Perhaps you have been reading, following along, or dipping in and out of my ‘Self Care in a Pandemic’ series of blog posts.
If so, I am so encouraged to know that, and find joy in encouraging you and hopefully providing some words of hope in these challenging times.
I have written 16 posts in this series so far, and have written a series of posts prior to this earlier on in the year at the start of the first lockdown (so scroll back through the archives to check out anything you may have missed). I now have time off from work (I blog as a ‘hobby’, unpaid, but I love it and hope and plan to spend more time writing especially as we approach a difficult winter season this 2020), and would like to ‘check in’ with my lovely readers, and welcome my new followers, and thank you for joining the journey, so happy to have you here 🙂 .
I intend to keep on writing and encouraging, and hope that you will find these posts a comfort as we near December and as we all could do with a ‘pick me up’ this year. My question to you is if there is anything in particular you would like to see written about in this series of self care in a pandemic posts? This is for you, so please do let me know how best I can serve and encourage you with my writing. If you have anything in mind that you’d like me to explore, even if I don’t have the answers, I can still open up discussions and explore avenues of hope together, then please do comment below. Otherwise, I will keep seeking inspiration and praying about how best I can uplift and encourage you through these testing times.
We all have those days when we find it hard to get ourselves going. Perhaps you’ve been working from home or working on the front line (thank you!), and that has given you a sense of structure and purpose to your days. However, quite a few of us are on the approach to the Christmas holidays or a period over winter where we may not have the structure of work each day.
Whatever your situation is, this next self care ‘tip’ if you like, can come in handy in all walks of life. It is to have a hobby that you can turn to that will give you a sense of enjoyment, relaxation, creativity and rest. You don’t need to be particularly good at it, but let it be something that you enjoy and that helps you take your mind off things. This can be a particularly helpful ‘go to’ on those days that might otherwise feel a bit wasted if we can’t quite get ourselves going.
My personal favourite for the past few years has been ‘adult colouring in’ and while I know not everyone is keen, it has helped me through depression, complex PTSD, anxiety, and now is not only a source of self care but is an artistic and creative pursuit. I am able to link up with creative groups, and see and be inspired by artist quality works that spur me on to better my own technique. It is something that is relaxing, fun, but also something that can be calming, develop my motor skills, creativity and open up a whole world for me. It is easy to pick up and put down without any pressure, except from the self-imposed pressure to better myself, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
On those days when you are unable to find structure, especially when you are staying at home during the winter seasons if that is the case, then having a hobby can be a real source of comfort and strength and calm for your mental health. Instead of feeling depressed at not being able to do what you would otherwise want to do, whether because of restrictions, health or lack of motivation, having something that you can work away at over a period of time can be so beneficial to your mental, emotional health and sense of wellbeing. You can see progress, and you can continue to form those important positive neural connections that are so vital for brain health.
Another thing you may have noticed that I do is obviously blogging. I do it as a hobby and don’t get any income from it, but with the times we are living in, it may be worth seeing if I can develop it as a ‘side hustle’ once I develop the skills and know-how, if that is what I am being led to do. But as it is, blogging as a hobby can provide me with so many positive things in my life, and as a blogger you may also find the same. I am able to express my thoughts, share them with an audience, and hopefully help and encourage all of you who read them (thank you if you do read my blog! 🙂 ). It can provide new insights into my own thoughts as I express them. I have created a holiday booklet for myself to keep me accountable in how I use my time, and one of the pages is dedicated to ideas for my blog posts and as I progress in them I can see that I have been using my time and mind well and helping and encouraging other people.
Some of you are very outdoor focussed when it comes to hobbies, and perhaps you are able to continue these. Where I live, winters are generally cold, dark and rainy, and with increasing restrictions it is good to also be able to find indoor pursuits that can benefit our mental health.
What do you have that you can pick up every now and then especially on those less structured more ‘wobbly’ days when you may not be feeling your best? Do you have an instrument, or can you do some cooking, doodling, singing, dancing, or colouring and drawing? Do you enjoy blogging, designing art work, knitting, reading, writing, sewing or crafting? You don’t need to be any good at a hobby for it to be beneficial to you and remember we all have to start somewhere. The key thing is to have something relaxing that you enjoy that can help your mental health instead of allowing your mind to chase those negative trains of thought when you are unfocused and not putting your attention to something positive. Sometimes we don’t have the energy or wherewithal to use our skills and in those times maybe just watching a show can help.
But do have something in mind that can help you get through those days that you struggle with so that you keep your mind engaged and active, and move your thoughts away from those dark tunnels that you otherwise might let yourself delve into.
What works for you? Any other adult colouring in fans out there? If so what are your favourite books? Add your own special little sparkle to the world, even if it is just a ‘doodle’ on a post-it note, that in itself is special and it is a good place to start. x
There is power in learning to stand alone, but there is also great encouragement in standing together. Sometimes life, and perhaps particularly life in a pandemic, is a fine balance between these two positions.
I have been learning a lot about this in 2020, and perhaps you have too. I have been learning some of these lessons before this year as well through various tests and trials in life.
This year, I spent the first four months of lockdown living alone, and not having any face to face contact with any living thing for almost all of that time (except perhaps from interacting with a delivery driver or passing strangers on the street). I have found this to be strengthening, challenging and enlightening in a number of ways. I have grown in my relationship with Christ, knowing Him more deeply as my True Source of Love, Encouragement, Strength and Provision. Yet as human beings we are also made for connection with each other, and although I used my time wisely and creatively, there were still times of loneliness, of missing out on the interactions that we otherwise tend to take for granted on a daily basis. As a single person, I have disciplined myself to learn to enjoy and thrive in my independence of living alone, travelling by myself, seeking to be creative and to inspire other people (which has been a discipline, choice and challenge to seek out adventure rather than retreat as I have had years of panic attacks and anxiety) as well as investing time in myself to heal from traumas, and to reach out to help other people. As a quieter, reflective and creative soul, I crave and need time by myself to replenish, to think, to process and to create. Too much noise, people and goings on can cause me a lot of stress, and panic attacks, anxiety and so forth. That being said, I also have quite a lot of deep friendships that have been cultivated one to one or in groups of twos or threes over the years, am a friendly and caring person, and I enjoy interacting with people in ways that suit my personality, nature and disposition, and where I have the choice to do so or not to do so, and perhaps you can relate to some of this?
Lockdown took away control from a lot of us, whether we live alone or with others. Perhaps we like staying indoors sometimes, but we tend as human beings to like to maintain the choice in the matter, and to do things or not to do things with the freedom of choice.
Being in lockdown alone for four months changed some of my relationships. While I have some very mutually giving friendships, I realised that friends who have families of their own just didn’t have single people on their radar. Some friends with families actually enjoyed lockdown as having more time together, were able to have fun and flourished in the situation. They did not think that someone living alone might be really struggling with the contrasts of that, and as such some of my friendships have changed in dynamics, I’ve had to reconsider my boundaries, and other friendships have grown closer.
I’m very blessed to have a family that I could phone everyday or whenever I needed to throughout those four months living alone with no other contact. Of course, I live alone in the city in general but as I usually work there too, even as a single person pre-pandemic I’d have interactions with work colleagues, I’d be able to meet up with friends and go out to dinner or to music events or go places by myself. Not having that changed the way I saw some of my friendships where I wasn’t on their radar so much, and I guess that’s ok. We all are going through different things and have to recalibrate our lives and boundaries from time to time. Some people kept in touch, but mainly to ‘vent’ because I am an empathetic and caring and loving person. Other friendships have been a source of encouragement, fun, and camaraderie through these times.
The point I am getting to, in the hope of edifying you, is that as we head towards the winter season of 2020, consider your crew and who the important people are in your life in this season. Perhaps you have a strong sense of who these people are, a network of friends and family that you have shared the ups and downs of life with. One thing I would suggest that you think about is even if you do feel you have such people in your life, consider whether you have a range of people to connect with and turn to and make sure that you are not overburdening (or being overburdened by) any one person. We are all going through something, and we all need encouragement, so make sure that you are giving as well as receiving that.
Perhaps you are not in such a place. Perhaps you are lonely and struggling, even if you live with other people or have many other interactions.
My advice or suggestions would be for you to consider whether you have the right connections in your life. Are there some people you need to move on from who are having a toxic influence on you? Do you feel like you don’t have anyone, and need to reach out for help? Even if you don’t have friends or family to turn to, perhaps you could connect with some online groups that are safe and have like minded people. Maybe you could reach out to community groups for help and support, or ask a volunteer group to connect you with a mentor or a ‘buddy’ such as they do with phone volunteers so that you can hear a friendly voice from time to time. There are plenty of phone lines and crisis support lines such as the Samaritans and Breathing Space here in the UK if you feel like you have nowhere to turn, and if you are in a different country, a simple ‘Google’ or other search could put you in touch with the details of similar groups or organisations. Maybe you enjoy the connections online that help keep you in touch with people, even as you learn to stand strong by yourself.
Yet having a lot of connections or a diversity of connections is not enough in itself. You need the depth and authenticity of feeling known and heard, and this may or may not be with your family, friends you already know, etc. You may have to take time to gather a new crew, form new connections, ones in which you are not simply just another face on a screen, or voice in a crowd, but real authentic connections.
Think about who your ‘team mates’ may be this season. If you are feeling strong in yourself then perhaps it is a good opportunity, if that is the right thing for you in your life just now, to be the one to reach out to someone else who is struggling and help and empower them, not to become dependent on you, but to know that they are seen, heard and help them to find an empowering way forwards step by step in their own life.
There is strength to be found in standing alone. But we also all need each other. Perhaps this is why in part we blog and write and share on platforms like this so that while we develop our own skills and gifts and talents and interests, we also are part of a community that can share with each other, learn from one another and grow together.
Who is your crew? Are there any wiser decisions you need to make in who you let close to you? Do you need to step up and be there for someone? Do you need to create space for yourself to step back and reconsider things or to ease out of things that are not meant for you in this season? Do you need to let go of toxic people, or do you need to invest in certain relationships, reconnect, or create a broader network of mutual support?
Now is a great time to be thinking about these things, of how we can get stronger and how we can help each other as communities.
Stay safe, well and I pray you will be blessed, friends. Thank you for stopping by and reading, I appreciate you. x
For many people, this year has been somewhat of a blur. Perhaps you yourself are in need of some clarity and encouragement, especially as we head into the winter season of this year.
I wonder how you are feeling about it all right now, how life is for you? If I think of my own life, and my circle of friends, I know that people are in very different places in themselves. While we’ve all had this common situation of a global pandemic as the backing track of 2020, for some people, the volume has been turned up loud and they’ve been unable to find the means of turning it down, while for others, it is an inconvenient and annoying hum in the background of their life as they press ahead with their own dreams, goals and plans somehow.
I can think of friends who have had ups and downs this year. They’ve had some positives but also some hard times. Some among us have had to spend months at a time on our own with no human or animal contact, while others have flourished this year and some have recently had new additions to their families with babies being born this month. One friend has become a dad for the second time, and another has become an uncle for the first time! Others that I know have embarked upon new relationships or got married or still managed to fit in a travel adventure here and there. Yet at the same time, some have seen their mental health struggles continue or worsen, some have had job uncertainty and experienced loneliness. And while we head into the Christmas season, a season of Advent in which we look towards the first Coming of The Lord Jesus Christ, Who Himself was Born into inhospitable, frightening and unsettling times (and for many, myself included HE alone is the Hope and Light in the darkness), are welcomed to enter into relationship with Him now and know the tangible Peace and Love of His Presence (and look forwards to the certainty of His Return) this time can be particularly difficult in magnifying the differences and difficulties among and between us.
It is a time of year when the nights grow longer, darker and colder. It is a time of year when at any other time, the contrasts between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ would still be stark. Yet in this pandemic year, we face all sorts of added challenges. There are restrictions upon our meeting, upon our usual ‘festivities’ and some families, in fact many families are sadly facing loss and loneliness on a number of fronts. Financially, many may be suffering or struggling to make ends meet, and loneliness has become an epidemic of its own.
If this year has been a bit of a blur for you and you have a sense of dread about this season, my eternal hope is that you will look to the Light and Transforming Love of Jesus Christ Who came into the darkness….for you.
And while that is always, I hope, the heart of my message, I know that there are many among you who want or need to take that message at your own pace and time, and in the meantime want some solid practical day to day encouragement, and I understand and respect that.
Don’t let the year end without taking time to acknowledge what you have come through, and what you have accomplished. You may never win an award for it, no one may ever think it worth reading in a newsletter, but if you know it is something meaningful to you then take time to acknowledge and even celebrate it.
You don’t need to have contributed to the discovery of a vaccine or raised a lot of money for worthy causes to feel you have accomplished something this year. Perhaps your accomplishment is to have got out of bed each day, to have given time and attention towards your mental health and wellbeing, to have continued working to support yourself and / or your family, to have stayed indoors and kept other people safe, to have been kind and considerate towards those around you, to have lived a quiet life, to have read a book, kept your living space tidy, started therapy, come off medication, admitted you need help, reached out to a friend, donated to charity, encouraged other people, encouraged yourself, put time towards a hobby, attended online church for the first time, or been consistent in doing similar, to have checked in on your neighbours, to have sought the good and wellbeing of other people, to have not given up on yourself or your life.
Achievements or accomplishments can look very different to each of us. But sometimes the small things are the things that matter in a big way.
Why don’t you give yourself that encouragement and take a few moments now, or this week, or in this season as we approach the end of the year to write down or think about a few things which you have done this year, whether or not you think you’ve done them well.
Encourage yourself, and look forwards with hope and perhaps even vision in what may be a joyful, or an extremely painful and difficult season for you.
You matter. A Light shines for *you*, a Love has come, for *you*. You matter. Give yourself some encouragement, friend, because you matter too.
Yesterday, we thought about how it’s ‘ok not to be ok’. It is ok to sit in those difficult moments and learn to endure those difficult feelings, knowing that ‘this too will pass’.
With that being said, once we are ready to get up again, to take the next deep breath, and to make that next step in life, however small it might feel to us, it is so important to move forwards in a way that nurtures the core of who we are.
That might sound fairly profound, but the practicalities of getting there, one small moment at a time, needn’t be an overwhelming or big thing.
What do I mean by that? I suppose we could look at this through the lens of ‘slow living’, of learning to slow ourselves down, be more present in the moment and despite whatever we are feeling inside or what is going on around us, just take a moment to enjoy the moment we are in.
Last night I wasn’t feeling my best. To be honest I was struggling a bit. Yet, with a new day today, I have found new possibilities, new moments, and new reasons to hope, and to smile and I feel good in *this* moment. While that may change from time to time, as it does on this journey as human beings, we can seek to ‘collect’ and experience more and more of those precious moments that feed, nourish and nurture our souls.
After getting ready this morning, and preparing my room to be a place that I’d enjoy being and working in, I checked my work emails, did a bit of correspondence, and then took some time away from my desk to walk in my parents’ back garden. It was wonderful. Something so simple as feeling the fresh air on my face, the softness of grass beneath my soft shoes, to hear the birds chattering away, to see the trees, some with colourful leaves, but most with bare branches, and to look up into the sky and see the sunlight gently filtering through the clouds – in that moment my soul felt happy, and I drank it in, and even now I feel happy thinking about it and it reminds me to look out of my window and enjoy the little bit of nature that is around me.
I know from experience that nature while being a wonderful balm and tonic to our souls, isn’t always readily accessible to everyone. I spent the first four months of lockdown here in the UK from the end of March to July on my own, in the 10th floor of my flat, at first not having opportunity to go outside at all for weeks, and for most of the time with no face to face human contact at all. Even for an introvert, it was hard going at times.
Yet, there are ways we can nurture our souls even without being able to enjoy the fresh air and the calming effects of nature. The other day I had an experience of one of those ‘soul food’ moments. You know those moments when you are eating something hot in temperature like a broth or some kind of potato or vegetable dish, or some other comforting home cooked meal with healthy ingredients, perhaps something that is your ‘go to’ comfort food. Unlike unhealthy ‘fast food’, the heat of it causes you to slow down, you can feel the warmth in your belly, you are more awake to the senses of taste and texture and the beautiful aroma of different ingredients that awaken your senses. Perhaps as you read this different memories come back to you of homely times, or of times by yourself where you have taken a moment to really enjoy what you were eating and the experience has lingered with you.
Slow down, enjoy, nurture yourself. Whether that be by feeling the fresh air on your face, by taking time over a healthy meal, by making yourself a comforting wintery hot drink and eating your favourite snack, by creating a cosy environment, lingering over a good book or getting cosy and watching a film that makes you feel happy, there are so many moments that we can seek to experience more deeply, whether we are facing this pandemic alone or with other people. Amidst the ups and downs of these times, think of how you can nurture your soul, even if that is the tiniest moment at a time that no one else will ever see. Add to these moments day by day, bit by bit, and you will feel all the better for it.
How many sheep do you need to count before you can fall asleep? I’m not sure if an answer has been found to that conundrum, but I am sure that we have all heard time and time again about the benefits and importance of sleep.
Sometimes, however, we just need a gentle reminder. At the start of lockdown in March (in UK) I was in good company among many others who were having vivid and sometimes disruptive dreams. It wasn’t altogether out of the ordinary for me as I went through a time for a few years when almost every night was a battle to get through sleep-wise. Thank God for His Peace in my life now, and more ‘normal’ sleep than before. However, conversations opened up among friends that they were having vivid, unsettling dreams and were struggling with their sleep too. I started noticing articles online from psychologists and medical professionals regarding this phenomenon in the pandemic. Perhaps it has been an issue for you too?
It is hardly surprising with all the new and at times overwhelming information we were having to process at the start of the pandemic. Have we grown somewhat ‘used to’ hearing these things on the news and have they become part of that oh so unpopular ‘new normal’? Our vocabulary has changed in 2020, and we are using words and phrases in common parlance that would have seemed strange to us a mere twelve months earlier. Maybe we’ve found ways to adapt, cope and be positive as time goes on? Maybe for our own mental and emotional wellbeing we’ve distanced ourselves from the facts and figures and human toll of the pandemic for the most part in order to get from one day to the next.
However, things keep changing, and with winter approaching, people are facing new concerns and having to process a whole host of new information. For example, in the UK, we have varying restrictions due to the pandemic in different nations (Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales), and even within the 4 nations, there are differing regional rules and protocols. Some regions and cities have re-entered lockdown or a form of lockdown, there are different rules with regards to the closing times of certain premises and such like. On top of that, there have been restrictions on visiting other households and a ban on this in Scotland apart from a few notable exemptions. And with winter approaching, people have concerns regarding how they will survive on their own, whether they will be able to see friends and family, whether they will have enough money to make ends meet, whether their family members will be ok in care homes, or whether supermarkets will once more run low on certain essential items.
All this can make for restless nights and troubled sleep. We know that we need to take care of our sleep and I for one do tend to struggle with this, but it is worth reminding ourselves that it may well be time for a self care ‘check in’ in this regard.
When was the last time you got a full 7 or 8 hours sleep?
Are you giving your body the chance to process, restore and repair itself as is needful, with a good sleep routine, as far as is possible?
Are you regularly staying awake through the night or avoiding going to sleep?
Do you give yourself the chance to nap during the day if you need to?
Are you oversleeping, which in itself can be detrimental?
We really need to focus on this aspect of self care, especially if like myself you struggle in this area. Even if all you can do is make small changes for the time being, please seek to do so and keep taking positive steps forwards because in order to stay as fit and healthy as you can, maintain a healthy immune system, and look after your mental, emotional and physical health and be there for others if needful especially as winter approaches, then moving towards better sleep needs to be a priority for us all.
Check in with yourself today. Think about what your personal challenges are in this area and what you can do to overcome them. Is there anything by way of a calming evening routine that you can implement in your life? Do you need to stop watching, reading or listening to the news earlier in the day? Are you giving yourself enough time and opportunity to process what is going on in your mind, and to allow your body and brain to do this at a subconscious level through the restorative blessings of sleep?
I’m sure we are all in need of at least a little (if not a lot) of improvement in this area, and I wish you all the very best with it. Perhaps this can be the gentle nudge in the right direction that you need.
We may all have had very different experiences of this year, but one thing we all share in common is that we’re all living through a pandemic. For most of us below a certain age, we’ve never experienced anything like this on a global scale before, and for those who have perhaps lived through wars, it may not be the first time you have experienced the world shaken on this kind of scale.
No matter who you are, or where you live, or what you’ve been going through this year, I somehow feel close enough to reach you through the internet, as we share the experience of living in a changed world.
I have been praying for ways to help other people, and I feel that using the gifts and skills I already have is a good place to start. That being said, while in previous autumn seasons I have written series’ of blog posts on surviving the winter, and there are many encouraging past posts that you can dig into in my archives, this year I want to write a series to help those of you who read my blog to continue positively through life in this pandemic. I feel a glow and a warmth in my heart as I write, as if I could just reach out with love and encouragement to touch your life in some way. Perhaps we could sit down together as I write and you read, over a cup of coffee or tea and share our thoughts and our hearts in our shared humanity.
Mental health is of such importance, and perhaps especially so when our worlds are turned upside down. We all need hope. In the United Kingdom, during the height of the pandemic in the first part of this year, children started drawing, colouring and displaying all sorts of creative expressions of rainbows as a symbol of hope, and also as a way of saying thanks to our dedicated National Health Service.
During a time of fear, uncertainty and change for the whole nation, when people were increasingly cut off and isolated from friends, family, neighbours, loved ones, and even strangers, these emblems became signs of hope across the country as they were displayed in windows and on banners.
We all need hope. Maybe you are reading this and things are going well. Even so, surely there have been times in your life in the past, and there may well be times in the future when you have needed or will need hope. Life is full of ups and downs, uncertainties, blue skies and grey clouds. And we all need hope.
Just now it is the autumn season, or ‘fall’ if you like. Even as things in the natural world around me begin to fall away, decay and die in order to give way to new life, there is something heart touching and encouraging about the vibrancy of red and orange leaves and the beauty of this changing season. There is something hopeful even in this fleeting season about the beauty that blossoms and even as it fades away, we have the hope of spring, of new days, new life.
If you are facing dark, depressing times of grief, instability, loneliness, loss or fear, what do you cling onto for hope? There are different types of hope, I think. There are the little things we look forward to in our daily lives, small, tangible things that we sometimes turn to to make us feel better, but we know that these are momentary and will not sustain us through life. Perhaps we look with hope to better times, or we plan good things into our calendars as restricted as they are for the moment.
For me, I need a hope that will help me to weather the storms of this life, no matter how tempestuous they have been. I need an anchor for my soul. I need a hope that is deeper and higher and stronger than everything in this world, in this life, and something that my very soul can lean into and never be let down by.
I have had years of searching for this hope. Glimmers and flickers of faith kept me going through dark times in my life as I was growing up, and felt that there was no hope because life felt so bad for me. Yet, having pressed on through those tests and trials I was left still with uncertainty, anxiety and fear. It wasn’t enough to have this nebulous, ethereal ‘hope’ of something I wasn’t quite sure of.
Now I have a hope that does not disappoint. My Hope will hold me through life, through the passage through death and into eternal life. My Hope is for the big things and little things I may face, for times of mental struggle, for uncertain world events, for changing relationships, for loneliness, for everything. My Hope Is sure and certain, faithful and unfailing, and holds me with the Strongest and most Gentle Love a human soul could ever need. My Hope Is a Person, The Living God, Jesus Christ, and no matter what I go through, He Is with me, He Is Faithful, and He will hold me through it all and let me know that I am Loved and that this world as uncertain as it may be will never quench His Unfathomable Love for me.
What are you looking to for Hope in these uncertain times? What helps you get through the day? Who can you turn to for support or encouragement? What keeps you taking the next step?
If you are in any doubt that you can make it through, if you feel hopeless, then know that it is no coincidence that you are reading these words right now. This Love Is for you. You are Loved, you just need to call out in hope, in faith and ask for help and hope, for forgiveness, for rescue in your time of need….in such a time as this, right now.
You are meant to be here. You are meant to keep going. You are meant to live. Never give up. While it may seem stormy today, remember the rainbows of hope, for the sun will shine again, and colours will fill the sky, and if you are willing to let True Love in, The Light of Jesus Christ will save you and fill your soul.
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
It’s mid-February, and just as I’ve been getting my home ready with more springtime-like décor, and putting away the last of the remnants of the winter season, guess what? It has started to snow!
Yes, the snow that didn’t fall here over Christmas time is beginning to fall now in not-so-sunny Scotland. We had expected storms, rain and lashing wind, all of which we got, but for me at least, the snow was a surprise. It’s lovely to watch from indoors, especially as just now it’s quite calm with no wind, so I guess we just may as well make the most of the prettiness before having to step into the great outdoors once again, and before the weekend’s forecast storm sets in!
It’s 2020, and this sounds like it should be the year of perfect vision, it has a sense of wholeness when we say it, and seems even a bit ‘futuristic’.
That aside, any New Year brings with it a sense of new expectations and this can be both exciting and challenging.
In this blog post, I’m going to explore some of the expectations we place upon ourselves, and walk you through some of the ways we could approach a new year in a more gentle way that helps us adjust to life with the changing of the seasons and in a way that is better for our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Different cultures may celebrate new year at different points, however, in a globalised world we generally note the 1st of January as the start of the new calendar.
And yet, at least in my part of the world, we are still in that period of winter well before spring has begun to show, and so our bodies and minds may continue to be more inclined to the state of hibernation than to that of springing up with new ideas, plans and activities. However, there remains the external and internal ‘pressures’ that now is the time to make a change, to be new, to start afresh, to be better, to get those goals, dreams and plans in motion and to live our best lives.
Some people say that January is a month where a couple of weeks in, people begin to feel low, depressed and to experience the ‘January blues’, when the festive celebrations of Christmas and New Year have passed, the new year resolutions have dwindled away after 2 weeks of trying to make a sudden change and when the weather is still gloomy and spring and summer are just a little too far out of reach to be excited about. We’re mostly all back at work or back in a routine of some sort, and the big and exciting changes haven’t really happened and so we are left with an anti-climax and perhaps even the seasonal low moods of wintertime.
January 2nd for me:
As I write, I have returned back to my own flat after time away during December. I finished work on the evening of Friday 6th December (see that post for ideas of ‘wrapping up’ at work before a holiday), spent the next few days tidying, organising and decorating my flat to make it lovely and cosy for Christmas, after which I packed for a trip to Germany’s Black Forest and to France to see the Strasbourg Christmas markets. On return, I unpacked, washed my clothes, reorganised, tidied etc, had a bit of cosy time at home, went to church to celebrate the Birth of Christ with my church ‘family’, and then packed all over again to spend the next week and a half at my parents’ house with my family for Christmas and New Year.
The next ten days were spent with my family, cosied up inside, enjoying celebrations of Christmas, birthdays, New Year and an anniversary. This involved being looked after by my lovely mum, eating good food, playing music on my violin, family time playing games, quizzes, and even having fun with balloons, napping in the afternoons, reading my Bible, decorating my room, chilling out, laughing, relaxing, a couple of walks in the garden, a short and chilly new year’s eve walk at the beach, board games, films, Christmas and birthday cake, and only one day venturing out to see a friend.
The usual routine of work was completely forgotten about, and all in all it was a good time to be indoors and forget about the cold and chilly weather outside and enjoy some family togetherness and the blessings of having a roof over our heads, warm food, a place to sleep, and all the cosy things of the winter season and being at home with loved ones.
Having returned to my flat last night, I have returned, not quite with the energy and enthusiasm to start a new year, but instead with a bad cold, sneezes, a cough and sore throat. This has meant having to get a lot of rest, sleep and to try to look after myself so that I am as fit and healthy as I can be in time for starting back at work tomorrow! It is a good thing that it is a Friday and that I won’t have an entire week as a shock to the system.
Out of hibernation?
At my parents’ home, they have quite a big back garden, and most evenings a little (although much chubbier this winter 🙂 ) fox visits to receive its ‘daily bread’ 🙂 .
Often times there are also squirrels that scamper around the garden. However, while I was there I didn’t see a single squirrel until yesterday or the day before. It seems that they were hibernating for winter, and then all of a sudden two arrived at the same time, bright and breezy, and in a terrible hurry, before disappearing as quick as a flash.
It was an uncommon sight from the past two weeks as it seems that the squirrels had hidden themselves away with the cold and wintery weather.
Can you imagine a little squirrel popping its head tentatively out from behind a tree, wondering whether or not it is time to venture further into the light of day?
I think sometimes we can have that feeling in January, when we know it is time to get back into the routine of things, back to work, back to going out and about, but we’re not quite sure we are ready for it after so much time spent cosying up indoors, and knowing that spring won’t fully spring for at least another month or two.
A gentler pace:
The first month of a new year can be a difficult one to get into our stride. It seems that everyone around us feels the need to hurry up and put the old away and bring in the new. Christmas trees come down, decorations are put away, lists of goals and new year’s resolutions are made, diets and exercise routines are planned, habits are expected to change and we expect that we should be able to charge full steam ahead.
Yet the reality may be that our bodies and minds are still adjusting to the seasonal changes, the circumstantial changes of our lives, and we may be still trying to shake off the wintery coughs and colds that we have picked up.
So, what can we do to ease the transitions? To find a healthier and gentler pace with which to approach change?
One more step along the world I go:
Goals and Resolutions:
Personally, I find that ‘goal setting’ throughout the year (for me, on a monthly basis) to be much more helpful than new year’s resolutions in January, although I love the chance that a new year brings to reflect, to be thankful and to focus on valuable priorities in my life.
Rather than everything having to be a sudden change, I find that I am building upon goals that I have been steadily working upon and refreshing these and maybe incorporating new ones from the lessons I have learned over the past year.
‘Tis (still) the season to be cosy:
Perhaps you live in a sunnier part of the world, but here in Scotland, it is still cold and wintery in January. While many people may be taking their Christmas decorations down and packing them away, I feel no hurry to do so – for me, it’s one of the things that makes the season cosy while the weather is bleak outside. Living in a flat on the 10th floor means that I don’t really need to worry about what other people think, and so I plan to keep my tree and decorations and cosy lighting up for as long into January as my heart desires, to allow me to gradually move from one ‘season’ to the next.
Health and fitness is often at the top of people’s lists at the start of a new calendar year. However, try to be reasonable in your expectations of yourself so that you are not setting yourself up for disappointment. After possibly being indoors for an extended period of time, with potentially lessened activity levels, is it really helpful for your body to go full steam ahead into a brand new exercise routine, or would steady, gradual and committed changes be more beneficial in the long run?
Another thing we have to think about, as I am having to right now, is our bodies’ natural recovery time from seasonal illnesses such as coughs, colds and flu. We need to get back into a rhythm of healthier sleep, eating and activity, of drinking plenty of healthy fluids, and giving us time to rest and recover from any sicknesses. So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t seem to be able to move full steam ahead into your new year goals. Change can be more effective if it is gradual and consistent – slow and steady can win the race.
Something to look forward to:
Having something to look forward to can be a great incentive and motivation for us to get going. Maybe you have a summer holiday booked in that you can start thinking about, planning for and day dreaming of.
If like me, you don’t have anything planned yet, you could maybe have some things in January that you can schedule in to look forward to. Have things to look forward to but don’t over commit, and allow yourself the room to change your mind.
I have had to decline two separate invitations for tomorrow and the weekend, from friends, as I have only just come down with this cough, cold, and sore throat and know I will need time to rest and recover especially with starting back at work tomorrow.
However, there are things that ‘traditionally’ I know I have to look forward to in January each year – one of which is various music events in my city, and the other is going out for dinner with a couple of good friends, and these plans can be flexible.
Other things to look forward to could be setting time aside, or spontaneously making time to do things we enjoy such as self care, a ‘pamper evening’, watching a film at the weekend, playing an instrument, or getting back into hobbies, reading, or other things that can be done without venturing out into the cold weather.
A time of reflection:
I personally like to take time to reflect on my life, to be thankful, and to prayerfully consider what I have learned, and what I should be focusing on and putting my time into. Just because January the 1st has passed it doesn’t mean that we can’t spend an extended period of time, if so inclined, in personal reflection and preparing our minds and hearts for what is ahead – that way any changes we do set about making or resolving to make will be more personal and meaningful and likelier to last the changing of times and seasons as we progress through life.
Back to work:
Unless you have taken time off in January, it is likely that as with most of us, you will be getting back into some kind of a work routine, whether that involves leaving the comfort of your own home and going outside to your place of work, or working at home, for yourself in some capacity, or flexible working. In any case, it will involve a shift of gears, some changes to your routine, and a different mindset to your holiday mode.
How can we ease this transition? We might not have a lot of time to prepare. Personally, I start work tomorrow, and I hope that with it being a Friday, this in itself will ease the transition back into the routine.
If you have thought ahead, you will have done some preparation before the holidays to ease this transition. I wrote a ‘welcome back’ email to myself before I finished up for the Christmas break, so now although I have forgotten what exactly I was doing, I have a list of specific instructions to get me going and keep me up to speed.
Even if you haven’t been organised before the holidays, you can find ways of making your start back to work more bearable.
Try to get a good night’s sleep.
Know where your staff ID badge for getting into work is, if you use one.
Keep essential things in easy to get to places so that the first morning back at work isn’t chaotic, or one in which you have unnecessary panic. For example, think about things you will definitely need such as money / credit card, house keys, car keys, train or bus pass, etc.
If you are very prepared you might even give yourself a head start by planning your work outfit – I am always impressed with people who manage to do this on a regular basis!
Eat a healthy breakfast, or at least keep money with you so that you can buy something to eat during the day.
Remind yourself of when you need to leave, where you need to be (e.g. if you have any meetings – hopefully not for the first day back), and set an alarm to allow you plenty of time to get ready and be on time (this is something I definitely want and need to work on in the coming year 🙂 ).
If you take medication, put it somewhere easy to access so that you don’t forget in a morning rush.
Keep some positive and uplifting music at hand for you to listen to if you are commuting on public transport so that you can be in a good frame of mind to start your day.
Try to keep a supply of cough and cold remedies handy, because chances are you’re not the only one who has been sick, and at new year people tend to want to wish you a happy new year with a handshake or a hug, so don’t forget to do what you can to avoid falling sick again or passing on your own illnesses.
Remember that if you are starting back at work around the same time as everyone else, then you all will be in a similar situation, so try not to worry about the transition into your daily routine.
First days back are generally more gentle days, reacclimatising yourself, remembering your passwords, checking through emails, and preparing for what you will be working on.
Try not to schedule in too many meetings, if any on your first few days back at work, and as people always say, before you know it, it will feel like you’ve never been away.
Change with the seasons:
Nature has a way of telling us when to slow down, to rest, to sleep, to wake, to spring into action, to adventure. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter, have a way of nudging us into action and into rest. So while society may be telling you to do this, that or the other, pay attention to the natural rhythms of life, listen to what your body is telling you, and take action at a pace that is comfortable for you to make long lasting, life affirming changes that will stand the test of time, and not just the first few weeks of January.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy, blessed, and spiritually enlightened new year, and a 2020 filled with love, joy, peace, self discovery, Truth and meaning.
Take care, and take the time to live life at a pace that keeps you well and healthy. x