Tag Archives: mental health

Weddings, Clients, and Meetings … Oh My! (Guest Post)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Weddings, Clients, and Meetings … Oh My!

by Steph Beth Nickel

Okay, so, I only attended one wedding this month, but the title reads better because I pluralized it. As writers, we’re allowed a little poetic license from time to time.

My son and brand new daughter-in-law had a small ceremony because … COVID. So many friends and family members couldn’t make the trip. I will forever be thankful that my husband and I made it to Saskatchewan from Ontario for the weekend.

Even though we were only away for four days, travel included, it meant we had to shuffle a lot of other responsibilities.

Deadline extensions + a tsunami of tasks + a sense of overwhelm often leads to too much YouTube and not enough time at my computer.

So, how can we handle our schedule when we’d rather vegetate on the couch or pull the covers over our head and sleep for “just five more minutes”?

Here are some suggestions that have either worked for me in the past or I’m planning to implement in the next little while:

Create a list of everything you want to get done. The more detailed the list, the better.

Prioritize the list. Self-care may be a buzzword these days, but getting adequate rest, eating well, keeping physically active, and doing something that feeds your spirit on a regular basis are vital for not only your wellbeing but also for your ability to effectively complete the tasks on your To-Do List. Be sure to include self-care on your list of priorities.

Decide what you can get done each day within reason. I make a mean To-Do List, and because I’m content moving unfinished tasks to the next day, it’s hard for me to create realistic expectations for each day. I’m getting better, but it’s a process for sure.

Back out of at least some responsibilities that don’t rank high on your priority list. This is tough for many of us. People count on us. We don’t like to say no when they ask us to do something, especially something “small.” (Don’t forget the adage about the straw and the camel’s back.) Like me, you may be eclectically interested and eclectically involved. It’s hard to know what to set aside—even temporarily—but it’s a necessary skill.

Assign specific tasks to specific days. Trying to do a little bit of everything on the same day often leads to a sense that you haven’t accomplished anything significant. Completing a single task before moving onto the next one has its benefits, but when that isn’t possible, it’s important to determine how much of one task you will accomplish before moving on. Optionally, you can set a time limit and see how much of the project you can get done in an hour or two for instance. Be content with your progress, and move on, physical and mentally, to the next task.

Beware of mental fog and hair-trigger emotions. We’ve all been there. Unable to concentrate on the task at hand. Snapping at a friend or family member over a non-issue. Feeling that anger, frustration, or anxiety forming in the pit of our stomach. Should we push through? Take a break? Walk away and start fresh tomorrow? Because I work from home and create my own schedule, most times, I have the opportunity to add the task to my next day’s schedule. Even if this isn’t an option, taking a stretch break, reading a novel for 5-10 minutes, or just closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths can make a surprisingly big difference.

Have some fun. “All work and no play …” and all that. Is there something you look forward to every day? I enjoy watching an episode of a show on Netflix or Disney Plus with my hubby each evening. Instead of watching “just one more YouTube episode,” I feel more refreshed when I take a little time to read. And, of course, being an extra extrovert, I love meeting a friend for coffee and a l-o-n-g chat.

How to you deal with overwhelm in your life?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Working from Home (Guest Post)

Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Working from Home

by Steph Beth Nickel

More people than ever are working from home. Even before the pandemic hit, more and more people were starting home businesses. Over the past 14 months, many employees who would typically work in an offsite office have had to work from home.

There are several advantages.

Dress pants and shoes last longer.

If your work includes Zoom calls (oh, to have been in on the ground floor of that business), you have the option of wearing PJ bottoms or leggings and going barefoot e-ver-y day! And if you don’t connect with coworkers and/or clients via Zoom, you have the option of wearing comfy clothes head to toe.

You can set the alarm clock for later—if at all.

Who needs to get up early when they don’t have to eat, dress for work, put on makeup, and get out of the house in time to make it to the office by a specific time? (You don’t even have to shower every day. Who am I to judge?)

Without the commute, you save time.

Now that the commute lasts only as long as it takes to walk from your bedroom to the computer, you’re saving loads of time every single workday. And, just think, no rush hour traffic morning or night.

Food and drink are readily at hand.

Eat the lunch you brought or head to a local restaurant with your coworkers? No need to make that decision. The kitchen is only a few feet away. Need a coffee refill? Who’s to stop you?

You have less interaction with difficult coworkers, supervisors, and customers.

Once you’re into the flow of your work, you can keep going until it’s finished unless something truly pressing comes to your inbox. Escaping the daily interaction with others who cause you stress can be a blessing.

There are, of course, drawbacks as well.

You may need to increase your leisurewear budget.

When it became apparent that the first lockdown was going to last for a while, several fashion designers turned to making new lines of leisurewear and scaling right back on office wear, vacation wear, dresses, etc. Many of us have more leggings and joggers in our wardrobe than we ever imagined we’d own.

You may not have to depend on an alarm clock to start your day.

It’s wonderful to go to bed knowing we don’t have to wake up at a specific time. Plus, staying snuggled under the covers instead of jumping up before we’re ready … BONUS! However, if we find it too tempting and we don’t set “office hours” for ourselves, we may just spend too much time comfy and cozy.

No commute time.

For many people, that commute was their only opportunity to read a book or listen to a podcast. And at the end of the day, it provided the perfect opportunity to decompress before switching gears and tending to home and family responsibilities. It’s hard to factor in the equivalent when household chores, family demands, and work are pressing in 24/7.

Food and drink are readily at hand.

You’ve heard of the COVID 15/20/25. Yes? The food and drink that are readily at hand can lead to weight gain (and the need for the aforementioned leisurewear budget increase).

On a more serious note, the emotional and mental stress that the pandemic has placed on us has led to many people not having the wherewithal to eat healthy and stay active. They may sleep more and gain weight, which can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and guilt. If you’re having trouble dealing with the additional challenges this past year has laid on your shoulders, don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend, a counsellor, or a mental health professional.

Less interaction and other voices.

Extroverts are likely missing the daily face-to-face interaction with other human beings. Even introverts benefit from these interactions. And while we may love our family members to bits, “Mom, Mom, Mom …” and “Honey, have you seen my …” can weigh on us after a while.

I love the freedom of working from home, but it does pose its fair share of challenges.

If you work from home, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages you’ve discovered?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Is It Trust or Denial? (Guest Post)

Pink tulips with text "Trust v Denial"
Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay
Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

Is It Trust or Denial?

by Steph Beth Nickel

Do people who always seem at peace with whatever life may throw at them drive you crazy?

(Psst, that’s a rhetorical question. You don’t have to share your answer. Maybe not so rhetorical actually … since you probably should answer it for yourself.)

Let me transport you back in time three decades or so. When I was a brand new mom, my family and I moved to a new city.

There were members in our new church home who were going through what I then considered unimaginable hardships, including one family whose young son had succumbed to cancer. As the mother of a two-and-a-half-month-old baby boy, I couldn’t imagine why God would bless a family with a child and then take that child away.

Oh, I could recite the cliches! But I didn’t know any of them to be true—not deep down in my heart.

As time went by and I got to know some of these people better, I realized they weren’t just spouting platitudes but actually trusted that God knew what was best—even when their situation was difficult and heartbreaking.

Trust, especially trust in the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), is a remarkable and precious thing.

But what we think is trust can actually be denial, a squashing of our feelings, doubts, and fears.

This summer, my second son is getting married. Because of COVID, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be able to attend the ceremony. (He and his bride-to-be live two provinces away.)

I’ve braced myself for this pretty much since Joshua informed me that he and Ericka had set a date. Still, it was more with a sense of fatalism than acceptance that I dealt with the reality of the situation.

And then, one day, I decided to be completely honest with myself. While I may have locked away my emotions, it didn’t mean they weren’t there. It didn’t mean that, if I gave them permission, the tears wouldn’t fall. It didn’t mean that I was truly accepting that God knows best in this, and every, circumstance.

COVID has taken many lives, and my heart goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one or is facing an ongoing battle with this horrific virus.

But, as we all know, COVID has struck a fatal blow in other areas as well—job security, relationships, our peace of mind, and on and on and on.

There’s no denying it.

And yet, there is light in the darkness, hope in the despair, trust in the denial.

But the way to find real peace is not by denying the struggles we face—physical, emotional, and spiritual.

We don’t need to cling to platitudes or cliches.

We don’t need to deny how we feel—or that we’ve locked away our emotions.

We don’t need to paste on a happy face and pretend we’re a-okay.

But if we want to come to the place of authentic trust, we must press in and get to know the God of All Comfort better than we ever have before.

That’s what I plan to do. How about you?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Proceed with Caution (Guest Post)

Proceed with Caution

by Steph Beth Nickel

The Old Normal

Are you ready to get back to the Old Normal?

COVID vaccines are being rolled out. Hopeful would-be travellers are booking airline tickets. Restaurants are opening for in-person dining.

While there will be continued restrictions for some time, we’re all ready to return to pre-COVID schedules … Or are we?

Ready for the New New Normal?

Truth be told, when the first lockdown happened, I was more than happy to set aside many of my obligations. (Of course, like most people, I didn’t know how long “the New Normal” was going to last.)

And here we are, twelve months in, and I have a confession to make. I will not be quick to fill up my schedule, at least not with what was on it before.

What are you looking forward to most? What is something you will not be adding to your schedule even when it is again an option?

A Year in Review

Instead of working in the church office, I’m now spending my days editing and writing from home. (Shh, don’t tell, but I’m also listening to podcasts, reading, and watching some TV shows as well.)

Because others have stepped up to take on the responsibilities in the sound room at church, even though we’re allowed to meet in person, I find it hard to motivate myself to get back into the routine of attending weekly services. Yes, I know it’s important. Yes, I know watching the live-stream isn’t the same. Yes, I know I’ll get back into the rhythm. However, we’re in a time of transition in our congregation, and things aren’t as they once were.

What changes have you weathered this past year? What’s something you found particularly challenging? What’s something you actually enjoyed?

Joys and Challenges of 2021

A year ago, I would sit on my couch, overcome with how surreal it all was. I would spend minimal time in Walmart—because that was where a panic attack threatened to set in, something that had never happened to me before. I lost touch with many people, people I could have contacted via Facebook, email, or phone.

And now …

I’m proceeding with caution.

While I’ve made some reservations (hotel and car rentals) for the summer in hopes of attending my son’s wedding in Saskatchewan, I haven’t purchased the airline tickets yet. Will they allow us to travel if we haven’t had both shots? Will our son and his wife be able to come from Scotland? (At this point, it doesn’t look like it.) Should we just postpone our plans until next summer, when we can all travel together, and watch the wedding via Zoom?)

I’m taking precautions while spending time with friends (and I did go to church this past weekend). This makes me aware just how much I need in-person connectedness. To a large extend, I had supressed my need for this kind of fellowship. After spending three hours chatting with a young friend over lunch, I realized how much of my joie de vivre had been lying dormant. (This “extrovert on steroids” can only remain alone for so long.)

Now that spring has arrived and things are looking up, I’m better able to shake off the physical and emotional exhaustion and actually look forward to my days, most of them anyway.

What joys and challenges are you facing?

Most Importantly

While we’re all ready to say goodbye to COVID-19, we can’t forget that we’ve learned some important lessons during the past year.

It’s important to be considerate of and patient with others, especially those who don’t see things as we do.

It’s difficult to be confined with others for prolonged periods of time—even those we love dearly.

“Re-entry” also has its fair share of challenges.

The mental and emotional ramifications of the pandemic have been as drastic as the physical ones—for many, even more drastic.

Scrolling social media often does more harm than good.

As restrictions begin to ease, I encourage you to proceed with caution. Remember the lessons you’ve learned over the past year. And extend grace to others—and to yourself.

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Not Always Merry and Bright (Guest Post)

Not Always Merry and Bright

by Steph Beth Nickel

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Struggling?

Loss. Illness. Loneliness. Isolation. Fear.

Regardless of the year, Christmas can be a difficult and depressing season for many people. But 2020? Enough said.

You may be having a challenging day. Simply getting through it may be all you can do.

Here a few ideas that may make your day a little easier:

Even though it’s Christmas, reach out to a family member or friend if you need to chat even for a short time.

Work on a craft project. You don’t have to be good at it.

Write in your journal. It can be a great way to work through how you’re feeling. Don’t censor yourself. No one else ever has to read your words.

Watch your favourite movie. One that makes you laugh rather than cry may be a good option.

Listen to uplifting music. Some people like to listen to music that reflects their mood. I’m a fan of listening to music that reflects the emotions I want to feel.

Read a book. How about one that has been sitting on your To Be Read list for far too long?

Read the Christmas story in Luke 2.

Take a nap.

And if you’re up for it …

Make a list of things to be thankful for.

Connect with someone else who may need to hear a friendly voice today.

Know Someone Who’s Struggling?

We must never forget those having a rough time of it. (Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25 about doing for “the least of these.”)

Here are some ways to reach out to someone during what, for some, is the Most Difficult Time of the Year:

Connect via Zoom—or another virtual means. Remember to include the children if you have little ones. For some, a child’s smiling face can go a long way to making them feel better. Plus, it helps your children learn that not everyone has a merry Christmas.

Create a Spotify playlist of your favourite uplifting music and share it with someone who needs the encouragement.

Pick up the telephone and call.

While you’re chatting ask if there’s anything you can do for the other person.

Pray for the individual you called. If they’re uncomfortable having you do so on the phone (or on Zoom), let them know you’ll pray when you hang up—and then do it.

Drop off Christmas dinner (or a plate of cookies) on someone’s porch. (Attach an encouraging note.)

If it’s impractical to drop off food, a card with a handwritten note could go a long way to cheering a lonely soul today.

Commit (even to yourself) to stay in touch. Throughout the new year call, visit, or fire off a note at least once a month.

While today won’t be merry and bright for many people, I pray the Lord will bring you the “peace that passes understanding.”

I also pray that He will increase our compassion for those He brings into our life and that He gives us opportunities to show them His love, the love that sent His Son to earth so long ago.

Have a Blessed Christmas, one and all!

Tweetables

  • Christmas can be a difficult and depressing season for many people. And 2020? Enough said. (click to tweet)
  • Simply getting through Christmas may be all you can do. (click to tweet)
  • Even though it’s Christmas, reach out to a family member or friend if you need to chat. (click to tweet)
  • We must never forget those having a rough time of it. (click to tweet)
  • Connect with someone who is struggling. (click to tweet)
  • Throughout the new year call, visit, or fire off a note at least once a month to someone who is having a tough time. (click to tweet)
Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Review: Get Out of Your Head, by Jennie Allen

Get out of Your Head: Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts, by Jennie Allen

Get Out of Your Head, by Jennie Allen (Waterbrook, 2020)

Subtitle: “Stopping the Spiral of Toxic Thoughts”

In Get Out of Your Head, Jennie Allen declares that “The greatest spiritual battle of our generation is being fought between our ears.” [Chapter 1] The thrust of this book is that we have a choice to control out thoughts—even when it’s hard, repetitive work.

She’s quick to warn that we can’t “think our way out of mental illness.” But even there, learning to redirect our thoughts can work with the medication.

The principle of this book is that toxic thought spirals can be interrupted and redirected, and that they begin with wrong beliefs about God or with not internalizing what we know to be true about God. In offering strategies, she lays out some common lies, their opposing truth, a Scripture to hold onto, and a stated choice we can make. These choices make up a number of chapters.

The writing style is candid, informal, and personal, as if the author were speaking to an intimate group of listeners. She uses her own experience as the main source of examples, so readers know she’s lived what she’s teaching.

I came to the book after the Get Out of Your Head teaching series through Right Now Media, which I almost didn’t listen to. The opening anecdotes and peppy delivery were not what I relate to. I’m of a different generation, temperament, and have different interests. However, it didn’t take long to recognize helpful teaching. After listening to the full series, I found the book through my local library’s Hoopla app.

If negative emotions and toxic thoughts are familiar battlegrounds for you, or even if you feel like you’ve lost that fight a long time ago, Get Out of Your Head may be just the resource you need to regain mental ground.

I love how it focuses on truth about who God is and how it equips us to recognize the lie at the root of our feelings and then to choose to focus on the truth instead.

Jennie Allen’s website says she’s a “Bible teacher, author, and the founder and visionary of IF:gathering.” For more about the author and her ministry, and for a free “Get Out of Your Head Toolkit,” visit jennieallen.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Resolutions Worth Keeping (Guest Post)

Resolutions Worth Keeping

by Steph Beth Nickel

Whether we call them resolutions or goals, this is the time of year many of us consider the 12 months before us and what we want to change.

Instead of trying to change everything at once, why not set monthly goals (aka resolutions)?

Below are six suggestions. I look forward to hearing what goals you plan to achieve in 2018.

January

During December healthy eating habits often get set aside. Various social engagements and family gatherings can make it difficult to eat as we should. January is a great month to begin eating well once again.

If healthy eating is new to you, it’s best to take small steps in the right direction. For example, increase your water intake the first week of January; then, the second week, add more vegetables to your diet. During the third week, begin to limit your intake of restaurant and processed food. The last week, begin to limit dessert to the weekend. (These recommendations are for informational purposes only. It is advisable to consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet.)

Of course, it’s important to continue with these new habits throughout the year, but always remember to “factor in the cheats” and give yourself grace if you revert to old habits.

February

Since Valentine’s Day occurs in February, it’s a good month to schedule more time with our loved ones. There is always more work to be done and we rarely feel as if there are enough hours in the day. However, it’s vital that we devote undivided time to those closest to us—and to others. What a great month to begin doing so!

May

It’s important to get adequate physical activity. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is only one reason exercise should be part of our daily routine. When we’re active for even 30 minutes a day, we’re likely to notice the benefits. Exercise helps us think more clearly, work more efficiently, and sleep more soundly. It even improves our outlook and mental health. These are all great reasons to find something we enjoy—or can at least stick with—and get more active.

June

Hopefully, you’ve done so already, but if not, this is a good time of year to factor in downtime. Pick up a book you’ve been wanting to read. Take up a new hobby, one that relaxes you. Schedule a regular date night with your spouse or BFF. In our high pressure society, we feel as if we must be productive at all times. However, our physical, emotional, and mental health will almost certainly suffer if we don’t “step back and take a breath” regularly.

September

The kids are going back to school. Sounds like a good time to take a course. There are several free and inexpensive online options. Interested in sign language? Photography? Creative writing? You name it, there are countless courses available. Udemy, Teachable, and Reedsy are only three sites you can check out.

October

While not a proponent of Halloween, I was inspired to challenge you to do something that scares you. There has been a meme going around Facebook for some time asking what readers would do if they knew they couldn’t fail. Maybe it’s time to risk failure to do something we’ve been putting off, something we either know we should do or something we really want to do but haven’t. Let’s face our fears this month and see what happens.

And there you have it … examples of doable resolutions worth keeping.

Tweetables

Instead of trying to change everything at once, set monthly goals. (click to tweet)

Let’s face our fears and see what happens. (click to tweet)

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Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.