to stay cooped up in the house all day every day.
Reflection on the year gone by, on blessings enjoyed and lessons learned, goals achieved, and seeking direction and wisdom for moving forward.
Time spent figuring things out, working through my thoughts, issues and continuing to become stronger mentally and emotionally, and considering my priorities and how I will achieve them going forwards.
Enjoy having time to do things that I find creative or relaxing such as playing Christmas music on my violin, writing more, reading, listening to audio books, watching films, playing games with the family, arts and crafts, selecting photos from the year gone by for creating an album, and taking time to enjoy the cosiness of the season.
Plan for what’s ahead, so that the transition into the new year will be as seamless and enjoyable and productive as possible.
What about you? What kind of holiday routines do you have that help you make the most of your time? x
Recently, I wrote the following post in part 45 of my Winter Survival Guide regarding the importance of reconnecting with the people in our lives. So, I thought I’d give you an update of some recent opportunities to reconnect.
It’s nearing the end of the year, and maybe we have let things slip in our friendships and relationships, and we didn’t even realise that it was happening. Time just seems to have passed and somehow when thinking of the people we used to be closest to, we realise that we have lost touch, or […]
A couple of years ago I went on a coach holiday by myself to Budapest, Prague and Vienna. You’ll be able to read up on my adventures in my ‘Travel’ section. It turned out that traveling on my own led to me having the opportunity to connect with new people, and as a result I made some new friends, two of which have visited my city a few times, for various events they were going to and also to see me.
Last weekend, I had the chance to reconnect with these two friends once more and we ventured around Christmas markets, had some festive hot drinks in a café and chocolate shop, and then went out for a late lunch together.
It doesn’t often happen that I make friends via my travels that I will keep in touch with face to face rather than just by the occasional message or email every now and then, so these particular connections have turned out to be quite special, and may continue for years to come.
Sometimes we travel solo because we love the freedom, the independence, we might be wanting to get away from it all and have more time to ourselves, or we may want to travel with others but find that no one else is available. For me I really enjoy solo travelling now, although it initially took a bit of getting used to. Either way, the chance to connect with these travel friends is a fresh reminder to be aware and attentive and to make the most of every opportunity – I almost didn’t take the opportunities on holiday because I was enjoying the time by myself, my independence and indulging in my passion for photography. Funnily enough it was the teenage girl who thought I was only nineteen that drew me into conversation and company, even though I am closer to her mum’s age – I and others thought they were friends, so I guess we all had that youthful glow about us! 🙂 The opportunities I almost didn’t notice actually turned out to be open doors to new friendships, and so it was nice to recently have the time to reconnect with them once more.
Tried and True:
I mentioned in my Winter Survival Guide post that many of us are blessed with those ‘old faithfuls’, those friends that are ‘tried and true’, friendships that feel more like the bonds of family (you know that saying, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves” ! 🙂 ), those who we have grown to know, love, laugh with, support each other through the hard times and challenges of life, and who we hope will still be part of each others lives in the years to come.
I am blessed to say I have quite a few ‘old faithfuls’ in my life, and this has probably been due to the reciprocity of both parties being faithful and investing in the friendships. However, most of these friends don’t actually know each other, so for the most part my ‘old faithfuls’ and I tend to be groups of twos, threes or fours rather than a big group of long standing friendships.
One such ‘party of three’ is myself and a couple of guys I met through work. We’ve been there for each other through the challenging times of life, and it’s most likely, God-willing that we will continue to be. We don’t necessarily have everything in common, but we do have that connection that makes us consider each other as family in a way. And we laugh together…and eat together!
We’ve tried over the past couple of years, especially as one of these friends no longer works with us, to continue to meet up and reconnect in person once a month. Obviously, this can fluctuate and some months we aren’t able to, other blessed months might see us meeting more than that, but we tend to go out to dinner, to chat and to stay involved with each others lives and have a healthy dose of laughter in poking fun at one another! 🙂 You know you’re in a good situation when you can eat and laugh with your friends as well as have those more serious chats.
Our most recent culinary adventure saw us visiting a Russian restaurant, which was a novel experience at least for me – a tasty one though, followed by a wander around the Christmas markets.
There’s a song by Sara Groves that I like, that includes the following lyrics:
“I am long on staying, I am slow to leave, especially when it comes to you, my friend. You have taught me to slow down and to prop up my feet, it’s the fine art of being who I am…”
When we have the blessings of real friends, friends who mutually care for each other, who are genuine and sincere and who give as much as they take, friends we know we can be ourselves around, and with whom we mutually feel supported, cared for and respected – when we have the chance to reconnect with them, despite however different we may be, the lovely thing is that we are also able to reconnect genuinely with a part of ourselves.
Wishing you all some happy times connecting and reconnecting with loved ones and friends old and new, as well as with yourself, and if you are spiritually minded, with God, this winter season. x
There is a beautiful line in Max Ehrmann’s prose poem, ‘Desiderata’ (things to be desired), that encourages us to enjoy our achievements as well as our plans.
The concept is so simple, and yet equally profound. We desire certain things in life, and we give our lives to pursuing, obtaining and experiencing them. And yet, once obtained we are so quick to move on to the next thing, just as butterfly or a honey bee might flit from flower to flower.
How many of us take the time to enjoy our achievements as well as our plans? We rarely seem to be satisfied, but perhaps we don’t give ourselves time to truly appreciate and be grateful for our lives as we hurry on to experience something bigger or better.
Perhaps you are reading this and inwardly agreeing to the sentiment behind this statement: “Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans”. It is a nice thought, an encouraging quote, but what will you and I actually do with it? And how can this Winter Survival Guide prompt us to use the time we have this season to do just that?
1. Review your year:
We could just sit in quietness and enjoy pondering our achievements, but can we appreciate and enjoy them in a more focused and practical way before moving on to the next thing or things in the year to come?
A good and simple starting point could be to set aside some time, to take a pen and a piece of paper and sketch out the important things you have done, experienced and learned in each of the months of 2019 (leaving room for the time you still have left of this calendar year).
It doesn’t matter from an outside perspective whether the things you have captured seem ‘significant’ or not, the thing that matters is that they are important to you, in your life’s journey, no matter how small or inconsequential you might think they would seem to someone else. That’s not what matters, what matters is the life you have lived this year and the lessons you have learned.
What could be some points to ponder as you consider each month in turn? Perhaps we could start with something like this:
What was the main thing I learned in that month?
Why was this important?
What do I consider I achieved (no matter how big or small, it could be as seemingly simple as sticking to a routine, surviving a challenge or showing kindness to someone)?
How have I grown from these experiences and what will I take forwards?
2. Enjoy your achievements:
As you reflect upon the specific achievements and experiences of each month of the year gone by, take time to ponder them, to be grateful for the lessons you have learned, how you have changed and grown as a person and to enjoy the fact that you are living life right now and learning new things now. Take it in, and celebrate it in a way that is personal to you, even if it is quietly, and even if it is ‘giving yourself a pat on the back’ for having got through a tough time – achievements aren’t all about gold stars and certificates.
Consider writing down and naming the ‘treasures’ that you have gleaned from this year’s experience of life before you move on to the next thing. A life well lived involves appreciating the life that we are living.
3. As well as your plans:
It is a time for looking forward as well as for reflecting and enjoying the moment. Maybe you can spend some time by yourself discovering what has really been meaningful and significant to you this year, understand what is valuable and begin to plan ahead as you reach towards your future achievements and make plans for how you will accomplish them.
The funny thing about life is that even though we all know and have heard and see it vibrantly displayed in the lives of young children, that there is a joy and freedom from living in the moment that we can’t find if we are constantly overthinking things, we still know that life has a forward momentum and we need to go with it.
We can be still…but for a moment. I love to sit at a high point of the park overlooking the city, and just be still, to pause, reflect and just ‘be’. And yet, I know I will have to get up again, my feet will keep walking and I will have to move from the stillness and from one moment to the next. The gentle or fast paced momentum of life is still a momentum that no one can escape.
You know the saying, ‘Time and tide wait for no man’. Perhaps you are also familiar with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60:
Like as the waves make towards the pebbl’d shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.
“Each changing place with that which goes before”.
I remember studying this Sonnet in University, I think initially in my first year as an English Literature student. I was particularly taken by the beauty of the first two lines and the way in which the iambic pentameter perfectly echoed nature’s rhythms hidden in the waves that made towards the pebbl’d shore. I wrote a poem of my own after that, also in iambic pentameter, about time and about waiting.
Reflecting on this now, I feel not the anxiety of experiencing the passing of time that comes from life bearing witness to decay, but instead a blossoming that comes from one wave flowing into another and life’s experiences and gifts and lessons building upon another.
I think of how my early days spent captivated in the moment, and in the beauty of books, led to my interest in writing, which helped me as I moved through school and through some of my darkest of days as I found solace in the written word, and then into my passion for English Literature as a high school ‘senior’ in 6th year, which changed place with subsequent moments of learning in University as I studied English Literature and Politics with Philosophy for my first degree before going on to study my Masters and continue to write.
Shakespeare knew when his ‘swan song’ would be as he wrote his play ‘The Tempest’ as he bid farewell and adieu through the life of Prospero, and perhaps most of us know when we need to prepare for our farewells and our curtain call in this life.
Yet between our entrance on the world’s stage and our final bow, we have a collection of moments one building upon another upon another, just as the waves of the sea.
And perhaps we know also when one season of our life is giving way to the next, not in terms of a farewell so much as that of the greetings of a Spring season, of new beginnings and adventures and opportunities.
Sometimes these demarcations in life can come in obvious fashion by way of the more apparent ‘milestones’ and change points of life such as graduation, a first job, a new home, marriage, starting a family, moving through one’s career and so forth.
However, we are all moment by moment entering new beginnings in life as the momentum of life carries us like the waves of the sea. Sometimes new beginnings are demarcated by the dates on our calendars, we know that as we focus on enjoying the winter season of the year, as much as we live in the moment, the moment will give way to a new year, and so we seek to prepare ourselves for that in whatever way we can and as we know how.
However, some new beginnings we come to internally. There are no significant change points in our lives, no particular milestones or dates to point to, but we know that we have decided to make an internal shift and to view what’s next as something new. We create the entrance into a new season of our lives within ourselves.
I think that is where I am now. There are no specific milestones to point to, however, the change is a decision within myself. Having worked and fought long and hard to survive and struggle through a process of recovery from various health and other challenges, I am choosing to accept that I have done a great deal of work in this area, and to believe that I am strong enough to step into new opportunities with fewer limitations.
The change in my blog itself is an indication of this – from writing more from an exploratory perspective, to try to find healing and help and strength for myself, I notice a shift in being able to use the lessons I have learned to help and encourage other people. I can see my, albeit ongoing, lessons as being rooted in the past and not something that is the focus so much as the basis of what I am stepping into and doing now.
We create new seasons for ourselves, or most of us do, every time a new year and a new January rolls around. However, we don’t need to wait for an external signpost in order to make those inner shifts and changes and to embrace the new. We can start right now, within ourselves. What do you think?