Welcome back to the Living to Become blog!
I’m a little sad because we are coming to the end of our mini-series on self-care.
Don’t worry though.
I’ve got some more great stuff coming your way, but I hope that this mini-series has been as helpful for you as it has been for me. It has reminded me of the areas that I do pretty well in and then has shown me some different ways that I can improve on. I hope that it has done the same for you.
Today I’m going to talk about our final pillar, Spirituality, and how we can practice self-care within that pillar.
So you may be wondering what spiritual self-care even is.
Spiritual self-care is the activities we engage in to find and nurture a sense of connection to a higher power and meaning for our lives. Just as it is critical to feed your body with food, it is just as essential to feed your spirit.
Now I want to state right here that I am a very religious person. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a large part of who I am and what I do. A lot of what I do in church translates to this idea of spiritual self-care and I am so grateful for that.
But I am also very aware that there are so many other faiths and spiritual paths that can also help foster this very real need for spiritual self-care. So whatever your path is, use it to create spiritual self-care patterns that can help take you through the ups and downs of life.
It improves our mood, decreases anxiety and depression, gives us a greater ability to handle stress, and has even been shown to decrease aches and illnesses.
I can firmly stand and tell you today that when I’m more spiritually-minded that I have felt all of these benefits. And I can also firmly stand and tell you that when I’m not spiritually-minded, my life feels like it’s crumbling around me. What’s interesting though, is that the circumstances in my life and the world around me don’t necessarily change when I’m more centered around spiritual things, although sometimes they do. But my capacity to handle them increases. It gives me a sense of peace and overall calm that I can handle whatever comes my way.
I remember when I was in my first year of college. The struggle bus was real! I had never felt so lost. The crazy thing is that really nothing horrible was happening to me, I just felt so lost and unsure of life. I came home during a school vacation and I think my dad could tell something was not quite right. At the time he happened to be my bishop (a leader of a congregation in my church). He came up to me and said, “Heather, are you reading your scriptures every day?” I don’t think he even asked me what was wrong, just asked the question. Sheepishly I looked down at my feet and said, “No.” And all he said was “Go read your scriptures and do it every day.”
No thou shalts.
Just read your scriptures.
And I did.
I started to pick up those scriptures and read. Every day I read. And my life became clearer again. Of course, life will always present questions and trials, but through my own personal experience, I can tell you that when I am diligent in this particular form of self-care, my spirit feels better, and over time those questions are answered and the trials become less of a burden.
It sounds so simple and yet it has been a lesson that I will never forget.
Now if within your faith or spirituality you don’t have the scriptures, I encourage you to find what your scriptures are. What can you read that will connect you to God or a higher power? What can you read that fills your soul and gives your life a sense of meaning and purpose? Whatever it is, read it. Every day, read it. So I guess that’s my first tip.
This can look different for so many people, but find a way to connect and communicate with God or your higher power. Find a quiet place to sit, be, and reflect. I actually find that right now the best place for me to pray is in the shower. I know it sounds a little funny, but now that my kids are older they know that they can’t bug me when I’m in there and so it’s my place of solitude. Sometimes I will even offer a silent prayer in my head as I’m driving, just as I would if I were talking to a friend in the car with me. I express gratitude, ask for forgiveness and understanding, and pray for miracles and then I will sit and listen.
This actually can occur during a meditative practice as well. So many meditations have you reflect on gratitude and then sit in silence. Such a great way to connect with your spirituality, but allow prayer, whatever that looks like for you, to become a sacred practice of a personal retreat.
But by practicing prayer, you will gain a better sense of self, it will help regulate your heartbeat, improve your attitude, helps with forgiveness and gives hope, creates a stronger mindset, and helps to maintain a positive outlook on life. Why wouldn’t you want to pray after knowing it helps with all that? So like my dad said with reading the scriptures, “Go pray. Every day.”
Now let’s move onto a tip that might have you wondering what is this lady talking about.
…as in serving other people outside of your home and in your community.
I know, I know…you’re probably thinking, this isn’t self-care, this is caring for others, but stick with me on this one. When you’re willing to “bear other people’s burdens and to comfort those that need comfort” you will find your heart overflowing with love. You will learn to overcome selfishness as you start to find other’s that have struggles just like you or maybe even worse.
A while ago I read a story of a woman (I will call her Stacy) who lived by a woman (I’ll name her Carey) who she didn’t really like at all. Stacy said that she found fault with everything Carey did and she had heard from other people that Carey felt the same way about Stacy. Carey always seemed to force herself to show everyone just how important she was and Stacy hated to see Carey achieve.
Carey was never very friendly to Stacy, and Stacy would pass her with a slight nod or a polite ‘hello’… Stacy was miserable because disliking a person was stealing her happiness.
And then one day Stacy heard that Carey was sick.
But it was her care, and Stacy couldn’t let it out of her mind. Because Stacy had an active Jiminy Cricket on her shoulder, she finally went into her kitchen to whip up some applesauce cupcakes. And then…she took them to her.
I can only imagine the courage this must have taken Stacy. I would have been terrified!
But Stacy went to Carey’s house and Carey lit up with surprise and happiness, and a warm feeling spread over Stacy’s heart and at that very moment, washing away the anger and prejudice she had been holding onto for so long.
As Stacy left Carey’s house and started her walk home, she found herself smiling and couldn’t help but notice how much more beautiful and bright the day was.
Now Stacy and Carey are best friends.
Someone once said that ‘Hate is love gone wrong. We hate those whom we might have loved’” –Relief Society Magazine 8/70
Do you know anyone right now that could use some extra love? Or have you been holding on to some hurtful feelings that could be let go of by serving the person that wronged you? Of course, we need to be careful and not put ourselves in abusive situations and set boundaries for ourselves, but I do believe that a lot of what we hold onto is misunderstandings and hard feelings that serve no one.
By bringing a smile to someone’s life, means that you will be bringing a smile to yours. I know that as I serve, my own personal problems don’t go away, but always seem a little less scary.
In a study of almost 3,300 people who volunteer on a regular basis, the volunteers reported an immediate euphoric sensation that they deemed a “helper’s high”. This volunteering high begins with a burst of energy and a flood of physical exhilaration. This is then followed by a heightened sense of calm and emotional well-being…your basic endorphin rush. This same study also showed that when you volunteer on a regular basis, additional benefits include reduced pain, better immune system functioning, lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, fewer migraines, reduced overeating, and helps with depression and insomnia.
Show me the volunteer sheet and sign me up! Also, can you think of some kids in your life that might need help with self-esteem, depression, and anxiety? Then get them to serve someone other than themselves and watch the magic of service work its magic. The more they can serve the more their spiritual cup will overflow.
I want to point out that just like with all the other areas of self-care that we’ve talked about over this mini-series, is that it takes daily action. Whether it’s prayer, reading your scriptures, or serving others it will require action on your part. This daily spiritual self-care most often is not going to happen to you. You have to make it happen for you.
Howard W. Hunter said, “True greatness… always requires regular, consistent, small and sometimes ordinary and mundane steps over a long period of time.”
This goes for our spiritual greatness as well as the other pillars that I have talked about. Some of the suggestions I have given you are nothing really that ground-breaking.
Yet I know that I don’t always do them, do you?
You might start to feel depleted and are left grasping and reaching for the best version of yourself instead of practicing these somewhat ordinary steps each and every day to become what you are meant to become.
My hope and prayer for you are that you will take at least one small nugget from each of these episodes of this mini-series and work it into your daily routine.
Practice them each and every day until they become a habit, a part of you that you couldn’t imagine living without. As you do this you will find a greater sense of peace, purpose, and joy.