So far I have addressed the reality that we are not emotionally healthy all the time, it’s simply not possible to be perfectly consistent. I encouraged you to seek out healthy relationships to help heal your attachment deficits. Now, we’ll delve into the value of spiritual connection to our emotional health. One caveat here is that not all spiritual practices are the same, even within the same branch of spirituality. I am referring to practices that promote the well-being of individuals in body, spirit, and mind, not to practices that promote hate or preservation of the self without regard for how one’s behavior negatively affects others who have different beliefs.
A spiritual practice can help a practitioner tolerate uncomfortable feelings by connecting to the benefits of conflict and struggle as being important to our development as a person of faith. When we connect to the larger purpose of challenges, we shift our view from, “This is awful!” to “What can I learn about myself from this?” or “How can I use this experience to draw me closer to the source of my spiritual practice?” “This is awful!” can be a necessary step in the process, as honoring our actual experience is critical to our emotional health, but staying in that space will not lead to growth.
We connect to the global community instead of isolating ourselves. Healthy spiritual practices promote the good of all, regardless of other’s beliefs. There is a consideration for how our actions will either help or hurt others. This tie to the collective good can ease our sense of isolation in day to day life. When we are connected to others, we can develop or grow our emotional health.
Many spiritual practices encourage prayer or meditation. These can help calm the mind and relax the body which promotes healing and releases stress and tension. Relaxed muscles promote healthy blood flow throughout the body. Blood carries nutrients as well as aids in the process of removing toxins. Think of a river dammed up by debris. It reduces the flow of water downstream and causes flooding upstream. Our bodies don’t do as well when flow is decreased and many spiritual practices have the capacity to relax a person. When we are physically healthier we can be emotionally healthier and connect with others from a grounded, relaxed place versus a stagnant and tense place.
So what are you doing with your spiritual practice? Do you have one? I’ve listed just a few benefits. There are many more. Consider how you can use a spiritual practice to increase your enjoyment while you are on this planet, including increasing your emotional health.
What do you need to feel balanced? Some days it might be a hug, a deep breath, a walk, a real conversation, the reminder that you are enough. Not one of those is about material items or even things you buy. They are about caring for yourself in deep and meaningful ways. Are you getting those ingredients in on a regular basis? Do what you can in this moment to care for yourself.
It’s been a while. I’m not sure why. Mostly, I just never felt like writing. I would think about you, desire to reach out, but not have anything novel to say. But, life is always changing and even a similar topic has unique nuances based on the situation in the present. We are in a new phase of our life with COVID. For the first time in 14 months, I walked into the grocery store without my mask on. I had been out of town and out of the loop for a bit and didn’t realize the regulations in my town had changed to no longer requiring masks. I have been fully vaccinated and the sign said I didn’t have to wear a mask; I was free to go without one. I did not feel good about that. It was a challenge to tell myself it was ok. I felt anxiety about it. Would I be safe? The store was nearly empty at 7 am on Memorial Day so it really wasn’t a big deal. It’s interesting how we get used to things being a certain way and when that way is changed, we don’t like it, we feel uncomfortable.
I remember tears rising when most of the produce in the grocery store was gone in March 2020. I remember the anxiety that built over our rapidly changing accessibility to freedom, groceries, and toilet paper! We had to adapt to our new way of functioning and many of us did. Now, it’s time to shift to a new place. We are adaptable; it’s called neuroplasticity. It means that our brains are capable of changing long-held beliefs and patterns. We like to say, “This is just how I am” when confronted with the idea of change. Reality is you are saying, “This is how I want to stay. I don’t want to change.”
I wonder what you are confronting today that may require some willingness to change? Is it a relationship, a job, or perhaps a circumstance? Consider the neuroplasticity of your brain. Perhaps it’s time to allow it to happen. It’s not an easy process but it can be done. If you need a resource for this check out my workbook, the Journey Forward Workbook: Daily Steps to Achieve Emotional Balance and Healthier Relationships
Pause for just a moment to take a breath. Make it as deep and slow as you can without feeling pressure to go beyond what you are capable of. Notice what it feels like to breathe, the sensation of breath coming in. Notice your body expanding as you inhale. Now exhale everything out and notice what that feels like for you physically.
Take another deep slow breath, noticing what that’s like. As you exhale allow your shoulders to relax. Notice other areas of your body that are tense and imagine letting the tension go with your exhale.
Take one more breath in and out repeating the steps above. Take this moment with you as you go about your day. Repeat as necessary 🙂
For some it seems elusive. I find it at times and at others lose it. It seems peace is connected to a choice we make about how we look at our circumstances. When Anna was waiting for her first transplant I struggled to find peace. I didn’t like not living at home and being away from all things familiar including people. I didn’t like the unpredictable nature of the transplant world, every day wondering if it would be the day we got the call for available lungs. I didn’t have a lot of peace.
By Anna’s second transplant I learned a few things. The main difference was being at peace with whatever was happening. I learned to find contentment in the space of the unpredictable and unfamiliar. Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament of the Bible, spoke of learning to be content in the midst of hardships. His were a lot more intense than mine but the concept of finding peace in any and every situation is accessible to all of us.
It is a choice to breathe and relax. To look for glimmers of sunshine in the midst of dark circumstances or simply be at peace right where you are. Life is filled with discomfort. Acknowledge yours, give space to grieve, be angry or sad. Then take a few slow breaths and remind yourself you can get through this a breath at a time. You can choose to hang on to icky emotions or let them go (for now, they will likely come back but you’ll deal with them when they show up again). You can choose to do something that fills your soul in the midst of the challenge (as simple as looking at a flower, the sky, a color you like, remembering a pleasant time or place). You can even follow the gentle prompt of my online yoga friend, Yoga with Adriene, turn the corners of your mouth up.
I understand it can be hard to find peace, but I also know it’s possible. Choose peace 🙂
We’ve been dealing with this pandemic for about five months. I wonder how you are doing? Are you enlisting self care? Are you giving space for your emotional experience?
When all of this first started it was scary for many of us. Our way of functioning was suddenly changed. We had to first deal with the shock of it. At this point in the journey I’m thinking you have found some stability within this unpredictable time. If you haven’t it might help to talk with a friend or mental health professional.
It might sound odd for me to put those two together: friend or mental health professional. I think our best support is found in stable friends. While I see my profession as valuable, I know friends are sometimes the best support. They are usually accessible 24/7. They don’t drain our bank account. They know us deeply (if we let them). Perhaps they have also walked similar roads and may know first hand the twists, turns and potholes along the way.
Sometimes we need the counsel of a professional. Our friends can guide us in that direction if the material we are dealing with is beyond their capability. Whatever you choose, be good to yourself and reach out to others to help you navigate this challenging road.