How to Overcome Depression Naturally

2.03.2016

Depression is something I have struggled with since I had my first-born in 2007. I used to be embarrassed about it and wonder if there was something wrong with me; now I know it's just a part of my structure, personality type, and how my brain responds to stressful or mundane times. That doesn't mean I have to be the victim, allowing it to take over stretches of my life. It used to, but I know now that I have the power and the control to fight it, and end it. 

Fighting off depression is so difficult, I think especially because it requires energy and that is something a depressed person has none of. The fact is that there are hard things in life, and with depression it comes down to this:

Are you going to let this press the pause button on your life?
Or are you going to fight back and take control?

Depression isn't a choice, but what you do about it is. Over the last nine years, I have discovered some things that can combat depression without medicine [although I did go down the medicinal path when I had post-partum]. With consistency, I ward off the blues every time now. 

Do something different. I have found that my habits play a big role in how I'm doing as a person. When I do the same thing day in and day out for too long, I find myself in a slump. I start to lose excitement for my days, I feel tired and sluggish, I lose interest, I get lazy. I've had a new habit totally change my life. Little things like taking a walk once a day, listening to a podcast while I fold the laundry, or waking up earlier have impacted my spirit. Sometimes you just have to make a change and find something that adds joy to your days. 

Get outside. Creation holds power, and I don't mean that in a strange way, I mean God created it and it reflects Him; it has the power to influence us and make us feel things. When you step outside of your bubble and get outside, scientifically, you feel better. Did you know that almost everyone walking around is low on vitamin D? A lack of vitamin D plays a big part in depression, and guess where we get it- sunlight. For me, getting outside once a day is probably the biggest cure for depression. I just let the kids dress themselves and wander to the park across the street with some water or coffee and my headphones. I walk slowly back and forth while I listen to an inspiring podcast or some good music and let the kids burn some energy. Get outside and make a very simple difference. 

Change your diet. There are things we eat on a meal-to-meal basis that we were not designed to eat. Food is medicine, and "you are what you eat" is truer than most people would like to admit. Gluten is linked to depression, and gluten is in everything. Try eating paleo, as it is a clean diet that has a tremendous impact on how you feel. 

Stop sitting and start moving. Do you know about the effects sitting has on our bodies? God designed us to be extremely active and almost constantly hard-working, and here we are sitting 10+ hours a day! It's not good for us, and standing up is a great, simple way to start fighting back against depression. Consider a standing desk and standing mat, start walking in the mornings, take a Zumba class, get up and lunge every hour if you work in an office, if you're a stay-at-home mom, make a rule that you won't sit down until dinnertime. Make the choice to educate yourself and work against the downward pull you're experiencing in your life right now. Say no to excuses.
 
Go the homeopathic way. There are some excellent sources for curing our ailments- physical, mental, and emotional- with what God put in the soil of our planet. I always tell people to research for themselves, because something might jump out at you that you feel will work best. However, things like St. John's Wart, essential oils, increasing the healthy fats in my diet, and drinking a gallon of water a day for a month have helped me so much in the past. 

Get more sleep at night. I know that pull to take naps during the day when you're depressed, and I'm not talking about that. You need to go to bed earlier at night. I also know that sometimes depression comes with insomnia, but just take that first step of getting into bed early. Say no to Netflix, pull out a book, turn off the super bright lighting, and breathe. Don't stress about falling asleep or getting 8+ hours; just relax and fall asleep when you fall asleep, and get into this habit every night. I have found that eventually, especially when coupled with rising early, I start to actually fall asleep soon after I climb into bed. Sleep cures a multitude of issues, and depression is high on that list. 

Get really busy. This isn't for you if you're one of those people whose calendars are full to the brim almost daily. Your schedule might be the reason you're feeling down [in fact, if you are too busy you might need to clear your schedule for a bit and take this advice in the opposite direction]. But, if you're like me- a stay-at-home mom with my own schedule, you might be struggling with depression because you've got too much time serving your family at home and not enough time getting out and doing things with other people. I know getting out of the house with little kids is exhausting, but it can help. Join a Bible study, moms group or book club, sign up for a gym class, get involved in your church, get yourself in some sort of school organization for parents or join a homeschool co-op, plan some play dates, get on MeetUp and make some new friends or take up a new hobby like hiking, sign up for a 5k and start training. Just get some things on your calendar and make a rule- no canceling. 

Talk to someone. Walking depression alone seems logical to avoid judgement, but it's the worst thing you can do. Telling someone keeps you from staying isolated, and sometimes talking it out even helps you see something that's causing your struggle that you hadn't realized before. Choose a trustworthy friend, or your husband, and tell them what's up. Ask them to check in on you once a day. 

Pick up your Bible. I think when you're depressed it's easy to feel guilty for it, and when we feel guilty or shameful we tend to stray from the Lord. This isn't the time to skip your quiet time, in fact you need it now more than ever. God can handle your emotions, He can handle your heart, He can handle your struggles. He wants them! So go sit with some coffee and your Bible and just start reading. Download a She Reads Truth plan if you feel like you need to, but don't let all those excuses get in the way of the one true Cure for our desperation. Remember Peter trying to walk on the water? Once he took his eyes off Jesus, he went under. 

Depression is not a small struggle, it's a serious and crippling sickness, and my heart goes out to you if you're reading this and relating. I am always available to talk and pray, and if nothing else, take comfort in knowing that someone else gets it, and has been there but overcome. 

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do not fear I will help you". 

Isaiah 41:13
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Thriving After Infidelity: A Story of Two Affairs

2.01.2016


When I was a young girl attending a private Christian school, I knew that there were two reasons for getting a divorce, and no more. 

1. Unfaithfulness
2. Abuse of spouse or children

It was presented to me as a set of laws, cut and dry, black and white. I never really thought about it any further than I was told. 

I grew up and got married (at the ripe age of 20) and learned immediately that marriage is one very hard fight. You're fighting for something you both said you wanted against every ounce of selfishness in each of you combined. For Brian and I, it was very rough and took a long time. We went through loads of hurt and even some betrayal (to a smaller degree than cheating), which I will eventually share, but I finally got it. Marriage is tough, and it's not for the faint of heart. We were willing to stick it out and bury our feet in the dirt, hand-in-hand, but it didn't get any easier until we both matured and let God do some serious work on us. 

After seeing how difficult marriage can be, I started thinking about the two laws of marriage I had been taught in school. No wonder it was 'okay' to get a divorce after someone cheats. This thing is hard enough as it is! Who could take that?

Someone who embodies all the humility and grace as Christ Himself did when He walked the soil of earth. Someone who is willing to say no to the hatred wanting to collect in their heart and say yes to the hard road of forgiveness. Someone who knows there's more to life than just being happy, and there's more to commitment too. 

Armelina and Ben Stevens were married when they were eighteen and nineteen years old, in Spring of 2007. They were Christians, but didn't have relationships with Jesus. Their communication only existed to bring one another down, they argued constantly, their lives were all about themselves and never each other. 

"We had no idea what it took to have a good marriage, nor did we care. We each did what we wanted." Armelina tells me. 

"After a few years and three kids, we both ended up having affairs. At that point we were both so broken."

Armelina went on to share with me how her kids were unhappy, aware of their parents' misery, and she and Ben saw that. Ben eventually saw the signs of an affair in his wife, and knowing that he himself had been unfaithful, he went to the pastor who had married them for counsel. The pastor advised him to confess and pray with her, and go from there, which he did. 
Some incredible things have happened in the Stevens family since that dark time, and I sat down to interview Armelina and get her story. It's one of those ones that should be shared with the world, because it's a bright white beam of light and hope in a world where ending a marriage means little more than the inconvenience of paperwork. 

Me: So Ben came to you about his affair, knowing about yours, and you sort of had it out that night?

Armelina Stevens: Yes. It was a hard talk to have and I ended up leaving, going outside, and not wanting to talk about it or deal with it for about a week. I was furious with him. 

Me: You said divorce was never an option, even after you and your husband came clean about your affairs. What kept you from feeling like your marriage was too broken to be worth saving?

AS: We have always been Christian, but we didn't have a relationship with the Lord. I spent the week after smoking cigarettes outside, processing, thinking of what to do. My husband said he was willing to bring us back to church, get back to God. I saw that God was changing him right before my eyes. I knew that had to mean something good, something different. I just couldn't say 'see ya later' after that. I could see what God was doing and what we were able to become. 

Me: What was the state of your feelings toward your husband during your affair? During the reconciliation?

AS: I didn't show much of my negative feelings at first because of the kids. There was this one day where I felt God on me, and my feelings were completely overridden by His presence. I had peace. 
After everything happened, I kissed him for the first time in a parking lot, a week after we confessed to each other. That was the most passionate kiss I've ever had. It felt like we were remarried. You could feel the fresh start.

Me: You said your kids were hurting because they saw you were arguing and unhappy together, and you both saw that in them. Did you initially stay together just for them, and that led into loving each other again? 

AS: It really wasn't about the kids. It was just a desire to be a happily married couple, to love each other through even the toughest times till death do us part. We really wanted that deep down. Our pastor told us, it's God first, then each other, then your kids. I heard that and thought, "yes, I want that kind of relationship." Now our kids are so much happier that we are putting each other first.

Me: You mentioned it took about a week after his confession for your worlds to break down and for you to come together willing to work on things. Why was it a week? What were you feeling and what was going on during that time?

AS: I just felt so guilty for what I had done. I just wanted to cry and get everything out. A part of me wanted to believe that his affair was worse and I was so angry; I wrestled with that during that week. Eventually I realized sin is sin, there are no levels. When you ask forgiveness God casts it away from you, and that's it. I knew if things were going to get better I had to act that out in my marriage. 

Me: What would you say to the wife who has been unfaithful and doesn't know what to do now?

AS:  Get counseling. Pull your Bible out. Talk to a trustworthy, godly friend who will encourage you in your marriage. I didn't have that. I only had friends who told me to leave my husband. That was so hard, and I had to make friends through a new Bible study. Basically, buckle down and pray. It's so cliche but it's honestly the best thing you can do. That's where God speaks to us. 

Me: What would you say to the wife who has been betrayed in her marriage, and chosen to forgive and move on, but continues to bring up the past to her husband?

AS: Oh I struggled with that so bad for a couple of years after we reconciled. I would just get so angry and irritated, Satan kept reminding me of what Ben had done and I would throw it in his face. The fact is, who was I to say something to him?! I had done the same thing. So to that wife I would say, keep your mouth shut. Open it only to encourage and pray for your heart and for him. You chose to forgive so keep on choosing it. 

Me: Were there any specific verses or quotes that really resonated with you during the moving on process?

AS: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. That's the passage we were given to read together. Love endures all things, it never fails. That's God. How amazing is it that we serve a God who forgives and forgets? Not once does God bring it up again. That's a model for us in our marriages. It's such an overused passage but when I took it for that horrible situation, it came alive and took on a new meaning. 

Me: I'm gonna get awkward and ask the question I think a lot of women need to hear about from someone who has been through it. Was coming together again sexually a bumpy road for the two of you? How soon after everything did that happen for you guys?

AS: It was after we went to counseling. My husband was willing to wait until I was ready and he told me that. I felt God moving us into starting the healing process, and being intimate with one another was what that looked like for us. I didn't need a waiting process.  

Me: Do you have any advice for other wives in similar circumstances when it comes to being intimate with their husbands again?

AS: Do it only when you're ready. When you feel completely ready to give yourself back to your husband physically and not think about anyone else, or not be worried about him thinking about anyone else, that's the time. Before our affairs we were both bored and just not really trying. After all this happened, our intimacy is amazing. I'm so glad you're asking me about this because it's a part of the process I think is surprising that I really wanted to share to encourage someone who needs to hear this. I wasn't enjoying it before at all, but now sex is so much more pleasurable and romantic and sweet. We are so much more connected. I am more attracted to him and I can't wait for him to get home every night. Every time we are together it gets better. I am so thankful for the changes that difficult time brought to our sex life. God woke us up. He woke us up in every area. We weren't having intimacy before.

Me: Do you think that's because you weren't giving yourselves over to each other emotionally that your physical intimacy wasn't satisfying?

AS: Yes, absolutely.

Ben and Armelina are the picture of what God can do if you'll allow him into your relationships and into the brokenness that comes from being human. I am so honored they let me share their story, and so thankful to Armelina for her raw honesty. We shouldn't feel shameful for our stories of sin and restoration. These are the stories that will change the world. 






Armelina and her husband, Ben are two people redeemed by grace. They have three children and live in Southern California. 













Note: Cheating is horrible and painful and so sorrowful. I want to say that I do not believe staying in a marriage after unfaithfulness is always the answer. I know someone who was cheated on over and over again and she remained in her marriage as long as possible, until the circumstances became abusive and incredibly harmful. Sticking around and taking that kind of abusive behavior is a totally different story. Praying for the Holy Spirit's guidance in these hard situations is crucial. I'm just here delivering Armelina's story to share a glimpse of hope and healing and faithfulness, because sometimes it is the way to go, although not always. 
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Life Lately

1.30.2016

I've been waking up at 5:00 in the morning for three days. No, I am not being held hostage. It's not even the baby's fault. I am willingly setting my alarm and waking up at 5AM. Who have I become??

I talked recently on my podcast about the benefits of waking early, and how I went from being a hardcore night owl to being an early bird. Well, I've been struggling to get all my blogging work done each day [or even each week], and have been looking for a solution. Last week I listened to two podcasts separately about boosting productivity and getting things done in the busyness of life. Both speakers mentioned that they wake up at 5:00 every morning. I had a feeling of dread come over me because it made perfect sense, and I knew what I had to do- try it. 

I used to wake up around 7:00 to the sound of my kids bickering in their room and Brian rushing me to take him to work. If I could go from that to waking up 45 minutes earlier and exercising, then I could try taking it a few steps further, right? 



I will talk about it on my podcast in a week or two when I've been with it longer than a few days, but I will say that I have been extremely productive, and I am loving getting things done in the quiet of the morning. I feel more accomplished than I have been before my family is even awake. I'm not committing to this habit 100% just yet, I'm still testing it out, but all things have been positive so far, and it gets me to bed at a decent hour because I'm actually tired. 



Other than the fact that I've gone off the deep end and started doing something I never thought I could, life lately has been staying positive. I'm diving into homeschool groups and Bible studies and meeting up with potential friends in our new area, trying to plant my feet firmer into the ground God placed me on. 

 My sweet reader-turned-friend, Shannon.

 Finding cricket frogs in the pond.



I am so out of my comfort zone in my life right now. With the 5AM thing and living without the people I have always known near me, with having to cook every night because my husband is actually home for dinner, with homeschooling a grade school kid [just feels way more legit now], with living in a two-bedroom townhouse with four kids....seriously what is happening? It's amazing. I feel invigorated and accomplished, like I've conquered such hard things, even though it's just life changing and things moving forward. I feel like a warrior making good out of difficulties, squashing the start of a bout with depression, and purposefully saying yes to joy wherever I can find it. 



Throwing rocks in the lake and watching them sit on top of the ice. 

I love my days. Playing acoustic melodies on repeat [especially 3 Rounds and A Sound by Blind Pilot], sitting on the adirondack swing at the park across the street with a podcast inspiring me while the kids play, sipping wine while I cook in the evenings, trying new things and new people and new foods [I made Thai food the other night. It was amazing]. It's just all good. 



Extreme change is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. When life is all new, I've learned that you might as well embrace it and make yourself all new too. 


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5 Reasons Men Are Better Parents

1.28.2016



Dads are awesome. Not every dad, but generally men bring a different vibe to a kid's childhood that I sometimes really envy. There are aspects of my husband's parenting that I just can't mimic; it's his, he's the dad, and he rocks. 

I stay home with our four young kids and Brian works the 8-5. Our separate lives make for some interesting discussions at the end of the day- we always have such different stories to tell as he's all out there and I'm all at home in sweat pants wiping butts. Our traditional set up also brings a certain dynamic to our parenthood, and every once in awhile I'm floored by what an awesome dad Brian is. I see these things in other dads a lot of the time too, and hey, if we can sing the praises of our men, we should!

I know that my husband is a certain personality type, he has a certain love language, he's his own person, plus he's a total gem, so I can't generalize too much, but just roll with my points. My purpose in this post is to inspire you to see the positives about your hubby and switch into gratitude mode for the different dynamic he brings into your family. A thankful heart is everything. 

5 Reasons Men Are Better Parents

1) They know how to get down and have fun with the kids. More often than not, Brian's after-dinner time is spent on the ground with four tiny humans crawling all over him, accidentally kicking him in the junk. He just takes the hit, breathes deep and keeps on playing. He'll get a big blanket over him and crawl around growling. The kids call this "the rock monster game", and they never laugh harder than when they're playing this with their dad. He's the one who does all the funny talk about poop and butt cracks and silly things that little kids find absolutely hilarious. Brian knows how to make them laugh and his to do list rarely gets in the way of sitting on the floor and engaging in his kids' happiness. 



2) They have aerial vision and logic in a crisis. A few weeks ago I had a meltdown. It seemed there was always a big mess to clean up somewhere in the house and nothing was flowing. I felt like I had no help at all, and I couldn't keep up with anything, plus I had just added in working several hours a day on growing my blog into a second income, and had no balance. My meltdown occurred near the end of the day right when Brian walked through the door. He stood in the living room just listening to my rant, and after it was done, he was quiet. A few minutes later he called the kids downstairs and gave them a talk about chores. 

After about ten minutes he had them cleaning the whole upstairs and he'd set up a daily list for them to accomplish before they even come down for breakfast in the mornings. They have actually done what he said most mornings since that day. Why? Because when Brian speaks to the kids about something, it's serious and he means business; they know that. Also because I am always talking to them and I admit, lecturing them, so when Dad says something it sounds new, and tends to stick. 

Brian comes into a crisis like a helicopter, with a bird's eye view, scans the situation with his logic and can come up with a practical and effective solution, all while remaining totally calm while I'm a tired basket case. I need that, because sometimes I'm so caught up in the chaos that I can't see the obvious solution. 

3) They don't "lose it" like we do. This one sort of goes with number two, and it's probably specific to men like my husband rather than all men, but so worth mentioning. I am temperamental and that is my biggest issue- anger. I can take so much and then I fly off the handle and just lose it. Brian really doesn't do this. He is calm, collected, and reasonable basically all the time. He's my Mr. Steady and I am so thankful my kids have him as the other parent for some balance to my crazy. 



4) They let the kids use them as jungle gyms, and aren't sick of being touched at the end of the day. I don't know why but kids always want to get physical energy out between the hours of 5 & 7 PM, even if we spent the whole day at the park. The problem is by this time of day, I am done. I have been pulled on, tapped a thousand times, my ears are talked off, my patience is worn thin, and everybody better back off. Brian walks in the door and is usually still fresh, at least when it comes to the kids. He hasn't been dealing with them all day, and he missed them, so he's ready to wrestle and play and let them be loud. This is my favorite hubby feature because it allows me to pour a glass of wine and cook in peace, usually with headphones in. Heaven. 



5) They show their kids that they love their mom. Again, I know not all husbands are like mine, but this is a big one. Brian loves physical touch and he's very affectionate; I am naturally the opposite in both ways. At the end of the day, the last thing I'm thinking about is showing our kids how much we love each other [something that kids desperately need to see], but Brian takes care of that for me. He is always running his fingers through my hair, looking into my eyes, rubbing my back, reaching for my hand, kissing me, or gesturing for me to snuggle into him on the couch. The kids see that, and I love it. They are seeing what a good man looks like. 



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Free Lock Screen Wallpapers

1.22.2016

Hey lovelies...

I played around again this week and put together a few simple phone wallpapers for ya. As always just save the image to your phone and set as your wallpaper. Don't forget to manipulate it to fit your screen before you set it! Enjoy :)






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"It's my mommy running naked."

1.20.2016

Kids are so embarrassing. They have no filter, are not even aware that they need one, and at any moment, you know they could completely humiliate you with a single sentence. 

I've experienced many an embarrassing moment in my seven years of motherhood, and I can say that nothing will humble you and send you running out a door faster than an honest child's comment. 

A few weeks ago, just before Christmas, the kids and I were doing some volunteer work at the local food bank. The assignment was to make Christmas cards and hand them out to the homeless elderly that had gathered there for a hot meal. The director encouraged the kids to draw snowmen, Christmas trees, stars, baby Jesus... you know, Christmassy things. They got to work, and I noticed that Hudson, who's three, was especially focused on his drawing. 

When the kids were done creating they went into another room to choose a person to give their cards to. Hudson had only made one Christmas card, but he was dang proud of it, and it showed. When he got to the room, he walked straight to a sweet old man in a chunky sweater eating a bowl of soup. 

Hudson (straight face, staring at the man's wrinkled hands): "here you go."
Old man (taking the picture): "oh thank you, princess!" (the man bun betrays his gender once again) "what's this you've drawn here?"
Hudson: "It's my mommy running naked."
Me: *face palm and a slow death*
Old man: ".......oh. Should I have this then?"
Hudson: "yes. It's for you."
Me: "I'll.....take that."
Old man: "I wouldn't mind keepin' it!"
Me: *fake smile and more slow dying*

We have not received any more emails asking for our help volunteering since that day, and I don't expect we will.

Motherhood: carrying a person inside of you for nine months, then changing their poop and feeding them so they have energy to find fresh ways of humiliating you. 
Good stuff. I'll get him back with a naked picture in his high school graduation slideshow.
I also think it might be time to limit my shower-to-laundry-room jaunts...

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Life Lately & Our Trip to California in Photos

1.19.2016

Hiiii!

Gosh I feel like it's been ages since I sat at this space and just let myself pour into it. Our vacation really threw me off, and as refreshing as it was, I'm so happy to be back home and in my normal routine! I want to share a little bit about what's been on my heart lately, and then I'm gonna dump the best photos from our trip!

So, right before Christmas, my dad called me and asked me if Brian and I would be willing to bump our planned March trip to California up to January. He offered to pay for our plane tickets if we did. Obviously we took him up on his offer! He booked us for two whole weeks and the trip was fairly last-minute, so the whole thing was one big blur to me. 

I have to say that I hated flying with the kids, and would absolutely choose the twenty-two hours of driving that we did with them over the 4+ hours of flying and the layover each way. Emmett is just at the worst age for being forced to sit in one spot for that long, and he was screeching and frustrated and miserable for most of the flight time, despite all the things we did to prepare. Our kids just love the car and do so well in it, I think we'll commit to road tripping back home every six months for now, and revisit the flight idea when Emmett is older. 

I was apprehensive about going back. I was worried about how being back there and spending time with friends and family would make me feel. I thought maybe being back where things are comfortable would cause me to hate our decision to move, and dread coming back to Arkansas. 

I was very wrong about that. 

Going back was so fun, so refreshing, so comforting, but somehow I felt even more confident about our move, and after the first week I couldn't wait to get back home. I saw California as a wonderful place full of people and places I love that I get to visit every six months and take a break from the rhythm of daily life. I loved the beach and breathed it in so deep, but when I walked back to the car with the waves at my back, I was okay. I was thinking of how good it would feel to go home and see the mountains again. I didn't look over my shoulder like I did when I walked away four months ago. I didn't need to, and that felt good. 

One of the things I realized while there, is that I haven't been truly settling into our new home yet. The first three months were at first total chaos, and then anxiety coupled with a lack of action. I wasn't really committed to new friendships, to my area, to making Arkansas our home like I did when we lived in California. I realized that it's time to bury my feet in the ground, put down some roots, dive into friendships and homeschooling and church, and start living here. Exploring the area isn't enough, I have to treat this place like home because it is! This is where God has led us and I don't know how long He will have us here, so I need to be all in. 

I can wait patiently for our next trip to Cali. I can look forward to my toes in the sand and my family surrounding me again, but I don't feel like I'm hanging onto the life I had there while physically standing on new soil. I feel present and settled and at peace. I feel ready to live. 








































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