All of us must endure trials and days overwhelmed with pain and emotion. Life continues through hardship, and though we maintain our roles as wife, homeschool mom, and friend, our bodies have a tangible response to stress.
It was 3:30 in the morning on December 9, 2010. The combination of recurring low-grade fevers, an unusual rash, and suspicious blood work had led us here—to the pediatric ER and to these words from the doctor, “Your son has acute lymphoblastic leukemia.” By that afternoon, our 3-year-old, Will, had received his first dose of chemotherapy. For the next 3.5 years, our lives would be controlled by rigid chemo regimens, protective isolation, and hospital admissions. When Will was ready for K4, our interest in homeschooling turned into a necessary reality.
As we approached the final stage of chemo, our younger son Matthew was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. A few months later, my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness requiring my parents’ relocation close to me. Our schedule was frequently molded to accommodate her care. Two weeks after Will celebrated his last dose of chemo, my mom walked through Heaven’s gates.
All of us must endure trials and days overwhelmed with pain and emotion. Life continues on throughout hardship, and though we maintain our roles as wife, homeschool mom, and friend, our bodies have a tangible response to stress. How can we counteract that human response?
During my experience, I learned how to cope and endure by using these five things to counteract stress: help, nutrition, exercise, physical rest, and spiritual rest.
1. Accept Help
We often think that needing help makes us inadequate or weak. Even the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 had maidens! If she accepted help, surely we can. Before Will was discharged from his first admission, ladies from our church had already arranged three months of family dinners and childcare for my 18-month-old during Will’s daily 8-hour infusions. What a blessing they were to us! When help is offered, accept it with open arms.
Help comes in many forms. One of our family’s greatest blessings was the gift of homeschooling. When our lives were turned upside down, we still controlled our school calendar and were able to balance academics around clinic schedules and hospital stays. Homeschooling allowed us to place our family first. Despite unconventional hours and locations, learning was accomplished.
2. Maintain a Nutritious Diet
During stressful times, I had to learn to limit (not omit) simple sugars, both for myself and my family. When your body is experiencing stress, a stable blood sugar is your goal. Choose complex carbs such as sweet potatoes, vegetables, brown rice, and oatmeal.
An oncology nutrition intern shared this advice: eating a protein-rich dinner the night before chemo will lessen or eliminate chemo-induced nausea. From that moment, we ate scrambled eggs and bacon every chemo-eve. I discovered that all of our emotions were steadier after protein-heavy meals.
3. Get Exercise
Consider exercise as a therapy for stress. It’s tempting to say, “I don’t have time for exercise; I can’t even keep the dishes washed.” However, aerobic exercise is a great stress reliever. Even stretching gently or finding a few minutes to take a walk can be therapeutic.
4. Wind Down
Adequate sleep is a must. Try a soothing cup of hot chamomile tea, soft background music, and lavender essential oils before bedtime. Oatmeal and milk contain tryptophan, the amino acid that produces melatonin, which is our body’s natural sleep hormone. Make a bowl of oatmeal using milk to ward off insomnia.
5. Rest Spiritually
During trials, spiritual rest can be elusive, though it is the most important element. There were many days when I could not feel God’s comfort. How could God give me my son through adoption and then threaten to take him away? Some days I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and discouraged.
During these times, I had to learn to trust in what I knew rather than in what I felt. Think about what you know. God loves you. God loves your children even more than you do. God has a perfect plan, and He promises never to give us more than we can bear.
Immerse your mind in God’s promises. Read Psalms. Read it again. When you find a verse that really comforts your soul, memorize it, write it down, and post it. Lamentations 3:22-26 was the promise that got me through each day. God’s mercies are new every morning. God is faithful. Hope in Him, homeschool mommas. Rest your weary head on your pillow knowing that His mercies will be waiting when you wake up.
Now I can look back with joy at these difficult trials and see God’s strength, not mine. Without Him, I couldn’t have homeschooled my boys when our lives were upside down. These trials were more than I could handle alone. Now I know that I can trust Him; He never abandoned me. God knows what you’re facing. Trust Him. He will see you through!