Mental Health, Trainer, Blogger, Writer

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.

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, 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.

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, Trainer, Blogger, Writer

Learning the simple truth that LESS IS MORE!

I’m aware that it’s been 3 months since I last posted, and it felt liberating to finally put pen to paper earlier this week in preparation for a new blog post and metaphorically blow away the cobwebs from my mind!

Life has been tough, resulting in me wrestling with unhelpful, self-critical thoughts and doubts about my future. I’ve chosen to hold onto my mustard-seed sized faith in God, even when I can’t see more than a few centimetres ahead of me. Psalm 57:5 (NLT) says “I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.”

Also, Ps 32:8 (NIV):

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Both these verses fill me with hope that God has a plan for me, even if I don’t see that crystal clearly right now.

CBT thought sheets have become the order of my day: my most recently tackled thought when reframed was “Although I’ve not written a blog post recently, I am writing regularly, e.g. journalling and at my writing group, and can express myself well. Remember I won 3rd Prize in an Association of Christian Writers’ Journalism competition!” The aim is to come up with a more realistic, rational truth that overcomes the unhelpful thought! That more realistic thought has led to an almost instant change in behaviour, and resulted in this blog post!

The other lesson I have learned is that I have overloading myself with daily tasks, and need to do less. This past week, I have experimented with how much I have planned into my day, purposely making my ‘To Do” list longer some days and seeing how this has affected my mood and how productive I was as a result. Then on other days, doing the opposite: putting in a fewer tasks (more realistic), again seeing how I felt on achieving these and how productive I was. Interestingly, it was on the latter days that I felt better, was more productive and had a greater sense of achievement. This is in contrast to putting too much into my day, falling behind, rushing and hence being less productive and feeling I’ve not achieved enough. On the days with less tasks, I had the choice to add in another activity if I had time and the inclination.

My daily plan for this coming week involves 1 activity in the morning (writing, housework or some admin that needs doing ), having lunch, possibly a rest, e.g. Ignatian meditation or progressive muscle relaxation. Then another activity (prayer group, meet a friend or something enjoyable for me) in the afternoon. It’s taken several months to acknowledge my limits and accept that I’ve been expecting too much of myself and falling into that worldly trap of perfectionism (a battle that I have fought with myself since childhood, I think!). I know I am not alone in thinking this way – Katharine Welby-Roberts writes about her own struggles with perfectionism in her Inner Conflict chapter in her book “I Thought There Would Be Cake” (SPCK, 2017). The other thing I’ve noticed is the automatic negative thoughts racing through my mind have subsided somewhat, as the pressure is taken off myself to be defined by how much I achieve each day. I am learning to be kinder and more accepting of myself, regardless of how much I do, and know that God loves me just as I am, with my imperfections and weaknesses!

Reflection:

Are there any unhelpful thoughts that are affecting your mood? If so, what might be a more realistic, rational thought to tell yourself instead?

Are there any areas of your life where you are overloading yourself? If so, bring it to God, and ask for His wisdom to prioritise what’s important and what can wait.

What can you do to find some rest/ do something relaxing or enjoyable this week?