Thursday, January 19, 2017

Vitamin C for the Soul


In the past couple of years, I haven't made official "New Years resolutions" but rather spent spare moments here and there reflecting on what I need to work on.  Ambitious and sometimes unrealistic resolutions can be exciting and inspiring at first but can quickly lead to beating ourselves up when we quickly fail to even begin to accomplish that goal. So I look at New Years resolutions the same way I look at diets...I don't do them.  Rather than going on a "diet" I think it's better to just make simple changes that can lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.  Likewise, it is important to be self aware, take time to refocus on what's most important to us, check ourselves and give ourselves some positive things to focus on. Rather than specific resolutions, Just spend some time to make sure our lives, schedules and energy is in line with what we value. Coincidently after I started writing this post, our pastor Andy Stanley did a great series you should watch at reallywantseries.org, it's taken me a while to hit the publish button on this :/ but is all about figuring out what we really value, what we really want.

I will admit, 2016 kicked my a$$.  By spring I was hitting mom/homeschool/wife everything burnout and then just struggling to recover and as anyone who's been there knows, it is hard to draw from an empty well.  Unfortunately rather than refilling my cup, which I was trying to figure how to do but when your driving down the highway and your car runs out of gas and there's not much around...it isn't all that easy to do.  And using the broke down car metaphor, a woman with a broke down car is in a vulnerable position, I became vulnerable to the triad of anxiety, fear and doubt.  I actually had a dream one night where there was a dark figure lurking in my peripheral vision, almost like a stage hand orchestrating from the wings and just as I was waking from the dream, the hood on the cloak fell back and I saw a three-headed wolf and I immediately identified them and knew their names, Fear, Worry and Doubt.  It was a moment of like...oh now I see you and I know who/what you are!  It was empowering because it helped me identify what I was struggling with and then I could figure out how to deal with it.  It is funny how this past year I hit burnout, when if you look at the past 11 years of my life starting with our best friend and roommate committing suicide senior year in college, graduating and moving, getting engaged, surprise pregnancy while wedding planning with HG (extremely sick all pregnancy) while dealing with PTSD from the suicide, then adding undiagnosed postpartum thyroiditis turned Hashimoto's followed by 3 cross country moves and 2 more sweet babies in less than 5 years while my husband traveled for his job at least 50% of the time just to rattle off the big things. God was so good through it all and used everything for our good (except the suicide...that will always be heartbreaking, I remember when my daughter was a baby, I'd be driving and pull up to a stop sign and suddenly go blank and flash back to that time and feel overcome by the darkness of it and for years felt like an accomplice to murder.  Hindsight is 20/20, at the time I was just immature and ignorant of mental health issues and after it happened, and we were being questioned by police they pointed out that all the signs were there and that is where the guilt would come from).  Having our daughter when we did really was a blessing because she moved us forward and helped us grow up faster and really was a dream come true because I was always the motherly type and wanted to be a mom my whole life more than anything else.  A funny side note was after Tyler proposed (5.5 years from our first date in high school) we were sitting, admiring the ring on my finger and I was all gushy and "oh my gosh we're gonna have babies!!!" Lol I don't know who says that 15 minutes after getting engaged when they are 22 but we had talked about the future plenty and both knew what we wanted.  I just didn't realize that process was gonna start like 3 weeks later! So while she was a surprise, she was more than wanted and we would never have it any other way!

When I started this post I had no intention of sharing such personal parts of my life story but it helps explain where I'm coming from when I say this year was the least busy, least eventful, least stressful year in the books, so it would appear based on history.  we didn't move or have a baby, my husband worked less than he has in the past (although his version of less is still like a mad man-he has more drive and discipline than anyone I know!), I don't feel like I have PTSD anymore and can talk about what happened without feeling traumatized all over again, my thyroid seems to be healed as I haven't been on thyroid medicine for 4 years now and tests are all normal as a result of going gluten and dairy free, we are settled in with a home I never ever imagined I would have in a beautiful part of the country we have a great homeschool community and lots of cool homeschooling choices and opportunities,  the blue ridge mountains are not far from our back door and we get to explore and be in beautiful nature often so I should feel better than ever! But I think that is just it, I think everything cumulatively caught up to me and I found myself a bit wrecked. Maybe it was just adrenal fatigue I don't know.

The progression of my dad's ALS pinpointed it all along with a fall out with a friend who I had to distance myself from who although I truly cared for deeply, no longer felt like a healthy or safe relationship.  It was painful because I cared about her very much.  I hadn't had any friendship "breakups" since I was in high school and with families involved I was very torn up, especially because my own family was far away, with a baby and in a different place trying to process my dads ALS and process the guilt I felt for not being closer to help my parents more, it was all just too much to deal with emotionally.  For so long I was always strong through all these major life events, trusted the Lord and he always took care of us and things always turned out for the good and I was able to be very Pollyannaish and content with ease.  With my dads diagnosis with ALS, that brought on a new level of hope and prayer and faith, desperately begging that My dad's ALS progression would halt at some point before it got too bad as it has for some others or even that there would be a healing miracle and it would reverse.  There are people out there who have had their ALS  stop progressing and continue to live a mostly normal life still able to function a lot on their own, and there are yet others who's ALS even reversed.  With my mom by his side, diligently taking care of him and all the protocols to try and implement, I had hope, lots of faith and hope.  I would have visions flash of my dad running up and down the stairs again with a delighted grandchild in his arms enjoying the ride.  And while I believe our prayers have been answered in the regard that my dad is at almost 4 years post diagnosis and still here, as its given us more time with him than others have, it's still progressed along the course and it is such a very cruel disease and awful to watch someone you love go through.  It doesn't seem fair for anyone, but especially to a healthy young 57 doctor who rode his bike everyday, who never needed to use a sick day in 10 years and took seriously his calling to serve his fellow man by being an amazing doctor who truly listens and cares. When not doing that he was serving in scouts taking the boys on awesome high adventure trips down the Pacific Coast, climbing Mt. Adams, cycling in an annual triathlon, planning a fun family activity to take us all snowshoeing, sledding, snowmobiling, camping on the Oregon coast or jet skiing on the Columbia River. When he wasn't doing that he was helping someone move or whatever need there was he was happy to help. 

I think this year, the anger, acceptance and grief of the situation started to settle in more and with it came the burnout of everything else over the years and I just felt fatigued in every way, including spiritually fatigued.  I ran out of energy to pray anymore at the same time having bad anxiety about running into that friend and I think that is where the door creaked open for that three-headed wolf to get a grip on me, take over the stage and undermine me in every way.  Rather than being filled and sustained with the trinity of God, Savior and Holy Spirit, I was drained by that three headed wolf, opposite of the trinity but also 3 in 1, 3 different names but one in purpose, which is to rob us of everything that God so freely gives us, which is Love, self worth, confidence, joy and peace...all the opposite of the fruits of Fear, Worry and Doubt.  With that, rather than just dealing with the anger and grief of the situation with my dad, I was now under attack in every way, into my very being because fear, anxiety and doubt can quickly spread and run deep like a malignant cancer, affecting other areas of our lives and destroy confidence, steal joy, rob us of self worth and make us second guess ourselves constantly.  Once anxiety creeps in and puts us in that state of fight or flight mode, it's hard not to let that state of being affect us in other ways unrelated to the original cause of anxiety.  Suddenly my grief over my dad's situation, and anxiety over running into that person transformed into self-loathing now that an inner voice that is excellent at tearing you down is given the stage in a moment of vulnerability and being stuck in flight mode. I can look at the whole situation now and see how important our spiritual health is like our physical health and how it is so intertwined.  If we get spiritually and emotionally run down, our spiritual and emotional "immune system" becomes weak and we are more vulnerable to "pathogens", and if we catch a "cold" or other ailment, our immune system is further impaired and it's then easier to catch and get run down with other illnesses going around.  Without getting the immune system strong again, you get caught in a vicious cycle of always being sick with something or other.  Just as there are always bacteria and viruses lurking around everywhere, some more contagious than others, how strong our immune system is determines how well we are able to carry on with our normal life unaffected by them because a strong immune system can quickly deflect and deal with the exposures without taking you out.  So can keeping our spiritual and emotional/mental immune system strong, we can walk boldly without fear of being taken by the "viruses" and "bacteria" lurking around looking for a host, we can quickly deflect and deal with them without hardly skipping a beat.  We can be friendly, open and loving without being anxious.  Maybe you could say anxiety is like getting mono. You feel like crap and exhausted for a long time but everyone thinks your fine, until you get even more sick and finally go to the doctor only to find out you have been sick all along without realizing what the problem was and now have a secondary infection since your immune system was so taxed dealing with that original ongoing illness and now you have to figure out how to heal from a host of issues.  Maybe it starts out with some minor anxiety over an issue with someone or a underhanded compliment or some random remark that incites a twinge of insecurity...if you don't quickly combat those Germy moments with hand sanitizer and an extra dose of vitamin C, it can begin the process of hampering the immune system and before you know it you're body is so burdened it developes an auto immune response, which is when your body starts attacking itself...well...when we get run down and lose our confidence and joy I would say that our soul develops an autoimmune disease if we find ourselves internally beating ourselves up. So I guess as I'm writing this, these C words that came to mind as my intention and focus this year I've decided to call Vitamin C for my soul.  Along with spending more time filling myself with God's word, these words I think are great focuses to deflect the attacks of that three headed wolf.  I can't live out my purpose or enjoy the many blessings The Lord has graciously given me if I'm a paralyzed slave to fear, anxiety/worry and doubt.  

I'm NOT an open book type of person, even within myself I internalize things so much so it's outside my comfort zone to share all this but maybe someone will be able to relate in their own way and know it's ok and it's going to BE ok if we hit times in life when the wind is taken out of our sails and we find ourselves doggy paddling and struggling. If not, at least helps me crack my shell to share personal struggles without worrying about feeling judged or guilty.  (Although I still have work to do so I'm sure I'll be worried and self critical over how this post came together and tempted to delete it.šŸ˜­). 

Anyways, here are my C words that I have for my renewed focus of things to be intentional about and work on this year.  I kept wondering why the words I was coming up with were all C words, but now that I see it as my Vitamin C, it all makes sense lol!


These words may mean different things to different people but for me personally, here are some notes on each, Without going into too much detail, but in small points.  Hopefully these Vitamin C's will keep us more immune from negativity, anxiety, fear, doubt and a host of other negative personal issues that can hamper our mental/emotional/spiritual health, which ultimately affects our physical health as well.

Confidence

Reject self-doubt and be positive. 

Here is a list I made while doing some reading in Joyce Meyer's The Confident Woman and will continue to add to but it's a good start. (Reading her book is also my way of starting the year with the intention and focus on confidence.

Affirmations from Heavenly Father
*God's wisdom is in me and I make good decisions.
*No matter how I feel, I can go forward in faith and make the right choice.
*I am greater than my feelings.
*I have favor with God and expect good things
*I am strong (confident) and of good courage. -Joshua 1:6
*He makes my feet like the hinds (strong and able) He sets me secure and confident upon the heights...- 2 Samuel 22:34
*In peace, I will lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust - psalm 4:8
*By the help of God I will praise His word; on God I lean, rely, and confidently put my trust; I will not fear. what can man, who is flesh, do to me? - Psalm 56:4
*I am valuable, I have worth, I am gifted, I am talented and I have a purpose on this earth.
*God has called me by my name and I am His - Isaiah 43:1
*I am precious in his sight and honored.  Fear not, He is with me. - Isaiah 43:4-5
*I will ask and receive that my joy may be full. - John 16:24
*I have a great future.

Connection

*Be intentional about connecting with those I love most.  Being present and undestracted in the moment.

I'm with my kids all the time, but I want to be sure that I am really WITH them and make the moments count.  Anxiety is what gets in the way of this mostly, when you're distracted by worrisome or anxious thoughts, you aren't fully present and robbing yourself of the joy of each moment that you miss.

I came across a great anxiety grounding tool on the blog By Candace Playforth http://candaceplayforth.com/healing-anxiety-nature/
With the 5-4-3-2-1 approach to connect with the present moment and an easy way to do that is looking a kiddo in the eye and coming into their little world, looking at their big round eyes, seeing the rosy health in their cheeks, listening to their sweet little voice and listening what they are playing or thinking about. Whether it's playing Pat A Cake with a baby, engaging with a son and his Lego setup, helping a tween organize her room, doll stuff or pick out clothes...whatever it may be, be intentional to engage with them and their world...even if it's sitting there being shown a bunch of different dragons on Dragon City that are their favorites lol!

Another tip I came across by The Day Designer was to "touch your planner before you touch your phone", a great way to stay grounded and connected with your day, your intentions and your people.
https://www.facebook.com/theDayDesigner

Communication

This is something I have really been learning this year with help of my ladies small group while we read Jen Hatmaker's "For The Love" and Lysa Terkyrst's "Unglued".  I learned I'm a stuffer, internalizer and obliger and struggle with setting boundaries with tendencies of an approval addict, which helped me also realize my love language is words of affirmation.  Although verbal expression is NOT my strong suit and I know this is an area I can really improve.  My husband is the complete opposite, he has amazing communication skills and public speaking skills and has no fear of speaking his mind, isn't held back by social hang ups of worrying what other people might think, can stand up and speak in front of 100 people with ease, whereas I am so opposite in those ways.  I can be more of a slave to those things and it's almost like I put a gag on myself and his being so opposite of me in that regard is something I have always loved about him and been a tad jealous of!  

Within my family, We all get busy and miss and feel disconnected to the family members I love so much that live cross-country and I want to be more intentional about staying in communication with them outside of social media and even texting. I always thought social media and texting were the best thing ever because I've moved so much and it's how I stay in touch with everyone and I've always had a phone calling aversion so they make a great crutch for someone like me who really cares and thinks about you but picking up the phone incites slight feelings of panic.  I was this way before social media and Facebook and I would either write snail mail letters or end up losing touch with people. But, despite how great social media and texting can be for introverts to stay engaged with people they care about, Instagram is no replacement for hearing my sister's or brother's voices and my nieces or nephews in the background or an old friend on her lunch break as she orders her Starbucks in the drive thru!  It's true we are all busy and social media makes it easy, but I definitely feel more connected talking to my friend and hearing her actual voice for 5-10 minutes while she has a break than just double tapping her pictures.

The kids...I think I do pretty good here since we are together so much and very connected but I can still have better communication, stealing away moments for intentional connection and conversation with each person, communicating to them positive messages so the day doesn't slip by with me just directing the next thing they need to do and the occasional scolding.  Being intentional to communicate positive thinking and joy through playing with them.

Communication with God, praying even when I don't feel like it.  Honestly, even when I don't feel in the mood or too tired, once I start, there's so much to be thankful for and so much to say and even a short and sweet prayer is better than none.  The more we spend communing with the face of God, the more we are filled with His love for us and that is what flows through us, filling in the nooks and crannies with His goodness and driving out any negative emotions or false thought we may have about ourselves.

Along with communication is your community! Staying in communication "community" with others helps us not feel isolated and not be just focused on ourselves.

Contentment

This one surprised me when it came to mind because I've generally always been a pretty low-maintenance, content person.  It's a quality my mom often praised me for was that I was always so content and easy and in the earlier years of our marriage when the budget was super tight and my husband traveled a lot, I was perfectly content, I knew I had everything I needed and in a precious phase of new motherhood that I cherished and was just thankful I could be home with her, even if that meant we were living very tight.  But since I somewhat lost myself this past year, it's a reminder to get back to who I am and always was in the past.  To remember who I am and stay content and teach the kids contentment as well.  Being patient and content in the moment.

Cheerfulness

A merry heart doeth good like medicine. - Proverbs 17:22 
'Nough said!

As he thinketh in his heart, so is he. - Proverbs 23:7

A cheerful happy disposition impacts health and life.

One thing that helps me hone in on this trait is my Happiness Project One Sentence 5 Year Journal.  I can quickly jot something down and just by 1-2 sentences being put to paper, it quickly changes my mindset and my mood.  There is so much research about the benefits of practicing gratitude and having a more positive outlook...it all just backs up what proverbs 17:22 above says.  So make sure to use those smiling muscles!  These C's are intertwined. I think when we are cheerful and smile, we feel better about ourselves and that brings us full circle back to our confidence level and ability to feel connected with others.  

Remember to smile.

One more bonus Vit C is....

Cardio

Anxiety and worry is also a form of intense internal energy, excess adrenalin bouncing around all over the place.  Some good old fashioned cardio that gets you sweating can burn up all that excess internal energy that saps you of any real, useful energy (I know that sounds weird right? Too much internal energy gives you less energy...but yes, all that excess internal energy is exhausting).  You can feel like a different person coming out of that workout covered with sweat than when you started that workout. You'll feel proud of yourself, more confident, content and cheerful I guarantee!  Because I'm experiencing that right now!  I always have stuck with yoga and still think it's great but I started taking spin classes recently and I have never worked out so hard before, nor enjoyed working out so much before or felt so much better so quickly!  I haven't had a gym membership in 6 years and I remember how much better I felt when I had that membership before and could go, drop the kids off at the childcare center and just burn off steam.  I didn't even care what physical benefits the workout gave me it just made me feel better.  But we bought an elliptical and kept thinking I can use that and do yoga at home but it's not the same.  I need that gym environment to push and motivate me. I can just drive there not motivated and show up, but once in there and started in a class, I can get into that mode and find out I'm capable of more than I thought I was and come out renewed and tired yet energized in a healthy way.  For me, in the spin class I can zone out and reboot my brain.  It's too intense to think about other things and I don't even have to think about what I'm doing, just follow the instructions and push through.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds with Jesus Christ. -Phillipians 4:6-7

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