How to Find Wellness For Our Soul When the Place We are In Feels Toxic

Most of my life I have struggled with the Why of being in a place that is hard.

I am passionate about people thriving and being in healthy environments. I believe that passion is ‘God wired’ and we long to thrive because “He has set eternity in our hearts.”

But does that mean if I find myself in an environment that is hard and full of unhealthy ingredients that I tuck tail and run for cover?
Does that mean that people only thrive in the best of circumstances?

…and what exactly are the ingredients to a healthy thriving place?

I watched helplessly as tears spilled from my son’s hurting soul when the clock ran out on his last college football game.  After obligatorily hugs, he pulled away and sought the safety and support of the sideline bench to hold him up as he struggled with unmet expectations and the scarcity of his power in the situation. As he gripped the metal bench he allowed his hopes and dreams to exhale from his lungs……
His eyes screamed, “ I just wanted to finish well! I wanted to make a difference! I wanted to let my dad see the results of his investment in me. I wanted to get him that sack he longed to see just one more time……. but I couldn’t do it.  I wasn’t given enough opportunity, and when I did get it,, there was a wall in my way that I was not strong enough to push past... ”

I stood mid field, torn between wanting to go to him and trying to respect his need for space…
It was one of the hardest things I have ever witnessed..

I knew before the game ended there was a storm brewing inside him. I could see the restlessness on the sidelines, as he paced. I watched as he weaved through his teammates to station himself in close proximity to his coach. It wasn’t until the third quarter that he got his shot.
He fought to get off his block and around the obstacles between him and his desire.
His body language spoke of frustration as he flung his helmet on the ground and his body on the bench. I watched as he re gathered his character and intentionality, donned his helmet again and got back in position.. He repeated this process several times until the game was over ..

He had spent the last 2 months battling injuries and being unable to contribute anything to his team. As a sideline observer he became even more aware of the lack of excellence in the program he was a part of , and the frustrations mounted.. He was used to being pushed to be his best, and he thrived on challenge. Now he found himself in a place where the vision was not in alignment with his and although he had always been a team player he was struggling to go all in when those in authority where casting what he considered a vision of mediocrity. That went against every fiber of his being.
Even worse , was that he felt they were speaking a language of gold standard while not requiring it . Did I say how much hypocrisy makes him seethe?  He began texting me his pleas of desperation to get out of “this place.”

As a mom who lives to help her children thrive, my heart longed to rescue him and help him find a place where he had the ingredients for growth.

I had an amazing college experience and just wanted the same for him…

I had also found myself in unhealthy environments where I begged and pleaded with God for a way out… I longed for someone to come to my rescue… and I was, just now, as a 49 yr old woman, learning that sometimes the rescue is found within…

The last 2 yrs of my life I have been on a quest of self discovery and releasing God and others from the blame of my circumstances.

I am learning that the most important environment
is the one that goes with me where ever I go..

When you are in the midst of a circumstance that feels like it is killing you slowly the last thing you want to hear is..

Thrive where you are planted.”

” The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Invest where you are.

You want to scream, ” don’t you think I have tried! I am dying here. How can I grow and be of any good to anyone when this place is sucking me dry? How can this be God’s will for me? I can not pour out to others when I have no one pouring into me.”

So what are we to do when we find ourselves in an environment that feels toxic ?

What do we do when we feel like we are being buried alive ?

Let’s go with that analogy…
It’s a given that if we keep screaming we are gonna use up all of our oxygen fast, so the first thing to do is  to not let anxiety steal our oxygen.

Let me say that again..

Do not let anxiety steal your oxygen.

Recognize that the harder we pound against the container we find ourselves in the more exhausted and depleted we will be to no avail..

So what can we do?

I think in that state of complete helplessness when nothing I do would matter I would finally stop resisting and in that space of stillness, place my hope in something beyond me..

I would pray God, ” do you see me here? If you are really sovereign would you send someone to rescue me? And if no one is going to come would you just enter in and let your presence surround me and bring peace in this place? If my body is gonna go down to the grave, can you raise my spirit up to the heights where you are seated? “

I think there would eventually be a settling not only of my body , but of my soul… and in that settling I would stop fighting and find that He was right there all the time.. that what I had been striving for came when I finally surrendered..

I still don’t always know the balance between allowing growth where I am planted and when it’s best to change environments.

I still want to rescue people from places that scream “It is not well.”

But one thing I do know is that there is a miracle that can cause wellness to spring up in the midst of a sick and tired soul.

It has happened to me in closets , in a parked car in an empty parking lot, in my daughter’s playhouse in the middle of the night.
It has happened in cancer.
It has happened in loss.
It has happened when I was powerless to do anything.

It is the subtle shift that occurs when I lay my anxiety, my fears, my inability , my lack, my hopes, my dreams, and my health in the hands of the one that holds and sustains all things by his hands.

When I trade my fear for faith and my helplessness for hope.

It only takes a second and in that second everything shifts.

The place that moments before felt so stifling and lifeless becomes a place where peace enters in and I can stand back up on my feet with a new perspective.

One that is no longer seeking the environment I desire but recognizes that I carry the secret ingredients within me to transform every place I enter …

No longer do I feel powerless.

I am now empowered.

The place may still be hard, but wait a minute wasn’t I longing for challenge, for growth?

Sometimes in those places that seem to be sucking the very life from us we find the ingredients for growth.

We forget that for things to thrive they need roots that go deep.


The next time you are about to run screaming remember not to pull your roots up in the process because chances are you will encounter hard in the next place.

Focus instead on getting as close as you can to some life giving water and drink deeply.

Let those around you off the hook, and lay down any bitterness or blame for your circumstances.

You need to conserve your energy for only what brings life, and bitterness is a heavy weight..


I love this chapter in 2 Corinthians where Paul encourages us  from his own experience of walking in hard places…

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you..
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”



STEP 1:  journaling activity.

If we want to change our external environment we have to start with transforming the one that goes with us where ever we go. 

Are you ready to Create Change right where you are?  Grab a journal and a pen or open up a word doc.  I use evernote !

1. Describe your external landscape. Set a timer for 5 min and just keep writing. Try using imagery.  Is it more like a beach, an icy terrain, or mountains and valleys? Imagine yourself walking through it. What does it feel like? What are you doing there?

2. Describe your internal landscape.  Close your eyes and get a visual of the environment of your soul.  What does it look like? Feel like? Is anything growing there?  Write for 5 min.

3. Write from a third person perspective.  How would someone else describe your environment, both external and internal?  What advice would they give you? How might they encourage or challenge you?  You can even do this as a letter to yourself which can be very powerful.

Comment below and let me know if you had any aha moments or perspective shifts!

STEP 2:  Scroll down to the bottom of this page and JOIN my newsletter to receive weekly encouragement and coaching tips so you are not walking alone in your hard places.

You will also be  the first to know when my upcoming coaching programs will begin.

Sometimes we just need someone to help us clarify the changes we want to create and develop a PLAN  to get there! Transformation is possible!  My passion is to help YOU not just survive, but THRIVE.







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