Perspective (Five Minute Friday writing prompt)

Depending on your perspective of this Lockdown situation, you can see things in a positive or negative light, or oscillate between the two.

I know I started off very calmly and positively. My elder son’s school closed first and I took it in my stride. Then my younger son’s school also closed but there was a plan for being given and handing in work from home so things were ok. Gratitude was emphasised by my friends and I used this to remember what God has given us: a home, food to eat, each other and beautiful sunny weather to do things in the garden as a family. For someone who is often quite anxious I was surprisingly calm!

With all 4 of us at home, we started to work out a plan to share study space in the lounge and dining room, especially for our son studying for exams. At times, this positive attitude has given way to low mood, fighting the uncertainty of when lockdown might end and some sort of new normality appear. The challenge has been to keep reminding myself that this time will pass and we will be given our freedom to roam wherever we want to outdoors at some point. Lockdown isn’t forever!

This blog is taking part in this week’s Five Minute Friday, check out https://fiveminutefriday.com/2020/04/23/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-perspective/ for more information.

10 things to be thankful for during this time of self-isolation

Today, one of the writing groups I attend decided to have an online meeting, and this is what I write on the topic of “Underground.”

It feels like, in our current climate, we’ve gone underground. Hidden away in our homes, unable to experience much of the outside world, cut off from our families and friends, apart from the gift of the internet or our phones to stay in touch. Even our church buildings have been closed down, to limit the virus’ spread.

Some of us would love to hide under our duvets until the threat of Coronavirus has passed, fall asleep and wake up when we can go back to normality. Have the freedom to exit the house whenever we want to, travel by public transport to the shops, visit our friends and go about the daily hustle and bustle.

However, there are some benefits to this ‘underground’ existence:

  • A slower pace of life
  • Time to breathe
  • Time to appreciate the natural world around us
  • Be thankful for being alive
  • More time to connect with others
  • Less stress as there is less work to do
  • Less pollution, as cars stay parked at home
  • No commute time to work
  • A new appreciation for our teachers, NHS staff, shop workers and delivery drivers.
  • A plethora of songs about coping with threat of Coronavirus and how to stay safe!

For myself, personally:

  • More time to play in the garden with my kids
  • Time to play a board game or swingball
  • Catch up on paperwork that’s sat there, undone
  • Seeing the birds hop and feed in the garden
  • Water the plants and plant new seeds with my son
  • Time to cook from scratch, try new recipes and eat fresher
  • Connect more with my creative side: sketching, writing, making cards
  • Baking a malteaser cake for my son’s birthday
  • Having afternoon tea at home to celebrate my birthday
  • Looking out for our vulnerable neighbours, buying them some shopping
  • Video calls with old friends who we’ve not been in contact with for a while
  • Groups moved to online meetings, enabling us to chat, write and share together.

Although we may feel cooped up and socially isolated, this too will pass. We will get through it, taking it one day at a time. Hold onto hope, trust God to bring us through and to the end of the pandemic. To a strengthened community spirit and a more outward focus rather than just our own individual lives.

Review of Shabari Does Tropic hydrating mini-facial

It was a bitterly cold, winter’s day as I arrived at Shabari Does Tropic for my mini-facial. It was wonderful to get into the warm and be introduced to the Tropic skincare range close up.

Shabari uses Susie Ma’s Tropic vegan-friendly, cruelty-free, natural skincare range and I was in for a treat as I waited for her to work her magic. To see the full range of products she sells, go to her website.The Tropic skincare products used for my mini-facial.

I really valued Shabari’s thorough approach by doing a fact find about my skin beforehand, checking if I had any allergies. Being vegan-friendly products, I didn’t need to worry about reacting to lanolin (derived from sheep). She carefully checked ingredients on the products she intended to use, to check for perfume as I have had reactions in the past.

Starting with the Smoothing Cleanser, followed by a vitamin-rich toner, Shabari quickly put me at ease as she explained the benefits of each product. As I have sensitive, combination, slightly dry skin, and rosacea, she tailored Tropic products to my skin type, including a face scrub to remove any dead skin cells and a rich moisturiser to deeply hydrate my skin. With it being Winter, it’s important to have a more moisturising skin cream, to protect skin from drying out. The Skin Feast moisturiser formed a protective layer over my face, but did leave it feeling a little oily. My skin works well with a relatively simple cleansing regime, as it can react with breakouts if too many products are applied. My skin felt nourished and calm after the facial, even several days after!

Along the way, I learned that standard lip balms contain petroleum-based ingredients, which Tropic products don’t contain. Shabari finished off by applying some of the Lip Love lip balm, with Shea butter, rose hip and cocoa butter, leaving my lips feeling smooth and moisture replenished. Particularly good for stepping back out into the driving sleet and wind!

My radiant-looking skin after Shabari’s (on the right) fabulous facial.

She also gave me an after-care sheet to make sure I didn’t get any reactions after the facial.

I would definitely recommend Shabari for her relaxing and rejuvenating facial as well the gentle but very effective Tropic skincare products , they suited my skin very well.

The Mind and Soul Foundation – * Day 12: Leave some lights UP! * Yeah, we know the tradition is that all the lights and decorations have to be taken down by tomorrow. But this time of year is bleak and dark, and the time after Christmas can feel pretty dismal. So we’re in favour of nominating some ‘winter lights’ and leaving them up – at least till the days start getting brighter. Can you make yourself a corner somewhere warm where you can leave up some lights, and maybe add a candle or snuggly cushion/blanket, somewhere you can curl up and hide if you need to, to get you through the January and February gloom? 💡 💡 💡 Thank you so much for joining us on the #12DaysOfWellness – how did you get on? | Facebook

The Mind and Soul Foundation – * Day 12: Leave some lights UP! * Yeah, we know the tradition is that all the lights and decorations have to be taken down by tomorrow. But this time of year is bleak and dark, and the time after Christmas can feel pretty dismal. So we’re in favour of nominating some ‘winter lights’ and leaving them up – at least till the days start getting brighter. Can you make yourself a corner somewhere warm where you can leave up some lights, and maybe add a candle or snuggly cushion/blanket, somewhere you can curl up and hide if you need to, to get you through the January and February gloom? 💡 💡 💡 Thank you so much for joining us on the #12DaysOfWellness – how did you get on? | Facebook
— Read on m.facebook.com/mindandsouluk/photos/a.311562155571162/2764419170285436/

The Light Shines in the Darkness…

Advent: A time to reflect on darkness and light.

Hope yet shines through the despair.

Jesus Christ, fully God, yet fully man, comes to Earth, clothed as a baby.

So much mystery and contradiction.

The Messiah, the chosen 1,

Born of a virgin in a lowly stable

Yet the Saviour of the world.

I love to light our Advent candle, remembering the truth that the light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it.

So for me, it resonates with the truth that whilst I may be battling depression, the Light of the World is my Living Hope. I will not be afraid. The Light has overcome the darkness. VICTORY ETERNAL- no more suffering, no more tears. Jesus wipes them away and holds me and says “It will all be ok. This pain will end.

Joy, the antidote to fear is brightening my world.

Here’s the link to Five Minute Friday whose word prompt today was Darkness.

The Easy way to De-stress…by Singing!

“God inhabits the praises of His people.”

Psalm 22:3, The Bible.

Image Source: Oleg Magni via pexels.com

Have you read the research that says that singing is good for our wellbeing? There are now many choirs up and down the country for exactly that reason. In fact, in Harrow, More Than A Choir, Harrow Community Choir, was formed to benefit those of us with mental health issues, to boost wellbeing and self-confidence. When we try a new skill, this can build self-esteem and doing something pleasurable, rather than something necessary, can give us a dopamine hit, boosting our mood.

Over the past few months, my mood had been slowly going downhill, to the point where my husband brought up the issue whilst we were on retreat in Wales. I found myself bursting into tears and it enabled me to bring to the surface some of the problems that had been bothering me.

Since then, with my husband’s support, I’ve been seeking medical and spiritual help but started to focus again on singing worship songs to God in my daily quiet time. Initially, I would listen to “The Joy of the Lord is my Strength,” by Rend Collective whilst walking in the park or sing whilst in the shower. It was then I realised the power of singing out praises to God, despite my low mood. It encouraged and uplifted my spirit as I took my eyes off my personal situation and lifted my eyes to Him. So now, I’ve added singing some worship songs back into my prayer time, usually at the beginning to put the focus back onto God.

Whether it’s singing in the shower or verbally calling out praise to God during your prayers – how can you worship God and give Him praise today?

From Trapped….to Finding Liberation

Here’s a poem I wrote back in January this year, after a tumultuous time:

Trapped….

…in a lift,

…..in my old job,

……between two cultures,

Indian & British,

….in my home life, caring,

People-pleasing.

…Self-critical thoughts,

…..In the past: the Winter of my soul,

……In the lie I wasn’t good enough.

..,,,,,,In being compliant,

Pushing myself too hard.

Finding Liberation…..

in making more time for my family,

In meeting new friends.

A new way to live:

Assertiveness;

Taking responsibility for my own actions,

Shaking off the lies, cutting off the haters.

New hobbies, like

Writing & blogging,

Found volunteering again

And painting & sketching.

In taking off the mask,

Being real,

Being myself.

Stepping into the truth,

Running towards a hopeful future.

Here’s to a clearer head,

Helpful & uplifting thoughts,

In good relationships

With my immediate family.

New life springs up

As the bulbs shoot

Up through the ground.

Rosebuds bursting into bloom,

Self-compassion and positive self-talk,

In God’s love and acceptance.

…..Through dancing to the radio

In the kitchen.

….. In laughter

With trusted, understanding old friends.

…In quietness and rest too.

Being a rebel and saying “No!”

Through worship and contemplation

in a different church tradition.

Copyright 2019, AT Kelly

Recommended Book: A Desert Transformed by Tracy Williamson

After recently reading “A Desert Transformed” by Tracy Williamson, a 40 day Christian Devotional book, I was really thankful for the insight it gave me. This was partly in going deeper in my relationship with God, but also bringing to light some areas of my life God wanted to bring healing and forgiveness into.

Each day’s reading consisted of a Bible passage, focusing on different aspects of our relationship with God, followed by some Tracy’s thoughts on what God was saying through those verses.

The past year has been a time of great change for me, having experienced a period of illness, followed by a decision to leave my previous job and seek God for where he wanted to be next. It’s been a time of recovery and healing, spiritually and emotionally, and God spoke to me powerfully through the pages of this book. Sometimes there were words of comfort in a time of grieving and sometimes it was revelation of stuff I’d been holding onto and God showing me how to surrender my pain to him. I realised there were things that God wanted to remove from my life that had been unhelpful and He had new things in store for me.

I’d recommend this book if you’re experiencing a difficult period in your life and need to see more clearly God’s hand at work. It encouraged me to see that even in times where I felt wasn’t doing much, God was still there, bringing new fruit into my life. There were also reminders of my identity in Christ, which I found helpful when I was struggling emotionally.

You can buy her book from Christian bookshops or use this link to buy online from Christian book shop, Eden.co.uk

I was given a free review copy of this book just before its release in the summer 2019.

The Good Shepherd

From Ezekiel 34:11-24: this passage speaks of the coming Hope of Jesus, when the Israelites were in exile in various places, towards the end of the Old Testament times in the Bible.

God promised to send His Good Shepherd to look after His people, some of whom had been “trampled on” by the leaders of Israel at the time. The poor were particularly targeted. This broke God’s heart and resulted in judgement on these corrupt leaders. However, God saw the long term need for a Shepherd who would lay down his life for His sheep, thus sending His only Son, Jesus, down to earth for us.

This ties in with the feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6, where Jesus saw that the people were “like sheep without a shepherd ” and had compassion on them.

Today, I know I can trust the Good Shepherd to lead me beside still waters and into green pastures. Can you trust Him to do the same for you too?

How confident do you feel sharing your experience of Mental Health?

A few months back, as part of my local Mental Health Trust’s Recovery College, I attended their course on “Understanding Depression.” One issue that came up was do we feel comfortable sharing that we are experiencing mental health problems? I realised that it depends on whom I’m with: definitely, if it’s a close and trusted friend; however, I’d be more hesitant to do so with someone not so close to me, say an acquaintance or someone I hardly know at church. Certainly on social media, I’d be unwilling to do so on my personal account. This comes from the odd “mental health generalisation” post that assumes that those doing criminal acts MUST have a mental health problem. I find this upsetting and annoying.

A key message from today’s course was that what we need from others when depressed is empathy, understanding, compassion and listening ear. To know that we are heard and valued, not judged nor labelled can help us to express the anguish we are enduring and ultimately help us move forward on our recovery journey!

I am ashamed to say that I do feel some self-stigma about my condition, because I am afraid of being labelled myself, but I’m going to attempt to overcome this by posting this blog to my personal Facebook account. Maybe my worst fear of being judged or shunned by those who know me won’t happen. It’s an experiment to challenge this core belief.

Do you feel able to share with others (maybe only those you feel safe with) your own experience of mental health difficulties?