I wanted to reach out and share some tips that might help you gain some traction in the new year. Feel free to reach out if you’d like more information about a particular topic, or print out this list for future reference. It's come from decades of experience and I pray something resonates with you.
It’s amazing how many years I professed to be a disciple of Christ and went to church, yet rarely opened the Bible to read God’s Word for myself. I was blessed to be led to the St. Louis area back in 2010. Over the decade I lived there, I met many women who truly followed Christ. I started to dig deeper into His Word and formed a deep and personal relationship with my Savior. It’s so true that the Word of God is living and active and is different from any other book I’ve read. The basis of all of my wellness is founded upon being connected to the One Who formed me and knows exactly what I need. Through personal experience, my life verse is Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Structure is really important for me and probably why last year didn’t completely derail me. Even with all of my major life changes, my morning and evening routines stayed basically the same. Adults aren’t much different than babies, who need a consistent feeding and sleep schedule to stay happy and playful, and get ornery when structure is missing.
A typical morning for me includes some combination of meditation/journaling/bible study/bible-based thought work and exercise. Most mornings I keep my phone on airplane mode and don’t allow the world in until after breakfast.
A typical evening for me includes guitar practice and evening yoga. Ideally, I’ll stop looking at the computer screen for an hour before bed, which helps calm my nervous system.
Eating well is non negotiable for me, because certain foods cause pain. I’m on a paleo diet, derived from The Wahls Protocol. It’s anti-inflammatory, important since I’m a cancer survivor, and consists entirely of whole foods. I mostly keep sugar intake to a minimum, although sometimes I enjoy honey in my tea or on my fruit. Gut health and brain health are deeply intertwined and I want to stay mentally healthy in these challenging times. The other benefit of eating a whole foods diet is boosting the immune system so I'm less prone to illness.
In the past I used to “sleep shame” myself, staying up late and getting up early, ignoring my body’s signs that I needed extra rest. I had a major paradigm shift after reading what James Clear, a mindset and productivity guru, had to say about that. I realized that I was incredibly unproductive when I was sleep deprived, I was just too tired to notice. It was worth getting the extra shut eye so I wouldn’t have to redo projects that I messed up while exhausted.
Music, of course, is a huge source of wellness in my life. Emotional meltdowns turn into new song lyrics and melodies. I have Spotify playlists titled “grief support”, “relaxation”, “worship”, “dance party” “fear not” and many others that help me navigate through the messiness of life. Recently I’ve been listening to classical music through the WQED-FM app. It’s a station based in Pittsburgh where I worked before I was married. It’s fun to hear my former boss, Jim Cunningham, during the “morning drive”. Classical music has so many health benefits. Vocalizing and playing musical instruments can also lower stress and boost the immune response. Try googling “health benefits of music” if you’re not already convinced!
I needed extra support after my move back to my home state and dealing with grief after losing some family members, so I also enlisted the help of a mental health coach. She’s one of the administrators of Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Facebook page and I knew she had the same beliefs about thoughts and mental health. If you haven’t heard me talk about Dr. Leaf, her book Switch On Your Brain was another big paradigm shifter for me more than a year ago. One of the things she said that I latched onto was “you’re not a victim of your biology”. She has taught me how, in a very practical way, to capture my thoughts to Christ. I use her online 21 day detox program which is very biblically focused. She also has a “Switch” app and a podcast called “Cleaning up the Mental Mess”, which are geared toward a broader audience.
Staying connected to my former support system and growing new relationships has been challenging, due to the PA winter weather and the social distancing. I’ve been creative, though, and have learned to reach out and ask for support when I need it. It’s comforting to know how many people are praying for me. I realize I’m giving others that same comfort as I pray for them. The power of prayer is truly amazing!
Speaking of support systems, a book that has been priceless to me is Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. I love his analogy of personal boundaries as a “fence” around our emotional, physical, and mental “property”. We’re not supposed to be completely walled off, yet we must have the discipline to not allow others to sow their weeds into our backyards. We can have a gate in our fence that allows people onto our property. However, it’s our responsibility to be discerning about who we let in and under what circumstances.
I have many other tools in my wellness toolkit, since I’ve been adding to it since 1991, but I didn’t want to make this a dissertation! I’m happy to share them with you if you have particular needs, so feel free to reach out. Do you have helpful wellness tips you’d like to share with me? Let me know!
Blessings to you,