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Family relationships, Mental Health, Trainer, Blogger, Writer, Wellbeing

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?

Mental Health

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

Mental Health, Trainer, Blogger, Writer, Wellbeing

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.

Mental Health

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?

Mental Health

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?

Family relationships, Mental Health, Trainer, Blogger, Writer, Wellbeing

A blast from the past…reflecting on my first publication, gratitude for surviving teen puberty and a calmer life!

Just before leaving for our family holiday, I came across my achievements folder, which included this old 1990 Wycombe High School magazine. I’d kept it as the editor selected my cartoon of the return from a Duke of Edinburgh expedition. Surprised that it had been included, particularly as I’d forgotten to add my name, it makes me smile.

Fast forward twenty nine years later, and it’s my elder son’s turn to experience the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh expedition: this time by canoe! At the award ceremony, I found tears of joy springing up, to see just how far he’s come in the past 2 or so years.

From a socially isolated , angry and mixed up teen, fighting the changes through puberty, to a well-balanced, thoughtful and caring young man who is confident in his own unique identity and able to express his views in a respectful and clear way. In fact, he shocked his fellow students and teachers whilst on the trip, by finding his voice by assertively directing each team member in their rowing, ensuring the group made it to their destination in time! I am thankful for all the good that have come out of my son’s difficulties these past few years, as God has brought healing and redemption to a hugely painful time in our family.

We have just returned from a week in the wet, wilds of the Scottish Borders, refreshed, refined and relaxed, having built new family memories, where we’ve been blessed by each other’s company and learned more patience and tolerance of each other’s weaknesses!

Mental Health

Beauty comes from within..

Just watched this video of @TulsiDivine108, about living her life with burns, after a horrific plane accident. It really moved me, but the key message I heard was that she realised that it was others’ judgements on her physical appearance that was a limitation, not herself. I hope this video inspires you today!

https://www.instagram.com/tv/BxxByktFmw-/?igshid=ypppalys0olk

Mental Health

A prophetic poem from “A Desert Transformed”: Tracy Williamson’s new 40 day devotional book

I am pleased to feature an extract from Tracy Williamson‘s soon-to-be-released devotional, “A Desert Transformed“, on my blog today. Tracy is one part of MBM ministries with Marilyn Baker.

This poem is part of Day 3’s Devotional on the woman at the well with Jesus (John 4:7, 27-28):

Please could you give me a drink?

Won’t you look into my face?
Let down your guard of distance,

Look child, my beloved one,

Can you not see, I thirst.

I thirst for love of you.
You know your own pain
And shield your face from me,
Lest you be hurt yet again.
I gaze on you, see your heartache,
The scars that hurt you deep within, And my heart aches with love for you.

But child, will you not look
And see how, in my own scars,
I bear your every wound, every sin?

Child, I love you,
Will you not come give me a drink?

“What drink can I give you?”
I hear you cry.

Do you not know, child?
I thirst for you, for your love,
For you to be with me
As I love to be with you.
I thirst to share my heart with you, For you to share yours with me. To open wide the door of wonder

In your heart, mind and soul.

Child, it is I, who stands at that door,

Yes, I who speak to you am He.
And I long to be with you,
And for you to be with me.

I see a dawning of hope in your eyes
But then you cry “But what can I give you?

I am empty, my love is so small.
I’ve failed and I don’t know how to be.”

I reach out my arms to you,
Child, I know, I know all.
Give me the drink of your very emptiness

And I will give you my streams of love,

Love welling up to eternity.

I gaze at you with all the longing of my heart, as you will see I am the answer
To all the longing of yours.

Child, beloved one, will you give me a drink?

And with a joy that bursts from my very core

I see you come and sit at my knee
And there you offer your drink to me.

Whilst on Retreat at Ffald-y-Brenin, nearly 2 years ago, I came across an open spring on the path I was walking, and God reminded me of John 4:11,13-14 (The Bible, NLT):

Jesus replied, “If only you knew the gift God had for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me and I would give you living water,”…..”Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give them will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

To see a visual of this passage really brought home to me my need to be constantly filled with this Living Water, God’s Holy Spirit, at a time when I was spiritually feeling really depleted. Tracy’s poem nudges me to look to Him again for all I need, whether feeling exhausted and in the desert or fully of energy and hopeful of the way ahead.

Have you asked God for His Living Water today, for whatever circumstances you find yourself in? Why not spend a few minutes now inviting Him to be your source, equipping you for the path ahead, receiving whatever He wants to give you now?

Mental Health

What happens once Mental Health Awareness week is over? #mhaw19

I’d hoped to have published this blog a few days ago, to coincide with the end of #mentalhealthawarenessweek. However, I’ve also been working on a short autobiographical story, which I’ve now submitted, which I needed to complete first.

I just wanted to share some helpful resources and activities that have improved my own mental health recently:

1. Running or Exercise

This is particularly helpful for overcoming anxiety. Check out the NHS Couch 2 5K app, over 9 weeks, it takes you from mainly walking, inter-dispersed with short periods of jogging, gradually building up to running solidly for 30 minutes, 3 times per week. By the end, you are running 5 kms. I started in January, and this was my 3rd attempt to complete it, so I was overjoyed when I finished Week 9, Run 3! The aim is to keep going with the running and I’m pleased to say I am, and do my best to do it 3 times per week. I am kind to myself if I don’t manage this!

2. Doing more of what you love

A few months back, I’d stopped doing a lot of what I usually enjoy, as I was depressed and lacking motivation. For me, going for a walk in the park, practising my drumming and writing are fun things which give me enjoyment. I had to go through a phase of pushing myself do 1 enjoyable thing a day, even if I didn’t feel like it! By doing these activities, my mood definitely improved.

3. Challenging unhelpful thoughts

I know I’ve blogged quite a bit on this activity but I find it works! Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) identifies your self-critical thoughts, acknowledges the emotions and body sensations you feel at the time, and then looks at the evidence for and against that critical thought. A new, more realistic truth is written down, and your emotions rated again, which helps reduce the negative emotions, thoughts and associated behaviours. This helps to lift your mood, as you think more realistic thoughts about yourself. You can ask your GP to refer you to your local Talking Therapies, or you can self -refer using the Single Point of Access (SPA) in some areas. There are also online computerised CBT courses available, such as Silver Cloud, which you can fit into your weekly schedule. Again your GP can refer you via your local Talking Therapies. As a Christian, I have also found memorising relevant Bible verses, to counteract the unhelpful thought too. Psalm 57: 3 reminds me that “My God will send forth his unfailing love and faithfulness.

4. Reaching out to others you trust for help and support

This takes courage, I know, if you’re feeling anxious or depressed. It may mean having to get over self critical thoughts of “I should be able to handle this myself” or worry about what others may think of you. I find those friends who aren’t judgemental, are kind and understanding are the ones I feel safe to talk with about how I feel. Sometimes our friends give us a fresh perspective and help us to see things more positively. Give someone a call, and have an honest chat or go out for a cuppa together.

5. Find out more about the mental health condition you are experiencing

Mind’s national website has an A-Z list of all things mental health, and recently I’ve found simple, informative pages on various conditions I’ve been researching. They also have a variety of guides on different conditions, including an Understanding Anxiety Guide and the different types of depression. They also have an online membership you can join with some good benefits, such as an online community.

Also, if you are a mental health service user or a carer, many mental health trusts have Recovery Colleges, which provide free courses on many topics relevant to mental health recovery, e.g. Understanding mental health conditions, personal recovery, managing stress, self-compassion and getting back into employment. Look up your local mental health trust website and search for “Recovery College” to find out about your local courses. In Central & North West London Foundation Health Trust, Recovery College courses and timetable can be found here.