What Are We Up Against Now and What Are We Doing? – Part 3 of 6

What Are We Up Against Now and What Are We Doing? – Part 3 of 6

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Body and Soul: Orthodox Christian Lent as a Self-Care Journey 

As humans on earth, we struggle, but our God in heaven tells us how to be ready for spiritual warfare.

He said to them, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.’ (John 8:23)

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Many parents and caregivers live a self-sacrificial life – they are so busy, constantly putting the care of others before the care of themselves. Sound familiar? Ever struggled to find time to shower, drink water, or socialize? Research shows Americans in general are stressed and coping in unhealthy ways – in epidemic proportions! It is a vicious circle – we are not sleeping well, eating well, or exercising enough, and it all decreases our ability to think well and feel good.  Here are a few statistics that show us what we are up against, and what we are doing and not doing to care for ourselves:

  • The National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily, teens need 9-10 hours, and adults need 7-8 hours.
  • Nearly 30% of adults reported on an NIH survey that they get an average of less than 6 hours of sleep and ONLY 31% of high school students reported getting at least 8 hours of sleep on an average school night.
  • About a third of Americans reported lying awake at night with stress and living with extreme stress. No wonder we have trouble getting things done and kids are acting out. We have a nation of stressed, sleep-deprived people, and it is the new normal!
  • The survey also says a lot of us are too tired to exercise or not taking the time, and inactivity is considered a major contributor to weight gain. How many of us are getting “ideal” exercise with at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, or more than 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise?
  • Well, not many, because 68% of us are overweight; 20 % are obese. We make poor food choices to keep us going – sugar and carbs – then get more anxious and depressed, struggling to adjust – overscheduled with trouble saying no. We isolate from friends, and skip date night with our spouse, or pick a fight because we have hit the wall…

First things first…here are some good choices for reprioritizing if you don’t know where to start:

Ideas to meet physical needs:

Power nap: allow yourself to close your eyes for 10 minutes, relax, and just breathe…

Eat right: food affects mood, and it is easy to load up on carbs when you have stopped eating meat; cut down on sugars and processed foods, and take your vitamins so you can feel and think better.

Shop for “grab and go” healthy snacks, and fire up the crock pot so you get to church and meet spiritual needs!

Exercise with family if you don’t have time alone. Prayer walks and hugging loved ones are spiritual exercise!

Ideas to meet emotional and social needs:

Spend time alone each day, prioritize activities, and say no to what is not urgent or important!

Find a way to have a weekly date with a loved one and spend time with friends.

Look for things that make you laugh and allow yourself to cry.

Ideas to meet intellectual and creative needs:

Listen to Orthodox Christian radio programs, audiobooks, podcasts while driving or working around the house.

Share your favorite Lenten book to spark discussions.

Return to old hobbies you may not have pursued for a while, even for a few minutes a day.

If your child is doing an art project, sit down and create your own art!

Ideas to meet spiritual needs:

Go to church and participate in the sacraments. Pray each morning and evening.
Plan to volunteer, or help others spontaneously.

Keep a Lenten Journal to write down your reflections and work on your “Good Faith Plan”… 

Refer to Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series if you have just started reading

The Orthodox Study Bible helps us with the Eastern Orthodox mindset of our faith in the midst of Western culture in the United States, where Orthodox Christians are a 2% minority, but it says all those who stand for good must wage a constant battle with the forces of evil. Christians fight back with God’s arms, that is, His uncreated divine energy given to us and actively used by us. We have to “put on” all of the qualities listed as armor at baptism and then exercise them in the conflict of growth; no struggle, no deification. This wonderful prayer turns us to protection He has given us:

Prayer to Our Guardian Angel

I fall before you, my holy guardian, angel of Christ, for you were given to me at holy baptism to guard my soul and my sinful body. Through indolence and bad habits I have angered your pure light and driven you from me by my shameful ways: by lies, slander, jealousy, judgment, pride, stubbornness, lack of love for my brothers, and remembering evils, by love of money, worry pleasures, anger, extravagance, food and drink beyond measure, by excessive talking, evil thoughts, bad habits, and lust for passions – for I yearn for all bodily pleasures. Even the dumb beasts do not have the evil inclinations which are in me. How can you bear to look at me or how can you draw near to me who am so defiled? O angel of Christ, with what eyes will you look upon me who am so entangled in stained deeds? How can I bring forgiveness for all of my bitter, evil, and wicked sins which I commit each day, each night and at every hour? Therefore I fall before you and pray: O my holy Guardian, have compassion on me, a sinner; be my helper and supporter against the evil one, and by your holy intercessions make me a participant of the kingdom of God together with all of the saints, now and ever unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The Orthodox Prayer Book

Good Lent!


 

Resources:

The Orthodox Prayer Book 

The Orthodox Study Bible

Next Week: A Deeper Look – Turning Inward – Part 4 of 6 series: 

  1. Getting Started on a Healthy Self-Care Journey 
  2. Simple Tools for a Time of Stillness and Striving  
  3. What We Are Up Against Now and What Are We Doing?
  4. A Deeper Look – Turning Inward
  5. Moving to Synergy
  6. Celebrating our New Life in Christ

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About author
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Anastasia Kruse

Anastasia is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a National Certified Counselor. She works with individual adults, couples and families to offer hope, healing and practical solutions in dealing with problems that may be creating depression, anxiety and spiritual crises in life transitions. Her specialty is working together to develop strong relationships between clients and their significant others. Divorce prevention or post-divorce recovery, low self-esteem, stress and anger management are frequent areas of treatment in her practice is at Sanders and Associates. Previously she worked with Leyden DuPage Counseling Service and Family Shelter Services. She treats victims of domestic violence and is trained in EMDR to deal with trauma and PTSD. Anastasia holds an M.A. in Professional Counseling from Argosy University, Illinois School of Professional Psychology, now the American School of Profession Psychology (ASPP) at Argosy University. Prior to her career as a professional counselor, Anastasia was a human resources executive, organizational development consultant and trainer. She has extensive coaching background in career counseling, employee relations, conflict resolution, and performance challenges for job and college related problems. Anastasia converted to Orthodoxy 12 years ago and integrates the foundations of faith into her work with clients and in providing premarital counseling seminars at her parish. She has led couples groups and family workshops at local parishes, presented at the International Orthodox Psychotherapy Conference, and was a guest speaker on “Come Receive the Light” radio program on the Orthodox Christian Network.