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How to Heal Holistically.
By Audra Oakes
Once a little girl stood, alone and afraid. She had one companion and solace. Her imagination. She retreated here often as she shied away from the taunts, and trauma of her early years. In her mind, in the very recesses of her psyche, she created a place of love, joy, peace and beauty. Here, she was loved, valued and understood. She was courageous, kind and strong. She was the champion that defeated any darkness that tried to take over this place of joy. In this place, she was safe. Her hope was that one day she would realise this place as her reality. This girl was too young to understand, this place already existed in reality. She did not understand that this place was a place she could have if she chose to take it.
Above all else, I have always desired peace. Peace is described as “Freedom from disturbance; tranquillity” and “mental and emotional calm” (Oxford Dictionary, 2019). I was unaware that I could choose to be tranquil and undisturbed no matter the circumstances. I was only a child who was dependant on the care, protection, provision and guidance of others. I could not physically control my circumstances or how others treated me but I always had the power to choose how I responded.
I lived in Rome for 5 years as a young child. I learnt to speak Italian and English at the same time mostly by watching Italian television. I did not attend formal education in Rome but my life was full of learning experiences. One of such experiences happened on the streets of as I walked with my mother. I remember a girl who would have been twice my age at the time calling out to me “Nigreta, Nigreta”, which translates to “black” or “nigger”. After passing her my mother had asked me why hadn’t I called out to her about being a gipsy girl on the street. My response to my mother was, “I have to do my part”! This girl was obviously trying to offend me but to this day, I marvel at my response. I inherently knew at a very young age that I did not need to respond in like manner. I knew who I was, even though I was only 5!
As I grew, the pain from the unhealthy environment I lived in began to take my breath away. My peace eroded and I lost faith that I was loved by the person I loved the most after a significant traumatic event in my life. I created an escape. A perfect world where I was free and safe but in reality, I had become afraid, reclusive and then very defensive. I barely recognised or believed in that child of hope anymore. The child who would not be offended or offend anyone. The one who loved laughed and forgave. As the years passed, this beautiful child died and I buried her and mourned her passing. She was no more. In her place, a wretch stood. I was plagued with anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and revenge. I wanted to embrace the darkness fully. I wanted to allow my pain to flow like a never-ending river. I did not care who it affected. My words cut deep. I abused anything that momentarily took away the pain. My lack of love, understanding, peace and empathy for myself meant a lack of the same for others. In truth, I was dead. I had forgotten about this beautiful world I created in my mind, however, my “utopia” had not forgotten me.
In my book, “My Red Sea: Journey from war to peace”, I describe my journey through a physical war. The first Liberian civil war that began in 1998. I also describe my battle with depression, PTSD, anxiety and emotional pain (Oakes, 2017). My next book describes the process of healing I went through more closely and takes a look at the psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical elements that I have holistically appropriated to maintain my healing and productivity. I have put together a short list of practices that have helped me and will help you in your holistic healing journey.
Holistic Healing, To Do List
- Meditate daily – To meditate is to focus one’s mind for a period of time in silence or in aid of chanting… as a method of relaxation (Oxford dictionary, 2019). There are many forms of meditation. My advice is to research the various forms of meditation then test them by allocating 5 and 10 minutes, daily to a specific form of meditation. Everyone has a form of meditation that they prefer. Usually, one should be able to find the right fit for them that will allow you to harness peace and stop your mind from wandering. Practice this as often as you can.
- Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness has been described as non-judgemental, present moment awareness and is shown to increase emotional regulation while decreasing stress (Snyder et el, 2011). With so many of us living busy lives or fixated on past events, we forget that our life and our strength is now, here in the present. Energy expended on our yesterdays, rob us of our joy today. Practice harnessing your energy, and attention on the present, knowing that each time you do this, you are building a better future. The future isn’t given.
- Value your time – Time is your life’s currency. How are you spending it? Are you prioritising yourself? Are you allocating it wisely? Guard your time. People who waste your time are wasting you. Make your time valuable by appreciating it and recognising the gift it is. When you honour your time, you show others to do the same. This is not selfish or rude but a fundamental requirement for success in every area of your life.
- Healthier Diet Choices – I’m not an extremist. I enjoy eating various meat and don’t mind the occasional foods that have sugar in it. Easter being a time of a bountiful supply of chocolate Easter eggs and bunnies, (I can’t understand how bunnies and eggs go together) I will enjoy a few treats, guilt-free, however I will make sure to balance that out with a diet that is is good for my body by taking into account my age, weight and how I react to different food groups. I love being energetic and going to the gym as often as time permits, therefore my meal requirements may be different from someone else who is not in my stage of life or who shares the activities I partake in. Make no room for same and guilt, whatever you eat. These negative emotions do not help but sabotage you in the long run. Rise above them and start again fresh.
- Positive Self Chatter x 3 – This was my biggest challenge. I had become accustomed to the dark, pessimistic voices and that shamed, rebuked and essentially bullied me. With the aid of the above, I began to see them for what they were. Lies. I began telling myself positive, loving, kind and generous things. Now, when a negative thought comes in, I am mindful of it (non-judgemental awareness), and find 3 positive things about myself to think and focus on. I don’t run from it. I accept who I am. If this thought is true, looking at it mindfully empowers me to make a positive change instead of flooding me with the useless and energy-sapping emotions of guilt and shame. This practice essentially takes the power of shame and guilt away from that negative thought and empowers me to embrace my uniqueness and continue my personal development journey.
- Stay in your lane: Comparison has been described as a thief of joy. None of us was designed to be exactly the same in body, mind and spirit. Each of us is uniquely encoded with strength, weakness, gifts and inabilities. Energy spent trying to be like someone else is robbing you of being more of you. Your unique abilities are needed. Appreciate them, grow them and share!
- Healthy Connections – No man is an island. Human beings are wired to connect and form attachments. The lack of a Secure Attachment Style according to Attachment Theory is an indication of future problematic relationships where a child becomes insecurely attached to others (Bowlby, 1988). The good news is there is hope. Attachment styles can be improved and become secure. Engaging in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a great way to bridge the gap between insecure and secure attachment styles. Read Bowlby & Ainsworth.
This was a quick list of ways to help you heal holistically and is in no way extensive. I mentioned exercise as something I do but time has not permitted me to go in depth in this field. I would recommend that you ask a personal trainer or physiotherapist how you can get active today and improve your holistic health by engaging in some physical activity at your level. Remember to stay in your lane always!
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Live mindfully, love passionately and choose your responses.