Guest post by Leah Houseman
Today I’m delighted to introduce you to a beautiful author friend from Israel. We met through an online Author forum and course and have been corresponding regularly after we discovered a heart-felt connection. I’m honored to host Lea as a part of her Virtual Book Tour around the world. Even though she usually writes fiction, Lea’s written a most welcome and appropriate post for us about “Self-Care”. Enjoy meeting Leah – and do take a look at her excellent best-selling book!
The blaring sound of the Code Red alert shatters the silence of night and awakens us to yet another day of war. After three weeks the sirens begin to take on a strange kind of normalcy. We’re in a war zone after all.
The neighbor calls and asks, “Are you OK?” The answer is mechanically repeated over and over again: “I’m OK”. No one says, “I’m fine.” We are coping; we are surviving.
But we are not thriving.
Yet thrive we must, even in the worst of times, say the Sages, those brilliant minds whose words we love to read – when the sun is shining and all is right with our world.
But now? Do those lofty principles work now? By the way, what are those principles anyway? It’s hard to remember with sirens blaring in my ear.
I close my eyes and breath deeply. I whisper the simplest of prayers. “God, I ask You for wisdom in the midst of chaos.” He hears me.
It suddenly occurs to me that all those principles I’ve purposed to live by don’t disappear in a war zone; they just need to be adjusted.
What are those principles?
1) Set boundaries. Local television channels are following developments around the clock. It can be overwhelming, even debilitating. I remind myself that there are stress channels and there are peace channels and besides that, my television has an OFF switch as well as an ON switch. I set a boundary: one newscast in the morning and another one in the evening. The rest of the day the TV is off because what we listen to has an enormous impact on how we behave. I’m not indifferent to what’s happening. I simply realize that if I don’t take care of myself and carry on with life, I’ll be no good to myself or to anyone around me who may need my support.
2) Be proactive, not reactive. Sadness, pain, heartache and fear dominate the atmosphere. The psychologists are more than busy attending to bereaved parents, frightened children, worried spouses. It’s so very easy to get swallowed up in the agony of it all. But that is to assume the reactive stance. To be proactive, I choose to write, to encourage, to listen and to pray. It’s effortless to write those words; it’s something else entirely to keep on choosing to live by them. I think of my grandmother, a wise and lovely woman. She used to say to me, “Be part of the answer; not part of the problem.”
3) Listen to your body. Emotional fatigue is debilitating. Times of acute stress demand attention to one’s physical well-being. Pay attention to your emotions and don’t be afraid of them: learn from them. Be aware of habits of thought and habits of behavior: change those that are not serving you well. Be aware of your effect on the world, and the world’s effect on you. Be aware of the present, of what is real right now, and look for the richness that is available to you even in the midst of difficulty. Healthy eating, sufficient rest and stress-relievers such as meditation and prayer are not a luxury but a necessity. The body alerts us to those needs if we’re paying attention. Stress is inevitable; break-downs are not. Taking care of one’s personal needs is more important than many realize in highly stressful situations.
4) Daily renewal. Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting down in a quiet spot for 10 minutes with a cup of herbal tea or a mug of steaming coffee, looking out at the sunrise. Or perhaps you enjoy the tranquility of your special corner of the home with a good book. For me personally, starting each day with quiet meditation and prayer is essential for going through the rest of the day in serenity. What’s your daily renewal practice? We either have one or we live from stress to stress, coping rather than thriving..
5) Choose joy. It may sound very strange to talk about joy in this context yet the strengthening power of inner joy is legendary. On the worst of days, there is always some reason to be joyful – if we’ll look for it. Granting yourself permission to find joy in the little things and to feel good about it is an essential component of healthy self-care. Part of choosing joy may include continuing to do those things you normally do, like meeting with friends regularly. You may have to meet in one another’s home rather than at the coffee shop, but keeping as close to one’s regular lifestyle is very therapeutic in times like these.
Yes, we’ve been living in a literal war zone.
But what about the mental war zone in our minds, regardless of where we are geographically. Would not these same principles apply?
I think they do.
I dream of no more war; no more pain. Yet even as I do, I understand that it is the very pressures and stresses we live through that gift us with opportunities to realize our great potential. Life is a journey of learning. To face every situation we encounter by asking “What can I learn from this?” is in fact the wisdom that makes saints of sinners and heroes of cowards. It is also the best of old-fashioned common sense.
Meet Leah Houseman
Sophia Bar-Lev, who also writes as LR Houseman, is the best-selling author of Pasta, Poppy Fields and Pearls, and will soon publish its sequel, Pizza and Promises. She is a former teacher and spent many years traveling internationally as an inspirational speaker and Bible teacher at conferences and conventions. Her popular mini-book, How to Study Torah When You’re Not a Torah Scholar, has been used by many women’s’ bible study groups to enliven their discussions and deepen their understanding of scripture.
To receive your free gift, “7 Traits of Highly Effective Moms”, visit her website at www.sophiabarlev.com
(Note: If you don’t have a Kindle, and want to read this fabulous book – don’t despair! Download the FREE Kindle App for most devices here.)