What is Christian self-care? A conversation with Erin Kerry

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What is Christian self-care? A conversation with Erin Kerry

March 6, 2023 -

Erin Kerry joins Dr. Mark Turman to discuss how functional and traditional medicine can complement each other, why Christian self-care can be biblical, the importance of seeing ourselves as body, mind, and soul, and why nutrition is important to mental health.

Erin Kerry joins Dr. Mark Turman to discuss how functional and traditional medicine can complement each other, why Christian self-care can be biblical, the importance of seeing ourselves as body, mind, and soul, and why nutrition is important to mental health.

Erin Kerry joins Dr. Mark Turman to discuss how functional and traditional medicine can complement each other, why Christian self-care can be biblical, the importance of seeing ourselves as body, mind, and soul, and why nutrition is important to mental health.

Erin Kerry joins Dr. Mark Turman to discuss how functional and traditional medicine can complement each other, why Christian self-care can be biblical, the importance of seeing ourselves as body, mind, and soul, and why nutrition is important to mental health.

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Show notes:

Erin Kerry talks about her life story, including her struggle with serious mental illness and how she developed a passion for helping others in the same place (1:40). Kerry discusses integrative nutrition, functional medicine, and how they can complement traditional medicine (8:01). The conversation turns to the difference between self-medicating and self-care, Christians self-care, and the necessity of sabbath (18:09). She highlights the importance of silence and spiritual rest (31:33). Kerry talks about gluten and why it’s become trendy, as well as how digestion works in your body (38:15). She ends by sharing practical tips better to integrate your life with healthy habits (45:50).

Resources and further reading:

About the host

Mark Turman, DMin, is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.

About the guest

Erin Kerry is a certified integrative nutrition health coach and mom to three children. She has received training from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and The School of Applied Functional Medicine. As a survivor of mental illness, she is passionate about advocating for mental health. She is the owner of Sparking Wholeness, host of the Sparking Wholeness podcast, and works as the Integrative Health Coach at Living Well Counseling and Wellness Center in Tyler, Texas.


Transcribed by Otter.ai


Mark Turman  00:10

You’re listening to The Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director at Denison forum sitting down for another conversation about culture and hope and faith. And today we’re talking with Erin Carey. Let me give you an introduction to who Erin is. Erin is a certified Integrative Nutrition health coach, and more importantly, a mom of three children. She has received training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and the School of Applied functional medicine. We’re gonna get her to unpack those terms in a minute. She is a survivor of mental illness and is passionate about advocating for mental health. She is the owner of sparking wholeness, and the host of sparking wholeness podcast which is very popular these days. She works as an integrative health coach at living well counseling and Wellness Center in East Texas, my hometown, actually Tyler, Texas, Erin, welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast.


Erin Kerry  01:09

Thank you, I’m so excited to be on.


Mark Turman  01:12

Well, we’re glad to have you. I should also mention to our listeners that you are a contributor to Denison forum, and they can find some of your writing on our website, Denison forum.org. And we want to thank you for doing that. I read a couple of your articles, just getting ready for this conversation. But give us a little bit more of the backstory about who Erin Carey is, and how you came to do the things that you do. Tell us a little bit but a little bit about yourself.


Erin Kerry  01:40

Yeah, I will try to share the condensed version. There’s a lot there. But I am truly passionate about mental health and wellness. And a lot of it comes from my own story of battling mental illness from a very young age. Now I did grow up as a PK, a pastor’s daughter, my dad was a pastor for gosh, 40 years, he’s now retired and doing other ministry work because you don’t ever really retire. But I grew up in an era where mental health was not really discussed in the church at all. And so when I started struggling with first I experienced PTSD, then I started struggling with depression when I was in middle school, and I felt a lot of shame. And I would say isolation for being depressed because as a good Christian girl, you shouldn’t feel sad. That’s That’s what I told myself, right. So it took me many years to realize that depression is indeed a physical disorder, it is a physical illness. And anybody who struggled with anxiety, depression, or any mental dysfunction can tell you, it absolutely shows up in your body. You know, it affects the way that your energy is it affects the way that you eat, it affects the way you show up in the world. So for me, that was really difficult to understand, because we just weren’t talking about mental health then, fast forward to college. I was then diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the time, they called it manic depressive illness. And there are many contributing factors to that, you know, some would say it was the medication they put me on for my depression maybe caused an increase in what we would call hypomania, or mania, which is grandiose thinking, risky behavior, rapid speech, which I’m a fast talker anyway, and just heightened awareness of life in general, lots of increased goal directed activity, that kind of thing. That’s a feature of bipolar disorder. But to me again, I translated as my brain is broken, there’s something wrong with me, why won’t God fix me and I was angry, and I was bitter. And that took me down a further self destructive path, I ended up finding myself pregnant at 22, I was a single mom, that was kind of my wake up call to get my health IT physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, all of it in order. And fast forward. From there. I became a teacher because I wanted to help students with their mental health and teach them how to be in tune with their own emotions and seek support in that way. And met, my husband got married, he too, was in the ministry. So that’s kind of God’s little joke on me. I did not think I was going to marry into that. But here we are. Now he’s working out as a licensed professional counselor, but at the time he was working in church ministry, so he adopted my daughter, we now have two other kids together. So I have a total of three, as you mentioned, 18, nine and six. So it’s a wide range. There’s a lot going on in our house at all times. And about 10 years ago, and I would say maybe a further back 15 years ago, I started looking at integrative health without realizing I was looking at Integrative Health and when I talk about integrative health, I’m talking about the connection between mind body and soul. You know, I always thought that my illness was just my illness. It was just a part of my physical health. If I, you know, took my medication, everything would be fine. Well, we’re learning now that there are so Many interconnected, interconnected features of our body and this amazing design that God created us with, that we really need to be able to engage all features, for wholeness is what I would say wholeness, and the holistic healing and wellness. And so that journey started about 15 years ago with just some movement, and you know, trying to establish an exercise routine and eating a little bit better. And as I did that, I thought, Well, gosh, my mental health is improving. That’s interesting, you know, and again, I’m not saying I never ever, there’s no one size fits all to mental illness. And so, you know, if you’re somebody who struggles with mental illness, and you’re listening to this, you’re like, Well, that sounds easy. That’s not how it was. There’s, this is a condensed version, there’s a lot that goes into it. But through learning various tools, I have been able to support my body and maintain mental stability for well over a decade. And that I think about, Gosh, when was it 2018, I really launched my platform, my website, sharing about my own story of healing in hopes that it would inspire other people. And I have been working in the wellness realm for about nine years, but specifically in coaching for five years now. And I love it. So that’s, I think that’s as condensed as I can make


Mark Turman  06:18

  1. Yeah, no, that’s a great, great summary. I would say, like you said, sometimes we make the mistake, right, that there’s years of journeying in that story, right? It just didn’t happen all in a week or two, and was an unfolding story and testimony as it still is. Yeah, but something that has, has moved forward over a long period of time, but really makes me think about, you know, how the Bible says in, you know, when Jesus was asked what’s most important, he said, you know, love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, that we sometimes want to somehow divide that up into some really neat compartments that will were apparently Jesus is telling us were four things, and that, that we need to lay them out on a spreadsheet in four categories. And it really isn’t that he’s describing it that way. He is giving us a large picture. But one of the things is probably most important to that is that we are multi dimensional, and they are all connected, right?


Erin Kerry  07:22

Absolutely. Yeah, that’s that’s how I feel. And that’s even the education that I’ve been through, it’s showing up, it shows up in the Bible. And now we also have the science that proves it as well, which is pretty exciting.


Mark Turman  07:34

So tell us a little bit about the definition, if that’s a way of thinking about Integrative Nutrition, if you want to unpack that a little bit more. And then also just the term as I was sharing with you a minute ago, before we started our podcast, just the term functional medicine that seems to be growing in awareness and attention within our culture, talk about those two terms, Integrative Nutrition and functional medicine.


Erin Kerry  08:01

Yeah, so Integrative Nutrition, usually, when people think about nutrition, they think about food, just the food that we eat, but we are consuming so much more than the food that we eat, I consider food nutrition to be secondary nutrition, our primary nutrition would be our relationship with our Heavenly Father, our relationship with other people, our work environment, the way that we manage our stress, which we will definitely get to all of that is primary and our nutrition, the food that we eat is secondary to those things. And so with Integrative Nutrition, I’m looking at not just what food are you putting in your body? How can we make some healthy habits, you know, change that around? Everybody has an opinion on nutrition these days, all you have to do is hop on Instagram and and find out you know, and so I don’t, that’s not how I work I look at where can you create more balance in your life. And that even applies that kind of flows into the functional medicine approach as well as it’s looking at. We’re designed with some functional balances in our body. And we were designed as you said, enter connectedly one of my favorite buzzwords that I’ve been learning about recently, if anybody wants to go down a rabbit hole is psycho neuro immuno endocrinology is a studied area right now looking at how our brain and our body, our immune system and our endocrine system and all of that neurological system. It’s all connected. And so what functional medicine looks at and I am not a medical practitioner by any means this is I take a coaching approach is looking at where in your life, are you imbalanced? Where are you out of balance in your life, whether it’s, you know, looking at your food, nutrition, maybe you’re imbalanced, they’re looking at exercise, looking at stillness, looking at rest, are you taking time for rest? Where are you out of balance? How is that showing up in your body? We know that 90% of chronic disease right now can be attributed to stress. And that’s that’s something that is in the research right now. And I think that that’s a fascinating puzzle piece that contributes to As well as that stress, and emotional physiological stress can play a role in even how our body functions. And God designed us that way. This is part of how he designed our bodies to adapt, and to protect us and to support us. When things are out of whack. We experienced symptoms. And so functional medicine looks at well, you’re not broken. But how can we restore some balance there and my coaching approach is looking at more of like the lifestyle practices that support that balance. I hope that makes sense.


Mark Turman  10:32

Sounds like a very wide definition of what Jesus was talking about when he told us to pray. Father, Give us today our daily bread. It’s a wide definition of what daily bread really means. Is I on the right track with you?


Erin Kerry  10:48

Absolutely. Yes. And I love using that example, I think we spend so much time obsessing about the physical bread, and we don’t spend enough time obsessing over the bread of life, right? Like we get all caught up in these food rules of what am I eating? And what am I not eating when our primary nutrition always is going to come from our Heavenly Father? And that’s our true nourishment. So yeah, that’s that’s a big focus for me.


Mark Turman  11:13

Yeah. So how did you? How did you come to pick the name sparking wholeness?


Erin Kerry  11:19

Yeah, so sparking wholeness. I, originally, it came from a program that I did at my church when I was living in Dallas, and it was called repurposed. And we were supposed to give ourselves that, you know, a two word statement. And my statement was sparking shalom, because I just have this inner like, need to help people restore that, that shalom, that peace, that as things ought to be I just feel very restless, when I hear that somebody is feeling stuck, whether it’s with their mental health, or their physical health, or both, right, because we know they’re connected. And so I also, I like the word Spark, because it’s, it doesn’t take a lot to set somebody to give somebody an idea to journey toward wholeness, or to journey down that path to healing and wholeness and shalom, and peace and restoration and all of that. And so I for me, it’s a tiny spark that lights a big flame. And if I can, just through my podcast, through my website, through anything I write, if I can just even through today’s conversation, if what I say just like the tiny spark that leads to further investigation and exploration and even leads people to a deeper relationship with Christ, then that’s, that’s what I want to do.


Mark Turman  12:37

Well, thanks. So one thing I wanted to get you to comment on and not trying to create any kind of controversy or anything like that. But I’ve gotten into conversations at times with family members, that type of thing about the contrast, sometimes maybe even conflicts that may exist between functional medicine and what might be called traditional medicine. Can you kind of unpack that a little bit that we’re not, we’re not talking about something that is they’re not at odds with each other. But that, but that, particularly the way when we start thinking about, you know, this very big thing called health care, and the way that we approach health care in our country, you know, I serve on a hospital board here in my city. And so I get to, I get to see some of behind the curtains by listening to administrators and doctors and that type of thing. And, obviously, that that part of our lives is very, very big. But can you kind of talk through that a little bit that there really isn’t the in the best of terms, there’s not this competition, or this conflict of? Well, functional? Medicine is the right way and traditional medicine is the wrong way? Can you kind of how are these complements to each other?


Erin Kerry  14:02

Yeah, I mean, in my opinion, I think it’s, it’s not an either or I think it’s a both and I mean, I think that goes for medical interventions even as extreme as medication, right? And lifestyle strategies as far as nutrition and movement and sleep and things like that. I mean, I absolutely have benefited from what we would consider to be traditional medicine or Western medicine when I was asthmatic as a child and I have benefited I was medicated for my mental health for 18 years. So absolutely, there is a time and a place for all of those things. And I think that when I look at the divide, it drives me nuts because I think that we can do both for each other. You know, I think that medical, many medical practitioners want their patients to feel better and make lifestyle changes. But there’s, they have a lot going on, they’re busy, and there are some very extreme situations that are it’s a matter of life and death survival, like let’s get this person stabilized. Now, let’s address this issue and see what they need currently right now in this situation, and the way I look at it is okay, now you’re stabilized. So how can we address your lifestyle practices and create some healthy habits so that you can be stabilized for longer? And so we don’t have to, you know, go, oh, wait a minute, this medication isn’t working. So let’s switch to this one now. Or maybe let’s try this one, because that’s not working. Let’s look at what other things are at play in your life along with the treatment plan that your physician has provided for you. I think that that we need we need each other. I think it’s teamwork. You know, I think that that we definitely could benefit from from both working together. And so it is very unfortunate that there there seems to be a divide. I don’t know what that is. I don’t know whose fault it is. I’m not pointing fingers. But yeah, it’s unfortunate, because I just want to help people. And I know most medical practitioners, all I would hope all medical practitioners would say the same thing, right? We just want people to get better.


Mark Turman  16:13

Yeah, and as somebody, you know, shared with me that a lot of of the American healthcare system, as we know, it, is simply a volume game in some ways. And it it is driven in many ways more by by dealing with acute problems, those things that are, like you said, at times life threatening, and that we we need that we need that level of care, no question about it. Because when acute things happen, we need an a very quick response. And then all of us are struggling with what I would call even a spiritual component of learning, delayed gratification, we, if we don’t feel well, we do have this tendency of, Hey, I just want my doctor to give me a pill, make it get better make it go away, let me get past this. And we want a quick solution. And our lives are just too complex for that our bodies are too complex for that our minds are certainly too complex for that. And there are other pieces, certainly, of the healthcare system that are more focused on that long term trajectory, of lifestyle change, and of nutrition management, and improvement. But a lot of us just simply don’t have patience with that, right?


Erin Kerry  17:36

That’s so true. Everybody wants that quick fix one size fits all solution. But our bodies are too complex for that. And it’s beautiful. It’s great. I love that. But it does make things tricky. And I think we are seeing a shift where more and more people are looking for other solutions, other individualized solutions, but then there are some people that they do just want just give me the quick fix. However I can get it. And I mean, the beauty of it is that everybody gets to choose for themselves and advocate for themselves and what’s going to be best for their own bodies.


Mark Turman  18:09

Yeah, so one of the things we wanted to kind of delve into in this conversation is just the the term that’s now also making its way around the culture, the term self care. Could you give us kind of your take and definition of what you mean by self care? And is there a biblical foundation for this idea? There’s actually some things that you can find out on the inner on the internet that, hey, this is totally unbiblical, or this is deeply biblical. How would you approach that and start off with just the definition? What do we mean by self care?


Erin Kerry  18:45

Yeah, I mean, I think most people when they hear the term self care, you know, they’re thinking about pedicures and spa days, and we have these hashtags that float around, you know, hashtag self care, hashtag self love, and hashtag self care isn’t selfish, you know, all these things that we say. I recently heard somebody mentioned that when they think about self care, they think about Oprah. And they really do think that it’s like this selfish, like, you know, put it out there in the universe and make it come true kind of thinking. And, and I think that there’s a pushback in the Christian community about self care, because because of that misconception of what it is, and I, you know, even I was at a women’s conference not long ago, and one of the speakers was kind of taking that stance against self care. And her opinion is selfish. And she said something to the effect of I want to run my race so hard that when I reached the end, I will fall at the feet of Jesus beaten up and broken, but knowing I ran my race well, and all the women cheered and applauded that and I sat there and I thought, well, goodness, after trying to manage my mental health for 30 years now, I know that I have to keep boundaries and place for healthy stability for my body for my brain. And I know many people who suffer from chronic illnesses, they feel the same way. And so if I’m just running my race, full throttle, doing all even the good things, right, all the ministry things, which we can talk about that, and I’m meeting everybody else’s needs, and I’m serving at full capacity, that’s gonna lead to a crash for me. And then I’m going to have a very limited capacity to do anything well. So when I think about self care, I think about how I can partner with the Holy Spirit, and discernment to know my own body’s limits to know when I’m at capacity. And it means taking some time to care for all those elements. We talked about the physical, the spiritual, the emotional needs of the body. And that’s just being a good steward. Like I mentioned, you know, stress is attributed to 90% of chronic disease, we know that stress impacts cardiovascular health, blood sugar, control, digestion, digestion and digestive function, thyroid, health, blood, blood pressure, so much stress impacts all of that. And so if I need to be a good steward of my body, if I’m, you know, that’s the one body I’ve been given, then managing my stress and knowing my limits, is a big part of serving my purpose in this world.


Mark Turman  21:16

Yeah. And, yeah, so well said, and not just not just the limits of your body, but also the limits of your, of your Spirit and of your mind. Right. And absolutely, you know, we definitely live in a culture even in a church culture sometimes that applauds us for, you know, going above and beyond and kind of being 24/7. You know, I used to, when I was pastoring, churches, I would get into conversations with fellow ministers. And we would talk about this, you know, that your church or if you work in a company or business, you know, your, your company, or your boss or your church, they’ll applaud you for going nonstop 24/7, right, until you melt down, and then they’ll turn around and go, What were you thinking? Why didn’t you take care of yourself? And so it really, it really becomes a personal responsibility, right? That we all need to learn what it means to properly steward our lives, our health, our body, and our spirit. And that, you know, my pastor used to say, when I was a young Christian, you know, 40 years ago, you know, there were these times when Jesus said to the, to the 12, apostles, you guys need to come away with me, you need to come apart with me. Because if you don’t, then you’re going to come apart, you need some time away from the crowds and away from ministry and away from busyness. And he would create those spaces, sometimes very intentionally, because the crowds were constantly asking for more help, and for more teaching, and for more healing and those kinds of things. And Jesus had to tell them, you know, we have to pull back, we need to go and rest because we are limited human beings. And, you know, even the psalmist, right, the Psalms talks about this, where it says In vain you stay up late at night and get up early in the morning thinking that if you just try harder and and work more and sleep less that you’re going to find the key to success, and God says that’s not what my plan is for you. Right?


Erin Kerry  23:19

Yeah, I’m so glad that you brought that up. I mean, it’s interesting, when you really start peeling away what the Bible has to say about rest, there’s so much there. And I mean, like you said, even Jesus would withdraw from the public and he would go to desolate places to pray. That’s what the Bible says. And you think about the Mary and Martha example. You know, that’s the classic example of, you know, Jesus commenting, or commending Mary for choosing the good portion. And Martha slow it down. You know, like, I always have that picture. I feel so much like Martha so many times. And I know in the ministry world, you mentioned that and I do want to bring something up. Maybe it’s for a whole different podcast episode you can do with somebody later, but um, it’s this whole idea of I believe that churches we’re seeing, I believe, a lack of shepherding in many churches right now we’re seeing a lot of business models, and not as much true shepherding and I think about, like, what you mentioned is that we commend people for just going going going and then oh, wait, you need to rest you need to slow down but how, what are what are we how are we showing them how to rest and even looking at Psalm 23. When it talks about He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul that Is that intentional shepherding of, of Jesus that I don’t know is being modeled in the church, we are looking at this more of a business model western model of going and doing and achieving, and were completely depleted, which often leads to the negative side of self care which which is self medication when when you are completely zapped and and tapped out on all the busyness and the scheduling and all of that.


Mark Turman  25:06

Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up. I really yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about some of what you teach and speak about when it comes to self medication. And that obviously doesn’t mean that it’s not a reference to either taking or ignoring some medicine that the doctor has given to you. But what are some of the? What are the negative or destructive aspects of what it means to self medicate?


Erin Kerry  25:34

Yeah, so I think that a lot of times when we think about self medication, you know, we would say it’s something like, you know, being on Netflix too much binging Netflix or over consuming alcohol, or food or anything that’s going to just bring us that mental relief. It could look like shopping. I know, a lot of people self medicate on shopping, especially, it’s so easy to buy things on our phones. Now. It could be staying up too late. Like I said, watching Netflix or just doing things that are really I mean, I’ll find myself oh, I need to go do this, I need to go organize my closet, or I need to go. And that’s a form of self medication. It’s just being completely distracted and out of focus. And for some people, it can be an I’ve guilty of this myself as well eating half of a bag of chips before realizing what you’re doing or how I even got to the pantry to begin with guilty of that, like, wait a minute, what am I doing right now, for some people, this is where it gets real tricky as self medication can look like saying yes to every service opportunity in every ministry need that there is thinking that I need to be able to do this. And it’s a way to make me at the end of the day, it’s a way to make me feel a little bit better about this burnout that I’m experiencing. Or maybe I feel like I have to do more, I’m not doing enough. It can look like spending all of your time going and doing so that you don’t have to sit in silence or solitude because that’s uncomfortable. I think many people I see a lot of clients like this, we almost get addicted to stress, you know. And so when the stress is over, we’re like, wait a minute, what am I doing, I need to do something, what can I do, I guess I’ll go go out and run or do a really intense exercise and get those stress chemicals going again, it’s not all of those things. They’re not morally wrong. But I think when the intent of engaging in these activities, it’s a way of avoidance or escape, I think that that’s preventing us from fully engaging in an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father, as well as the people around us too. And it’s really a way to check out of our emotional experiences, instead of engaging in you know, asking, What do I need to partner with my body for nourishment right now? What do I need to support my body and to support myself and I think that that’s where it gets, it gets so tricky. It’s because so much of it, it looks like a crossover, we can say, oh, it’s self care, I’m just watching TV, and I’m relaxing, it’s self care. But sometimes that can become actually I’m just avoiding dealing with this exhaustion that I feel or this disappointment that I feel with my job, or a disappointment I feel with a relationship or the issues that I’m experiencing with my children, you know,


Mark Turman  28:19

it’s sometimes it just, it becomes a way of trying to validate ourselves, right, especially under the busyness side. I remember reading this couple years ago, really great book called fact fulness, written by a doctor and social scientists by the name of Hans Rosling. He talked about how we are, in some ways, we’re drama addicts, which is, is really why we keep going back to the evening news. And, and we are intrigued by 24 hour, seven day a week news cycles, because there’s just something about us that’s drawn over and over and over again to that drama. And we don’t even realize what it’s doing to attack our peace of mind and our sense of confidence in the world. But we also feel like there’s something noble about it. Well, you know, I, I know what’s going on. I’m in the know about everything. And so that makes me in somehow more important, and we don’t even realize what it’s doing to exhaust us mentally. And, and so he was just talking about how we have to recognize that that’s part of our nature, and learn that, that that’s a part of being on 24/7 That can be really destructive to us and like said, so instructive. When when Jesus would go off by himself. I think it was so confusing at times for his followers and for the crowds. You know, this, this story out of Mark chapter one, Mark 135, where it says that Jesus got up early in the morning before anybody was awake and just went off by himself sat by the lake out at the Sea of Galilee just just to kind to decompress and just reconnect with God as his father and, and he was constantly doing this. And you know, it seemed like, right with the time when they were in this really pivotal moment and people were really responding to Jesus and his message, he say, You know what? Time for y’all to go home, I’m going up in the mountains to pray for a little while. And just so important to recognize that not only in his life, but how we need to learn to recognize it in our life. Which leads me to a question, which is, are there some simple kinds of questions that people can ask themselves? You know, some people probably gonna listen to us, Erin and say, Well, this is just about work life balance, and it, it is about work life balance. But it’s about more than that, hopefully. And what are some good ways for a person to kind of, to kind of do a check on themselves to say, you know, am I really taking care of myself? Well, I know when I get into conversations like this, sometimes, particularly with pastors, I asked them, Do you have a consistent day off every week? Where you really get to go do things that re energize your spirit and your body and your joy? Do you actually significantly do that on a regular basis? Not to where you just take a day off to go run a bunch of errands, but you actually go and do things that renew your spirit and your soul? That’s one thing that that’s been helpful to me. Are there some others?


Erin Kerry  31:33

Yeah, I mean, I have, I can give you kind of a checklist of how do you how do you know you’re in need of self care, because I think a lot of us, like you said, there are things that we just do, and we don’t realize that it might be leaving us depleted. One thing I do want to distinguish about the whole self care self medication topic, because I think that this is important is that self care is partnering with your body for rest and restoration. self medication is kind of forcing you to separate from your body, it’s numbing out. So you don’t have to feel you don’t have to process life’s hardships. And self care is proactive, self medication is reactive. And so we look at how do we know, you know, if we’re in need of self care, or we need a break, right? We need a real true soul break. And one question to ask and they’ll give some examples is are you using ministry as a form of self medication and escape so that could look like packing your schedule with service opportunities and Bible studies and ministry meetings, and there’s very little room for rest in between but you’re doing the things you know, you’re checking the boxes, I’m a check the box girl, I like to do all the things makes me feel better about myself. But you need to have that rest another question to ask yourself, are you running your race to exhaustion? Are you leaving yourself empty, leading to forgetfulness and feeling scattered? That is a very common feature I think a lot of adults struggle with right now. Is that scattered? Like, where are my keys? Oh, I’m holding them in my hand. You know, that kind of a feeling? Typically, that’s when we’re starting to do too much for everybody else, or we’re just doing too much period and our brain is completely dysregulated. Another question, do you do you feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done? I know so many people like well, there’s just not enough hours in the day I don’t have enough time. And that’s, that tells me that you’re over scheduled. You’re over committed. And you’re saying yes to too much. Probably. And another question. Do you often feel like you’re doing everything for everyone but not doing one thing? Well, I know many moms feel this, you know, wearing all the hats, but not actually ever completing a task. Because we’re just, oh, this person is hungry and this person needs to go to this practice. And you know, there’s a lot going on. Another question, are you taking daily time for stillness? Stillness is scary for most people. I mentioned the concept of meditation to a lot of my clients and and they’re like, oh, no, no, I can’t do that. No, my brain just goes all over the place. I can’t do that. But you can it’s just are you taking time to try? Do you practice rest and it like you said in any capacity are you actually taking some time off and I don’t mean time off to clean out your your garden you know, that’s that might be relaxing for some people that still doing something that’s not true rest? And the other question is, Are you letting the author of your soul care for it for it? Are you asking God like where do I need to establish a healthy rest routine? I know especially when it comes to dealing with mental health issues and I’ve written about this before in Denison form, I think we are so quick to jump to let me get and I am grateful. I will say the church has made a shift from when I was first struggling with my mental health, and I’m grateful for this. We are quick to let’s go get the diagnosis and get the medication and get the you know, get all the medical support, but Then we’re checking out of the spiritual support. Yeah, it’s not like I said, it’s not an either or it can be a both and there to, like, let’s look for the wisdom that we have here from the medical providers that we have. But let’s also invite our heavenly father into the process as well. Because I think even when we’re looking at our work, like you said, if it’s work life balance, it could be about that. But if we’re looking at our relationship balance in our in our lives, if we’re looking at just our own mental, healthy emotional regulation, how are we inviting God into partner with that? Are we just blazing on through, you know, with our fingers clenched, holding on to what we can, without ever being able to let go and be still


Mark Turman  35:48

just, you know, so many good ideas that you shared? You know, one thing came to mind. I remember a pastor I heard speak a number of years ago, he was talking about just this tendency to overbook ourselves and overschedule ourselves, both in ministry and in life generally. And he said, you know, you just, you need to realize that your calendar needs to be surrendered to God. And, you know, either you and God are going to work together to fill your calendar or a bunch of other people are going to fill it for you, if you’re not careful. And then he got to close that part of his comment with this, he said, you know, you have just enough time each day to do God’s will. And, and if you keep putting your schedule back in God’s hands and saying, God, there’s a lot of stuff that could get put on my list that didn’t come from you. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad or overtly evil. But they, they were never intended to be things that you wanted me to do on this particular day, or maybe ever. So if we could just remember, you know, what, nobody can or should do everything. We’re not designed to do that. And we need to ask God every day and sometimes multiple times through the day, God, is this what you want me to be doing today? And at this moment? Or do you want me to stop? Do you want me to go and take some special time with you like Jesus would do? Is there something that I need to say no to or give away, Lord, I need to put my calendar in your hands every day and all through the day. And that is so hard for us to do sometimes, because we get we get affirmed and we get, you know, a sense of of affirmation internally from this. Look at all the boxes, I check. Look at all the things that I accomplished, right?


Erin Kerry  37:35

Yeah, and I mean, what you’re saying is very, it makes me think of, I often write about how we are overfed and undernourished. We are overscheduled we’re overstimulated. We are over calendered. We’re over committed. But we are vastly under nourished by the true nourishment, the nutrients of the Holy Spirit. You know, I love using that nutrition metaphor, because I think that, that when we look at it that way, it’s like, oh, man, I think that I am filling myself up on all of these things that are good things, but I’m actually truly deficient. On the one thing that’s going to bring me the most sustenance.


Mark Turman  38:15

Yeah, which is which is time with God. Right. And yeah, yeah. Yeah. So important. And Eric, I want to take if we can, let’s pivot a moment for just a second. I want to take this in the direction of actual physical nutrition from it, you know, your comment a minute ago, we’re so overfed and undernourished. Okay. But seems like seems like not so long ago, maybe a decade or so ago. The devil just visited all of our society and all of our lives with this massive evil called gluten. Just it just seems like every time you turn around, you’re getting somebody is is bringing up the conversation of, well, gluten, this gluten that gluten, I’m gluten free, everybody ought to be gluten free gluten is killing all of us. Some of us, you know, don’t if we have a problem with gluten, we don’t know it. Or we may not have one. I certainly know a number of people, both in my family and in other contexts that gluten has been a problem for them. And, and then a lot of you know, you’ll certainly see a lot of people roll their eyes if anybody mentions the word gluten, right. Oh, yeah, trendy. So. So you you said earlier in this conversation, hey, I’m not a medical doctor. But give us a little bit about what your experience personally and as a nutritionist has been just around that one thing. And if if somebody listening to us said, Okay, well, maybe that is the case, I want to try to get at least some of the gluten out of my diet. How would they do that in some simple ways?


Erin Kerry  39:59

Yeah. Oh, that’s that’s a fun, I did not expect you to bring that up. So this is fine. I like talking about this because it does feel very, almost over discussed. You know, I mean, it’s like, oh, I’m gluten free Oh, is that menu item gluten free? Oh, can I, you know, and so it makes it feel like it’s very much something that people who are just trying to be high maintenance with their health do however, I will say that. For me, I do a lot of digging on the actual research that’s been done. And any, you know, my approach as far as my education and training and nutrition and as far as what I do for myself with my clients has, it’s all evidence based, as much as is out there, you know, and there are actually dozens of research articles more talking about psychiatric health, linking gluten to psychiatric disorders. And there are lots of different reasons for that. One reason that’s pretty fascinating could be that gluten contains a compound called gluteal morphin, that actually stimulates like kind of an opiate like effect in the brain. And it works upon the opiate receptors. So if we’re thinking about gluteal, morphin, morphine, so you know that that calm, good feeling you experience when you eat pizza, or some people have a calm, good feeling, could be the gluteal morphin. And then in the dairy, it’s the case. So morphin could be that’s it’s possible. I know, for me, my symptoms, with gluten show up in mental brain fog, I don’t have as much mental clarity when I’m consuming gluten. So I do believe that there could be something at play there. There’s also the factor A lot of people will discuss that the pesticides that are in use on our crops are destructive to the gut microbiome and lead to a deficiency in nutrients and vitamins and minerals, and to cause some imbalance there. So that’s one line of thinking. The other line of thinking is that the wheat that we’re consuming now has been hybridized, to a point where it looks very different from the wheat that our great grandparents ate, you know, they have to do a lot of processing to make it taste as you know, soft and mushy and palatable as it is. And that means removing a lot of the natural vitamins and minerals and, and when you remove it, you know, you have to add some things back in. And so it’s been enriched with things like folic acid, which for some people, folic acid is not as bioavailable in the body as something like folate, which is the natural form of folic acid. So, you know, so there’s a lot of different that’s probably like the shortest breakdown. So I think when it comes to mental health, there are there are a lot of people that do experience a relief from from some mental health conditions when they attempt a gluten free diet. And you know, that research is available on PubMed National Institutes of Health you can there’s all sorts of research articles on that it could be a contributing factor for some people. But again, there’s no one size fits all. It’s, it’s hard to say what’s going to be an issue if somebody does want to try a gluten free diet, I will say it’s a lot easier than going dairy free, it’s probably the easiest elimination diet that you can try for your mental health just because there are so many gluten free options. Now not to say that the gluten free options are whole food based a lot of them are you know, also just equally as processed with anything with gluten. But, you know, a good swap would be instead of having regular pasta, you could do something like chickpea pasta, which my kids love, and I love it for my kids because it gives them a little bit more fiber and protein content in there as well. Then it doesn’t taste that bad. Or you can instead of you know having meals with say, you know, I’m in Texas, so flour tortillas, you could change the corn tortilla or you could use potatoes, I actually really love fajitas with roasted potatoes, it tastes real, it’s a great flavor combination. So you know, that’s an option. So there are some swaps that you can make that makes it doable. I mean oatmeal is gluten free. Rice is gluten free. There are options there. And then you know, most restaurants have gluten free options as well. You know, celiac is is an autoimmune condition where somebody really definitely needs to be 100% gluten free and there’s also some non celiac gluten sensitivity and there’s, you know, a wheat allergy as well, but that really affects a smaller percentage of the population. I think what we’re seeing is that more and more people are struggling with just minor sensitivities that over time, kind of creates more of a strain on the system. So that’s that’s what I’m seeing and but that’s you know, it’s it’s very individual and everybody gets to decide for themselves. What’s what’s going to be beneficial for their bodies. So


Mark Turman  44:59

well yeah, and it’s But you know, there are certainly a number of people probably listening to this that have had or currently do have some struggles and other people are trying to figure out what’s going on, there’s there seems to be something going on in my body that’s new or different, that I can’t figure out what’s going on. And there’s so much about our lives that are that’s driven by nutrition, both of like you said, the physical nutrition, but also the mental nutrition, and the spiritual nutrition that comes into our lives. And that, that, that we like you said, we have to become advocates as well as stewards of our own lives and have our own bodies in so many ways. And it can feel overwhelming, you know, especially when, when there aren’t easy or, or very quick solutions, it kind of just becomes overwhelming and at times paralyzing.


Erin Kerry  45:50

It does and can I tell you, my favorite thing that I share with my clients, at least once a session is a body and stress won’t digest. And so even if you are eating what you would consider to be the cleanest whole food diet out there, you can still be sitting down for a meal in a state of stress and paranoia about what’s in my food, am I going to have a reaction to this, I mean, because that food sensitivities are a very real thing. And digestive dysfunction is a very real thing. But that stress, you know, if we’re looking at the body’s stress response, it really starts with the HPA axis at the brain level. And so you know, I say bodies just digest, if we’re stressed, it’s going to diminish the way that we’re going to be able to absorb and utilize the nutrients from our food no matter what we’re eating. And so I think that that’s just a good reminder that even something like prayer before a meal, helps to activate salivary enzymes. And it helps to put our body in a state of gratitude and parasympathetic function, which is what we would call rest and digest nervous system state. And so you know, just adjusting the way we think about food, I think sometimes can even be more impactful than adjusting the food itself. And that might be a little controversial for a nutrition coach to say, but I have seen that to be extremely impactful for people that I work with. And that, again, goes back to what are your daily soul care practices? And how are you nourishing your soul?


Mark Turman  47:18

Right. But like I said, if you if you you know, if you’ve battled some some challenges with your health, and particularly with your health around nutrition, you can easily get into this cycle of every time I walk to the table, oh, I don’t know, if I really want to eat this, it could I could end up feeling worse than I do right now. And that creates a spiral that really is hard to break and can be compounding the problems that are going on.


Erin Kerry  47:46

Right? Yeah, it’s a that’s a very real struggle for sure.


Mark Turman  47:49

Erin is as we get ready to wrap up any couple other thoughts that you want to share that come out of your experience and out of your practice as you work with people. So a couple of words of encouragement you want to share with folks as we wrap up?


Erin Kerry  48:02

Yeah, I’d love to leave listeners with a challenge. And I would love to see if you are willing to try this. In the morning when you wake up. Before you pick up your phone to check your notifications, you might need to pick up your phone to turn your alarm off. But I encourage listeners to set the timer on their phone, anywhere from one to three minutes for stillness and just breathe. Just breathe, try to focus on I don’t know about many people. But I know for me when I wake up, my brain is going in 1000 different directions about what I need to do for the day. But I really encourage people to just set their alarm their timer for one to three minutes. Breathe, focus on one aspect of gratitude, maybe, hey, thank you God for another day. This is the day right? And I’m going to do what I can with what I’ve been given. And that’s all I can do. Because we are absolutely overwhelming ourselves with our own expectations, and not taking time to just focus on the one thing that’s right in front of us. And so I really challenge one to three minutes of silence and stillness right when you first wake up before you check your Facebook or your Instagram or your news app or whatever else you’re checking. flood your brain and your body with gratitude with oxygen. And just just see what happens from there.


Mark Turman  49:25

Yeah, what a good word. That’s a good word. That’s a good way to end your day as well, for sure I’m more productive than listening to the evening news sometimes for sure. So definitely. Well, Erin, thanks again for being a part of this conversation, folks. It’s Erin, Carrie. And you can find her at sparking wholeness. You can also find her podcast which is the sparking wholeness podcast on all the major platforms. And we just want to thank you, Erin, for being with us today and thank our audience as well. Help. If this conversation has been helpful to you, please rate review us on your podcast platform, share it with others so that they can join the conversation as well. And we just want to thank you for being a part of the Denison Forum Podcast today. God bless you.


Erin Kerry  50:15

Thanks for having me on.


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