Below are some tips, tricks, and products that have helped me through losing my religion.
Healthy coping mechanisms weren’t something I was taught in fundamentalist Christianity. When things go awry, Christians are taught to pray, read their Bible, and obey. None of this worked for me because all of that gave me more anxiety/depression on top of what I was already experiencing. Medications were discouraged, mental illness was attributed to Satan, and all problems could be solved following God’s word.
Many of us that grew up with this indoctrination learned to self medicate with food, drugs, love, sex, or alcohol. These substances helped us escape our distress. In my case, I was escaping guilt, shame, fear, and anger. Some of which were the product of my religion. It was a toxic cycle, seemingly with no way out.
I have put together a recovery toolbox of ideas and products that have helped me on this healing journey.
The first step out of the shit hole I was in was self discovery. Someone wise once said, “the first step of change is to become aware of your own bullshit.” Truer words have not been spoken.
Self-reflection is an absolute must if you wish to rise up out of toxicity. Also, honest reflection of the religion, relationship, or any other toxic attachment is crucial. I find journaling to be the most beneficial in terms of self-reflection. Even a simple 10-minute writing exercise in the morning can be life changing in getting to know yourself. This is a free/inexpensive ritual that will provide an outlet for emotion, cognitive assessments, setting intentions, etc. All that is needed is a notebook and a pen.
If you want to have a little more fun with this process, I highly recommend Bullet Journaling. This practice combines journaling, planning, habit tracking, and artistic endeavors all in one. It has helped me immensely in becoming more organized and purposeful. Both of which I struggled with until entering recovery.
I use a Leuchtturm squared notebook and I find these pens work well and bleed minimally. Yet, you can use any notebook you have laying around the house. My pinterest board contains many bullet journal ideas and inspiration.
Blackout Poetry has also been very therapeutic for me. Some use the Bible, which might make some very uncomfortable, yet any book you’ve found to be toxic such as the Left Behind Books, True Love Waits, or anything written by James Dobson will work. An excellent place to find such book is your local thrift store. This serves two purposes. One, you’ll get one more poisonous book off the streets, and Two, a brand new canvas for your poetry. Colored sharpies are a must have for this artform.
Lastly, I recommend Kim Kran’s ‘The Wild Unknown Journal‘ and the companion Wild Unknown tarot deck. This journal is beautiful and is geared toward a more creative expression of self discovery. It is magical, colorful, and waiting for you to make it your own. The tarot deck is equally beautiful and is a beginner-friendly way to learn the tarot, which is an excellent tool to develop stunted intuition.
Exercise is so important when navigating through the process of losing your religion. It was interesting to me that the more the religion fell away, the more in touch I was with my own body. I began to really value taking care of myself physically. Exercise was one positive action I could take everyday that would accomplish so many objectives. Not only does exercise help you deal with anxiety, stress, and depression, it also is vital to living a well balanced whole life.
The problem is finding exercise that I actually want to do. I always played sports which made exercising fun and competitive. What is fun about exercising without sports? Eventually, I got over my insecurity and religious indoctrination and tried a yoga class.
I found that I absolutely love yoga. It may sound cliche, yet, I credit yoga with helping transform my life into one of wholeness. It lengthens and tones your body, teaches you to focus on breathing/meditation, and helps you connect with yourself. You don’t need much to get started, just a yoga mat. Also, I have found that Yoga with Adrienne is the most accessible teacher online for beginners. Many of her videos are available via youtube, for free.
It was also highly satisfying excelling at yoga during deconstruction from religion. Yoga was shamed and demonized in religion so it was a really powerful companion because it was one more belief I was actively unlearning.
I also found dancing to be a fun exercise that didn’t bore me. Perhaps subconsciously I chose it because it also was a practice that was shamed and demonized in the religion. Yet, I find it helpful. I try and start my days with Just Dance on the Wii-U. This has also become a favorite activity to play with my kids, and keep fit in the process. Win-win.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry- Healthily!
It wasn’t until I began deconstructing from religion until I began changing my eating and drinking habits. It all goes hand in hand because the more the religion falls away, the more connected you become to your own body. You awaken to your needs.
I was a health freak early in the process of losing my religion. Looking back, this gave me sense of control while I was feeling my foundation being ripped from underneath me. I couldn’t control the deconstruction, but I could control what I was putting into my body. This also gave me a creative outlet to focus on by learning to cook and trying new recipes.
100 days of real food is an excellent resource and will help you gradually make changes toward eating more whole foods. The more you increase whole foods into your diet, the less processed foods you’ll consume. Don’t expect to be perfect, just add more whole foods.
I also recommend grabbing a good smoothie blender. The nutri-bullet is an inexpensive option, the Ninja is a great mid-grade, and the Vitamix is the coveted Queen B. Smoothies are awesome because it is an easy way to begin adding whole foods into your diet as well as superfoods, like ground flaxseed (which research has shown to reduce the size of breast cancer tumors, among other benefits).
Stress/Anxiety Relief Tool
Unfortunately, many people learn to self medicate with unhealthy addictions in order to alleviate stress and anxiety. Healthy coping mechanisms weren’t something many of us were taught, especially if we learned that God/Jesus/the Bible was all you need. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
Learning and using healthy coping mechanisms is exactly what every human needs. To make matters worse, many helpful tools are demonized by the religion, such as yoga and meditation. According to the Dalai Lama,” If every eight year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence in the world within one generation.”
I absolutely agree with this statement. Meditation brings your awareneness into focus, activates your third eye, and opens the heart chakra to compassion, love, and oneness with the universe. Read scienced-based benefits of meditation here. To get started with meditation, ‘Practical Meditation for Beginners, 10 days to a Happier, Calmer You’ by Benjamin W. Decker, is a great resource.
Essential oils have also helped me alleviate stress and anxiety. It is a little overwhelming getting started with essential oils as there is a wealth of information. I began with a simple diffuser, an aromatherapy necklace, and this starter kit. I used frankincense the most because research has shown it helps reduce anxiety and depression.
Aside from my love affair with frankincense, I also find immense anxiety/stress relief from my weighted blanket. Weighted blankets can make you feel safe, secure, and comfortable while you’re in the cocoon of transformation as it actually stimulates calming chemicals in the brain. Also, you’ll sleep better.
Need Different Tools?
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