As I shared last week, a resilient life is one where stress can be managed at a good baseline. There are seasons where we are more heightened or stressed, but after the season ends, we should be able to return to our former level of stress or something close to it. This can be incredibly difficult to do and if we struggle to return, it can cause more stress and anxiety.
When I was young I was diagnosed with a pain syndrome which affected my muscles. I do not remember a day I have not experienced pain. Long story short, I had lots of therapy and then went into my own daily care by the age of 14. Around the same time I was at a breaking point and life wasn’t great. I needed help and I needed a new perspective. Being a child/adolescent with a chronic illness can do a toil on a developing mind. I had shame over my desire to not continue life. I felt guilty for costing my parents excess medical costs. I was consumed by surviving the pain.
By the time I was 16-years-old I was better with the care I took to rehab, strengthen and press forward. I took this ambition to overcome into and through college. It was constant survival mode. I became increasingly more sick in college and had to learn to advocate for myself in every area of my life. Through my determination I rarely let myself relax and relent in my pursuit to make it through. Other stresses in my life mounted and I was tightly wound. I made it through nursing school and started my career as a pediatric nurse.
That’s when I broke. I had operated at such a high stress level for so long I feel a part. I had stuffed emotions, shame and hidden things so deep inside it took months to dig it all out. I found a safe place to process, to grow and to be emotionally exhausted. I could not be who I wanted to be for my patients and their families if I wasn’t okay myself. I also couldn’t maintain my health with the stress I had put on myself.
For me, this breaking point took me to a mountain (literally) and a gut-honest submission to my God. It then took some hard conversations and creating a new way of living.. It eventually took me to a new city, new job and a new community where I could be the revitalized me. I also found a therapist who I have now known since I made this commitment to my mental and spiritual health. The old me was exhausted and burnt out. I had to create a new normal though hard work, years of hard work. This baseline I talk about does not mean you decide one day to be less stressed. It takes a decision to find a new way and then daily little decisions to live differently.
One of my favorite things I have done recently is to have a story summary for my life. Each year can be different. For me, this year’s summary is: Loving myself through my story. This keeps me grounded to my baseline. It brings me back when shame, guilt and pain creep in to control my heart and mind. It reminds me to be gentle with myself and to love myself through the stress and the pain of daily life.
Whatever you are in your story, take a few minutes today to consider if you are running and avoiding, if you are striving for something you believe you need to achieve, or if you have a story summary to write or rewrite. We don’t have to find a better baseline overnight. It takes work. We need to assess where we are first before we can head in our desired direction. Make a plan to determine where you are at, where you want to be and how you are going to get there. If you are in a current stressful season, find healthy ways to make it through and plan to reassess once you have rested a bit. We can all get there. Give yourself some love today and be gentle with those around you as well.
We will keep working towards resilience in the weeks ahead.