Christmas, Mental Health, productivity

Guest blog: How to find motivation for goals set before Christmas

As Christmas creeps closer, Jo Robinson, life coach and writing for wellbeing facilitator talks about finding motivation as part of the lead up to my Coping with Christmas workshops:

“It was good timing that Anita asked me to guest blog about motivation, as I could feel my motivation flagging halfway through November as we approached the Christmas season.

Blocks to Motivation

As soon as talk of Christmas starts and the festive adverts come on the television, a voice inside me says, ‘Oh, maybe I can leave that until the New Year?’ whenever an unresolved goal or life admin task rears its ugly head. However, the trouble with putting things off until the New Year is that those annoying tasks I’m dodging tend to mount up and spoil Christmas. They’re looming over me so I can’t relax and then January turns into an anxiety-inducing ball of avoidance.

Thankfully, I’ve finally become more aware of my self-sabotaging habits, and this year I’ve promised myself that I’ll avoid these by getting going on my ‘to-do list’ before my Christmas break starts.

‘How do I get the motivation to do this?’ I hear you ask.

How to find motivation

1. Do a brain dump. Write a list and get everything that’s bothering you down on paper – that can be a longer free-write/brain dump to start with, which can then be used to create a numbered list of things that you want to start work on.

My list:

a. Write and post two blog posts on my website

b. Prep for a workshop for late January

c. Do research into funding opportunities

d. Get more decluttering done in my flat.

2. Find your why. In order to get motivated to do a goal it’s always best to start with why you want to do it. For me, I want to slow down in December to spend more time with friends and family, then be totally work-free over the Christmas week rather than thinking about those things that I need to start in the New Year.

How to make your list achievable step-by-step

The ideal way of deciding if it’s achievable is to look at your diary and decide a deadline. My deadline is Friday 17th December, so I have just over 3 weeks left. Can I realistically do all the things on my list in that period and if I can’t, can I do parts of them, or cross them off my list?

My Blog: I’ve already drafted two posts, so it would take two days max to get them finished and posted.

My Workshop: I’ve got a meeting set up next week to discuss a potential new workshop

Funding plan: I’ve discussed a funding grant with a friend and discovered that the deadline is Friday 5th December

Decluttering: When am I next going near the charity shops?

The reason I work out my deadline is so that I can ‘reverse engineer’ my tasks – I look at where I have slots of time available and put them in my diary in advance. This enables me to break my goals down into manageable steps, prioritising them in order of importance, which also helps to prepare the different projects.

Just going through this process has increased my motivation; I mentally feel more ready, and it seems to have boosted the proactive part of my brain. It’s conquered the procrastination which was hindering my motivation, which is a reason to celebrate!

I also find talking my plans through with a fellow entrepreneur friend like Anita, or having an ‘action partner’ to check in with helps to keep me accountable and on target. If I’m feel stuck or overwhelmed, it’s good to have a supportive ear to give me a new way of seeing things, or to just listen to me.

Now that I have a plan in place, I have put the items in my diary around my current plans. It’s easy to get distracted, or say yes to last minute invitations in December, so having the tasks in my phone and paper diary, will help to keep them at the forefront of my mind.

If I’m tight for time, or not in the mood, I use the Pomodoro Technique. I set a timer for 30 minutes and get to work on a task. Then I have a five-minute break, and, if I have time after that do another 30 minutes. I use this technique for dealing with emails as it focuses my mind and enables me to use my time more effectively.

Rewards

In my experience, setting myself rewards a long way ahead isn’t a good motivational tool. I have found that daily bite-sized rewards work more effectively than weekly or monthly rewards as they keep my motivation going. I use simple things like ‘If you get this post finished today, you can watch Netflix for an hour,’ or ‘If you tidy up after dinner, you can have an extra half an hour in bed tomorrow.’ The sort of things a parent might say to a child to make them do their homework!

Another effective technique is to write down what the consequences will be if I don’t get my list done:

  • How will I feel if I don’t get my tasks done by 17th December?
  • How will it affect my time over Christmas?
  • Who else will it affect?

Answering these questions is usually all the motivation I need to keep me going!

I hope these tips have helped you as writing this post has already boosted my motivation!

What is your procrastination list for December?    Write this down and choose at least one goal to work on, breaking it down into smaller steps if needed?  Feel free to share yours below…and banish those January Blues.”

Jo Robinson is a Writing for Wellbeing Practitioner and Life Coach. She leads therapeutic writing workshops for people who want to increase their social engagement and use writing as a tool for creativity, stress management, and self-expression. A member of the Lapidus Therapeutic Writing Community, Jo has run workshops for several major organisations, including Mind, Hestia, and homeless charity St. Mungos. From her own lived experience of mental health issues, she is passionate about the transformative way that therapeutic writing can help people change the way people think, feel, and act, in order to live happier and more engaged lives.

Find out more about her business on her website or check her out on Instagram @thisisjotoo .

 

Mental Health, New Year, Wellbeing

3 Things that are helping me survive Lockdown 3.0

Happy February, well, that sounds more timely than Happy New Year, as this is my 1st blog post of 2021! I’ve been a bit torn as to what the topic would be, but I think that as we are drawn into a new month of lockdown, it’s important to share what may help you get through.

Last week, Jo Robinson & I led our workshop on Winter Wellness, and part of the session included discussing what our mental health challenges are in this season, as well as what helps us to overcome them.

1. A small, but powerful, action for me has been getting out for a daily walk. Yes, some days they have been quite short when I’ve felt tired or it’s raining, but getting out into daylight exposes us to natural light, which in turn can generate Vitamin D in our bodies. I also supplement this with 30 minutes sitting in front of my light box, that simulates daylight to compensate for the shorter days, and hopefully tops up my Vitamin D.

2. Staying social connected is another essential for me, and part of our social wellness. I realised when I left my previous education role that I really missed working as part of a team and how important social stimulation is for me. This was really brought home to me in the first lockdown when I couldn’t just meet up with a friend for coffee or a walk. So I have made a commitment to myself to reach out to someone daily, whatever that looks like: phone call, zoom call or a socially distanced walk (although this is happening less as we’re on such a high alert level for Covid). Research has shown that by looking outward towards others helps promote happiness and takes us away from unhelpful inner ruminating or self-centredness. With #TimetoTalk Day last Thursday, it’s more important than ever that we look out for each other and be prepared to be more honest about our mental health.

3. Being creative at least a few times a week, ideally daily. Back in lockdown 2, doing some kind of Christmas craft kept me sane and focused me on something constructive aside from work and managing the home. I made Christmas decorations for friends’ Christmas presents, worked on a wooden tree Christmas sign and designed a nativity stained glass window for our front window as part of our church’s advent light festival. Ok, I’ll admit that post- Christmas we mightn’t have the motivation to do so much, but just trying out even a simple card making activity or writing some thoughts down can help our minds to switch off and stay concentrated in the moment. I’ve started bullet journalling and am currently doing a doodle art course with Mind in Harrow which is helping me to manage my stress and anxiety better.

I could talk about other areas that I’ve found helpful but keeping things simple is important at the moment too, especially if we’re struggling with motivation. See my previous blog on Managing your mental health for more ideas.

So what things are helping you to survive lockdown? What not have a go at writing them down, so that when you’re bored or at a loss as to what to do, you can look at your list to remind you of what helps and to inspire you?

Christmas, freedom, Mental Health, Wellbeing, writing

Merry Christmas from Flourish!

Peace like a river.

Exhaustion like a smothering blanket

Yet there is escape,

There is freedom.

No longer weighed down

By the chains that bound me.

TRULY FREE.

Inexplicable relief & joy,

Stepping out of the shadows

Of the person that I used to be.

God, You are good.

Thank you for your healing work,

Unimaginable before

Yet here in the moment.

Though the doubt tried to divert me

From Your Truth, it hasn’t succeeded.

Even when it tries again to tie me down

I say, “No! Enough is enough!

Unafraid now to stand up to the lies.

They fall like tin soldiers,

Rat-tat-tatting to the ground.

There is space,

A place again to breathe.

No more critical inner voice to pull me down.

Freedom. Peace. Time to be ME.

No more put downs

Just a stronger inner voice

That speaks in a calm, clear voice :

“No more, no more punishment.

Peace on Earth, mercy mild.”

The Good News brought to us by the Jesus Child.

So many years trying to fathom it all out

Yet there it is before me,

Within my reach,

Mysterious yet profound.

Copyright © AT Kelly 2020

I just wanted to end the year by sending you my new poem , partly on a Christmas theme. It’s been such an odd year, no one could have predicted what was to come.

But I’d like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas, whatever that looks like for you. I pray you’ll be able to take the day as it comes and remember the good things, no matter how small and simple they are.

I look forward to greeting you again in the New Year, and just wanted to make you aware that I’ll be running an online Winter Wellness workshop on Thursday 21 January in the evening. Please email info@flourishwell.org to register your interest. More details to follow…

Mental Health, Wellbeing

What I Learned From Being on Retreat – a Spiritual Reflection

Whilst reading Dr Kate Middleton’s Refuel book about managing stress and avoiding burnout, one piece of advice really stood out. She talked about taking some time out, even a few days, to rest and recover.


Fortunately, I’d been watching an online retreat from the Royal Foundation of St. Katharine’s and discovered that they were open for overnight stays. Swiftly I decided to book a two-day retreat for the following week. I couldn’t wait! After several months of being unable to find any respite, (I am a carer to one of my sons with special needs), I had become quite desperate for some space to myself. It gave me something to look forward to, kept me motivated for the wait I had to endure.

I was quite busy beforehand and didn’t really have time to plan ahead as to what I’d do whilst there. I started packing the day before but kept it to a minimum so that I could practise some simplicity whilst there. However, I include some items to pamper myself with, such as nail varnish, a face pack and an uplifting shower gel (to name but a few items!)

Statue of St. Katharine
The garden at the Royal Foundation

On the spiritual front, I also packed some Christian books to help me to destress and focus more on God. I was able to finish ‘If Not Now, When?’ by Fernando de Paula: a really helpful book, showing me how to better live in the moment and value each day that God has given me. I started reading this during lockdown but wasn’t in the best place to receive it. Over time my improved mood has meant that I have been more motivated and hence more open to completing the activities at the end of each chapter. On some level I’ve been able to let go of the past, feeling more positive and looking forward to what God has in store for me.

I have continued with Refuel and the chapter on staying calm that discussed practising mindfulness and introduced an exercise to try out really stood out. Previous chapters had looked at 1 Kings 19: where Elijah has just defeated the prophets of Baal and was experiencing a low period after the adrenaline rush of this event. I reread this passage and contemplated how God refuelled him – Kate made the point before there was any healing for Elijah God made him rest, eat and drink. I was thankful to be in the tranquillity of St Katharine’s that was already providing these things. The food there was amazing, not having to cook, having healthy, gourmet dishes, really helped my mood and physical body. I felt challenged to be more mindful of making healthier and appetising meals on arriving home, increasing my fruit and vegetable intake that I’m sure my family will appreciate the more appetising bit!

Slowing down my daily pace also helped and I’m aiming to maintain this in even small ways, now too. I was kind to myself about relaxing my quiet time in the mornings so that it didn’t feel so rushed or a tick box exercise. The first morning I attended Morning Prayer in the Chapel and focussed on the liturgy and just being present in the moment. It felt so good to just breathe and ‘be’ a bit. No agenda, no plans apart from breakfast, lunch and dinner! I decided to do some writing for my mental health memoir around the theme of retreats!

The weather was beautiful, so I could sit out in their garden in the afternoon to eat lunch or read a book. I loved just enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face. I found journaling my thoughts really helpful, sometimes turning these into prayers for the issues I was grappling with.

I’d planned to meet up with an old friend living nearby and we met over a coffee at the Yurt Café, also run by the Foundation. It was a glorious sunny day to be sitting outside. It was wonderful to catch up on the past 2 years or so and how our kids were doing. In fact, it was a Spirit-filled time where we were able to share and pray for each other, picking up our friendship where we’d left off.

From the library I’d borrowed a few books: a meditation with art book by Sr Wendy and Surprised by Joy by CS Lewis, the first part of his autobiography. It was interesting to read about his childhood and where his Christian beliefs had started from. It was useful to see his writing style to feed into my own memoir writing too.

Canary Wharf

There was also plenty of time for solitude too: I woke early each day and took a walk down to the River Thames, a short walk from the Royal Foundation. One day I walked via Shadwell Basin to Wapping, whilst the next day I walked in the opposite direction to Canary Wharf , giving me the space to enjoy God’s natural and manmade creations which were awesome and quite overwhelming with the towering buildings! I saw the sunrise on Day 2 and caught some great light for my photos, including views into the City, across the River and of Canary Wharf. Sometimes I listened to worship music on my way but at other times enjoyed the silence and beauty around me.

I found the liturgy comforting in the Chapel services. Isaiah 43:18-20 leapt out at me:

“I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert

To give drink to my chosen people.”

God often speaks to me through water imagery and these verses gave me hope, a sense of being refilled and refreshed, ready to return to the real world.

My time away may have been different to previous retreats but one that blessed and uplifted me, restored and renewed me. As I assimilate back to family life, I intend to keep some of these practises alive to remind me of how God spoke to me and how to daily live this out.

Is there some way or some place you can get some quiet time to be with God? What does that look like for you? Perhaps diarise some time to make this happen in the next week or so.

Mental Health, Wellbeing, writing

How Writing helped me to survive lockdown and better manage my mental health

With World Mental Health Day just around the corner, I want to reflect on how all things writing that have helped me get through the past 6 months. Part of that has been practising what I preach on writing for wellbeing and recovery.

Credit: pixabay.com

Now, don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t always been easy. There was a point in lockdown where I was struggling with depression, in part due to running away from how I was feeling. It was at that point that someone challenged me to start writing down how I felt again and face my fears. It took a while and initially took the form of single sentences acknowledging the negative thought, eg. “I’m not good enough at this.” Then it evolved more into journalling, a mixture of feelings and reflections on why I felt like that. Over time it has become a daily practice, sometimes a paragraph, sometimes a page or two, depending on my mood. In my more creative moments it has been a poem or blog. The result has been a lifting of my mood, fresh perspective on my situation, and a greater ability to problem solve. And so I’m coming to terms with being a poet and often this is how I express my deepest thoughts or process a situation I’m going through.

Tomorrow (9 October) to celebrate World Mental Health Day, I will be running a session using poetry to express how we feel, alongside Amanda Epe and Jo Robinson. I’m excited and looking forward to sharing some of my own poetry. If you’d like to find out more or book your space, click here.

Writing can take many forms, and it’s about finding out what works for you. Self-expression is important. It can help us better understand ourselves and take those thoughts buzzing round our heads and get them out into the open or onto the page.

What can you do today to acknowledge your thoughts and get them down on paper?

Wellbeing

Exhaustion

Burnt out, weary, gasping for breath,

feeling oblivious yet spurring myself on because that’s what I do.

When I feel like this,

automatic responses against my inner

voice to stop,

calm down, take a deep breath

STOP.

Why is it so hard to stop?

To give myself permission to let go of

the relentless ‘to do’ list.

It’s so important to take care of myself

and break the childhood habits of caring for others at the expense of myself.

Memories, fears, past anxieties triggered. Can I get past them, break the cycle?

Only by giving them to God.

Letting Him take the burden.

Copyright © 2020 AT Kelly