When we are in a place of emotional stress, it is usually all we can do to handle life day-to-day (or even minute-by-minute). It is very common during that time to stop taking care of our bodies.
But I have discovered, unfortunately, that is one of the worst things we can do. Our emotions are so tied up in our physical health. Think about it. When are getting enough sleep, eating healthy food that is fuel for our bodies and moving around (even if it is just getting out for a walk), we feel so much better. I know I sure do – like I can take on the world!
I know at first, when the tragedy takes us to our knees, we don’t have much of a choice. Our body just kind of seems to take over as a response to the intense grief. Some of us find ourselves eating unhealthy “comfort foods” constantly. Others discover they don’t eat anything at all for a couple of days. Some of us can’t seem to stay awake and all we can do is sleep. Others want desperately to sleep, but even with sleep aids it often still seems to allude them.
Me? I slept a lot and grabbed the comfort foods, which put an extra 30 pounds on my body. Over five years later, I am still struggling to get my health back under control.
But we all get to a point where the fog starts to lift, and we are left with the reality of the depth of our pain and horrific loss. Most of us continue in the pattern we found ourselves in, convincing ourselves we are helpless to stop.
I want to encourage you that is not true. What is usually happening, is that we see ourselves as a victim of the circumstance and let that become our identity. (My identity became, “I am the mother of a child who died.”) As long as that is our identity, we continue to believe things won’t change, and we will always struggle, both emotionally and physically.
At some point, we will come to a place where we start making the choice. “Do I want to stay a victim and let that become my identity? Or do I want to figure out how to climb out of this pit of darkness and back into a place of hope and light and life?”
If you are ready to start climbing out of the pit and get back to living again, here are three suggestions to help you start going in the right direction.
- Take a daily stroll. I know we don’t feel like it, but it does so much to release stress and keep our bodies in better working order.
- At least once a day, chose something healthy to eat instead of reaching for that indulgent item that you will pay the price for later. I know that is easy for me to say and much harder to do. Something that might help is a change in perspective. I can either “treat” myself to those brownies or that ice cream, or I can “treat” myself to something that will be fuel for my body. Usually once I take the first bite of the healthy item, it tastes good because my body is craving the nutrients and I am glad I chose what I did… usually….
- Build in times of rest, including going to bed early or sleeping in late. Whenever we face a crisis, our adrenal glands (the built-in “fight or flight” mechanism we each have) are working overtime in a big way. You can become critically ill if they burn themselves out. Rest is one of the only things that counters the work they are doing on your behalf.
We don’t get to choose how our body reacts to a shocking tragedy. But what we can and need to do is look to God for how to not abuse our bodies during this time, and ask Him what we can do to help our bodies come back into alignment with being healthy. He knows what we need, each day, each moment. And then be sure to follow through with the nudges of the Holy Spirit.
The last thing I want to say is to not be hard on yourself for letting your body somewhat fall apart. You have been in survival mode. Just take one day at a time, and keep stepping in the right direction. It is a process to become healthy again after a tragedy strikes our lives. And probably one that will take longer than you want it to.
Remember that choice of either staying a victim or climbing out of the pit of darkness and despair? I urge you to start making your way out with baby steps by taking back your health. And keep going, because it is worth the climb!
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