How to Find Your Bridge
“How do you get to a place of wholeness after life surprises you with a detour?”
If you’d asked me this in my 20s, I would’ve whipped out a white board, drawn you a diagram, and very sincerely explained that, if you just followed the formula, you’d make it successfully from Point A to Point B. Since then, life has taught me that detours can sweep out of nowhere and strand you in places feeling so disoriented you might as well be Dorothy waking up in Oz.
The truth is there’s no one-size-fits-all-and-guarantees-success plan, formula, or timeline for healing from detours like grief, depression, chronic illness, infertility, or spiritual abuse. But, there is hope.
More than one friend has said, “After all you’ve been through, you seem to have a remarkably healthy emotional perspective. Why do you think that is?”
As I’ve reflected on that, I realize I’ve done some things that fall outside the traditional box that have helped bridge the gap between the dimensions of physical, emotional, and spiritual healing I’ve needed. Deconstructing lies I’ve believed about myself, God and others has been profound. Making lifestyle changes to reduce stress has been crucial. And implementing healthier daily practices has been necessary. But, perhaps not as obvious are the investments I’ve made to change the physical environment that embodies my soul.
We’ll never find the bridge back to wholeness without considering all aspects of the human experience. I’m grateful for the ways Bessel van der Kolk book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” has informed my thinking on this. You can’t reason your way to health. Pills may mask the ache but won’t heal the underlying wounds. And for most, it’s not just a need to exercise more faith. Wholeness comes from curating a combination of approaches that aligns with the way you’re fearfully and wonderfully made.
For basic signposts, check out this recent post with 16 strategies for supporting wellness. Those’ll help you begin some of the healthy daily practices referenced above. Think of those as Wellness 101. In this post, I want to go a step further and share some strategies that have specifically helped bridge the gaps between body and soul.These have all been significant for me as I’ve been finding my way home for the last 20 years.
I first connected with a NAET-certified acupuncturist while exploring options to help heal a leaky gut. But, after agreeing to a preliminary treatment she said would align my brain and body, I quickly discovered there was more to it. I lay down on the table in what I now know was a dissociative state, a survival mode I’d unknowingly embraced as an initial response to trauma. By the time I got off the table, something had snapped back into place in the best possible way and I haven’t been the same since.
Changing the electrical flow in my body took me to a place of restoration in one session that I didn’t even know I needed. How amazing is God’s design? Since then, I’ve alternated treatments for physical, emotional, and hormonal needs depending on whichever area presents the biggest drain on my body at the time.
Breathe, Just Breathe
A Christian yogi told me recently that, for her, practicing restorative yoga all came down to breathing. Isn’t that what we must do – literally and figuratively – when coming out of the hard? The gentle practice of breathing deeply oxygenates the brain and helps keep our cells thriving, communicating and reproducing.
Movement helps mediate the healing process. God designed us to move and when we do, chemical reactions happen that expel what’s toxic, regulate happy hormones, and clarify our thinking. Studies show that the easiest and cheapest way to reduce your risk of almost everything is to walk for 30 minutes a day, several days a week. It can be that simple! Too many good things happen when we move to just choose to opt out! If you absolutely can’t there’s grace for that, of course. But, if you can and just don’t, friend … that’s called self-sabotage.
Stillness and the Sauna
Of all the bridges I’ve crossed on the way back to health, learning to sit still in a sauna for an hour at a time was perhaps the most painful. Because of my genetics, my system moves slowly under ideal circumstances and even slower under stress. So, for a season, my doctor had me utilize a far infrared sauna to help clear the detox pathways in my body and speed the offloading process.
Friends, I cried every time for the first six months. As I sat alone, sweating in a hot box tucked in a corner in the women’s dressing room at the gym, I swear the silence tried to smother me. I couldn’t escape my thoughts or hide behind my hustle. I just came face to face with my reality, the roadblocks to wholeness, and the seething anger and frustration over being here at all.
And yet, God met me there. In the stillness of those hours spanning 18 months, my soul eventually surrendered. My body relaxed into acceptance. My brain cleared as the toxins evaporated with my anger. And the sauna became my sanctuary as He taught me that His grace is sufficient for what confronts us in the quiet.
Oils are one way to unlock doors to the places we’re carrying stuff – literal, physical representations of our emotions – so we can release it. Why? Well, first because emotional baggage stinks. You may be so used to the smell that you don’t realize it, but it does. Essential oils are like an easy button for changing the internal environment and leveling up your emotional health. And second, because emotional baggage left unattended begins manifesting in physical ways unless or until you deal with it.
This is one of my favorites, so obviously, if you need a guide to cross this bridge, YES; I’d love to! And, why wouldn’t you want to make your home smell like a spa while you’re rediscovering wholeness?!
Taking time to get things out of your head and onto paper helps rewire your brain. For more on this – as well as the neuroscience of healing – my current favorite guide is Dr. Caroline Leaf. Check her out online, her YouTube channel, Facebook or Instagram and prepare to be captivated by this super smart, articulate scientist who also happens to be a Christian. Her perspective on the intersection of faith, science, and health expands my thinking and helps me fall more in love with the One who created it all!
Counseling or Talk Therapy
There’s nothing like verbalizing your story to someone who listens deeply and helps you make connections, discover truths, and find your way home. Speaking things out loud also changes the wiring in the brain, and there’s something immensely powerful about hearing your own voice tell the truth about your experiences. At times, I’ve worked with an individual that helped me with this. At others, I’ve used an app such as ThinkUp to record statements of truth with my own voice that I can then play back to create new neurological pathways replacing unhealthy paradigms with healthy ones.
Gentle, healthy touch is a wonderful way to soothe the body, signal it to relax and power down, and thus invite it to do a deeper work of healing. Our bodies are amazing works of art as well as science and what they will do on their own, given the time and tools, is miraculous.
I hope at least one of these seven suggestions resonates as a starting place for you! I encourage you to start with what makes sense and feels simple. Then, keep a journal of what you do and create space to reflect on it regularly. Reflection will help you see patterns you might miss in the midst of your daily activities. And, if your journey is anything like mine, sometimes it’ll feel achingly slow. (As in, Hello, Bridge to Nowhere!” But, as you mark your steps, you’ll eventually create a roadmap that reveals just how far you’ve come. Start moving, friend, and you’ll find your bridge.