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...and prioritizing recovery, healing, and play
I hope this finds you in a moment of deep peace as you read this. Whether you’re in a kid’s camp pickup line, on a break at work, sipping some coffee while watching the sunrise (🙋♀️), or just checking your email as you begin or end this day.
The flickers of peace within me right now are praying for flickers of peace within you.
Despite summer’s solstice being just over a week ago, we’re wrapping up week 5 of our kids’ summer break — just about the midway point before we all head back to school. At the end of May, our family drove to the east coast for a couple of weeks to escape the Texas heat and draw a thick boundary between the academic year and summer. So long, 2022-23 school year!
Since 2017, we leave town to intentionally reconnect as a family without the reminders around our home or town of the four different directions we’ve been running in throughout the year. We slow down — together — and we play, eat, move, go on adventures, marvel at sunrises, make memories… and we rest... Together.
It is good. It’s one of my favorite rhythms of the year, ushering us from the flurry of May that the kids and I experience with end-of-school-year events in both higher education and elementary school.
It also consistently creates space for me to do a soul-check, to tune inward and put my finger on the pulse regarding how fast I’ve been going through life and the degree to which my soul needs to catch up. As I wrote about in The Soul of the Helper, when we’re in the stage of Speed (not always aware of how fast we’re moving or all that we’ve taken on), it’s reeeally hard to slow down. Whether it’s because of our overstretched orientation toward speed or because our surrounding environment keeps us going and we don’t see an off-ramp to slow down until… well, whenever it comes… slowing down is very difficult.
Perhaps this feels familiar to you, too. Perhaps the transition into June feels like the off-ramp you need and once you get there, you suddenly have margin to assess how tired you are, how worn your muscles are from carrying so much, how fractured your attention is, and how desperate you are to heal — whatever healing looks like for you.
The transition into this June, though, has felt different.
When I was pregnant with our daughter and shortly after she was born, nurses would tell me to be patient with my body’s changes and recovery process. They’d explain that it took my body 9 months to grow her and will take twice as long to recover from growing and birthing her. And that recovery includes physical, hormonal, and emotional healing, alongside all of the adjustments into motherhood.
That wisdom has been nudging and comforting me this month as I’ve contemplated the healing process from everything we collectively navigated since 2020. (It was just in May that WHO announced COVID was no longer a global health emergency, although we’ve certainly navigated a lot more than COVID over the last few years.)
Transparently, I noticed this 22-23 academic year was the first full year in which my body didn’t have every nerve wound up with anxiety over spikes in variants and fear over gathering with loved ones… my brain wasn’t doing mental gymnastics over safety in a crowded space… and I wasn’t overcome by worry about my kids getting sick at school or while playing with friends as I had before they were vaccinated. And these don’t even touch the worries we’ve also carried regarding gun violence, racism, war, oppression, humanitarian crises, wild fires, and more on a national or global scale. Nor does it touch the local or personal worries we each carry with family conflict, mental health concerns, addictions, grief, transitions, financial/job worries, and more. This list is not intended to overwhelm, but to name and honor that there’s been a lot.
My friends, we have a lot of healing to do.
Like the analogy of my body’s recovery from after having my daughter, it may take a some time to unwind the effects of chronic stress from the last few years. It may take a lot of intentional care that’s beyond our normal coping strategies. The slower pace in June created space for me to begin to see that need for care with a whole lot of grace for myself and fellow travelers.
If you’re reading this and it’s reflecting what you’ve experienced, felt, and noticed within, I’m pulling up a chair for you to sit beside me, slow down, and breathe for a moment. Cry if you need to. Unwind your muscles. Lean into a moment of felt safety.
If it helps, at all, here are a few things I’m doing to support my healing.
For the record, I’m doing absolutely ZERO of these perfectly, but I’m practicing like a baby deer with wobbly legs. Whether you try any of these or not, my hope is that sharing this list empowers you to find ways to uniquely care for you.
1. Honestly, The Soul of the Helper sits by my bed and I’ve been slowly rereading it each night over the last couple of weeks. I wrote it as an honest roadmap on how to be gentle with ourselves, pause, and discern what we need as helpers (which is really tough when we’re worn). So nightly reading, especially this book, is helping.
2. Took my work email off my phone — completely. My phone isn’t paid for by my employer, so that helped make this decision guilt-free.
3. Prioritizing 8h of sleep, paired with my gratitude practice.
4. I’m reassessing what I eat in July for my mental health. The food on vacation was so yummy and…I’ve learned that too much processed food with lots of sugar/salt leaves me personally feeling emotionally horrible — our food can impact our mental health.
5. Drinking a lot more water, especially with these 100ºF+ temperatures in Texas. oof.
6. Staying sober. Three and a half years in… (see my reflection about it here).
7. Showing up to therapy and doing the work. (If you need help finding a therapist, check out Psychology Today, Low Cost Help, or 211’s Mental Health section.)
8. Centering prayer…again. This practice slipped for me in the flurry of launching the book, my current research grant, and several transitions that needed my attention. I feel like I’m crawling back to this one like the prodigal son, with a kind & loving God just happy to meet me during each session.
9. Reading Proverbs.
10. Journaling — every week — and unwinding the threads of emotions, sensations, and thoughts I’m carrying within.
While these are helping me, they may or may not be what best supports you. What I hope you hear from this is that you are worth the care you give to yourself. Whatever it looks like. If you, too, are finding some space and sensing the deep healing that’s needed, I hope you’ll talk with your doctor, therapist, and/or loved ones and do what you need to care for you as you heal from whatever you are carrying within, fellow traveler. You are so worth it.
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Spirituality + Mental Health
Each month, you’ll find miscellaneous resources here on the intersection of spirituality + mental health that I’ve recently been reminded of or come across! Most are general resources, but I’ll add some research-focused ones every now and then.
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
From SAMHSA MHTTC’s website: Each July, several mental health organizations across the country shed light on the multitude of mental health experiences within communities of color, including Black and Indigenous people, and others that face disproportionate inequities due to systemic barriers and historical adversity. Inspire others to raise awareness and take part in sharing information, resources and support for the mental health of minority communities. [Visit this site for more information and resources.]
Fr. Henri Nouwen’s Daily Meditations
HKO note: These are my favorite meditations, and ones I’ve leaned on almost daily between 2018-2022. I’m finding my way back to them these days and wanted to pass along to you too… You can also pick up the book here.
NIH - Religion, Spirituality, and Health Scientific Interest Group - Religion and Mental Health
From the website: The NIH Religion, Spirituality, and Health Scientific Interest Group (RSH-SIG) is pleased to announce that Dr. Tyler J. VanderWeele will present our Spring Seminar Presentation. The title of his talk is “Religion and Mental Health.” Dr. Ann Berger, Intramural Co-Advisor to the RSH-SIG will moderate. For more information on the NIH Religion, Spirituality, and Health Scientific Interest Group (RSH-SIG) please visit our website.
Church Mental Health Summit - October 10th (free, virtual event)
From the website: Equipping the local church to support mental health in their communities, congregations, and leaders.
CXMH is a podcast on faith and mental health that I cohost alongside my friend, Robert Vore. Be sure to subscribe, leave a review, follow on social media (@cxmhpodcast), and share episodes you find to be helpful!
We’re pausing new episodes, but have a library of 7(!) seasons of episodes. Learn more at cxmhpodcast.com.
A Couple of Books for Your Journey
Soul Shift: The Weary Human's Guide to Getting Unstuck and Reclaiming Your Path to Joy by Rachel Macy Stafford
Want MORE book recommendations? Check out my bookshop page!
(I get a tiny portion of purchases made through that link, but feel free to buy the book wherever you prefer. I mostly prefer the layout for recommending books to others!)
What I’m Listening To These Days
Whenrecently shared an IG post from Plumb, I squinted my eyes at the account name, sifted through my memory…could it be?! After Drive Me Crazy came out in 1999, I fell in love with Plumb’s song Stranded, bought candycoatedwaterdrops, and used to listen to this album on repeat. I quickly downloaded the album and sang along to almost every song as if I was driving around upstate NY in my green Mazda 626 with the windows down. (Thanks again, MPT.)
The Brilliance’s album, All is Not Lost, has tip toed back into my awareness this week and has been offering a balm to what’s been surfacing in the midst of a slower pace. The Gravity of Love is my favorite on the album, but the chorus in Hear Our Prayer echoes the quiet prayers my heart has been whispering lately:
What about you? 💛
What books, music, or pieces of art are serving your soul these days? Or what practices are supporting you as a whole? I’d love for you to share in the comments below what’s breathing life into your days and swap ideas with others!
This July, may you prioritize the healing you need, Beloved, however it looks for you.
I hope and pray that you feel both a sense of safety and the freedom to allow a slower pace to begin recovering from all you have been carrying.
As you recover, I pray that you dust off the practices, boundaries, and supports that nourish your whole being.
May you discern what you will need to start, stop, or set down in order to support your growth — even just 3-5% growth — and that you honor those needs.
May you extend the grace your mind, body, heart, and soul long for, being as patient with the healing process and with yourself as can be.
Finally, may you not lose sight of the gifts of play, fun, silliness, and joy.
May you do what nurtures your inner child in the most healing of ways. (See this post for some ideas.)
May you marvel at what a gift it is to be alive on this day, in this moment, and what a gift you are within our world.
Be well, friends. Breathe deep and remember how truly loved you are as you are in this moment.