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Self Care In A Pandemic (55): This Too Shall Pass…

Hi Friends,

I hope you’ve all been keeping as well as can be since my last post, last week. For a time I was writing a few posts a day, with a desire to keep up the momentum of encouragement. I feel that encouraging words are so important in these days, when words can and are being used for harm as we have seen in recent events across the world stage. However, although having the space of one week since my last encouraging post may not seem like a lot, I do want to be a consistent voice of hope and courage for those who need it.

The past week has had some challenges for me, however. Starting back at work saw some stressors, even with working from home. I had some difficult moments but various things got me through them. We have also had sad news recently of bereavements of friends of family in some tragic circumstances. I realise that some of you reading this may have faced or be facing quite overwhelming challenges in your lives. It can be hard to know what to say to comfort others or even ourselves during such times. It can be hard to know what to say in this pandemic where there is such loss. ‘This too shall pass’ is one of those old phrases that we often hear, sometimes passed down through the generations to give some kind of solace and comfort.

This moment won’t be as difficult as it is now, this too shall pass, things will change.

I find that only a small consolation, but what gives me True Hope is knowing that as things change and move on, my Unchanging God and Saviour Jesus Christ does not change, will not leave me, and holds me secure. It Is a Peace that goes beyond circumstances, but one I need to remind myself to focus on too.

When I was a child and was being bullied relentlessly in the first year of secondary school, I did not know that that season of life would ever pass. The following year I stepped away from the people who were destroying me, and I was all but completely alone, which was a significant challenge for a child in itself. Abuse, and then neglect, at school. In my third year I met nice, normal people who became friends, and although I didn’t entirely feel like I fit with the new group as much as they did with each other having knowing each other for years already, I didn’t feel scared for my life anymore. I could continue with life, with school, with getting by. Decades later, the impact of those two pivotal years is still felt. I’ve had major struggles with anxiety, complex PTSD, depression, disassociation and fear, low self esteem and even suicidal ideation when the PTSD resurfaced. And here I am today, with a home of my own, with a full time job, with the family I was born into, with friends, having travelled, and writing a blog to encourage other people. I’m still recovering from some of the mental and emotional scars but I’m able to see hope and a future in Christ, and I can use those difficult experiences for good.

Why am I sharing this again now? Because at the time, in that first year I felt crushed, broken, terrified, and in so much pain and agony internally that I didn’t want to live anymore. It’s a big burden for a child to bear. But I did bear it, and hear I am today. With wounds or not, that terribly dark season of my life that I didn’t see a way out of, not having any perspective as a child that things could or would change, has passed.

And this too will pass. Whatever it is you are going through, it will pass. This pandemic will pass. A while ago I started reading ‘The Murmur of Bees’, hardly knowing what it was about. It turns out that as I turn the pages I am reading about not only a revolution, but also about the Spanish Flu of 1918. Reading some of those pages feels like reading some of the news headlines and public health advice of today about quarantining, staying at home, keeping distance from people and sadly about bodies being sent to mass graves. I also read about the hope of finding a vaccine for the Spanish Flu. And guess what, it too did pass.

That’s not to diminish by any means the personal tragedies and losses that people felt along the way, but in terms of world events, things did change, they did move on, and perhaps there is a cyclical element to what happens in the world, but they didn’t stay the same, and in many ways they did get better.

Despite saying that I also believe that there will be a Judgement, when Christ returns to earth again, but we are being given time to repent, to seek His Forgiveness and to turn to Him for eternal life, new life in this world, and a Hope that cannot be denied. True Believers know of this Hope, of the Indwelling of The Holy Spirit, The tangible Peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding and the solid Hope of Eternal Life with Him, and a gradually transformed (or sometimes immediately transformed) life with Him on earth. Turn to Him for True Hope.

Perhaps there is a time in your own life that you can look back upon, a time that seemed like endless misery that you thought would never pass, but it in fact did and you are living new days. You may well bear the scars of those days, that season, you may still be in recovery from it, but you are no longer there. You have a chance.

Those days passed, and these will too. Look up, look to Jesus, and find True Hope. And even if you are not a believer, please try to hold on to hope that this too will pass.

Peace. x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Self Care In A Pandemic (27): List The Positives…

Here’s one we can take a few minutes to do, ‘together’. Ok, so obviously, this one will be mine to get us started, but perhaps you can take inspiration from this and keep it going and share with someone else in your life.

While 2020 has been at the very least a challenging year on the global scale, and possibly for many an utterly miserable and heart-breaking year for those who have lost loved ones, it is important to allow our minds space for the positives too.

I realise this may be very hard for some of you. For others it might come more easily depending on where you are in life, especially this year. In these dark days, we need to learn to look for and look to the Light.

One way of beginning to train our minds to do this is to practice gratitude. I’m going to give it a go right now, unrehearsed, in real time, by making a list of some of the positives I’ve gleaned from this year. I’ll try to keep it as inclusive as possible to where you hopefully will also be able to relate:

Positives from 2020:

You and I are still alive, still breathing, hopefully you are also healthy.

We hopefully have a deeper appreciation of the gift of life and both how fragile and how precious it is.

2020 has given us insights into the dedication of many people in society, especially ‘frontline’ workers from those in the medical professions, health and social care, public health, cleaners, bin removal people, shop staff and so many more. If you feel like I’ve missed anyone please comment below so we can share our gratitude for them.

We have had the perhaps unwanted or unrequested opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate certain things in our lives, something that we might otherwise not have been able to do.

Some of us have grown in resilience through solitude, others have grown closer to family members, and others still may have discovered which people are not good for us and made a change in our lives moving forwards.

We realise more that we are part of something bigger than any or each of us individually, and yet we also realise that small actions can have huge consequences. While the virus has been a negative in our year, perhaps we can all start believing that our small positive actions can have a far reaching effect too, and decide to live out our lives in Truth and Love.

We have seen courage and fortitude in people who go the ‘extra mile’ for others, from community efforts to individuals, even in their 80s raising money for charity.

We perhaps have become more aware of the needs of different people in our societies and been motivated to learn more and to do something to help where we can.

We may have gained new skills or rekindled an old hobby.

We have gained insight into the scientific communities of men and women working hard to develop vaccines and to keep us safe.

We have learned to adapt.

There have been some positive environmental changes.

We have perhaps had more time to read, to write, to pray, to think, to connect online, to do some soul searching, to get creative, to learn, to cook, to home school, to….

We value those around us more, and we try to use the time we have to make a difference….

Over to you….please feel free to comment below with the positives you personally have discovered this year….with so many difficult things in 2020, let’s keep each other going and keep building each other up…..

Peace. x

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Self Care In A Pandemic (13) – Be Active and Not Reactive – Take Time To Process…

I’m fairly sure that if you are reading this, and are looking for ways to better care for yourself and others during this pandemic, then you are likely to have encountered some challenges along the way this year.

I mean, really, which of us haven’t encountered challenges? I’m sure we are all dealing with something. That being said, how we get through things can have a lot to do with not just our circumstances and means of help, but also how we process (or don’t) the things going on in our lives.

Let’s take for example somebody does or says or doesn’t do something to you and this stirs up your emotions, you start thinking about the situation and feel almost ‘stuck’ in your thoughts, and you *react* to things in a visceral way. There may be certain situations in life when an immediate ‘gut’ or visceral reaction is appropriate and even necessary, such as if you or someone else is in immediate danger and you need to do something instantly, but in the main, this kind of response is not helpful, to ourselves, other people, to resolving the situation, or to our wellbeing.

If you think about what you’ve had to take in this year, even if you’ve not had a lot going on in your own personal circumstances, the chances are you’ve had to process quite a lot. The fact of the pandemic itself has been a big thing for us all. Then there has been the various lockdowns and easing of restrictions, the daily ‘count’ of deaths in some countries where we are presented this in the news or by politicians’ daily briefings, social and political unrest, the situations of friends, family members, colleagues or acquaintances, our own day to day routines and the impact on our living, job, relationship and mental health situations, and so forth. Whether you have experienced the ‘big’ things hitting you this year, like grief, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loneliness and isolation or other health concerns or you name the thing that you’ve been dealing with, or if you are somehow coping or trundling along without a great deal of change in your personal situation, either way, the fact that we are in a pandemic year will have impacted you in some way, and it is important to take note and take account of that.

The reason I say this is because living through these things in a ‘reactive’ way can be damaging to our health and can also impact our relationships and be damaging to those around us. Can you think of anyone you know who when they see a news story that raises a reaction in them, they start calling people names, or swearing, or getting agitated or anxious? There are a lot of people reacting in such ways at the moment. This impacts their immediate physical, emotional and psychological health, and most likely not in a good way.

If you are that person, soaking up the news and experiences of 2020 in a very reactive way, then chances are you are causing yourself some damage. So what’s the solution?

I’ve found in recent weeks that things have been affecting me such as work stress, or changing dynamics of friendships. When I get those ‘warning signals’ in my ‘gut’ so to speak, when those anxious thoughts and feelings start to arise, I know that it’s time to take a step back, to take a break, to take a few deep breaths and get a bit of space from the situation and focus my mind on something calming and grounding.

Doing this can produce an almost ‘immediate’ effect on our nervous systems. However, in itself, it is not enough. We not only need to get distance and calm ourselves down in the immediate situation, but we need to put in a little bit of effort to make sure we are giving ourselves the time, space and chance to process our thoughts, our feelings, our instinctive reactions so that we can move forwards positively and actively rather than reactively.

There are various ways that we can process what we are dealing with and it is probably good to have a range of ‘tools’ and techniques to hand, and it is good when we can also find ways to use what we learn to benefit other people.

So what could you do?

One thing is finding a way to externalise your thoughts and feelings. This could be by writing or journaling, for example.

Talking to someone else can also be a very helpful way to diffuse intense emotions, and can help give us a more balanced perspective, as well as helping us feel that we are not so alone in dealing with our problems, challenges and issues. If you are physically alone, perhaps you could have a few friends or family members that you can talk with every now and then, on the phone or online. And if you feel like there’s no one in your life that you know who you can turn to, then perhaps you can seek out some helplines that you can phone. I have done so in the past in times of depression, anxiety and crisis, even though I have friends and family members. Sometimes we need to just talk to someone else, because maybe those close to us aren’t available or we don’t feel comfortable always turning to them. Sometimes we just need to hear the voice of another human being and chat things through and that’s perfectly ok, and definitely not something to feel ashamed about. That’s what they are there for.

Creativity can also be a balm to troubled emotions and it can also be a stepping stone into community where you can link up with like minded people, and these days there is so much going on online, even if you don’t wish to connect personally you can still find sources of inspiration by watching or reading about what others are doing and this may help you as you seek to process or externalise or express your own thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences. Creativity could be expressed in a variety of ways such as art, music, song, dance or play or so many other things.

Community can also be a source of easing our inner tensions, diffusing pent up emotions, sharing experiences and letting us know we’re not alone. For me, keeping a sense of connection with church and other Christians has been an encouragement, but at the same time, sometimes we need to be careful that we aren’t left feeling alone by being a part of a group, which can happen from time to time. Try to find a helpful balance for you.

Nature is also a source of calm for me, that helps settle me down and release those ‘reactive’ thoughts and feelings. It helps lift my mind and take my mind off certain negative trains of thought.

There are many more calming and soothing things you can do to gain space, perspective and help process your thoughts and experiences and it is so important to do so to enable you to act rather than react to situations.

That’s not to say everything will somehow sort itself out, but you will be in a better place to make positive decisions in your own life in response to what you are facing. I’m personally finding it necessary to reassess some of my friendship dynamics this year so as to avoid being taken for granted for example, or even forgotten about, and so that I can protect my mental and emotional health as well as that of others. I’ve found that even though I’ve been really productive at work this year, working from home, that doesn’t necessarily stave off the stress that accompanies work at times, and it is my responsibility to step back, and find a healthy balance for myself so that I can act positively rather than simply react instinctively to ongoing challenges and situations.

So what about you, friends? Does any of this resonate with you or do you find it helpful? What do you do that helps you? Whatever you are going through this year, I hope that you will take the time, and find a way to step back, process, and move forwards in a way that will contribute to your health, happiness, wellbeing and that of those around you.

Take care, stay strong, and sending each of you uplifting prayers for this day and those ahead of you. Peace. x

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