Tag Archives: soul

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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.

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.

I'm praying for you hurting one, praying for your soul to heal.

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Chronic illness has a way of striking the busiest people.  You have so many commitments: busy job, volunteer projects, children and their activities, teaching Sunday School, team mom/dad, best friend's wedding, hobbies, etc.  Probably most of these commitments are things you enjoy, but some you may do purely out of obligation.

Now you are struggling to to keep up.  Those 100 things you used to do in a week have suddenly become impossible.  You can barely get out of bed in the morning, let alone everything else you have on your plate.

But you don't want to let anybody down.  You don't want to be the weak link, the "flake".  You liked that everyone could depend you to get a job done, that you were everyone's go-to-girl (or guy).  But now in order for you to get all those things done you must sacrifice the precious moments of rest that allow you to survive, adding more stress to your body and soul.

Let me give it to you straight: you can't do it all anymore.  You just can't.  And for some of us that fact is more painful than the physical pain from our medical condition.

It's painful because we have to let go of projects or hobbies we used to enjoy.  We have to say no to fun activities because our physical body can't tolerate it.  We have to pass on volunteering for a great cause or helping our friends with a special project because to do it would mean spending the next 4 days in bed recovering from it.

You might try pretending that you can still do it all, push through the pain or sickness and just do it anyway.  You may think you're getting away with it but I'm pleading with you to hear me: it will only get worse.  You will start making mistakes.  You will forget things you said "yes" to.  You will have to call and cancel last minute because you are sick or flat on your back.  Instead of being the most reliable, joyful person for the job, you will gradually become the cranky, unreliable person that everyone has to clean up after.

Don't bother trying to shirk it off, acting like it's no big deal.  Saying goodbye to all those things you used to love to do is upsetting, even depressing.  Stop and grieve for it if you need to.

Then take an honest look at what you now can and cannot do.  First decide what you absolutely must do.  Like getting the kids to school. Vacuuming your house. Getting to/from doctor's appointments.  Only the most important, vital stuff goes to the top of the list.

If you have any energy or time left in your reserves you can add some lesser activities or one-time events.  But don't overdo it.  Learn to say "no" graciously yet firmly.  People who were used to counting on you are going to ask you to help them but remember that it is impossible for you to help someone else if you are operating on "empty."

If your illness comes and goes, you can do more on the "good days" then limit yourself during the "bad days."  If your illness is here to stay, narrow down to the activities that bring you the most joy while not sacrificing your wellness.

Getting used to this new life, the less busy life, can be a big adjustment. But in the end, it will be the best, most life-giving thing for your body and your soul.