No matter what type of condition you suffer from, after extended periods of illness our souls end up in the same state. Battered. Worn out. Dry. Empty. Without hope. Dreamless.
Just as you need to purposely take time to restore your body as best you can, you also need to set aside time and space to work on restoring your soul. It sounds easy. It’s not, at least not at first.
So start with the things that bring you joy naturally. About 20 years ago, ong before my body broke, I started a list entitled “Things That Make Me Smile.” I kept the list on my desk at work and every time I remembered something, big or small, that made me happy I wrote it down. Some of the items listed were:
- a mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream
- the smell of the orchards after the rain
- big fluffy blankets
- my sweat pants
- the smell of citrus
- walking barefoot in the cool grass
- working out
- mountains, lakes & rivers
- a good book
- growing things
This list came in handy 20 years later when my body shut down, the world as I knew it changed forever, and I was having a hard time adjusting to it all. After a several years with zero answers and zero improvement, my strong will that had always allowed me to “power through” had to concede. And my soul became a shriveled shell.
I don’t remember exactly when I started purposely taking time to journey towards restoring my soul, I think it was pretty gradual. But at some point I realized just how important it is. It takes an enormous amount of mental energy and soul strength to fight for your wellness. Some seasons you have a ton of motivation and it powers you through the pain. Other seasons you can’t imagine trying to make it through one more day and the thought of getting up tomorrow and doing it all over again makes you cry. Those desert seasons are when you need to pull out your arsenal of soul-care.
You need to remind yourself of the things that bring you joy. They can be a happy thought to a grandiose vacation or something you only did once in your life. And then start incorporating those happiness practices into your life. Run yourself a hot bath, read a good book, listen to soul-calming music, take a joy ride in the sunshine, watch a a funny movie, take an online art class, play with your grandkids, light a scented candle that you love, or any other thing that brings you joy.
Another way to think of this exercise is gratitude. For patients suffering from depression most therapists will suggest keeping a “gratitude journal.” The expression of gratitude has the power to change your outlook on life, even a broken, painful life.
It’s no magic pill. You won’t experience instant soul recovery and immediately feel like taking on the world. But if you felt just a little better, a bit more healed, wouldn’t it be worth it? And I can promise that if you will practice a little soul-care on a regular basis you will begin to feel stronger. You will regain the strength you need for the fight.
If you don’t know where to start, can I point you to one of my chapters in the Bible? In fact, this chapter is loved by many, Psalm 23:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.