5 Bonus Habits to Adopt for Mental Wellness | Mental Illness Awareness

As I was writing the 5 Habits for good mental health, I started to remember other habits that I have adopted over the years.  So rather than make one very LONG post, I decided to make these the bonus five!

I call them a bonus because really that’s what you get if you adopt them… a big supply of bonus mental energy, if you will.  Over the years I have adopted each as they have become needed for my recovery and good health and also when I found that I gained so much from them.  I have just continued to try and do them.  Mind you, I am FAR from perfect at any of the habits including the first five that I shared.  But boy, do things look and feel brighter when I’m managing my health in this way.  Also, remember that all of the things that I am suggesting are not easy when you are really struggling, so just take baby steps.  They are not meant to replace medication, that’s something you and your Dr. should discuss.  Just take it one day at time.  So here we go!

  1. Start Journaling– (this one I recommend doing daily if possible) I have been a journal writer for a long time.  Even in my teen years.  I have books and books of ramblings that probably will never make it off my dusty shelves, haha.  But it has never been more apparent to me than it was almost 4 years ago when I had my second Manic Episode* that landed me in the psyche ward, how much a journal can help you through out your life.  I have been able to look back and see patterns and signs that have been especially helpful now.

Your journal doesn’t have to be anything special, most of mine are just spiral bound notebooks that I like because they were pretty or had a nice positive quote on the front.  If you know me, you know I’m easily distracted by shiny pretty things, haha.  I love me some pretty little bling.  But I digress.  The importance that a journal can have in your life in a situation such as Bipolar, for example, is immense.  I wish that I’d done a lot more than ramble in mine. But at least I have dates and times documented that I can look back on.  What I have started doing now that has been especially helpful is first, write a small sentence about how I am feeling maybe even rate how I’m feeling on a 1-10 scale.  One being completely down like the worst of the worst, and 10 is thinking that your on fire (I aim for between 6-8. 9 and 10 are danger zones for me).  Some people have even said that putting a small arrow in the corner.  Pointing up=good day,  pointing down=bad day is helpful.  But for me the scale tends to give me a better idea of where I’m standing.

Second, make a list of 10 things  that you are grateful for that day (If you can only do 3 then do 3 and work up). I write in the morning so I always put down things that happened the day before. But if evening works best for you that’s awesome!  Gratitude is an Attitude and before you know it, the gratefulness and love that pours out of you from this small act will amaze you.  One word of advice, these should not be the exact same things everyday.  Look for small seemingly insignificant things that you can appreciate each day.  Maybe some days the best you can do is, “I didn’t trip over the laundry again today!”  Seriously, if we can learn to recognize that there is good in the darkest of days, we can make it through.  As I said before, I am not perfect at these things and there are PLENTY of days that get missed (usually the days that I’m feeling the worst, but hey that’s a pattern you can use later ;)).  Speaking of days that you feel the worst, if you can make yourself do just a few of the things I’m sharing, you are moving in the right direction.  There’s always a way!

2. Find a Friend – It’s not as hard as we make it out to be, however it is difficult.  Yes hard and difficult are two different things ;).  What I mean is, Friends are everywhere, literally (not hard to find),  we just haven’t done the difficult part of reaching out to those around us that could be potentially the best friend you’ve ever had!  Support when you’re hurting can be the best healing balm you can find.  Even if this friend turns out to be someone you’ve never met that you found through a blog online, haha, that went through the same things you are going through.  I promise you, if they are posting online, they are open and willing to talk with you. However it is much more lucrative for you to find someone near you, and spouses and family members can sometimes be the best.   What ever the case, these people can be there IN PERSON to lift you on days that seem impossible to make it through.  To pop by unannounced with a little treat.  Or be there at a moment’s notice when you’re really desperate. Or just to call or text you to let you know you’re on their mind.

I know I’m making it sound easy, and trust me, I know from experience that NONE OF THIS is easy.  But having someone to talk to is so essential for recovery.  Getting better is never a straight line up.  It is filled with ups and downs and curves and hills and it is so much easier to navigate all of that with someone in your corner to support and lift you.   So make a list of people that you feel close enough that you could reach out to them.  I promise you, there are people waiting for you to ask.  Put away your pride and be vulnerable for a minute.  I believe that there are no coincidences in this life.  Everything happens for a reason.  And that person for you, needs you as much as you need them!

3. Find quiet time– Oh how I wish that I’d known this one years ago.  It’s  hard with 4 littles under the age of six, to find an ounce of peace and quiet.  But it is so essential to good mental health.  If you have to ask your significant other or a friend or family member to watch the kids for a few hours a week, do it.  Ultimately 15-30 minutes a day that you can take time out to refresh would be best.  Whether it’s to read or meditate or just tune out for a few minutes.  It is so good for your mind and body to just get a few minutes to think and contemplate how the day is going.  But like I said, if you are unable to do this daily, at least find time during the week that you can take a time out for yourself.  In general most of us tend to do so much for everyone around us, neglecting ourselves.  However, if you are having a hard time functioning, how can you possibly be 100 Percent for everything and everyone else you have to take care of.  Take care of you, then it is much easier to take care of those around you.

4. Find an outlet or hobby– None of the things that I am listing are easy when you have 900 million things to do in a day.  But if you want to have good physical and mental health, these things are so helpful.  I guess if you wanted to, you could consider your workout as hobby, or your daily walk as you time out.  Getting a two for one sort of effect.  But if you want to be really effective, find ways to work these into your schedule.  Again, some things like hobbies don’t have to be worked into every single day.  Once a week can be very beneficial for your psyche.

So let’s just take a look at some of the things that you could do as a hobby and please don’t say social media!!  I’m talking about things like finding time to read that book you’ve been wanting to read since last summer.  Or working on that creative project that you just never seem to have time to get to.  Or writing that book that you always wanted to start, but something else always comes up.  Maybe you’d like to try something new like watercoloring or hand lettering.  Something that really takes you away into another world for a period of time and gets your mind off of the things that you’re struggling with.  There are literally millions of hobbies that you can take on and try.  You’re bound to find something you really enjoy that gives you something to look forward to.

5. Do something for someone else quietly and Intentionally– This is one that has really helped me when I’ve been at my lowest.  When I’m in that spot (you know the one where you just can’t seem to make your self do anything), I don’t exactly feel like getting out and helping someone move, or making dinner for someone (I care barely get that done for my own family!).  However,  doing small things quietly and intentionally, like sending a card, or sending a text, just to let someone know your thinking of them can take the pressure off of thinking about yourself and how bad you feel.  Believe me, I know it can be difficult.  That’s why I say “intentionally”.  Even when you don’t feel like it, make yourself do it.  Don’t just be random about this, honestly try to think of someone else and how you can brighten their day.  I promise you that in doing it, you will get an instant bump in gratification.  You actually got up and did something really nice for someone else.  And the more that you do things like that, the more it will come back to you and the better you feel.  At least for the moment. The reason that I say quietly, is because for most of us who suffer from mental illness, the last thing we want to do is draw attention to ourselves.  So doing small and simple things that you can do by yourself on your own time, without anyone really noticing can be very uplifting and gratifying.  I heard a story of someone that would intentionally place penny on the ground in a specific place that they could follow up on.  knowing that for someone (maybe even a child), it would bring a smile to their face.

So there you go.  5 more habits that you can add to your life to make it better, and to help you be more mentally and even physically healthy.

* One of the first questions that people ask me when they find out that I have Bipolar, is: What is a manic episode like? So I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot and have decided to write a post about it.  It will be  from 2 different perspectives.  Mine and my husband’s (since he has been with me for 2 now).  It will be informative and useful for those who have or are suffering with what they think might be Bipolar.  And also for those of you that have friends or family that you think might have Bipolar and you want to be a support system for them.  So if you’d like to be notified when my posts update.  Just follow me!

 

Enlightened and Rejuvenated!

If you have read very much on this blog, then you know that I have a deep and abiding love for my Savior Jesus Christ and all that He has done, and continues to do for me.  Every 6 months, the church that I belong to, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has a General Conference meeting.  In this meeting we are taught and counseled by our leaders and those that we believe are called of God at this time and day to lead and guide us in the way that we should go.  We believe that just as in times of old,  we have a prophet on the Earth today, President Russell M. Nelson.  We also believe that we have 12 apostles, just as in Christ’s day, that are called by Him to be His disciples.  They are admonished to finish their days on the Earth teaching, preaching, and loving every man, as taught in the books of the New Testament.  What a privilege it is then, to be able to hear, learn and ponder the messages they share with us each Spring and Fall.  If you are interested in viewing any of these messages you can find them here.

The conference held this past weekend was no different than past conferences.  At this time in my life, I try to spend the days and weeks preceding General Conference (I haven’t always been so diligent), preparing my heart and mind to be open to the messages that God has for me personally.  I was especially mindful this time.  I had some very specific questions that I needed answers to.  I was not disappointed.  Not only did all my questions get answered, but very rapidly as the conference began. (They never all get answered, haha). It was if a book had been laid in front of me to the exact page I needed.  And I was privy to the knowledge and answers that my heart yearned for.  And as you may know, those answers are not always the answers that we want to hear, but they are the answers that we NEED to hear.

I won’t say what the questions were or the answers that came, as they are deeply personal.  But, I was assured  once again of the deep and unfailing love that my Savior has for me and indeed for all of us.

I was struck by so many of the messages that the tears began to flow and did so mightily.  I loved every message from our beloved prophet and all of the apostles for sure!  But here are a few of the messages and links to hear them, that especially touched me this time.

One of the answers to my questions came with the very first speaker.  Elder Ulysses Soares.  He taught us of the importance of living and teaching the gospel to our friends and loved ones.  And the importance of teaching, and raising our children in the light of the Gospel. To teach them that they have a Father in Heaven who loves them.  That Jesus Christ, His son, is the Redeemer of the world.  We need to be rooted in the rock of the Redeemer that we may know that as we learn of Him and come close to him we shall never hunger or thirst. Isaiah 49 :10

10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVED Sister Sharon L. Eubanks.  She taught that we need to be “plugged in” to the source of light, even Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer.   That He is the one that heals us , picks us up and dusts us off and joins with us to pull our heavy burdens.  She taught that in our afflictions He will keep His promises and He will always be with us as taught in the book of Mosiah from the Book of Mormon: Chapter 24

13 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

She taught how to access the light of the Savior.  We need only knock and he is there waiting to help is in any way He possibly can.

Matthew Chapter 7

¶ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

She taught that we should use our light!  We may only be one bulb on a tree but we still shine our small light!

And so many more good messages came from her talk, I hope that you will listen to and be edified.

One other one that really touched me was Kyle S. Mckay . He taught that the Lord’s timing does not equal our timing.  Sometimes we go through things that seem never ending.  But the Lord will not forsake us, nor forget us.   Though we may not see immediate answers or relief in our situations, we can be sure that the Lord will still send us immediate blessings to help us while we are waiting on the greater blessing.  We access this by praying with real intent and full purpose of heart.  And then we recognize and praise God  for those tender mercies that come.  Quoted from the Book of Mormon in  Mosiah chapter 5

10 And again, when they thought of the immediate goodness of God, and his power in delivering Alma and his brethren out of the hands of the Lamanites and of bondage, they did raise their voices and give thanks to God. 

Oh there were just so many good messages.  I feel rejuvenated and edified and spiritually fed.  I am so grateful for the Gospel in my life and the great strength it brings me.  In times of plenty as in times of trial.

I hope that you will take some time to ponder and study the messages that were taught, as I know they come from God and are intended to lift, edify and help us through whatever we may be going through.  You can find out more about my faith, General Conference and Jesus Christ by clicking here.

 

5 Habits to adopt for good mental health

In the last post I promised that in the next one I would be sharing the 5 things that I try to do EVERY day, that I have found really help a lot when trying to balance and maintain good mental health.  This is not meant to replace medication (if needed) or other forms of therapy.  And if you think you may be suffering from depression or other mental illnesses, I highly recommend seeing a Psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis and help you formulate a good plan of action.

This is certainly not just for those who suffer with mental illnesses.  These habits are great habits to adopt for anyone who wants to improve their physical, mental and emotional state. So please don’t click off now, I promise this will be worth it.

So let’s just jump right in! I am going to go in specific order of importance as they apply to me and my mental health, but I’m sure it may be completely different for others.

1. SLEEP- At least 6-8 hours of good solid sleep per night.  It might seem crazy that I put this as the number one habit to adopt, but it is so so important!  Sleep is when your body recovers, rejuvenates and repairs itself. If your not getting enough, your body can’t function as it properly should.  Besides the obvious negativities like poor focus, fatigue and lack of concentration, poor sleep is linked to overeating, a greater risk for inflammation, depression, a greater risk of heart disease and stroke and it affects your emotions and social interactions.  It also contributes to lower glucose metabolism and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and those are just a few of the negative effects.  So it makes so much sense to give your body what it needs so that it can function as efficiently as possible.

Everyone is different and requires different amounts to  be healthy but at least 6-8 hours per night seems to be a sweet spot for most people.  There are so many benefits too. It can improve concentration and productivity, improve athletic performance. Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories.  And it can improve immune system functions among many other benefits.  For me it is paramount in keeping my mental health balanced and stable. Also one last word of advice for sleep is that if you find that you have lost sleep for a few days, try to catch a few extra winks as quickly as you possibly can.  Sleep deprivation is a breeding ground for mania or manic episodes.

2. MOVE. YOUR. BODY.- At least 30 minutes daily of some form of movement.  I notice a significant drop in my mood within a couple of days of not working out.  It’s really kind of scary for me because I can feel depression settle in almost like a big black storm cloud if I go more than a few days without my regular workouts.  I personally do my workouts at home so I don’t have to get dressed up and wear makeup (cause I don’t go anywhere without makeup, haha), or worry about others critiquing what I’m doing. Plus it saves money on babysitters and gym memberships.  I have been working out consistently for over 25 years and have learned specific workouts that seem to have a greater positive effect for me.  Over the years I have collected quite a variety of videos, and equipment to keep me from getting bored doing the same workouts.

But whatever works for YOU is great!  As long as you are moving your body regularly.  Some people love the gym.  Some love to get outside and run or hike, and some enjoy the calming effects of a good yoga session.  It doesn’t really matter what, where, or how you move.  Just move and get those endorphins flowing!  Not only does it benefit your mental and emotional health, it makes you look and feel better.  And who can’t appreciate that?

3. HYDRATE- Drink at least half your body weight a day in water.  I’ve been doing this for many years now and it might seem funny that I rated this more important than a healthy diet (spoiler alert, lol).  And this is on purpose their are so many benefits to being properly hydrated.  Here are just a few:  Weight loss and good skin elasticity.  Hello!  Who doesn’t want to be more fit and have less wrinkles?  (I attribute looking as young as I do at 50 to drinking a lot of water every day for the past 20 something years). Muscle efficiency, mood balancer (yes!), temperature control, memory function, and joint lubrication.  It flushes out the toxins that build up in our bodies creating good bowel function.  It aids digestion and creates better immune health.  It’s just a good solid healthy habit to adopt.

4. Eating a Healthy Diet. – Try and stay away from sugary processed foods.  And, I’m sorry for this one but, ABSOLUTELY no caffeine. Disclaimer, this is what I have found that works for me.  I am not a Dr. so definitely consult your physician on the best diet for you and your body type.

I have personally found that cutting back on carbohydrates and cutting out sugary foods and drinks does wonders for my mental state.  I know when I’ve gone to far with the trips to the ice cream store, because I start feeling lethargic, run down, lacking on focus and concentration and it’s easy for depression to set in.  And as for caffeine, this was a hard line that my Dr. set with me first thing!  I wasn’t thrilled about it for sure!  But it has had a huge effect on keeping me out of a state of mania.  When I’m entering a manic state of mind it feels almost like I’ve had a couple of cups of coffee or shot of caffeine.  So it makes sense that this would be something important to implement.

I’m not going too far down this road because it can be a loaded topic.  There are many options when it comes to healthy eating and different diet plans.  If you want more info on what I DO eat, please DM me and I’d be happy to chat about it.  Again this is what works for me.  The side benefits are many and your brain and body will love you for it.

5. CUTTING DOWN ON HIGH PRESSURE STRESS- Stress affects your body, from your brain to your digestive system!  This habit is probably the hardest one to maintain for most people.  We have so many things going on in our lives from work and family to school, and outside activities.  And that’s just naming a few.  These are just some of the many ways that stress can affect us negatively.  Headaches, muscle tension, chest palpitations, feelings of depression, ravenous hunger, and the list goes on. I have learned over the years that a good practice to adopt is that it’s OK to say ‘no’.  Don’t feel like you have to do all and be all just because you feel like everyone else is doing it.  Or that you just won’t measure up if you don’t.  Your good health is more important than anything else.  Even if it’s something you feel is really important! If you feel your body ramping up or getting anxious, it’s important to follow those signs it’s giving out.  If you are overwhelmed and over stressed to the max and you don’t heed the warning signs, your body will do a mental re-boot without your permission.  Trust me I’ve been there and it’s not pretty.  Bottom line, down time is important and good for your body.

So that is a brief run down of the 5 habits that I promised to share with you.  I thought of at least 5 more that can be helpful as I was writing but I’ll save that for a later post.  Just one last final disclaimer:  Don’t just take my word for it.  If you are having warning signs, do yourself a favor and visit with your Dr.  You only have one body.  It might have come damaged somewhat, but there are still things you can do to keep it as healthy as possible.

p.s.  Not one of these habits is a fail safe.  You can’t just be one and done.  Of course each one is very beneficial and if you can’t do them all, start by adapting one at a time.  But they definitely work better in combination with each other.

If you made it this far, I hoped it helped and please share with anyone you think this might help. XO Wendy

 

 

It’s ok to not be ok | Taking off the mask of mental illness

I’m back! I’m sorry that I have been vacant since last year.  Living with mental illness can be like that sometimes.  It’s been a struggle this past several months. Coupled with time in between where I have felt fine.  Sort of a day by day, week by week adventure, lol.  But today I am good and have been thinking for several days that I needed to do my part in removing the stigma of mental illness.  Hi I’m Wendy, and I have Bipolar II disorder :).  Please take note that I said “have” and not “am”.  Bipolar does not define me!

As someone who has lived with Bipolar for the better part of 25 years I would say that I have gotten REALLY good at wearing the “mask”.  You know the one..I’m always happy not a care in the world.  Most people would never ever know the thoughts and feelings that I fight most every day.  Not even my closest family members.  Because you see, those of us who suffer with mental illness, and I’m talking about ALL mental illnesses not just Bipolar, get really good at putting on a mask, to cover up what we are dealing with.  We do it to avoid being labeled.  We do it to try to convince ourselves that we don’t have a brain that doesn’t  function properly.  We do it so that we don’t make those around us uncomfortable.

But the truth is, it’s time to make people around us uncomfortable!  Heck we’ve been uncomfortable in our own skin for much of our lives.   It’s the only way for others to learn how to GET comfortable.  And I’ll tell you what, this is one of the scariest posts I’ve ever written.  The other one you can find here.  It’s HARD to take off this mask.  But it’s time.  Really it’s past time.

Those of us who live with mental illness, need to be heard.  Need to be healed.  Need to be loved and treated like anyone else with a disease.  After all, mental illness IS a disease.  A disease of the brain.  We should be talking about our brains and how to find a cure and how to treat something that affects around 45 million people every day.  That’s roughly 1 in 5 people!  Look around you.  That’s a lot of masks.  Not to mention all their friends and family who are involved.  And yet, we are still afraid to talk about it, and to really reach out and help those who are going through their own personal darkness, sometimes every day of their life.

I can only speak from my personal experience but compared to some, I feel lucky (if you can believe that).  I feel like I have had the support, for the most part, that I have needed to try and get on top of this.  But there have definitely been, and still are those in my life that just can’t understand.  And I get it, it’s hard to live with someone that you don’t know who they’re gonna be from day to day.  Are you going to get the “appears to be normal” person?  Or the depressed person that struggles to get out of bed,  that can’t seem to tackle the easiest of tasks.  Or are you going to get the chatty, goal driven, “I have a new idea and it’s gonna be AWESOME” person who is making and crossing things off their list as fast as they can go?  Are you going to get the mask?  It can be exhausting I’m sure.  Try being us, haha!

For me, most days living with Bipolar are fairly normal (if there is such a thing, haha). I mean there are definitely things that I need to do EVERY day if I want to stay on that line between depression and mania.   I touched on that somewhat in this post.  But for the most part if I am diligent at taking my medication and doing these 5 things, then I tend to manage pretty well.

However, the thing that is really tricky about mental illness, is that it can be constantly changing with things in the environment, hormones in our bodies changing (hello! Pre and post menstrual, pregnancy, Post partum , pre and post menopause,  etc. etc.). Of course I can only speak for women when it comes to hormone changes, but I know men go through their own set of hormone changes.  Mental illness is also affected by the type of food we eat, how much exercise we get, and the list goes on.  All of it affects the delicate balance maintained with medication or other ways that we have found to manage our personal illness.

I guess what I’m really trying to say in this very short synopsis, is that it is OK to not be OK with yourself, your brain, your situation.  Whether it is you that are suffering or your family and friends, don’t shut the door!  Don’t be afraid to talk about it.  And for friends and family, don’t be afraid to hang out with us.  Don’t gossip about us behind our backs and talk about how sad and awful it is. Don’t be afraid to talk to us about our illness, we need the support. We just want to be acknowledged and loved and supported and treated like anyone else with a life threatening disease.  Yes, I did just say life threatening.  According to NAMI over 42,000 American lives were lost due to suicide last year alone. Of course not all of those were due to mental illness but we can assume that a great number of them are.

So next time you are thinking about your friend or family member that suffers from mental illness, let them know.  Tell them that it is ok with you that they have a defective brain, lol.  Tell them that you want to do whatever you can to help.  That’s really all we want.  Deep down we just want to take off the mask and be seen for who we really are.  Defects and all!

BTW, mental health awareness month is coming up in May!  Maybe you could do something like donate to find a cure. 🙂 .  If so you can do that Here

Oh and if you think someone that you know and love may have a mental illness, please support them in finding the help they so desperately need!

p.s.  I am so incredibly thankful for the love and support that I receive from family and friends.  You know who you are, and I love you all!

 

 

 

Look for the light!

Sometimes, in this ever darkening world it gets harder and harder to find the light.  Who am I?  Where am I going?  What is my mission?  Do I even have a mission? Do I matter?  What is my purpose in this life?  These are  questions that we ask ourselves in times of darkness.  Or when we are really struggling to find the light.  The light of Christ.  The light within ourselves.  The light of others.  So how do we answer the tough questions?  How do we find the light?

I would like to say there is an easy answer! And here is exactly where you go to find it!  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it) we have to do the work to find the answers to those questions.  And it’s HARD work!  Many of us may not be willing to put in that kind of work to find the answers to these, and many other questions that plague us.  Many more will find the easy way out by placing the responsibility on others to change or conform to what their belief is.  I guess some could argue that that is what I am doing.   But what I am doing, is trying to get you to look at your life and what questions you have and then do the HARD work to find the answers to those questions.  Find out for yourself!

When I wrote What Being Away from the Church Taught Me, I was in the mind frame that if there was someone else going through what I went through and they could be helped by it, then it was worth sharing.  I still feel that way and I have had many experiences that have led me to believe that we all have something to share that will help each other on this path in life.  The struggle is real, and its HARD!  But we don’t have to do this life alone.  In fact we are not meant to.  Although there are some things that we do have to do alone, like finding the answers to the questions that we struggle with.  What I am asking you to do is: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths.”  Proverbs 3:5

Sometimes, when we do this, we are directed into the path of others that can help us find those answers.  In fact, many times people will be placed in our path to help us open doors and find new and better ways of looking at our questions.  A new perspective can open our minds and fill us with knowledge that we hadn’t previously considered.   We will find that there are new ways of finding the answers to those questions.  We are never completely alone in our quest!

I hear and read all the time that my church is full of judgement, and self righteous people that don’t understand that what they are saying or the way that they treat people is keeping them from coming back to church or joining the church to begin with.  Believe me when I say that there was a time when I felt that way myself.  I remember at one point (maybe on several occasions) saying “Shouldn’t the people be a reflection of the Church?  And if that is what the Church is then I don’t want to be a part of it.”,  But you know what that was?  It was an excuse.  It was an excuse for me to take the easy road.  Why?  Because the other road is much HARDER!  It takes effort and grit to really ask the tough questions and then find a way to get answers.

I’m not saying that there is not judgement in the church, there is plenty of it… way too much, in my opinion.  I have often said, I believe that will be the first question we get asked when we face Christ, “Did you love others, as I have loved you?”  For this is the second great commandment:

 “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Matt. 22:39; see also Gal. 5:14).

BUT….. That does not mean that we can let the judgement of others keep us from finding the light. Or, keep us from doing the work to find the answers for ourselves to the questions that we have.   We have to dig deep!  We have to take responsibility for our own life.  It’s the only way to truly find peace and happiness on this Earth.

In the Bible,  James 1:5-6 It reads:  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

So there is our answer!  That is how we can find the answers to the seemingly impossible questions.  God will not let us down!  But we need to do the work!  Praying once may not do it.  Praying for an answer a 100 times may not do it.   But if you continue to pray, study, ponder, search, it will happen!  I can promise you this because it’s happened to me. And many people that I know and love.

Certainly, God is not just going to pour down answers upon your head of everything you’ve ever questioned.  You have to do the HARD work!  But with each question, that you use this above process to find answers with, I promise you, it will work!

The other part that often gets overlooked is that we have to have intent to do something with the answer that we’ve been given.  We have to have “faith unwavering”! Knowledge always comes with responsibility.  We have to acknowledge that when we find the answer, we will do something with it.  Faith precedes action! We can’t just sit back, tap our heads, and say hmmm.  Sometimes it requires a major lifestyle change.  Or an extreme reversal in thought process. So the HARD work comes in again here!

It is not easy!  I’ll say that a hundred times because it’s true, it’s not easy!  Especially when sometimes it feels as though we are just trying to keep our heads above the water to keep from drowning in all the information that is thrown at us from every angle.  But if we are diligent in working towards finding the answers, doors will be opened, hearts will be changed and miracles can happen in our lives!

The Savior teaches that He is the light that “enlighteneth your eyes,” “quickeneth your understandings,” and “giveth life to all things.” The Light of Christ will help us see ourselves and others through the Savior’s eyes.

President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, said “… the spirit that dwells within each of us can be enriched with enthusiasm and enlightened by the Almighty. The process of spiritual growth is revealed in the scriptures: “Intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; … [and] light cleaveth unto light. ”  That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 ,also Doctrine and Covenants 88:40)

I can’t imagine what truths await us if we put in the HARD work to find our answers.  And I hope that with those answers comes a greater determination to move forward, onward and upward.  We owe it to ourselves to take action!  He loves us and wants us to succeed!  Of that I am confident!

 

 

 

 

Soul Survivor

It has been several months since I have written.  Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because the words just haven’t been there.   For weeks and weeks, the words just would not come. I rely heavily upon the Lord to open my mind so that I can write what HE wants to sink deep into the souls of those who read it.  So imagine my excitement when the words started to come again.  Hopefully I can do them justice.

The most precious part of ourselves is our very soul.  It’s what we were before we came here and what we will be after we leave.  It is what we believe (as Mormons) gives life to the body.  The  very essence of who we are.  So it makes complete sense that we are in a war between good and evil for our very souls.  God wants our souls to become enlightened, stronger, healthier, full of love, more serviceable, ultimately more like Him.  While Satan wants to destroy our souls, demoralize, demonize, and demolish it.  He wants us to be fearful and full of hate!  What a contrast that is.

But the great characteristic of we humans is that we are “survivors”!  And in this war of worlds, we are “soul survivors”! Today I want to talk about how we can steer clear of Satan’s traps that he sets for us.  I want you to re-examine your life and make sure that your SOULS are surviving the onslaught of his evil.

Here are 5 ways (in no particular order)  that Satan works to capture our souls.  Hopefully if you have fallen into some of these traps, this will help you realize it and get back on God’s path, safe and sound so you can be a “soul survior”.  🙂

1. Confusion and Contention- All you have to do is open your facebook page or watch the daily news to be bombarded by these two friends.  The political, religious, and other negative debates that happen online are among the most damaging weapons to our soul.  Sometimes we become so consumed with being right that we begin see things less clearly.  Even if it’s wrong, it becomes “right” in our mind.  If Satan can get us to argue amongst one another, in our homes, workplaces, on social media, or even in our churches, then the Spirit can not reside there.   If we participate in this  practice we our opening up ourselves to this trap (or flaxen cord, if you will).

Elder Kim B. Clark of the seventy said, “Our time is a dangerous time—a time of great evil and temptation, a time of confusion and commotion. In these perilous times, the Lord’s prophet on the earth, President Thomas S. Monson, has called us to rescue the wounded in spirit, to stand for truth with courage, and to build the kingdom of God. Whatever level of spirituality or faith or obedience we now have, it will not be sufficient for the work that lies ahead. We need greater spiritual light and power. We need eyes to see more clearly the Savior working in our lives and ears to hear His voice more deeply in our hearts.”

I encourage you to take a look at the words and discussions that you are having.  Check to make sure they are positive and uplifting in every way.  There is no better way to remain on the Lord’s side than to use your words wisely and with great care.  They are something that we can’t take back once they are said. So be wise.

2. Distraction- A Distraction is something that takes away from what matters most in our lives, our relationships with God and our families and friends.  Recently, in my church, our prophet President Russell M. Nelson, spoke to teenagers ages 12-18 about the dangers of distractions.  Mainly social media distractions.  He recommended that we “take a break from fake”.  For 7 days he asked us to get off of social media and see what we find in our lives that might be different.  But it’s not just social media that distracts us and sets us up for Satan to work on our souls.  It can be work, our phones, the internet, well meaning events that take time away from our families and what matters most.  This idea of distractions has become such an easy trap for Satan to ensnare us with.  If he can get us to look the other way and become distracted by “shiny objects” then he is keeping us from looking at and hearing what is most important.  This also can muffle the Spirit from teaching and guiding us in the right direction.  When we are distracted, we are not paying attention.  And when we are not paying attention, Satan can sneak into our lives and set his trap.

King Benjamin tells us that we should hearken unto the word of the Lord. He tells us, “open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.” (Mosiah 2:9.) Sometimes I  become so distracted by the world that I do not hear.  Do you ever find yourself in that spot?  Let’s try harder to slow down, look around, and  pay attention to the things that really matter. The Spirit can work more effectively in our lives when we are not distracted by less important matters.  It can mentor and teach and help us along our way in this journey to win our souls.

3. Busyness- Sometimes we become so busy and stressed out that it feels as if we are in a vortex being dragged down and down to the gulf of misery and woe.  Haha, I know that seems so depressing.

But it’s true, when stress and busyness become a burden on us, it can literally start to affect our health and well being.  We can make ourselves physically sick trying to “do it all”.  And really where does this come from? It is another little trap that Satan uses, and quite effectively I might add.   We can look at any image on magazines or in movies, or on our phones.  We are constantly bombarded with “superwomen and men” who seem to be “doing it all”.  But the sad thing is, that it really is mostly fake.  You get to see the one thing in their life that is going really good at the moment.  We don’t see the stress, the anguish, the despair that is happening behind the scenes.  We just want to be like them!  We have all heard this compared to holding spinning plates in the air.  We keep adding one more thing (plate) to our “to do” list until our spinning plates become so burdensome that we soon end up dropping them all.  We need to slow down… SLOW DOWN… Learn to say no when it’s too much.  Turn off the switches that are making us think that we need to do one more thing. It’s ok to be yourself and not try to do it all.  In fact, that is what God wants for our precious souls.  Calmness, peacefulness and love to envelope us, our souls are so tender and important to Him.  We should treat them with great care.

4. Deception- In our shifting and changing world things are not always what they appear to be.  Appearances can be deceptive and destructive. And unfortunately Satan has been at this game for over 1000 years.  He seems to have a bit of an advantage on us.  I mean, most of us have only been around for less than 100 ;).  But again, we have the Lord on our side.  We have the Holy Spirit to guide us if we are open and listening for it.  But that doesn’t take away the fact that deception is real.  And it can be scary.

Have you ever been in boat on a completely calm lake and then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the wind kicks up and the waves become dangerously large?  I have and it’s very, very scary.  We were at Lake Powell one year with my little family, enjoying a sunny day out on the boat.  The storm started to kick up and then our boat stalled.  It wouldn’t start, no matter how hard we tried.  We were floating in the lake that was quickly becoming rougher and scarier.  What were we we to do?   Of course we said some pretty strong prayers and tears were shed.  But thankfully, in that situation, we had life jackets and others nearby who came to the rescue when all seemed lost.  They threw out a rope and towed us to safety.

Likewise, in our lives we are attracted to what seems to be calm and serene at the time.  But then once we jump in, we find that the waves are too much for our tender souls to take on.   When we find that we have been deceived in some way, we can reach out for our “life jackets”, we can look to our leaders as our guides.  We can follow what the Prophet said.  We can stay on the covenant path.  Most importantly, we can seek the Lord in honest prayer to help guide us in the right direction.  If we have lost our way, or find ourselves somewhere different than we had planned to be, we need only look up!  God will throw us a rope, He will tow us back to safety.  Obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel are our life jackets.  We must use them to be a “soul Survivor”!

5. Comparison- Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment!” I love that quote because it really defines how important it is to guard our souls.  Remember our soul is the very essence of who we are!

Comparison is such an easy trap to fall into.  We all want to be loved, admired, and looked up to.  But doing it at the cost of losing our identity or who we really are, can bring great damage to our souls.  I have seen it happen to myself and others when we get caught up in trying to be like someone we admire.  We may start to dress, talk, and act differently than what we normally do.  Our very core values may begin to shift.

Now, I’m not saying that we can’t improve ourselves. We should always strive to be moving in an upward direction, stretching ourselves to reach toward our full potential.  But the real trap comes when we change ourselves to match what some one else is doing.  I have seen many people change their whole value system as they try to emulate someone.   And it happens very slowly and almost unnoticeably.  Then they start to become examples to others who are not seeing them for who they truly are.

Here is another way that I would encourage us to take a good strong look at what we are putting out there for the world to see.  Is it truly who we are?  Does it promote our own value system or someone else’s?  Are we trapped in an identity that we no longer identify with?  These are some really tough questions, but also very important in evaluating where you are at and where you want to be.  And also what type of role model you want to be for others. When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare and compete, everyone will respect you!  And your soul will survive and thrive!  God loves our sweet souls so much!  He is fighting this war for our souls, right along side us.  But we must be aware of the traps that are meant to ensnare and capture our very souls.

**I want you to know that in all honesty, the only way that I can speak on these things is because I have, at times, fallen victim to them.  I have found myself in all 5 of these situations.  It is only through honest and thorough examination of ones self that we can reverse our direction and get back on the path towards God.  Sometimes it’s just a mere meander off the path and we pause for a moment and then turn back and we are right back on the path in no time.  But sometimes it can be a fork that we took in the complete wrong direction.  However, all is not lost.  God is on our side in this war of souls.  He is doing everything that He can to help guide us and lead us safely back to the right path.  He is sending angels our way, I know that with all my heart. Our very souls depend on it! One of my very favorite scriptures comes from the Doctrine and Covenants section 84:88  And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.

We CAN do this life!   And we CAN do it GREAT and BIG and WONDERFUL!  We CAN be “soul survivors”!  I know it and God knows it!  You are His and He loves you.  Let’s take great care of our tender souls!

#holdtotherod #soulsurvivors  #lovewhoyouare

 

 

 

Am I enough?

Why is it that we, especially women, think that we need to be completely perfect?  From our head to our toes, inside and out, we are constantly chasing that ever elusive perfection!  This thought has been on my mind quite consistently over the past several months as I have thought back over my life and the many mistakes that I have made in search of “perfection”.

It seems I always come back to my illness, because it is part of who I am and has helped shape me into the work-in-progress that I am today.  But I haven’t always felt that way.  In fact it is a day to day struggle to accept that this is part of who I am.  My personal struggle to let my light shine through the darkness, at times, becomes diminished because I let doubt and fear creep in.  I let Satan convince me that I am not enough.  But what I have learned over the years, is that I can, through His Grace, be perfected in Him! That no matter how hard I try, I can’t earn Christ’s love because it is freely and fully given to me.  It is His great gift to all of us!

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni counsels us in 10:32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you…

What we are aiming for is to become accepting of His Grace by showing gratitude and showing love.  Not only to others, but to ourselves.  We are relentlessly harder on ourselves than anyone else.  We tell ourselves constantly that we are not enough. We demean and discredit ourselves instead of lifting and building ourselves.  We must stop it!  We must learn to love ourselves. After all it is the second great commandment love thy neighbor as thyself… not, love thy neighbor and forget thyself.  No! LOVE THYSELF! YOU ARE ENOUGH!

you are enough

There is no shame in wanting to improve and become better.  In fact, that is the purpose of this life right?  We are trying for perfection, even though it is something that will not be attained in this life.  It is “toxic perfectionism” that we are trying to avoid. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure.  We must learn to embrace failure.  Avoiding toxic perfectionism doesn’t mean that we quit or give up. No, we keep trying.  Though the road may be long and hard and winding, we must press forward with steadfastness in Christ, knowing that He will make up the difference in the end.

One truth that I have come to understand is that Satan tries to convince us of all that we are not!  Satan’s biggest lie is that we have to be perfect! And we have to do that all on our own.  It is a tool that he is using, and quite successfully I might add.  So many of us are convinced that we have to be perfect in every way and that if we fall short, if we fail, then there must be something that we are doing wrong, there must be something wrong with us.   And so we just try to push harder, we wear ourselves and our souls out trying. We become over stressed and our light begins to dim.

Satan’s deception keeps us from perfection.  It produces shame because we become so consumed with having to do everything right that when we fail (and we will), we feel ashamed and unworthy of Christ’s Grace.  But failure is not a sign of imperfection, it is a sign of progression.  If we aren’t failing then we aren’t trying. And the important part is to not give up, to get back up after we fail and try again. But in that process remember that you need Christ.  You need His Grace!  It is that process that creates and builds confidence and love for ourselves.

After all, it is Christ who said “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” Matthew 5:48.   Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the twelve apostles said “Surely the Lord would never give us a commandment that he knew we could not keep.”  “If we persevere, then somewhere in eternity our refinement will be finished and complete.”

The Savior convinces us of all that we are and all that we can be!  He says come unto me and I will make you better than you can be on your own! Because He loves us, because we are His. What He wants us to know is that we are enough.  That through Him we can overcome the obstacles, we can move forward and build ourselves up.  Turn on your light!  And let it shine bright!  You ARE enough!

We don’t have to be perfect, in fact we will never be perfect in this lifetime. So give yourself a break from chasing that “toxic perfectionism”.  Keep trying, keep pushing, keep moving forward but realize that His Grace is sufficient.  YOU ARE ENOUGH!