When you are facing a big challenge, such as the loss of a loved one, finding a place inside of yourself to simply believe that well-being is possible again is really key in being able to actually experience some well-being in the moment. When you are in the “darkest night of the soul,” enveloped in depression, grief and loss, fear, mental health or physical challenges; or when the challenge of a recent event or a relationship in your life is testing your strength, reaching up just a little bit to remember a time you felt better can be extremely comforting and empowering. We don’t, and can’t go ‘from A to Z’ in feeling good when we feel really bad or are challenged, but we can re-remember a time when we felt more whole than now; more grounded and confident; and more well in body, mind and spirit.
When I’m facing a challenge or struggling with something in my daily life, I look to find one thought; one sentence; or one feeling that reminds me of a time I felt better. It can be as simple as remembering a moment I felt happy and free or thinking about something I love to do, or an action I took that was self-loving. Crowding out the energy of pain with the energy of joy and freedom can shift our experience of challenge in a moment. The challenge may still be there, but how we perceive it changes, and that’s what makes the difference in getting us through.
We might not even be able to reach for well being when we are going through a really difficult time, but we can reach to remember what it felt like when we did feel better, and bring that recollection front and center into our consciousness to replace the darker feelings, sensations or thoughts that are dominating. We might simply say aloud, “I trust where I am at this moment.”
When I am struggling, I take one small action to put myself in a healing environment, like calling a friend for support – someone who knows me, gets me and loves me – and I ask them to tell me all the things they love about me! This is actually very helpful, though we can find it hard to take in the good stuff when we’re not accessing it ourselves, so if you find yourself disconnecting from receiving these expressions of love and self-worth, ask the person to please repeat them and focus your attention on their words and the sensations they bring in until you can hear and receive them. When I am with a friend, I might ask for a hug, not just the hello-goodbye type of hug but a full bodied, heart-to-heart healing hug. When we can’t hold onto the good feelings and think they’re gone forever, our friends can offer us some of theirs. Let others love you up even when it’s hard just to get through the day. I also ask for virtual hugs over the phone and give them back, which makes me pause, breathe and receive.
Nature has always been a huge healing force for me, even during my darkest times. Try and get to your favorite peace-and-calm place; maybe a beach, park or on a hike to remember a feeling of well being. Years ago, when I was going through a difficult emotional time, I would get in my car and go to my favorite park over the Hudson River. The minute I would climb the short hill and reach the top, looking down over the expanse of water, I already began to feel better. I knew my issue was still there, but breathing in nature created a chemical healing reaction in my body. Gazing over the hill to the water down below, I knew that somewhere, all was right with the world, and it gave me hope that all could be right again with mine. If it’s summer or you’re in a warm climate, put yourself in salt water. Being in the ocean or a similar body of water draws all the toxins out and literally creates a new chemical composition in our body, mind and spirit. If your challenge is a physical one and your mobility is compromised, see if you can access nature in some small way – even if it’s a slide show on the computer or doing some deep breathing with your eyes gazing out the window to the sky. If a friend can help bring you somewhere where nature is at play, you can just simply be with it without having to do anything – just feel the calming influence, whether it’s from your home, a car or outdoors. There is healing power in nature that helps balance our challenges.
Do little things that remind you what it’s like to feel “normal.” Eleven days after I was hit by a car and injured, it was New Year’s Eve. One of my girlfriends suggested going to dinner at a local restaurant where I knew everyone and felt really comfortable, even though leaving my home was not anything I imagined doing. I was terrified, never having had to navigate a flight of stairs without both of my legs mobile. More than that, in addition to my other injuries, I had been traumatized – my world had been turned upside down in a moment being hit by a car while walking and thrown into the windshield and crosswalk. As time wore on, I realized how many people died from this. I was filled with fear. I remember my friend’s face at the bottom of the stairs saying,”You can do it!” The stairs looked like a mountain, but her face down below shining faith towards me gave me the courage, though I stood at the top filled with anxiety for a long time. Even getting out of the car and walking into the restaurant, I noticed grooves and hills I never saw before. Stepping up onto the sidewalk was a terrifying challenge. But once inside, the warm, loving faces of encouragement and nourishing food helped heal my soul and remind me of who I was before my body propelled into the air. My friends still saw me as Hope, and it helped me access her; my Self. Find the reminders of who you are spend time in them.
Another healing tool to offset challenges is to create a sentence; one simple affirmation that sees your challenge as if it is gone. When I’ve suffered loss, I’ve tried to see the largeness of my pain and remind myself it is not all of me – just a part, and even if it feels all-encompassing, in reality there are other parts to who I am and to my life. One of the biggest contributors to the state of overwhelm is when we group our entire lives and how we feel into one pile of mud. Our statements become “all or nothing” statements, and in so doing, shut down any potential for relief. It’s all good or all bad, and in the case of a challenge, all bad with no hope of better. If I were struggling with a physical challenge, I might say: “My body is healthy, well and strong. I feel really good.” If my issue is mental/emotional, I could say, “Today I feel free free and clear inside,” or, “I trust my world today.” Even and especially if the challenge is large, these affirmations start to condition a new response into our cells, body, mind and spirit. We can literally shift and elevate the sensations inside of us simply by saying an affirmation each day before we get out of bed. You take your obstacle and flip it on its right side into a possibility. Keep your affirmation in the present tense, as if what you long for already exists. It’s remarkable to witness the shifts that occurs. Again, the challenge is still there but our experience of it has has been lifted, and it no longer has the same power over us.
Life is not devoid of challenges. Some of them knock us off our feet. It’s how we hold the challenge that makes all the difference – do we cradle it with love or do we banish it to our own netherworld with hatred and antagonism? Do we fight it every step of the way or do we find a way to honor its existence and decide that even living with it we can trust and believe we are more than just our challenge. When we do this, we allow it to exist a little bit outside of ourselves instead of becoming all of who we are, and that creates an opening to well being. We can let ourselves shine even when the light seems to have gone out. Find a small candle with a tiny flame and light your way to wellness.
Hope Stanger, HHC
Hope & Pam