In 2005, I remember sitting with my mom in the hospital and holding her hand while the doctor gave her the dreaded stage 4 cancer diagnosis. At 30 years old, I began caring for my mother. Being so young, I had not prepared myself for the responsibilities that were about to fall on my shoulders. I moved home to be by her side—taking her to chemotherapy, radiation treatments and physical therapy appointments. After she passed away a year later, I realized I was left in a bad place—emotionally, physically and spiritually.
I decided to follow these steps to renew my spirit in order to move on.
Take a look at your life goals.
Often we face circumstances that leave us feeling disappointed about where we are afterwards. This is the moment we need to reevaluate our goals and determine where we want to be. After my mom passed away, I felt pretty empty inside. I had moved back home to take care of her and was unsure of where to go from there.
Before she died, my mom told me that she wanted me to live the life she wasn’t able to. It was then I prayed for guidance on what to do next. I felt it was time to move from my hometown and change my life.
After going through a traumatic event, we tend to blame ourselves for what we did or didn’t do. We are hard on ourselves, and we are filled with pain and regrets.
I felt like I had failed my mom in many ways and that I hadn’t always been the best caregiver. Because of my feelings of inadequacy, I kept to myself and had not kept in touch with my friends and family. I knew that to get past those feelings I needed to forgive myself.
Remove physical clutter from your life.
When you focus on other people and situations, you tend to accumulate things because you lose sight of what’s important to you. Knowing you need to do something about all that clutter sits in the back of your mind which adds to your daily stress. You may have good intentions of using those items, but over time you never reevaluate if they are still needed. Before you know it, you have closets filled with things that aren’t necessary.
When I decided to move, the first step was to tackle all the things I had accumulated. I wanted to do more than just throw out a bunch of stuff—I wanted to make sure I didn’t have more than what would fit in my car. It forced me to go through everything carefully and decide what I truly needed. As I donated, sold, or threw away each item, I began to feel lighter. I felt that each piece was a weight being lifted off my shoulders that I had been carrying for years.
Start meditating and practicing yoga.
After I moved, I was still feeling anxiety and stress from all of the time taking care of someone else. I knew all the benefits of meditation but didn’t know how to begin. I started by meditating a few minutes each day. After a few weeks, I felt my mood lift, and I was more relaxed. Situations that usually caused me stress were now quite manageable. I added yoga to my routine once a week. It ended up healing me spiritually.
Be a source of support and happiness for the people around you.
Things in your life don’t have to be perfect for you to choose to be positive. Being negative and cynical benefits no one. You don’t need to lose yourself in the people around you. You don’t need to change for them either. You need to focus on being the best version of yourself which will encourage others to open up and be their best around you.
You can start off with small changes. Smile at a neighbor or a stranger on the street. Take a friend to a funny movie and laugh together. Compliment a coworker on a job well done. In my own life, I realized I had pushed away family members and friends while caring for my mom. I had neglected our relationships and so I focused on repairing them. I noticed that the more pleasant I was to others, the more I stopped feeling sorry for myself and the things that happened in my past.
Take care of your body.
After facing a stressful situation, many of us find that we have neglected our physical needs. We haven’t eaten healthy, gotten enough sleep, or found the time to exercise. Myrtle Fillmore once noted, “The body responds to changes of the mind; and when this is accompanied by truly wise living habits, the conformity to true ideas … will renew it and make it every whit whole.” I made small changes in my daily habits to get back on track. I started taking long walks in nature which boosted my energy and provided the added benefit of reducing stress. I began following a Paleo-inspired diet which led me to not needing the medications I had been taking for many years.
Practice gratitude daily.
As you show more compassion and kindness, you will begin to feel acceptance, love, and optimism within yourself and your relationships. I found happiness appreciating small things, including rescuing animals or walking in nature.
Art is a source of inspiration and another way we can meditate. It allows us to express ourselves in ways that we were unable to before. As I began spending more time outdoors, I decided to take up photography. It gave me more motivation to spend time outside, but also looking through the lens helped me to gain a new appreciation for the beauty of nature.
Live for now but also hope for the future. You need to see tomorrow as full of possibilities. Imagination allows us to picture ourselves in better situations which allows us to work towards new goals. I knew I wasn’t where I wanted to be so I began imagining myself in a different living environment, with a new job doing what I love to do while helping others, and having supportive friends around me. If I were to look back now, I would say I have achieved much of what I had envisioned years ago.
Spiritual renewal is an ongoing process. Instead of waiting until you are overwhelmed with stress, take some time now for reflection and spiritual nourishment. You can go through all of the steps or just a few of them. Even though I went through some dark times with my mom, I’m thankful it led me to finding the spiritual tools needed to handle any situation.