5 Ways to Nurture Yourself through Seasons of Suffering
When you find yourself in dark shadows of physical, mental, or emotional trial, it can feel impossible to access the truer spaces of light that reside in and around you. However it's in these very moments that seeking out beauty and nurturing yourself is absolutely critical.
During a particularly dark season of my physical health journey, full of pain, uncertainty, and fear, I was asked this question, "How are you getting filled up right now?" It's such an important question to address when walking through trials of any kind - chronic pain, anxiety, depression, or other ailments.
It's easy to feel vibrant and alive when your body feels able, your community is thriving, and you have the freedom of mobility and expansion in any direction that your heart desires. But what about when you’re in too much pain to walk down the stairs into the sunlight? Or when visiting with friends feels like too much for your tired body and mind? When simple pleasures like going to a coffee shop are no longer an option. What then? This is an invitation to access the hope that is waiting for you with each new dawn, an invitation to come closer to the light, to choose the lifelines that will keep your head and heart above the water as the tide carries you all the way to shore.
1. Don’t get distracted by dread first thing in the morning
Getting out of bed can feel like a fierce battle when the day holds physical or mental uncertainty. Sit up, take a deep inhale through your nose and exhale through the mouth. Walk to where you can see the morning light. The dawn, reliable and consistent every new day will always be waiting to cascade across your face.
2. Engage your senses
Tactile comfort - Curl up in your favorite chair, feel the fibers of a cozy blanket wrapped around your toes, or soak in a warm epson salt bath.
Sound - Play music that uplifts your heart. Instrumentals can be especially soothing for the mind and body.
Taste - Indulge in what reaches your lips, not focusing on what you CAN’T have, but becoming fully aware of vitamin rich warm lemon water trickling down your throat or the smooth spoonful of probiotic rich yogurt covering your tongue.
Sight - Delight in visual beauty.
Have a friend bring you flowers, or buy your own.
Keep your home tidy.
Have a set of images of the places you dream of visiting one day.
Set your eyes on the sky, a constant source of breathtaking beauty.
Smell - Light a candle or diffuse an oil of your favorite scent. In treatment seasons when I couldn’t eat things that I loved like coffee or chocolate, I’d light a candle and indulge in the pleasure of scent. Maybe you love the smell of the ocean waves or mossy forests, go there with your senses.
3. Move your body
There are so many scientific reasons why movement is critical to thriving emotionally, one of which is the release of endorphins or "happy hormones." If you're experiencing days where the body feels fragile and hopeless, movement in any way can remind you of what your body CAN do, even if it’s just simple stretching or a slow walk. If you're experiencing more emotional distress than physical, movement is also key to getting out of your own head and into your body to find more space and light through oxygenation of the cells and the expansion of muscles.
4. Share your light
Stay engaged with your community, even when it feels hard. If you’ve ever walked through shadows, you are familiar with how tiring it can become to constantly be asked how YOU are doing. The question is from a space genuine care and kindness, but it can become a crippling source of constant self-focus for the recipient. Stay aware of others, ask about THEIR highs and lows. There’s an amazing power in helping to carry the weight of someone else’s burden, because it forces self-sabbataging inner focus to turn outward, letting go of some of your own burdens to make space for theirs. We were made to help bring healing and hope no matter how deep we feel out own trials are.
5. Get stingy about what your heart consumes
In darker seasons, we HAVE to fill up on truth and light. There’s no room for the things that aren’t uplifting. Sometimes we can filter content, but on harder days, our guards are weaker and our minds and hearts are more susceptible. Some days it’s best to just totally avoid social media, radio stations, or internet searches, because we never know what might pop up and trigger us. Choose magazines you love, sit in the beauty of nature, turn on your favorite music, and call up someone who never fails to make you smile.