By Emma Chaplin
Sometimes, we yearn for a challenge. Other times, we want safety or security, because the world feels too wobbly for much more than getting through the day.
This week, it's Mental Health Awareness Week, with a theme of 'kindness'. A lovely theme indeed, and I'm all for it, in all its forms. But for many of us, the corona crisis has tested our resilience to its very limits.
So, this post is about what I think many of us need more than anything - to be kind to ourselves.
It's easy to think we're not good enough. We're not home schooling our kids well enough. We haven't learnt a language or perfected making sourdough. Catching a glimpse at the state of our hair in the mirror is frankly horrifying.
But, if that's the voice in your head, I urge you to put down the stick you're beating yourself with, and instead, aim to be as compassionate with yourself, as you probably are with your friends. You're doing as well as you can, in extremely difficult circumstances.
Are there some simple things that might help? With so much uncertainty, and so much to think about, our brains can go into hyper-drive, so a bit of peace and quiet can help the central nervous system to calm down.
Fox by Pete Brooks
This is where I find nature to be a remarkable teacher and healer. If we stand quietly and observe it, there is much that can soothe us.
A gorgeous spring this year has been a blessing. Watching pale, tender leaves unfurl. Blossom and wild flowers exploding. Birds singing, finding mates, building their nests. Even if we're observing from a window, there are birds, insects and trees we can watch and cloud patterns to see.
I'm fortunate enough to live near the Pells Pond in Lewes. Originally built to keep fish for the castle, it later became a boating pond, before tanks were parked alongside it during World War Two. Now, the pond structure is a little ramshackle, but it's still beautiful, and surrounded by lovely, mature trees.
It has a number of islands that ducks and moorhens live on. Most early mornings, I walk around it, listening to birdsong.
I watch as clusters of ducklings arrive and grow bigger every day. The squabbles between adult ducks. A vixen watching me as I watch her in the undergrowth. A bold robin and squirrel giving me a filthy look for daring to encroach on their territory. Some days, the local heron (I call him Patrick) is perched on one side, beady eye looking for breakfast.
Grey Heron, Elli Mitchelson
On summer days, the huge Horse Chestnut trees will offer shade, and at dusk, you can see bats swooping down over the water to catch insects.
As I breathe deeply and observe the reflections on the water, I feel lucky to have this pond as my sanctuary.
Whatever else is happening in the world, wildlife is just getting on with surviving as best it can. We should take a leaf out of nature's book.
Moorhen and chick, James Duncan