Taking care of our bodies is important to the health of our souls. I had always been a master of calm and enjoyed nothing more than sitting quietly with a hot cup of coffee and great book. Turning off the world around me came easily while in the comfort of my home or the fellowship of good friends.
When my second son was born, I said good bye to stress-less-ness for many years. Having a child with disabilities changed everything about my life, including the ability to relax. Forget stress management! Living with a child with a seizure disorder and autism is the chart topper for daily chronic elevated levels of stress. Seriously, raising a child with chronic illness or disabilities was listed in a report as the number one life stressor. It topped death, sickness, divorce and relocating. My life was the picture of chaos and unpredictable moment-by-moment spontaneous turning of events.
Eating became my only source of self-soothing behavior. This habit quickly turned on me as the pounds added up. Self- loathing and my poor physical condition made me feel even more stressed and completely miserable. Figuring out how to cope with my emotional drama became a priority for me when my son turned 15 and went to live in a residential facility. My heart was so broken that nothing could help me feel better. Chocolate didn’t work, chips didn’t work, mashed potatoes and mac n cheese couldn’t even do it for me anymore. I had to find a way to be okay.
I had difficulty praying and would just sob in the presence of the Lord. I was grieving too deeply to find words. I began to journal prayers. Writing helped. Somehow, putting the words on paper lifted them from my spirit. Breathing became a prayer for me too. I would use a simple statement of faith or a request, such as, “Flood my soul with peace”. As these simple exercises became a part of my daily routine, I noticed that I felt less stressed. Not just about my son, but about everything.
With the wind beneath my wings, I began making time for myself. I started getting massages and pedicures. I began going to the coffee shop and browsing antique stores for relaxing jaunts. Then I started inviting friends to lunch occasionally. My strength was growing and my tenacity to live well emerged to carry me to a place of healthy self-care.
For me, it is the ability to care for myself, spiritually, emotionally and physically in a healthy manner that brings the greatest relief from stress and the most soul satisfying relaxation.
Denise Wynn has a degree in psychology and works as a case manager in behavioral health. She is a Life Coach, motivational speaker and the Ladies Ministries President of the NJ/DE District. Denise is a licensed minister with the UPCI. She and her husband, Rev. Gary Wynn, serve as assistant pastors at Spirit and Truth in Bridgeton, NJ. They have been married for 23 years and have been blessed with two sons, Aaron and Sean.