The coming of a new year can feel suffocating when the talk of new starts, big dreams and positive change leaves you feeling more disconnected and despondent than ever. When you’ve been brought to your knees from pain, depression, loss or grief– it is hard to know how to begin the process of caring for yourself and putting the pieces of your health and life back together.
The story of the birth of my business is really the story of when I was at a tremendously low and difficult time in my life. It also happened to coincide with my experience as a new mother.
I have three young children, all close in age from 5 years old to almost 2 years old. I can remember when my second child was born, my oldest just a young toddler. I was so unprepared for the physical, emotional and mental intensity of motherhood, that I had literally run myself ragged. Eating poorly, sleeping poorly, out of check stress, anxiety and deep postpartum depression. On top of the emotional pain of depression, my body became terribly ill with a respiratory cold that led to double ear infections and deep infection in my lungs, I couldn’t move an inch without triggering vertigo and intense vomiting.
It was a pretty bleak place.
I was encouraged by many people to go and see a therapist (which would have been a very good and wonderful thing to do- I’m not against therapy), but I can still remember with such clarity the moment I heard something within me whisper the way out of the dark hole I was in. It was as clear as day, that in order for my mind, emotions and spirit to heal, I needed to give them the raw materials – the literal nutrition they needed in order to become whole and healthy.
Some inner voice gently asked me to extend loving kindness toward myself and consider walking the path of whole nourishment. While paying attention to my soul’s need for beauty, silence, friendship, meaningful work, laughter, fresh air, movement, joy, ambition.
I knew that before I could heal my emotional and mental health- I needed to begin a radical and quite frankly, simple path of putting the fundamentals of my health back together. And I needed to do so in a way where I treated myself with extreme loving kindness.
C.S. Lewis was once quoted as saying, “When you see a man who is drowning, don’t stand on the shore and yell to him instructions on how to swim. First get him out of the water. And then, perhaps, you can teach him how to swim.”
Up until I heard my own inner wisdom speaking, well meaning people all around me were trying to teach me to swim while I was drowning. The way to begin caring for yourself when life feels broken is by getting out of the water safely.
One of the ways I believe we must do that is to focus on the “Minimum Three.”
1. Begin by feeding yourself nourishing foods.
Whole foods. Real foods. Don’t worry about counting calories or nutrient profiles. Begin small. Set a lovely table for yourself. Light a candle. Have some homemade soup with vegetables and chicken and rice. If you are feeling depressed and anxious- lean toward warm, cooked and hearty meals. If you feel stuck and weighted down bring in salads, dark leafy greens and grains like brown rice and quinoa.
Take is slow, but start somewhere. Make it a point to eat breakfast every day. Keep healthy snacks like trail mix or aged cheese around to grab instead of sugar and caffeine.
When you eat, remind yourself that you are giving your body the raw materials it needs for your mind, emotions and spirit to re-balance and heal.
2. Take care to get restorative sleep.
It takes energy to get to sleep properly. When we are chronically sleep deprived we get stuck in a negative spiral.
1-2 hours before going to bed, turn off all screens- no computer and no TV. Put on soothing music. Use essential oils of lavendar and ylang ylang. Give yourself a warm bath and moisturize your skin afterward.
Take time to stretch and massage your feet and neck and shoulders.
Prepare your body and mind for a restorative night’s sleep intentionally. Do it as an act of kindness toward yourself.
3. Get proper oxygen.
Be sure you are breathing properly through the day. Stop 3-5 times a day and take a few moments of deep long nose breaths. Nothing fancy, no advanced technique needed. Simple close your eyes and breath through your nose in and out slowly, rhythmically. Straighten your spine and set your feet firmly on the ground.
Get outside every day.
Let your face see the wide open sky. Let your lungs feel the fresh air. Move your body. If you feel like it, take a brisk walk and give your arms space to swing and pump.
You may be amazed at what shifts and lifts when these three foundational areas of your life are cared for.
Start anywhere, but start every day. Begin by brainstorming ten little things you could do to support each of these three core areas of your life. Write them down and tape it to your refrigerator. Throughout your day make it a habit to check in and see what small thing you could offer yourself toward the care of your body.
When you begin lifting one area of your life, all the other areas of your life begin to lift as well. It’s the power and beauty of our interconnected nature.
The seasons shift one from the next almost imperceptibly. And yet, the harvest in one season is directly related to the care and nourishment of the soil in a season past.
When we are in dark and low places of our lives, it may be hard to visualize what the harvest looks like. But the small acts of nourishment you give yourself today will come back to you tenfold in your bright future.
Lisa Grace Byrne
Author of forthcoming book: Healthy Woman, Vibrant Mom: 7 habits that will make you a calm, energized and healthy mother
Helping depleted moms find their spark again: www.WellGroundedLife.com