Self Care and Healing: Tips and Inspiration
If I were to be completely honest and vulnerable with you, my dear reader, I would tell you that, for most of 2017, I personally struggled in my heart and mind as I walked through a valley season. In life, there are mountain tops and there are valleys. And we all walk through those valley seasons; seasons of depression, of anxiety, perhaps. Seasons triggered by loss or full of grief. Seasons of flashbacks and painful memories. We are not weak in this, friend. We are simply real.
Maybe you are a new mama and you're battling a Postpartum Disorder, maybe you're a 20-something single gal who struggles with anxiety, maybe you're a woman who is dealing with the loss of a parent or best friend, a spouse or a child... and your heart is aching. Maybe you're going through a health crisis, and trudging through each day is pain itself. Perhaps your heart is reeling after a break up and losing the one you loved... all your dreams are dashed. Maybe you've suffered a miscarriage or infertility, or the loss of someone treasured, and the grief is absolutely suffocating. Perhaps you're journeying through a season of heartache that no one knows about or understands. Daniel and I have both experienced seasons of depression and anxiety in our lives. And we've also seen God's hand of healing.... how He takes the broken and makes it beautiful. How He sheds light where there is darkness. Where He takes back "the years that the enemy has stolen." Where He redeems and calls up and out. And though, I cannot imagine your pain, I cannot pretend to know the valleys you have and are walking through (valleys cannot be compared, of course... they are all unique and our pain is all real), I do know you are dear and precious, and you deserve to walk through this with support of all kinds. And maybe, you aren't in a "desert" season at all! Perhaps you've just been giving, giving, giving, and know you need to slow down, take some time to recharge, and pour back into your "cup" - focusing in on some self-care this new year as you continue to love and serve those around you.
In the past months, I've noticed my own aching heart heal... slowly but surely... coming up and out of a valley season; it's a joy, a breath of fresh air, a gift. I hope that if you are in a heartache-season, that you are helped by your people: maybe by professional counselors and doctors and people at your church or in your support system who are equipped to help, maybe by your husband or your bestie, your parents or your family, your coworkers, your group of girlfriends, or your neighbor. Aside from the "bigger" ways of getting help (because we cannot walk it alone) I know from experience that the small things help, too. So here is my little list of some super practical things I have found to be tiny but powerful catalysts of healing. Adding some of these into my daily rhythms has been part of the reason I've found myself entering into a new season this year, and I hope with all my heart that passing them along to you will be helpful, too! (And these are things that have been helpful to me; your list may look much different! But, I hope my list inspires you to think of creative ways to care for yourself and to be purposeful in making space and time to heal and care for your heart, mind, soul and body.)
- Get Some Sunshine
I can't even tell you how helpful sunshine has been to my soul! We all remember learning about how our bodies are designed to react to the sun's UV-B rays when our skin is exposed to sunlight, producing the Vitamin D we need. I've read that when we are exposed to sunshine, endorphins are released in our bodies, as well, which makes us feel happier! I know some of you live in areas where sunshine is scarce at certain times of the year, but getting out in it whenever we can and soaking some up is so vital to our physical and emotional health.
- Tell Your Story
"The strength of vulnerability:
never underestimate the bravery it takes to
let the words fall from your mouth like tears."
- April Green
When you are ready, and how you choose... tell your story. Speak it out. Tell it to one person. Start a blog and just start writing. You don't have to divulge every single personal detail, but if you feel ready, telling your story to others can be cathartic. There is power in truth-telling, in sharing, and in finding you're not "the only one."
- Buy Yourself Flowers
Even if it feels frivolous or silly! Buying a bouquet of fresh roses for no reason and placing them on your bedside table just might make you smile. And if you want to just spend a few dollars, buy a simple bundle of eucalyptus at Trader Joe's or just go out into your yard and find some greenery to put in a vase. Bringing the outdoors inside is life-giving.
- Try Using Essential Oils
I've used a handful of essential oils since the year we got married and have found them to be super helpful! There's nothing like diffusing a relaxing oil in your home or making little roller bottles full of your favorites. I especially love lavender, lemon, frankincense and blends like Joy and Grounding. (I've been gifted lots of oils through blogging, was given some from my medical professionals during pregnancy and labor. I also have lots of girlfriends who sell oils.) Do your research when it comes to essential oils and find someone knowledgeable who can help you learn how to use them properly. I truly do believe oils can help support us emotionally as well as physically. (If you want to learn more about essential oils from someone I personally trust, talk to my dear friend Lisa)
"Write hard and clear about what hurts."
- Ernest Hemingway
Until it stops hurting."
Buy a journal or a notebook. Take pen to paper or simply open up your iPhone's notes and start typing. Pour out your thoughts on paper. (Here's a list of some helpful prompts.) Journaling and writing has been a life-long "therapy" of mine. I started my first journal at age seven and have dozens of journals from that age until today, stored in boxes and a shelf at my parent's home. I truly notice that in seasons I'm too busy to journal and write or just too distracted/tired/lazy to prioritize it, my mind is less clear and my heart is heavier. For me, "dumping" all my unfiltered thoughts and feelings onto paper is extremely helpful in accurately seeing the truth of a situation, "venting" in a safe and not-harmful way - as opposed to sharing those unfiltered thoughts with someone else and potentially creating more issues (of course, sharing unfiltered thoughts with a "safe person" - a best friend, spouse, parent, etc who knows you and your season well can be helpful, too.) If writing overwhelms you and doesn't come naturally, writing lists can be helpful, too (here's a list of prompts when life gets overwhelming.)
Start a blog or just write heartfelt Instagram captions, create lovely poems out of your heartache, or pour out your heart onto paper. Writing heals.
"Journal. Put your thoughts into words and remind yourself often of all the wonderful things God has already done and just how far you've come. Keep writing. Keep giving. Keep loving. Keep serving. There will be days where you are tired, and you may feel as if your very feet will give out beneath you, but your God will be with you. He will always sustain you. By His Spirit, He will strengthen you to keep breathing and keep going."
- Morgan Harper Nichols
- Drink Bone Broth
For years, a cup of chicken soup or a bowl of broth has been the go-to comfort food that comes to mind when we are sick, right? Something about a hot, delicious bowl of broth just makes you feel better and reminds you of Grandma. And when that cup is full of bone broth, there are also tons of health benefits! Read about them here and here is a recipe for bone broth. And if it's too overwhelming to make it homemade, buy it here. (And, I've never tried these but have heard from a few friends that they love these quick Keurig-style cups.)
- Take A Hot Bath
I'm a bath person. I take a hot bath at least 4-5 times a week. It's just my "thing." I truly believe water is healing! Add epsom salts (I always use this one) and essential oils and an epsom salt bubble bath (I use this one - epsom salts are full of health benefits, including eliminating toxins from the body, and easing stress.) And if you don't have a bath tub, just buy this foot bath (when we lived in our teeny first apartment, we couldn't take baths so Daniel bought me a foot bath and I loved the spa-relaxation feeling of it!)
- Make Your Bedroom and Bathroom Spa-Like
Create peace and calm in the spaces you spend self-care time in. A few months ago, I bought plastic bins and labeled them and organized all my bathroom essentials, tossing the old and rarely used items and categorizing the rest (make-up, nail polish, bath items, baby washcloths and soap and bath toys, beauty magazines, candles, hair care, lotions, etc.) I untangled and organized all my jewelry. The other day, I bought a bouquet of eucalyptus at Trader Joe's and hung it in our shower (when the shower is all steamy, the eucalyptus has a spa-like relaxing smell. Saw the idea on Pinterest!) I found little candle holders in the Target Dollar Section and lined them up in the window sill, placing small flameless candles inside. I bought a few little shelves at Hobby Lobby and placed sprigs of lavender in tiny vases on them. Set up a diffuser so that a relaxing scent fills the room as you unwind. I light candles and place books or magazines in the bath area. Get a fluffy cozy robe and slippers. Buy a super soft bath mat. These little touches can make all the difference, encourage you to want to be in the room, and make life a bit more peaceful and can help your mind feel a lot less cluttered, creating space for your heart to heal.
- Allow Yourself To Feel
"Healing comes in waves and maybe today the wave hits the rocks
and that's okay, that's okay, darling.
You are still healing, you are still healing."
- Ijeoma Umebinyuo
Admit it, look the truth dead in the eyes, cry it out, face it, feel it, accept it.
- Push Yourself To Move Forward
"The day will be what you make it, so rise, like the sun, and burn."
- William C. Hannan
Feel what you feel and go deep in it, but do not stay there. Do not allow your heart to wallow. Get out of bed, open the windows, go for a run, make a new recipe, sign up for the gym, show up at church even if you don't feel like it. Speak to your heart and your emotions.
- Eat Whole and Healthy Foods
We all know I'm a taco-eating and coffee-drinking gal who enjoys a fast-food run now and again ;) But, I cook very clean for my family and mostly eat whole, healthy foods and try to buy organic when I can. Making myself a big, leafy green salad full of veggies for lunch when my little one goes down for a nap is one of my self-care practices and I can't tell you how energized it makes me feel mid-day!
- Drink Probiotics
Probiotics have been found to be full of so many benefits and it can't hurt to add them to your diet and routine (be sure to check with your medical professional if you are pregnant/nursing)! I enjoy drinking Kombucha (Daniel and I enjoy this flavor.) I also love this sparkling probiotic drink by Kevita (the drink isn't available to purchase at that link, but just linking to show you the brand and look of it :) Kefir is another one of my favorite probiotic drinks -- I always pick one up at Trader Joe's (my favorite flavor is the strawberry!)
- Create Again
Think back to your childhood, to your teenage-hood, to that time in your life a few years ago when you felt like "you".... what were your creative outlets and hobbies? What excites you? What do you gravitate toward? For me, it's music, #1. Music is my heartbeat. When I sit and play keyboard and sing a melody, my heart soars and heals. A few other creative passions of mine are crafting (I always loved to scrapbook, make DIY things like cards and fun projects - here's my DIY Pinterest board for some inspo!) I also love being in the kitchen and cooking. Food is life-giving (for obvious reasons) but I also think that creating meals and food for your body and the ones you love is a life-giving practice, too. Gathering around the table and enjoying a handmade meal is a sacred, precious practice and I personally have found much healing in it this past year. Standing and stirring over a simmering pot of goodness, sautéing a fragrant medley of herbs and vegetables, spices bursting with flavor, salty butter smothered on warm bread, a fresh block of parmesan cheese, grated onto a big beautiful bowl of pasta covered in homemade Alfredo sauce. It's healing. When I am anxious or down, I've noticed throughout my life, that my appetite wanes. When I am happy and feel free, I'm starving. Creating wonderful food is a therapeutic, hands-on practice that feeds not only the body but the soul.
- Stretch and Breathe
I use this video to stretch and relax. (It's an older video but I have always liked Denise Austin's workouts and these moves and poses work for me. There are tons of stretching/Yoga videos on YouTube so look around and find your favorite!) Taking a moment to breathe and ground yourself can do wonders to help your mindset. I often listen to worship music or pray as I stretch and work out, as well, focusing my mind on the Lord and His truth and goodness.
- Ask For Help
Whether that means calling your best friend and asking her to simply come over and sip tea with you, or asking for "carry out" in the grocery store check out line (I do this often, especially with a baby!), or asking someone to watch your littles so you can rest for an afternoon. We cannot go it alone.
- Drink Lemon Water Each Morning
Read all about the benefits here!
- Say No
You don't have to do it all, and you don't have to do what you used to do. Maybe 5 years ago you were able to do _______, but today, you're not. And that's okay. Don't overcommit and overwhelm yourself more. This is a season to take care of yourself, and maybe that means less time doing "all the things." There will be time for that, I promise. Keep on walking but don't jump too far ahead of where you are today.
- Dance In The Kitchen
When you start to feel that slump, turn on some dance music. Rock out to some rap. Turn it up loud and dance in the kitchen. Just for a few minutes... even if you would rather lay on the couch. Make yourself move!
- Work Out
Even if that means just taking a walk every evening with your baby in the stroller. As I just said, move! As Elle Woods always says, "Exercising gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy...!" ;) I've recently started working out with a trainer at the gym (I shared more about it here) and so far, it's been one of the best things I've done. Our minds and bodies work together - strengthening your body absolutely strengthens your spirit and mind.
“When things fall apart, the broken pieces allow
all sorts of things to enter, and one of them is the presence of God.”
- Shauna Niequist
For me, sitting at the piano and singing songs to Him is a powerful source of healing. Maybe your "worship" time looks different, but sit down and pour out your heart to Him, focusing on His goodness and grace, His character and His heart, praising Him for who He is, enjoying Him. It's life changing.
- Do A Social Media - and Life Cleanse
Go through your Instagram page and unfollow accounts (who aren't family and friends) whose posts and content don't lift you up. There is oh so much noise flowing into our minds, eyes, and ears, and we must learn to set boundaries to quiet that noise as we hone in and focus on what is truly important. What we see every day as we scroll through our phones does affect us. Be careful about who you allow to influence you, who you spend time with (in "real life" or through a screen) and speak into your life.
There are too many wonderful, life-giving books to count - in all genres and covering all topics, and I'm sure there are many I've never heard of or read so please, share your go-to's! Here are just a few of mine; a couple of gems that have walked beside me during valley seasons in my life, have given me perspective and hope, have opened up let me cry into their pages, and have made me feel less alone.
- Bloom by Kelle Hampton
- And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick
- The Music of His Promises by Elisabeth Elliot
- The Magic of Motherhood by Ashlee Gadd
- The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith (I don't agree with everything this dear author has written, but she has some poignant insight on grief I found to be very interesting and insightful.)
- Don't Compare
This is a hard one for all of us, me included. We are all in different seasons. Maybe she is in her "springtime" season and she's able to cook homemade dinners every night, run a successful business online, and seems to always have her hair and make up done. But maybe last year, you don't know... she could hardly get out of bed in the morning to make her baby's breakfast, maybe last year she was in the middle of dealing with a miscarriage no one knew about, and perhaps this year she's in the "light" and is in a happy, "easy" season. Don't compare your midnight to her morning. Don't compare your beginning to her ending. Cut out what you need to (delete social media apps, etc.) in order to fight this... do not compare. Do not compare. Do not compare. (Preaching to myself, too....)
- Talk To God About It
Write it down if you need to. Tell Him all about it. The anger, the fear, the pain, the confusion, the regret and guilt, the hopelessness. Whatever you are feeling, spill it at His feet. He knows, anyway.
"Tell your mountain about your God."
- Practice Gratefulness
It seems simple, but I've found that intentionally practicing gratefulness has proven to be game-changing for me! Yes, grieve and work through the feelings and fears, the emotions and the realities, the disappointments and loss; some of them will never be fully healed, not until heaven, and some wounds will heal but the scar remains forever. Yet, replaying the hurt, the moment of loss, the trigger, the things missed out on, the thing we can never change, that choice made that turned everything upside down, that regret, that moment of hurt or pain that sears your soul so deeply you can hardly stand it, that memory that is triggered late at night, that awful moment you cannot stop replaying in your mind... when I've found myself in the thick of the triggers and memories, the trudging through the "mud" of those moments... when I find myself going back ... again and again, in an unhealthy way, I've intentionally trained my mind and heart to look for the good; to turn the painful memory or moment into a positive one. Thinking of the good that came from the pain, or the good that will come; the light at the end of the tunnel, someday. The good things you can remember about the events surrounding the pain: the person who was kind to you, the way you saw the Lord's hand, the broken road that led you to someone or something beautiful. Turn your mind to it. Replace your broken record of hurt with it. It won't wipe away the loss or the grief: oh, no. It is real and legitimate, it was life changing and you won't ever be the same. But, His fingerprints are there... faint, perhaps. But they are; I promise. If you look for them, you will see.
"Life is brutal. But it's also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life's brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly that they can't be separated. Reject the brutal, reject the beauty."
- Glennon Doyle Melton
- Listen To Healing Music:
If You Want Me To by Ginny Owens
He Will by Ellie Holcomb
Healing Is In Your Hand by Terry Jones
Sing Over Me by Bethany Dillon
Defender by Rita Springer
Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane
Shoulders by For King and Country
Heal The Wound by Point of Grace
You Are Still Holy by Rita Springer
Make You Feel My Love by Adele
Every Season by Nichole Nordeman
The Broken Beautiful by Ellie Holcomb
Any of my wonderful husband's beautiful music :)
Dear friend, I hope these practical things, from my heart, are helpful to you, wherever you are. And if you're not in the trenches of a valley season, maybe someone you love is, and these things can help you practically love them better.
Know you are loved, treasured one.
You are a gem. You are created and graced, you are crowned and adored. You have a future and a hope. The darkness will only remain for the night, joy will come in the morning. I promise.
"Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives;
it's the process that teaches us most about who we are."
- Brene Brown