This weekend I experienced several things that triggered grief in me. I felt full of emotion and exhausted, and I felt a lot like lying on the couch and binge watching a show, ignoring how I felt, ignoring what I’d experienced.
What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that when I get into this space, I need to do things that truly nourish my soul. In this case, I really needed to surround myself with life and abundance. I needed the reminder that God is not about death and destruction—he is about life and abundance. So I made homemade pickles, planted flowers and herbs just outside our door, cooked a meal with delectable finds from the farmers market, and took a long walk. I normally would jog on this route through our neighborhood, but I knew it would be more nourishing to focus on the mind-clearing, slow aspects of the walk rather than the cardio aspects of a jog.
When I’m triggered, my instinct is to retreat. I feel physically exhausted and would prefer to lie in bed and sleep. And sometimes I do. Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is take a good long nap—truly. But after the rest, I know I need to truly nourish myself—to care for myself in a way that prepares me, that steels me, to deal with my issues head-on. I need things that bring me energy to help me tackle the difficult things of life.
So this weekend I chose to make good, natural food with my hands and fresh vegetables that gave me physical energy. I’ve found that eating mostly vegan fills me up and gives me energy, and so I was intentional about what I was eating this weekend.
I also chose to get my hands dirty, planting fresh basil and mint and lavender and a beautiful hibiscus plant in a place where they’ll continue to bring me nourishment and joy. Hibiscus has been my favorite flower for as long as I can remember, and now it greets me each time I enter our home.
I chose to take a long walk in the cool of the evening to feel my blood course through my veins, my muscles warm up, my lungs fill with nourishing deep breaths of air. As I walked through the neighborhood park, I heard children laughing, friends chatting, and teammates cheering one another.
I engaged all my senses in gentle ways through these nourishing activities. The touch and taste of the food. The sight and smell of the flowers and herbs. The sound of my feet on the pavement, my own breath, and the neighborhood of people. These slow, thoughtful, intentional activities brought me life after a difficult weekend. They gave me energy to do what I needed to do these last few days, and, more importantly, to face my grief head-on.
Nourish Rather than Escape
There’s a temptation to run from our feelings, to flee the difficult things in life. And so we engage in escapism: binge watching a show, avoiding the situation, numbing our feelings. Of course, these help us forget about our cares for a while—sometimes they even help us get through the day when we don’t have the safety or space to actually deal with those issues. But eventually the show ends, or we bump into the person we’ve been avoiding, or our feelings bubble up against our best efforts, and we’re no more equipped to handle them than when we started.
Soul care, on the other hand, helps us become more equipped to face our reality. Sometimes that means resting, creating, reading, praying, or cooking. Sometimes that means learning from a trusted confidant how to navigate a tough situation, or listening to the encouraging words of a friend. And sometimes that means tackling a situation head-on: having that hard conversation, crying with a friend, writing that letter, releasing control over that situation, or making that change in your heart or behavior.
The problem is that we don't often notice the signs that we need to pause and nourish our soul. We may be going so fast that we don't realize how we're really feeling or that we're running super low on energy or faith or hope. It takes practice to recognize the signals that our souls are running on empty, and it takes even more practice to actually act on those signals. But then there's another common issue: many of us have no idea what will nourish our souls, which means that even if we notice the signals and take the steps to make space for soul care, we don't always know what to do with that time.
I encourage you to do something truly nourishing today. Maybe you need rest or a walk or a good laugh with a friend or a new plant or time to cook or create. I can’t say what will be truly nourishing to you—trust yourself to know what you need. And if you're not sure, just try something. It doesn’t have to be big, extravagant, or take up a lot of time. If you can find 3-5 minutes today to do something that nourishes your soul, you’ll benefit. Do you need to move? To be encouraged by God's truth? To rest? To do something with your hands? To engage your senses? To be with others? To feel the weight of your emotions? To take a step toward dealing with a tough situation? Try something today, and then reflect on how it made you feel—did it nourish you? Did it fill you up? Did it bring you some peace? If not, try something else tomorrow.
If you’re looking for something simple, might I suggest making some pickles? I know, I know—it might sound odd. But it’s easy enough for anyone to do, and these pickles fit any diet: keto, whole 30, vegan, gluten-free, etc. There’s something about the tart, vinegary taste of fresh pickles that wakes up the senses, and there's something beautiful about physically nourishing your body with fresh, homemade food. Plus, it takes just a few minutes and then you get this amazing treat—only four ingredients needed! Just follow the recipe below:
Glass jar with tight-fitting lid (regular size—about ½ liter)
About 6 small cucumbers (I like to get the Persian cucumbers at Aldi or Trader Joe’s that come packaged on a tray. You can also get pickling cucumbers at the Aurora farmers market—My favorite stand is the 6 Generations farmer.)
½ cup of white vinegar
1 Tbsp of chopped fresh dill
2-3 tsp of coarse salt (like Kosher or sea salt)
Slice cucumbers and fill to the top of the jar. (I use a cheap handheld mandolin for this to make this super easy and quick, but feel free to simply slice.)
Put salt and dill on top of the cucumbers.
Pour the vinegar over the cucumbers. Put the lid on and shake to mix. (You’ll notice the vinegar doesn’t cover all the cucumbers—this is totally fine! As they pickle, the cucumbers will let out some of the liquid and the jar will fill.)
Place in your refrigerator, preferably near the front to remind yourself to shake up the pickles every once in a while. They’ll be ready in about an hour, but they’ll continue to take on more pickle taste the longer they sit. I love these pickles most in the first 48 hours, and mine rarely last beyond that point. But they will keep in your refrigerator up to three weeks as long as you keep the liquid over the pickles.
Once they’re ready, use them any way you want: eat them straight from the jar, on a brat, in a salad, paired with garlic aioli over fish—the possibilities are endless.
So how do you nourish your soul? We’d love to hear from you. Share with us below or on our social media accounts.
Amy Jackson is founder and director of The Perch.