Tag Archives: Winter

Winter Survival Guide (42) ~ “Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans”.

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.

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Winter Survival Guide (41) ~ Focus on Faith.

Life is filled with wonder. With every sunrise we have a new day to live, new things to discover, new questions to ask and to be curious about, new challenges and unknowns. With every sunset we have the chance to enjoy the fulfilment of another day lived, whether with joy or sadness, and to reflect upon what we have learned and experienced.

We all look up from time to time from the everyday things of our lives. We remind ourselves that we are a small part of something far greater than us, far beyond our understanding and comprehension. Perhaps we don’t spend enough time reflecting and contemplating the miracle of our existence in this vast universe, for surely everyone who stands in solitude and stares up at a star filled night sky, or waits in silence upon a mountain top, feeling the raw beauty and power of nature and of design, feels humbled by the exquisiteness of the ‘something more’ that we have been gifted to be a part of.

I think if we would all but take the time to inhabit such moments more often, then we would live as people and amongst people of humbled hearts and inquiring minds. We would remember that we are not the centre of all things, but we are important as small as we are and have a part to play in this wondrous symphony of life conducted from far higher than any perspective we could hope to have in this fragile life. Perhaps we would notice more the harmony of the diverse aspects of nature working together in one accord, and we would take those lessons to heart in the way we perceive life and our fellow human beings and how we treat each other – each unique but with an important reason and part to play in the grander scheme of things. We all need to ‘look up’, and perhaps we need to make time to do this more often in lives that are otherwise overly busy, hurried and caught up in the mud and mire at our feet.

I like to think of the deeper aspects of life regularly. I believe in, know and love God – The One True and Living God, and as a follower of Christ, Loved Perfectly by Him, I anticipate the gifts of this season when Truth is more freely proclaimed about Who He Is and why He came to us. To honour and think upon the uncreated One Who has Been since before time was, in Whom everything exists and lives and moves and has its being, in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found.

No matter where we are on life’s journey, we need to make time to think, to consider our faith, our relationship to our thoughts about our very existence and what that means for who we are and how we live. We need to look up, and not just look but listen. Be still, ponder Truth, and let our faith be strengthened.

man sitting on edge facing sunset
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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (9).

Sleep it off: sometimes we really need the chance to rest our bodies and our minds. If you have tried the other tips, maybe you could try to get some sleep. Make sure that you have eaten well and maybe have a warm drink and then giver yourself some rest and the chance to heal.

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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (8).

Positive Distractions: Create a self-care ‘toolkit’ or list of your favourite things that you can go to that will serve as positive and healthy distractions when your mind is not in a good place.

Some ideas below:

  • Something tactile, soft and comforting, like a cosy blanket, a soft toy, etc.
  • A colouring book, pens and pencils.
  • Arts and crafts materials such as paper, card, stickers, pens.
  • Beautiful pictures or postcards of calming scenes such as nature scenery, animals, or photos of friends and loved ones that don’t ‘trigger’ you but only bring about positive and helpful emotions.
  • Some mood lifting songs.
  • A journal where you can write out and express your thoughts.
  • A book of puzzles or mind teaser computer games such as cards or word games (avoid anything with too much noise, visual stimuli or emotional content).
  • A favourite or sentimental object that makes you feel happy.
  • A stress ball, children’s play dough, slime or putty, that feels relaxing when you hold it.
  • A book of beautiful pictures.
  • A bar of your favourite chocolate, dark chocolate is good for you (in moderation like everything of course) so if you like that maybe you can choose a bar of dark chocolate.
  • Some calming scents, such as a fragrant wax lavender candle, something that gives of a calming aroma without you having to light it, some essential oils which you can also get in the form of a room spray, lightly scented hand cream, etc.
  • Herbal teas.
  • A book to ‘doodle’ and draw in.
  • Cosy socks / slippers.
  • A cosy cardigan or jumper.
  • Stencils to create patterns.
  • A favourite book that has a positive message.
  • A DVD of your favourite film – preferably something uplifting or light-hearted like a comedy.
  • Audiobooks (that will not be ‘triggering’ for you).
  • Encouraging, inspiring and uplifting podcasts, Ted Talks, etc.
  • Anything else that you know will help, calm and soothe you in those difficult moments.
multi colored pen
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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (7).

Medication: If you are taking medicine that is prescribed by your doctor, make sure you have an adequate supply, and that you are able to get your repeat prescriptions on time. Check in advance that you will have enough medicine for the days when doctors surgeries, pharmacies, etc. will be closed over the holidays so that you don’t run out. Ask someone for accountability to help make sure you are taking the medication as per your doctor’s advice, and if you feel foggy, hazy or forgetful, keep a log or tick off your calendar so that you know when you have taken or need to take your doses. If you need any help or advice regarding your medication please consult your doctor as soon as possible.

aid baby cure drug
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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (6).

Eating: During my times of severe depression, I found that I either ‘forgot’ to eat meals, was too tired or low to manage to eat, or on the other side of the scale would comfort eat. It can be really hard to take care of ourselves when we are struggling with our mental and emotional health, and how we treat our bodies inevitably has a huge impact upon our energy levels, our moods, mental health and ability to cope day to day.

Therefore my ‘quick tip’ is that you write down / plan some quick, easy, healthy and nutritious ‘go to’ meals and stock up so that you can prepare something for yourself to ensure that your body and mind is getting enough fuel to help you survive and cope with what you are going through. You can ask someone for help in advising you according to your specific needs – but even if it is something as simple as baked beans on toast, soup and bread, a baked potato with fillings, pasta, rice and veg, nuts, a sandwich, etc. these are all pretty easy and quick to put together – make sure you are eating well and regularly and your mind and body will thank you for it, and it will help you have the resources to power through this rough patch.

flat lay photography of three tray of foods
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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (5).

Grounding technique: keep a small, safe object handy for when you need to feel grounded. This could be something like a pebble or stone, something that won’t break easily, or perhaps some children’s ‘putty’ / play-dough that you can squeeze, or anything you think will help to ground you. Make sure that you can’t hurt yourself on it, that it doesn’t have sharp edges, won’t break if you hold or squeeze it, and that makes you feel calm when you hold it as a grounding object.

If you feel like you are experiencing anxiety, panic, dissociation, dizziness, confusion, intrusive thoughts or mental and emotional distress, use this object to help you ground yourself. Focus on how it feels to touch, what it looks like, observe it, the way the light touches it, its texture and so forth and focus intently on this safe object while calming your breathing. Keep it in your pocket or take it with you so that you can use this to help you when you need it. The good thing about a small object like this is that other people most likely will not even notice it in case you are worried about that.

Also, you can try the ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ method as a grounding technique where you focus on being aware of your five senses. Notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.

Stay safe and well. x

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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (4).

Breathing technique: to help with anxiety or panic, practice breathing well to calm your nervous system and stress (fight / flight) response. Breathe in deeply through your nose for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 4, and exhale slowly and deeply through your mouth for a count of 5. Allow your belly to rise on the in-breath, and to ‘deflate’ when you exhale. Repeat as often as required. Practice this even when you are not feeling anxious as it will help ‘reset’ your system from some of the stress responses you have been used to.

side view photo of woman with her eyes closed holding her her as sunlight shines on her face
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A Mental Health Winter Survival Guide – Quick Tips for those tough days (3).

As much as possible, try to stick to a routine, or have a routine or plan written down to fall back upon. This will help you if things get mentally foggy, confusing or overwhelming for you. Ask for help if you need to create a plan or routine and take small steps to stay well.

man wearing black crew neck shirt and black jeans
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The First Day of Winter?

This morning, Monday 18th November 2019, I awoke to what feels like the first day of winter this year.  I have been enjoying the beauty of the autumn season, and anticipating winter, and it seems to have arrived on my doorstep all of a sudden!

Last night I was blessed to watch a glorious sunset over the city, as the sky exploded into a golden orange, a sight I rarely see most days, and the buildings across the skyline stood as stark black silhouettes against the backdrop of colour.

At 5pm, I remarked to my parents as I spoke to them on the phone how suddenly the evening had fallen into black, almost as if a switch had been turned off, and it was night.

This morning I awoke to a beautiful sun rising in the east over the city, on the opposite side of my view from last night. I very rarely see such vibrant sunrises and sunsets, perhaps because of my location, when I’m at work, or the timings that I am able to look out the window, but the evening and the morning brought me a vibrant treat.

I could see the hills and mountains in the far distance. I got my camera, opened my window slightly and took a picture of the sunrise. The air was colder, icy, and so fresh and clean. Perhaps you think that is unusual for a city, but I live quite high up where the air may be clearer.

I shut the window, as much as the air was fresh, it was very cold, and as I looked down through the glass I noticed the first real frost of the season. Not snow, but a drizzling of soft white powder upon the tops of cars, and dustings of it upon the grass, the roads had iced a little too and all of a sudden the once beautifully arrayed with golden autumn leaved trees had turned to sparse twigged statues.

Winter had arrived! There would be snow on the tops of the mountains in the far distance. You could see the air from people’s breath. The tops of fir trees looked like Christmas trees.

As I walked to work, I noticed the sudden chill. In the breath of a morning, winter had arrived, so suddenly, not unexpected, but without any doubt that autumn had passed and a new season begun.

I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I walked to work. The pavement was patterned by icy leaves, embedded onto its surface. Such simple beauty, but ordinarily spectacular! The trees around me were also twig like and as I walked, leaves fluttered continuously to the ground, drizzling themselves upon the golden heap of leaves that had fallen before them. Now the roads and pavements were more beautiful and mesmerising than the trees themselves!

As I arrived in my office room at work, encased with tall glass windows on two sides, I stepped into an ice-box. But what a beautiful ice box to step into! Sun shone gently in as I pulled up the blinds and the glass greeted me with an enchanting lacy picture of snowflake patterns that glinted in the sunlight. The tall fir trees across the road are dusted with white, which will soon melt in the snow, but they reach up in praise to their Creator, and already sing of Christmas as they stand tall, deep dark green and authoritative against a gentle pale blue winter sky.

Sun shines through gaps in the trees lower down, a smaller, pretty, more delicate little tree, and its golden leaves flutter and fall continuously like glitter to the ground.

I pray for those for whom the crisp, fresh, cold air and these beautiful wintery scenes are not so much of a delight to them as a threat to their survival. Those for whom the cold is painful, and those who may not make it through the night. I hope you will pray for and reach out to them too, for together we can do far more than any of us can do alone.

This is a beautiful, sensitive yet stark season, filled with contrasts, filled with wonder. The leaves are falling all around us, creating beautiful piles of gold dust on the ground, and yet for some the mid-winter will be bleak, as frosty wind makes moan.

Winter heralds in a greater Light, a Warmth, Comfort and Joy – the Promise Hope and Peace of the Saviour, the Messiah Jesus Christ – the One Who came to the poor, the homeless, the cold, hungry, needy, downtrodden, hopeless and downcast. He came to the rich, the self sufficient, the spiritually blind and proud as well. He came for us all, to bring Forgiveness and New Life to any and all who will turn to Him, no matter who we are, where we are from or what we have or have not done. So no matter whether this winter is beautiful or bleak for you and yours, there is a certain Hope, for us all – if we would but humble our hearts and receive Him.

pine trees covered by snow
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