We have all been there. Struggling with our autoimmune illness, seeing no end in sight. Finding hope in a time like that can be really hard. Especially since we all know that healing is not linear. There are extreme highs, very low, lows. Sometimes they last years on end. Having hope while living in what seems like a never ending rollercoaster can be hard! But, I recently read a post about mental health and hope when trying to brainstorm what to write for you ladies this month and it made me think of it differently.
When I think of hope, I think of it as positive thoughts, being optimistic, leaving it all out there for the “light at the end of the tunnel.” But, what if hope doesn’t come naturally to you? Since the majority of us are struggling to live a somewhat normal life because we are juggling autoimmune disease, being moms, work, and a million other things…it’s hard for me to think of positive thoughts. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. What if you actually have to work at hope? What if hope was like a muscle?
I’ve never thought of hope like this, but it makes sense. Hope is more of a choice than this mystery aura that some people have the ability to access easier than others. Hope is a muscle that needs to be strengthened like any other muscle in our bodies in order to be healthy and present. When you first start working out after a long break, you are going to be sore and it is probably going to hurt. But with time, you get stronger and things turn into muscle memory. You need to exercise to strengthen your hope. It’s a choice that we need to make for ourselves. We either choose to work at it, or let it slip away. It’s not something we can summon out of thin air.
So how can you strengthen your hope? Shifting my thoughts on hope landed me with these ideas to strengthen it, especially as we are dancing with a time of hopelessness. Here are my exercises to build your hope muscle:
Make Time to Care for Yourself
I know that sounds cliché and seems to be the number one thing that every single person will say when you are in a low spot, or rock bottom. Be it your autoimmune disease is flaring real bad, you’re depressed, or you’re just going through a lot. You cannot have hope for anything if you are running on empty. You cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel if you’re out of spoons but have a million other things to do. Even if you hate the thought of taking time for yourself, you NEED to. Remember, it’s going to hurt and be hard at first but you need to choose to get yourself into a better state to start building your hope fire!
Shifting Your Mindset
Life continues on, whether we like it or not. It’s a continuum that we cannot stop, it does not wait for us. There is a future, even if you cannot seem to fathom it. So why not shift your thoughts to those that embrace a future? No, I don’t mean being overly optimistic and “wishing” for a future that is airy and bright, free from all evil things. But just strengthening your hope in a sense that a future exists that can change your overall outlook, especially in a dark time like a flare or with everything going on in the world currently. Shifting your hope mindset will take practice, but it can encourage mental and even physical healing as you welcome the idea of a future we cannot control. This is what I need to work on!
“Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory. It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.”– Krista Tippett
As with every new workout or skill you try to perfect, there are going to be failures. You may not be able to complete all 10 reps of a new exercise if you are starting from square one. Think of hope like this. Even if you take the time to exercise it, it’s not always going to come naturally. Some days are going to be hard and you aren’t going to want to take time for yourself or shift your mindset, and guess what? THAT’S OKAY! Defeat happens. But do not give up. Even if you feel like you are taking one step forward but two steps back, don’t stop! In the end, you are still moving forward.
Ladies, your hope WILL strengthen. It just takes a little practice and a little work!