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5 Essentials of Self-Healing

Self-healing following cycles of nature—joyful in snowy landscape
by Corinna Wood

Do you know the feeling?

You eat healthy and exercise when you can. Perhaps you even mediate or work with healing herbs . . .

Then boom, another intense emotional issue pops up—or a puzzling physical ailment.

You find yourself confused and frustrated . . . “Geez, what more will it take? Is healing really even possible? What would it even look like?”

Yes, healing is possible. And when you do the deep work of self-healing, health and wholeness may look a bit different from what you’d expect—embracing your darkness —as well as your light.

Yet self-healing isn’t something that happens from the outside in. It’s not just popping a pill, or taking your car to the mechanic.

Self-healing happens from the inside out.

Does this sound overwhelming? It doesn’t need to be.

In this article, I’ll share a bird's-eye view of the big picture of 5 essentials that weave together into a truly holistic approach to healing yourself.

Although we often tend to think of healing in physical terms, the inner and the outer are inexorably intertwined. Let me show you how . . . 

Table of Contents

Self-healing the Wise Woman Way

natures spiral fossil guide to self-healingYou’ve probably heard of lifestyle medicine.

How you eat. Getting outside to move your body. Reducing stress.

Yes, all that is encompassed within self-healing. Yet self-healing through a wise woman lens spirals even deeper.

While physical support is certainly part of it, when I say self-healing, I’m referring primarily to the heart and soul aspects—which often do, in turn, also support the physical body.

That might include . . .

  • Looking at the root causes of your stress,
  • Shifting old habits to take care of yourself—physically and emotionally, and
  • Learning to make choices that are healthy for you, body, heart and soul.

The Wise Woman Tradition follows the cycles of nature that spiral through both light and dark. The bright sunny day and the dark starry night. Summer and winter. Blossom and root. Full moon and dark moon.

As Susun Weed says, the Wise Woman Tradition is about both/and rather than either/or. Do you see how that allows your wholeness to emerge?

Wholeness means embracing all parts of yourself—the light and the dark. Those aspects of yourself you like and those aspects that are difficult for you. Welcoming change and accepting yourself as you are. Improving physical symptoms and allowing what is. 

The 5 Essentials of Healing—from the inside out

Through my work in holistic healing over the years, I came to recognize that physical techniques like herbs are just one piece within a much bigger picture of healing.

And that healing is most effective working from the inside out.

5 essentials of self healing
I’ve boiled it down to 5 essentials—overlaid on a spiral, with your inner growth at the center of it all.

When you turn your attention towards a healthy relationship with yourself, your relationships with others improve. You put more attention to nutrition, rest and exercise. All this in turn supports your emotional and physical health so you can thrive.

Let's look at each of the 5 essentials . . . 

1) Inner growth

beeswax candle ~ heal self through inner growthAt the center of the spiral is your inner growth. This includes reconnecting with yourself—your heart, your intuition, your feelings and needs.

We tend to think of inner growth and healing as less important than physical health—it seems more nebulous, harder to understand.

Yet in my experience, inner growth and healing is at the core, from which all the others emerge. 

Inner growth is about reconnecting with yourself with compassion. Tuning into your body and your internal wisdom rather than some external authority.

Inner growth can be deep work. Such as digging down to unearth old messages and stories, shifting your ways of thinking towards valuing yourself as a woman.

Because there’s a lot of societal messaging about girls and women that can erode a healthy sense of self.

Do any of these "should" messages sound familiar?

  • That your body “should” look different than it is
  • That you "should" attend to the needs of others even at the expense of your own
  • That you "shouldn't" be too much, or not enough

Self-healing the wise woman way is based in a mindset of honoring women, in all our expressions. Celebrating nature and the earth. Embracing darkness and the sacredness of your body. 

That’s what makes self-healing through an earth-based, woman-centered lens inherently powerful and effective. Because it is rooted in nature and valuing yourself as a woman.

Working with the truth of who you are (instead of against).

That means saying no to cultural constructs that keep women in competition with one another. Saying no to constructs that keep women down, boxed in or living small. Shifting old ways of thinking to ones that support you in unearthing the real you and stepping into your wholeness.

2) Healthy relationships

self-healing through healthy relationships ~ three woman farmersThe second essential on the spiral is healthy relationships.

Feminists of my mother’s generation recognized relational psychology and what a profound impact—both positive and negative—our relationships can have on our health, emotionally, mentally and physically.

Relationships can often be one of the biggest sources of stress—or the most solid foundation of support. So look at where your relationships nourish you–and where they drain you. And then act accordingly.

One way to do this is to set boundaries in relationships or interactions that tend to drain you.

Think of boundaries as simplifying, streamlining or reducing clutter in your life. This could include setting limits in certain situations—such as the amount of time you spend, the topics you discuss or where you gather.

Rather than seeing your relationships as an obligation, recognize you have choice about where you put your time and energy. So that you may prioritize cultivating mutually supportive and nourishing relationships.

Sister Connections

Women are nourished by connections with other women. Physiologically when women gather, our levels of oxytocin rise—called the “love hormone” which, among other things, is pro-social. It stimulates relaxation, trust and altruism.

Yet cultivating sisterhood today is nothing less than a paradigm shift.

We need to unlearn our old ways of thinking which we internalized through societal programming—the painful paradigm of ranking ourselves in relation to other women.

Instead, we can embrace an empowering paradigm of linking with one another—connecting in mutual respect and valuing. Lifting one another up.

In truth, competition among women is just a construct of the patriarchy that keeps us separated from one another.

As you break down those barriers with other women, you recognize the sisterhood commonalities and mutual threads.

You discover that challenges you face are shared by other women. Whether it’s making a living, the demands of motherhood, seeking healthy relationships, or finding time to nourish yourself.

At the same time, we learn and grow through respectful listening to one another and honoring our differences.

So listen to women older than you—and younger than you. White women, listen to women of color. Listen to those in similar walks of life, and different walks of life.

You’ll be moved by your sister’s stories and re-inspired about your own.


3) Physical nourishment

self healing through nourishment~ cast iron pot with veggiesAs you reduce stress and become emotionally nourished through your inner growth and your relationships, your body is more able to receive and benefit from physical nourishment, the third essential.

Healing at this level includes herbal medicines and nourishing whole foods.

Yet as women, nourishing our bodies is harder than you’d think. Why? Because as girls and women we’ve been taught to deny our bodies the nutrients and food that we need. Yup, in an attempt to meet unrealistic societal standards of what a woman's body "should" look like.

What I’ve found—and have now seen in countless other women—is that approaching health through the lens of nourishment rather than self-denial supports optimum health.

I’ll share with you a bit of my own story. Like many young women, in my teens I struggled with my relationship with food.

Around that time, I first got into “alternative health,” with a lot of messages about self-denial and focusing on white light—ascending out of your body.

The premise was that if you’re not feeling healthy, you need to cut out more kinds of food. One notable book I read even went so far as to say when a woman cut out enough food groups to the point that her period stopped, then she was becoming white and light and pure and holy.

I got sucked into that for a while—indeed, I did have amenorrhea due to a lack of healthy fats and other essential nutrients. But I found that the self-denial only worsened my health issues.

Finally, I paused to take a long hard look. I needed to admit I was starving myself.

As I gradually shifted towards supporting and nourishing my body—with whole foods and healing herbs, my period returned and my health improved.

Food as medicine.

When you incorporate nutrient-dense foods that nourish and support your body, you give your body what she needs. Food cravings (for empty-calorie foods) diminish.

Your relationship with food and your body becomes more healthy and whole.

4) Rest & downregulation

rest as self-healing, woman asleep in hammockEmbracing your body includes nourishing yourself . . . and also allowing yourself to rest, the fourth essential.

It seems so simple, yet can be surprisingly difficult. Eat when you’re hungry. Rest when you’re tired.

Rather than pushing through fatigue with stimulating substances such as caffeine, sleep and rest calm your nervous system. When you engage the parasympathetic nervous system (called “rest and digest”), that allows your body to heal in a deep way.

It’s natural for you to need abundant sleep and rest. Allow yourself to embrace the cycles of nature inherent to your body—the dark moon time, the night time, the wintertime.

Here are a few ideas for supporting your body’s needs for rest and downregulation:

  • Prioritize sleep. Go to bed early enough that you don't need to set an alarm, so your body can wake up naturally. And don an eye mask to keep out ambient light—electronics, nightlights, or streetlights. When you darken your bedroom, your pineal gland produces more melatonin, the “hormone of darkness” which supports your sleep.
  • Take restful breaks. In the midst of your busy days, take a few minutes to allow your body to chill. Take some deep breaths, stretch, or lay down with your legs up the wall.
  • Downregulate. Listen to calming music or guided imagery. Relax in the bath. Or take a little quiet time to read or write in bed at night before you go to sleep.

Next time you need to give yourself permission to take that quiet time for yourself, remember that mammals spend the vast majority of their time resting and playing. Just take a look at your cat!

5) Movement & exercise

heal self with movement exercise~ vintage bicycleIn the outermost ring of the spiral is exercise and movement, supporting the musculoskeletal system.

Quite often this is the area that gets the most focus in today’s world. As in, “if only you’d exercise, you’ll be healthy.”

Yet as women, we need to be cautious about the “should’s” associated with movement and exercise.

Why? Once again, because of all the crazy societal messages about our bodies that women are constantly bombarded with.

To speak for myself, I needed to take years away from obsessive exercising, to get my head straight. As I moved through pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause I learned to love my body and all her curves. I even resisted intentional exercise lest I slide back down that slippery slope of body shame.

Then in recent years, I fell in love with biking—for the way it calms my nerves and clears my mind. At first, I avoided hills (not easy when you live in the mountains!) as they required frequent stops to catch my breath. Today, my lungs—and legs—are stronger than ever.

Now my body is still full and curvy. And strong! It’s all in the both/and, isn’t it?

So, yes, exercise is beneficial, and is one of the 5 essentials of healing . . .

Especially when you’re coming from a nourished, rested place–rather than just exhausting yourself trying to meet someone else’s standard of beauty.

That's why I place it in the outer ring, and begin first with inner growth and healing as the center point of the spiral.

How do you start self-healing?

You might be wondering, where would I even begin?

Start with noticing and celebrating one of the essentials of self-healing in which you’re already strong. Build on that and make it part of your day-to-day life.

Then challenge yourself to attend to some piece of your inner growth–Essential #1, in the center of the spiral. We all could use attention to our inner growth and healing.

And know you won’t do it all at once. Start small, one step at a time.

What can you do today—or this week—to tend to your relationship with yourself?

Take a few minutes in the morning when you first wake up to reconnect with yourself. Breathe deep into your low belly. Ask yourself a question or two, with care and curiosity  . . .

  • Where is my energy level right now? How am I feeling?
  • What do I need from myself today?
  • What kind and loving words do I need to hear right now?

And then listen. See what you can do to tend to yourself today.

Your journey on the spiral of self-healing

At the center of the 5 essentials of healing is your inner growth—which in turn, organically spirals out into the other four essentials.

It becomes an upward spiral!

As you become more connected to yourself through your inner growth, your relationships can blossom. 

As you nourish yourself emotionally, you give yourself permission to nourish your body as well—with whole foods and nourishing herbs.

As you honor your body's needs, you’ll carve out more time to allow yourself the rest and regeneration your body longs for.

And with all that delicious rest and physical nourishment, you’ll be eager to get out in nature with movement and exercise.

Envision yourself vibrant and whole . . .

And then watch for the markers along the way. 

Sometimes you’ll see tremendous progress—visibly notable to yourself, your family or friends—within just a few weeks. Way to go! When taken together, tiny steps move you along the path.

Remember, be patient with yourself. Know that a self-healing journey can take many years. Probably the most important journey you’ve ever embarked on. It becomes a way of life.

So celebrate the process as well as the destination.

Remember, self-healing is about reconnecting with yourself. Taking care of yourself. Loving yourself from the roots up.

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