Tag Archives: self-care

Take Ten. Really, It’s Okay!

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“O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” (Psalm 55:6 NRS)

One of the greatest gifts of back-to-school is that parents have just a bit more time for themselves.  Gone are the long days of summer, which may be pretty empty for families with special needs.  All of that time and creative energy put into filling a child’s day can leave Mom and Dad with little time for themselves.

Yes, we are all still busy this time of year, but everyone can find ten minutes a day for a bit of self-care.  But can ten minutes really make any difference?

Yes!

Ten minutes a day in meditation can improve sleep, increase willpower and reduce anxiety according to health psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal of Stanford University.

Ten minutes a day of exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and reduces stress, per Dr. Timothy Church, director of the Laboratory of Preventative Research.

Ten minutes a day invested in talking with your spouse improves satisfaction with your relationship per American Psychological Association.

Clutter driving you crazy? Setting aside just ten minutes for some quick organization can go a long way in reducing perceived chaos, which in turn can improve mood, sleep and health, per Darby E. Saxbe and Rena Repetti in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Ten minutes engaged in a favorite hobby relieves stress and nurtures creativity, with the added benefit of reduced blood pressure and lower levels of depression, per a study by National Center for Biotechnology Information. Plus another study shows it helps improve problem solving, a skill we all need when dealing with challenges.

What is the power of ten minutes? How about a better marriage, better sleep, less stress, better organization, and improved mental and physical health.

Be intentional and find ten minutes for yourself.  I’d love to hear back what you did and how it helped in the comments.

Restoring God, thank you for the gift of renewal. Even as we care for others, remind us to care for ourselves.

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo courtesy of unsplash.com via Pexels

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Be Still? During Back to School?

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“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 NRS)

Be still.  Familiar words, yes, but oh so difficult to follow.  In our multi-tasking world, being still is challenging enough for grown-ups, let alone children. Stillness may be all but impossible for children on various spectrums. Be still, you say?  Ha!

Seeing my child off for his first day of school, and the many that follow, being still is the last thing on my mind. There is much to do while he is away.  Plus I have all that worrying to do about him making friends, remembering homework, following rules. If I am going to be still it has to be in a very limited window of time.

Be still and know that I am God.

Besides, do I really need to be still in order to know that God is God? I mean, God is still God no matter how hectic things are for me, right? Isn’t it enough to pause and recognize the glory and wonder that is God and then go back to the hectic and the worry?

Maybe I ought to take just a second to read the beginning of the Psalm. Where does the story begin that later ends with being still and knowing that God is God?

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1 NRS)

Trouble, you say? We know a thing or two about that. Refuge and strength? Sign me up! But how am I to be still? It feels like I need to be DOING something, anything.

Hebrew is an interesting language.  One word can mean so many things. That familiar command to be still may better translate as “let go,” “slacken” or “abandon.”

Well that changes things just a bit.  What if I trusted God in the midst of turmoil and accepted refuge and strength? What if I let go of the worry? What if allowed that taut muscle in my neck slacken? What if I abandoned the sense that I need to be in control and gave it over to God?

Perhaps I will take a moment be still and think about the different possibilities that exist in a school year like that.

 

God of our refuge and strength. Remind us that we can let go.  Thank you for catching us when we do. Amen

 

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo “Pier” courtesy of unsplash at Pixabay.com

When a Pedi Goes Wrong, or Does it?

nail polish (practical joke) photographed by Kungfuman

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NRS)

Can all things really work together for good? Really? Even if you go to get a pedi to get in a little self-care in the midst of raising two children with significant developmental delays and physical disabilities and the person seated next to you comments about wanting to rent a child in a wheelchair so she can skip the lines at Disney? Can God use even that and turn it into something good? Why, yes.  Yes, God can! And here is how.

As my friend Elizabeth’s aforementioned attempt at getting a pedi unfolded, two women near her started talking about an upcoming trip to Disney. Worried about how her children would handle the long waits, one advised she had hired a guide for $150 an hour to bypass the lines (Seriously? This is a thing? And people pay for it?). The second lamented she could not afford that and wondered aloud if she could rent a child in a wheelchair, so that her precious bundles of joy wouldn’t have to wait their turns with the masses.

You know that moment when you are shocked beyond speech, but the words come later? Boy, did they come! Elizabeth shared a “teachable moment” post in a community social media group.

“…I was so stunned I couldn’t say anything. Now with my heart pounding, I wish I spoke up on behalf of my children and every other person with a disability. So if that was you, here is your teachable moment: You don’t “rent” a person. Certainly not for your gain and especially not so your kids can jump on rides faster. I have two kids with special needs, including a daughter with a wheelchair. Your kids are lucky to have legs strong enough to wait in line. I could go on, but think I’ve made my point… remember to be kind. Disabilities are not humorous. They are not convenient, and they most certainly are not to be used for your convenience!”

She didn’t rant or use ugly words, but made it clear that as a family living with the daily reality of wheelchairs the conversation had been both painful and inappropriate.  (And yes, the two “Disney ladies” did see the post!) It was a healing balm to say what she meant to say and help others outside of the world of disability understand a different reality. End of story. Right?

God had other plans.

The post went viral within her community message board.  Support poured in.

And then came the replies from a silent population of special needs moms in her own community, neighbors she had never met. They got it because they lived it. They needed each other and, through intense vulnerability, began introducing themselves and their children.  A few clicks of a keyboard later and a secret group was born creating a safe place for moms to connect, over one hundred and growing.  The post filled a void, creating a network of support, advice, idea exchanges and more.  Their latest adventure? Indoor skydiving at iFly! The activity will be adapted for families of all abilities.

There comes a moment when we need to make a choice. Ignore the pain or face it. Sit in isolation or find community. Sometimes it takes incredible vulnerability to follow where God leads. Thanks be to God that we can trust in God to make all things work together for good.

Healing God, we thank you for community. Give us the courage to be vulnerable enough to find it and the courage to speak up with words that are pleasing to you when we face our own teachable moments. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo “Nail Polish (practical joke)” photographed by Kungfuman courtesy of Wikimedia

Twelve Tips for Special Needs and the Long, Long Summer

“Blank Calendar Shows Plan Appointment Schedule Or Event” by Stuart Miles from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

You have fixed all the bounds of the earth; you made summer and winter. (Psalms 74:17 NRS)

I told a lie. I didn’t mean to, but it just happened. I suppose I wanted to fit in with the other moms. Peer pressure is a powerful force, even for parents.

I was picking my son up from school toward the end of the year in second grade.  He walked home with me each day.  The school bus was too frustrating. The carpool line was long and caused anxiety as he waited to see my car.  So day after day I sweated in the late afternoon Texas heat with a handful of other moms outside the second grade hallway.

One mom gushed about her upcoming summer. “I can’t wait for school to get out. We’ve got swim team coming up. Then a trip to see grandparents. Then the kids are heading to my sister’s with their cousins so my husband and I can get away. After that we have vacation Bible school and then I’m sending them off to a week of camp for the first time.  We are going to try to fit in a trip to Disney if we can, but our summer is so packed it may have to wait until next year.”

Another piped up, “Same here.  I think we signed up for every single activity at the YMCA. Family is coming for a visit. It’s just crazy-busy all summer long.”

That’s when I lied. “Us too!” The second part wasn’t a lie, “It will be a relief when summer is over.”

All I could think of was the painfully blank calendar of non-existent summer activities.  Play dates? Kind of hard when your child has no friends.  Swim team? Ha! The noise, the chaos, that blaring horn and shrill whistle – not for my son on the autism spectrum. Vacation Bible school? I tried that once and, honestly, there were parents in that program who stopped speaking to me because I dared to enroll my son after the lead pastor encouraged me to do so. No way was I trying that again! The team activities at the YMCA? Those were a real challenge and more frustrating than fun to my son. He could have a full-blown meltdown playing BINGO. Siblings extending invitations to give us respite? Nope. We did have a couple of weeks planned to go visit grandparents, but two weeks out of twelve is a drop in the bucket.

This magical and marvelous summer the other moms described was not my world, though I desperately wished that it could be. So I lied and said, “Us too!” and set about erasing that lie by finding things to fill the days.

Here are a few strategies that worked for me:

  • Support groups. Other parents are likely to have kids in need of friends too. Ours was not the only family staring down the barrel of a long and boring summer.
  • “Special needs friendly” events. These were non-existent back when my son was young, but are becoming more and more popular. Check with local children museums, movie theaters, sports stadiums and performing arts venues.  For example, the Houston Ballet Company recently offered their first autism friendly performance, complete with interaction between performers and children afterwards.
  • Congregations with special needs ministries. Faith communities are much more aware and inclusive in summer camp and vacation Bible school. Find a program that fits your family and talk to the staff ahead of time so that they are prepared with volunteers who match the needs of your child. If budget is tight, volunteer your own time to help defray cost.
  • Summer camp for special needs children. There are more and more opportunities for children with special needs to experience summer camp. Some are child specific and some accommodate the whole family.  These often fill early so research registration dates and mark them on your calendar.
  • Check the calendar at local disability friendly non-profits. For example, in the Houston area, Family to Family Network and Easter Seals offer or have information about a variety activities and respite care. There is also Mikey’s Guide, a local publication to a broad variety of local disability friendly services and events.
  • Keep a routine. For many of our kids, structure is key. Set a routine for meals, errands, play time, family chores. Routine helps remove boredom.
  • Focus on therapy and acquiring new skills. Fitting in therapies during the school year can be a real challenge. Take advantage of available time to focus on areas for growth. Consider finding a tutor for challenging subjects to help keep your child from losing hard-won skills in math and reading.
  • Enjoy a less hectic pace for a while. While we live in a culture that glorifies “busy,” it is okay to step off the merry-go-round and enjoy a pace that is slower than the world around you.
  • Explore the outdoors. Children are inside for hours each day at school. Take advantage of summer as a time to get outside and explore parks, beaches, and walking trails. State and local parks in your area may have summer programs, such as guided trail tours, that suit a child’s interest and focus. If mobility is a challenge consider a tag along trailer for a bike. Check your own yard for bird nests and enjoy watching the new family grow.
  • Check out programs at the local library. Libraries are a treasure trove of child friendly activities and resources. The best part? They are free!
  • Water is wonderful in the summer heat. If the community pool is overwhelming, go at off times. No pool in your area? Create your own backyard water fun with sprinklers or an inexpensive wading pool.
  • Remember self-care. Parenting becomes 24/7 when children are home from school. With high needs children this can be especially tiring to the caregiver. Tag team with your spouse or other adult when you need a break. Schedule a night out as often as you can in order to nurture your most important relationships. Take time to do things you enjoy.

I learned that filling the summer isn’t about keeping up with what everyone else is doing.  Rather, it is about finding the pace and activities that best suits my family and flourishing there.

God of all seasons, Let there be renewal of spirit and foundations for friendships that last for all. May the bounty growing in the fields of summer also grow within the hearts and minds of nurturing communities of acceptance. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

“Blank Calendar Shows Plan Appointment Schedule Or Event” by Stuart Miles from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But I Don’t Want to Run a Marathon!

“Exercising In The Park” by mapichai from FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1(b) NRS)

“But I don’t want to run a marathon!”

I think every parent of a child with special needs has received the pep talk, “This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Pace yourself.”

This is great advice for all of us who are caregivers to children who have extraordinary needs. Pay attention to how you care for yourself, how you spread your energy, so that you don’t burn out and you have enough in the tank for the long road ahead. But what if running a marathon was never your goal? What if your personal road to acceptance means literally have running 26.2 miles?

Special needs parent Elizabeth Elder joined one of my support groups and shared her inspiring story:

My husband, James, and I have two beautiful children, a four year old daughter, Annabelle, and a three year old son, Blair. Both of our children were recently diagnosed with a rare mitochondrial disorder that has caused significant developmental delays and mobility challenges. Although we believe they will eventually walk and hopefully run someday, they can’t right now. In fact, they work very hard to sit up on their own. But what they lack in strength, they make up in determination, while flashing the most infectious smiles!

Frankly, running a full marathon has never interested me. Until one day about five months ago… I was having a difficult day and my dear husband gave me a pep talk. Having run the New York City marathon himself in 2009, James likened our challenge to running the marathon. He explained how our situation is not like a sprint. We can’t just give it our all with the comfort of knowing it will quickly be over. Instead, we have to follow our kids’ lead and give it our all, day after day, knowing that we have a long road ahead of us. To that, I responded, “but I don’t want to run a marathon!”

The next day I was actually on a run when I had a great epiphany: I CAN run a marathon and I WILL! From that moment, I accepted the road we are on and decided to use my strength to embrace what I have: an able body and two disabled children. Running a marathon is a huge personal achievement for anyone. However for me, running the NYC marathon is about overcoming challenges and proving that perseverance wins.

So on November 1st, I can and I will give it everything I have in honor of Annabelle and Blair and every other determined soul who doesn’t let their disabled body stop them from their own marathon.

Elizabeth has taken on training for the NYC Marathon in order to raise awareness and funds for Achilles International.  So far, friends and family has helped her raise over $7,000, far exceeding her original goal.  I hope my readers will join me in wishing her well and prayers for a successful journey, both physically and emotionally. You can learn more about Achilles International, a charity for children with disabilities and war veterans, here: Achilles International

Family hiking

Supporting God, Help each of us run with perseverance the task set before us. The fact that it is hard at times reminds us that we need you.  We lift up Elizabeth in her goal for NYC and pray blessings on her journey of self-discovery. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

“Exercising In The Park” by mapichai from FreeDigitalPhotos.Net.jpg

Special Needs Parenting Introduction

 Special Needs Parenting Cover

Today I am sharing with my readers an excerpt from the introduction of my book, Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving.

I have hit the bottom of the tank today. We had our annual review at the school, and it’s so hard to hear in concrete terms how delayed my son is. I know it. None of this information is new, but it’s so hard to hear again. I worry about his future, let alone how we will afford all of his therapies today. Every single day there is so much to do that I feel I can barely keep up. The needs are unending, and I am not nearly enough.

—Blog Post, Anonymous

 Have you ever been that parent? I have. My experience isn’t exactly the same as my friend’s recent blog post, but it resonates in many ways. Challenging behaviors at school? Yes! Worry about my son’s future? Yes! Endlessly running around to therapy appointments? Yes! A sense at times of being overwhelmed in day-to-day parenting? Yes! A view of the future shaded by anxiety? Yes!

Our journeys as special needs parents are as varied as the differences among our children. Each child is unique and precious in the sight of God, and there is no other exactly like our own. Yet there are common challenges and common experiences shared among us as special needs parents. As clergy, I have led a variety of parenting support groups for more than five years and it never ceases to amaze me that, regardless of how varied the diagnoses within each family, there are common cords that bind us together emotionally and spiritually. Throughout the years I have seen healing of deeply held emotional and spiritual wounds through coming together in a supportive, welcoming Christian community and working through our challenges together.

My journey toward writing Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving began years ago when members in my congregation asked me to lead a Bible study for special needs parents. I looked for a resource I could grab off a bookstore shelf that would address the emotional and spiritual concerns of the special needs parents and had limited success. I was in the midst my studies in a doctoral program at the time and I realized that I had found an area of tremendous need for resources within the church. This epiphany changed not only my academic focus, but the trajectory of my ministry.

Through my personal journey as a special needs mom, my experiences as clergy walking with families with special needs, and academic research into how best to build family resilience, I developed a seven-week study. Each chapter addresses a common challenge and offers a positive perspective grounded in scripture and practical tools that can be revisited again and again.

  • God and Special Needs
  • Understanding Chronic Grief
  • Breaking Free from Guilt
  • Tools to Increase Patience
  • Self-care for Caregivers
  • Building Healthy Relationships
  • Hope and Healing

Whether parents read Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving as part of a small group study or read it individually, I pray this book provides both insights into a loving God and practical tools for the journey ahead. Encouraging special needs parents is at the heart of my calling in ministry, and I hope that the book will be a blessing.

Next week I will share a passage from chapter six, Building Healthy Relationships.

Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving is available at Huff Publishing and Amazon.

Blessings,

Lorna

Come Away to a Quiet Place

Michelle Serving Ice Cream Watermark

Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. (Mark 6:31 NLT)

Have you ever been that busy? Busy like Jesus with so much going on that you don’t even have time to eat? I sometimes get to the end of the day so hungry. My husband asks, “Did you forget to eat again? How can you forget to eat?” “I don’t know. There was a lot to do and I just forgot.” Sometimes I don’t notice that the tank is empty until it is well past empty.

One of the greatest gifts in my life is the time that I get to spend with parents who are raising children with special needs. We learn so much from each other as we share stories about life with our kids and support each other through all kinds of challenges. As the holidays approach I found myself thinking, what can I give these parents? What do they need most?

What they need most is time away at a quiet place. They need their tanks filled. They need respite. They need to recharge their batteries before the hectic time of year with holidays, changed routines, and many more expectations that come with the season.

It wasn’t too hard to figure out what they need, but it took a bit more thinking to come up with how to give that gift. Then an amazing coincidence (also called a God sighting), a friend offered the use of her home in the country. It is one of those beautiful places like a picture postcard with rolling hills, trees older than my great-grandparents, and peaceful solitude that is so elusive in the city. What a welcome retreat!

We spent the day looking into ways to engage in spiritual, emotional and physical self-care. We took time for meditation, explored scripture, took the temperature of our emotions, and relaxed by the pool with some late afternoon yoga to burn off the ice cream our hostess surprised us with from the local creamery. It was a perfect day away and I was still giggly happy days later.

There is no shame in needing time away. Even Jesus took time away in a quiet place to rest. Perhaps that was the key to him and his disciples keeping up with so many obligations.  I know all of us who took the time for our mini-retreat are entering the busy holiday season with renewed energy, feeling peaceful and centered. My prayer for you this busy holiday season is that you too can carve out time for yourself for a few hours rest, finding peace to renew your soul. And if during your time of renewal you just happen to have your tank filled with a scoop or two of BlueBell peppermint ice cream that will just make it all the sweeter.

Holy God, I thank you for the way that you renew and refresh. Help us to remember in the midst of this season to find peace and nurture in you. Amen.

Photo “Ice Cream Time!” by Lorna Bradley

Planting a Spiritual Garden

To The Garden Sign With Pot by Simon Howden

A young mom raising three kids was going through a hot, dry Texas summer.  The garden was wilting, grass withering to dry, brown patches.  She moved the garden hose around back, filling a small wading pool for her kids to play in. She meant to reconnect the hose to the spigot out front where it belonged, but instead left it in a heap in the back yard. She’d get to it later when things weren’t so busy. There were so many other things that were more important.

One day she looked out the front window to see that the dry front lawn had caught fire, probably from a cigarette butt tossed out a car window.  She ran to the spigot she had forgotten. No hose!  She ran to the back yard, dragging the hose around.  It was a tangled mess, full of kinks and knots.  She ran back to get her children’s sand castle buckets abandoned by the wading pool.  Racing back and forth from the spigot to the front lawn, she tried to put out the fire, one child-sized bucketful at a time.

This is the kind of story Jesus used for teaching. It’s a parable.  The life-saving water is God.  The hose is our connection that comes through developing an intentional relationship with God. The fire is whatever crisis is waiting in the future.

Have you ever disconnected your hose? Left it in a tangled mess? I know I have at times. Life gets busy.  I mean to read scripture. I mean to schedule a prayer retreat. I mean to… well, a lot of things. Just like physical and emotional self-care from my earlier blogs, spiritual self-care takes intentional nurture.

Spiritual self-care is intentional focus of time and energy on your relationship with God. Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and a leading expert on spiritual self-care, offers the following suggestions as ways you can enrich your spiritual life.

  • Internal Disciplines. These disciplines focus on your spiritual life through internal reflection.
    • Prayer
    • Meditation
    • Study of scripture
    • Journaling
    • Silence/listening
    • Fasting – not only from food, but from distractions such as television.
  • Outward Disciplines. These disciplines are lived out in personal actions and outward expressions.
    • Solitude – set aside time to be apart from others to focus on God
    • Simplicity – embrace a practice of “enough” and let go of wanting more
    • Submission – follow where God leads
  • Corporate Disciplines. These disciplines are lived out with others
    • Worship – regularly participate in worship, including the sacraments
    • Service – being God’s hands and feet in the world in help to others
    • Community – engage as part of a Christian community where you can share your talents with others, as well as be supported

There are many additional options.  Look at this list and think about what already works for you. Celebrate those! Well done! Look for what interests you as something you would like to do and make a plan to try it.  For me, silence is a great discipline.  My life used to be filled with noise. The TV always on, or the radio, some distraction constantly in the background. One year for Lent I gave up those distractions. I took a fast from noise and found the gift of silence.  I liked it so much that I didn’t turn on the radio in my car for a decade. When I decide to watch TV I need a quick lesson from my son or husband about how to use the remotes (why do we have to have so many and why do they need so many buttons?)

Solitude is also a great discipline for me. I’m an extravert. I love being around people, but at times I crave being alone.  Right now I have the house to myself for four days, a rare gift. I will be total hermit. Just me and the cat, writing away on my book and blogs, thinking of scripture and seeking connections that offer hope to parents. Even in my solitude I found space for another discipline, worship.  I joined Key Ministry Front Door Online worship.  I was blessed by the message and connection with others for an hour, but now I return to my gift of solitude and prayer for parents.

Where I work there is a serenity prayer garden.  It has five flowing fountains and a labyrinth gravel path that winds its way through an arbor of wisteria. I try to spend at least a few minutes there each day. On a glass water wall there is this hymn:

I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear,  the Son of God discloses.

And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own;  and the joy we share as we tary there, none other has ever known.

My prayer for you is that you find what nurtures your spiritual garden and be filled with the peace of Christ. Amen.

“To The Garden Sign With Pot” from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So Many Emotions, So Little Time

Cry Laugh Button By Stuart Miles

Recently I was talking with a friend who is a special needs parent.  She was maxed out on every level and needed to vent.  After discussing insurance, therapy, extended family, children, spouse and everything else that was driving her crazy (I’m pretty sure laundry and sock count was on the list), she paused.  I just waited.  Finally she took a deep breath, spent from her tirade of the many things she had been shouldering.  I asked one question.

“How are you doing with self-care?”

“Terrible!”  Then the tears.  They came and came, a cathartic release long overdue.

Emotional health is just as important as physical health.  I was asked recently, “What is emotional health?” Folks understand taking care of their bodies, or taking care of their spiritual life, but taking care of emotional well-being is the more mysterious part of this self-care trinity.

Emotional health is being mindful of your emotional state. What are you feeling? Why are you feeling it? All emotions are valid, but are you stuck too long in the more “negative” emotions such as anger, depression, or guilt? Taking time for self-care of your emotional health builds emotional reserves for times when life is extra challenging.  Barb Dittirch of SNAPPIN’ MINISTRIES refers to it as “Comfort in the midst of chaos.”

Jesus, being fully human and fully divine, experienced emotions. He was angry when he saw the way the temple was being desecrated by money-changers.  When he returned to Bethany after the death of Lazarus he was deeply troubled. Jesus was indignant when the disciples kept the children from coming to him.  Jesus was anxious on the night of his arrest, taking his disciples with him to pray, asking the Father to take the cup from him.

In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. (Luke 22:44 NRSV)

Jesus models for us good emotional health by being in relationship with friends, taking time for himself in solitude to relieve stress, expressing emotions in a healthy way, and turning to God in prayer for strength.

So how can we nurture good emotional health? Here are a few tips:

  • Be mindful of your emotions. Especially notice emotions that dominate in ways that have a negative impact on you or your family: anger, depression, anxiety. Look for underlying causes when stuck in particular emotions.
  • All emotions are valid. Allow yourself to feel what you feel and acknowledge those feelings.
  • Nurture friendships. Set aside time to nurture the friendships that matter most to you. Having close friends who are worthy of trust can help process experiences that are challenging and celebrate joys.
  • Spend time in prayer. Talking with God is like talking with your closest friend who knows you better than you know yourself. Emotional healing and emotional health are helped through prayer.
  • Enjoy time with your child. Spend time just having fun with your child without a goal for development or therapy. Simply have fun together.
  • Pay attention to self-talk. Is your self-talk positive (Yes I can! I tried my best, etc.), or negative (Why do I bother? I’m the worst parent ever). Reshaping self- talk positively is a powerful tool in emotional health. Refute negative talk with, “That’s not true.” If it helps, say it out loud.
  • Set aside time for yourself. Take a break and relax when you can. Regularly do something you enjoy whether it’s going outside, reading or meeting a friend. Make it a priority to do what makes you happy at least for a little while each day.
  • Find ways to reduce stress. Do not take on more than you can handle. It is okay to say, “No.” It is also okay to say, “Yes.” (Do you need a break? Would you like some help? How about a night out?) If someone is offering help it is not a sign of weakness to accept it.
  • Engage in your favorite hobbies. Take time to enjoy the things that most inspire you, help you relax, or create contentment.
  • Practice gratitude. Every day say out loud something you are grateful for. Make it part of the family meal, with everyone sharing their thankfulness. Write them on a list and add to it every day.
  • Keep a journal. Writing can be highly effective in processing emotions.
  • Join a support group. It is helpful to talk with others who share your experiences, allowing you to talk openly and be heard.
  • Talk to a counselor. A trained professional is a valuable asset for emotional health.

Look over the list and find the ones that resonate with you.  Do you need more time with friends? Intentionally nurture those relationships.  Are you over-committed?  Take a thing or two off of your plate and feel the stress go down. Need a creative outlet?  Dig out that favorite hobby you haven’t done in ages and set aside an hour or two for yourself to unplug and enjoy.  Do you think you need talk with a professional?  Good for you for seeing that need.  Take the first step and make an appointment. Whatever appeals to you most, make it a priority to recharge your emotional batteries.

Check back next Wednesday for the final part of this blog series, spiritual self-care.

Healing God, We come to you with praise, sorrow, joy, worry, fear, with so many emotions. All of our emotions we lay at your feet knowing you love us and that you can heal the broken places in our hearts. Amen.

 

“Cry Laugh Buttons Shows Crying or Laughing” by Stuart Miles

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Caring for God’s Holy Temple

Young Woman Relaxing At Mountain View by Feelart

My lungs were burning, longing to take a breath, but I couldn’t.  I was taking part of in exercise in a room full of people and we were told to hold our breath, so hold it I would.  I started seeing little dots!

At recent retreat spiritual director Cindy Serio of MOSAIC Ministry had us sit quietly and practice a deep breathing exercise she learned from Joyce Rupp.  We began breathing at the rhythm that she dictated. Breathing in and holding, breathing out and holding.  She led us into longer and deeper breaths with longer periods of time in between. At first the exercise was soothing, but as the pauses between breaths got longer and longer, I began to grow uncomfortable.  As a runner, I have pretty good lung capacity, but I found it challenging to exhale and keep my lungs empty for as long as she required.  As the pauses grew ever more exaggerated my oxygen-starved body grew very uncomfortable. Try as I might, I just needed air. I chalked it up to a recent round of the flu and pneumonia, so I cheated and inhaled just a little. Who would know? Then I had to do it again. I marveled at Cindy’s lung capacity and felt like a failure as we finished the activity.  Afterwards, Cindy asked who needed to breathe in before she prompted us.  Everyone in the room raised their hand. Cindy said, “Good. You each showed compassion to yourself. It is hard to offer compassion to others when you cannot offer it to yourself.”

Isn’t it interesting that I felt like a failure for needing air?  Air!  A basic bodily need and I denied it to myself simply to keep up with everyone else. Taking care of our bodies is one of the most basic of needs we have and yet all too often we shove it to the back burner.  There is just too much going on in our lives.  Maybe when things are less hectic… Consider Paul’s words to the church in Corinth.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (1Co 6:19-20 NRS)

We glorify God when we take care of ourselves!  When I look it that way, taking time to care for my physical well-being isn’t an indulgence. It’s a gift to God.  I can’t keep up with the pace God sets for me in ministry if I am sick and run down.

So what are some basic ways to care for our bodies?  Below I have a brief list of options.  Look it over and note down the ones you already do, the ones you would like to start, and the ones in which you have no interest.  The goal here is not to make you feel guilty. Rather the goal here is to find where your interests are and focus your energy there:

  • Get adequate sleep
    • I will go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual three nights this week
    • I will schedule one sleep-in day once a week
    • I will take a nap or lie down while my child naps
    • I will remove distractions from the bedroom (TV, iPads, laptops, pets, etc.)
  • Eat a balanced diet
    • I will keep a healthy snack in my car, purse, desk, etc.
    • I will read an article on nutrition and make one change in my diet
    • I will drink less soda
    • I will try a new food
    • I will reduce caffeine intake
  • Drink plenty of water
    • I will grab a travel cup of water every time I head out the door to run errands
    • I will try a caffeine free tea or mineral water (no sugar, no caffeine)
  • Exercise
    • I will walk one mile three times this week
    • I will sign up for a class (yoga, pilates, walking or running group, Crossfit, etc.)
    • I will do some stretching on weeknight evenings before I go to bed
    • I will sign up to run/walk the local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning and then train to do it between now and then
    • I will do 25 sit ups every day
  • Take time to relax
    • I will soak in a hot bath for 20 minutes after the kids are in bed
    • I will put my feet up and read a magazine
    • I will sit outside and enjoy the sounds of nature when I need a break
    • I will lie down and rest for 10 minutes
  • Seek Medical Help as Needed
    • I will get an annual flu shot
    • I will see the dentist
    • I will get an annual physical
    • I will get a mammogram
    • I will see a doctor as needed

These are just a few suggestions.  I’m sure you can think of others that are the right fit for you.  Looking over the list, the ones that you marked that you already do, give yourself a pat on the back for doing those.  Look over the list of ones in which you have no interest.  Perhaps consider those for another time, but if they aren’t a fit for you don’t beat yourself up about it.  Now look at the list that are things you would like to do.  Pick one and make an intentional plan for the week.  Write it down and post where you will see it as a reminder. Maybe this week you will choose to walk a mile three days of the week. Perhaps next week you will choose to schedule a sleep in day.  Whatever it is that appeals to you, make an intentional plan each week to do something that takes care of your physical well-being. Learn to take care of God’s holy temple by building it up with one brick at a time. You’ll be stronger for the journey ahead.

Check back next Wednesday for the next part of this wellness series, emotional self-care.

Holy God, what a gift it is that you live inside of each of us, filling us with your strength and peace.  Help us find the time and energy to care for our bodies which are wonderfully made by you. Let our bodies be your temple, your holy dwelling place giving honor to you. Amen.

Young Woman Relaxing At Mountain View

Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net