As both a Wellness Coach and someone living with chronic illness, Amy Lydia Zehren knows the importance of taking loving care of her mind, body, and soul. Rejuvenating sleep, whole foods, and a peaceful environment are key components of her wellness routine. Read on to find out more about her healing practices and the tools that allow her to live her very best life.
Living with a chronic illness is unpredictable but I try to follow a schedule and routine as much as possible. I go to bed around 10pm and naturally wake up around the same time each morning. I’ve always needed a lot of sleep since I was a child but now more than ever sleep is imperative to my healing and health. I aim for 9 hours per night. I am most definitely not a morning person! To get me going in the morning, I drink a glass of water with lemon and then spend time in quiet meditation, prayer, and read scripture. I have more energy as the day progresses. I follow an evening routine and a few rituals that guide me toward turning my mind off and getting a peaceful and restful sleep. A few hours before bed, I dim the lights in the house, limit screen time, and turn my phone off. I do my skin care regimen, journal, and read with a LED headlight. Finally, I may eat a light snack to help me sleep and then say a few prayers before bed. If my mind is racing with to-do lists or ideas, I have a notepad by my bed so I can write it down and let it go.
My autoimmune disorder and gastroparesis greatly affect my digestion so I have to eat small frequent meals throughout the day. I enjoy real whole foods from the earth and avoid processed food. I try to eat as clean as possible. All of my mini meals are interchangeable between breakfast, lunch, snacks, etc. Breakfast: I start the day with lemon and water. I follow it up with green juice (spinach, kale, cucumber, celery, apple, ginger, lemon) and an egg scrambled in coconut oil on whole grain toast. Lunch: I drink a lot of smoothies/smoothie bowls. One favorite is spinach, banana, blueberries, flax, protein powder, milk substitute. I adore sandwiches! Whole grain turkey wrap with turkey, avocado, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, spinach and olive oil. I also love big salads filled with greens, seeds, quinoa, avocados, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Snacks: Fresh fruit, nuts. I enjoy plain Greek yogurt mashed up with oats, berries, honey, and seeds. Another staple is whole grain toast with nut butter and banana. Gluten free whole grain crackers with spinach, tomato, and avocado is a nice pick me up. I also love Lara Bars and carry them with me everywhere so I am never without food if hunger strikes. Dinner: Often fish or chicken paired with a big salad and my oven roasted sweet potatoes fries. Another staple is chicken and veggie stir-fry with quinoa rice. Drinks: I drink a TON of water at least 12 cups per day and always carry a water bottle. I also drink cold pressed juices. I don’t drink soda or coffee and I rarely drink alcohol. Splurge: Pizza! Supplements: Calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, probiotics and Blue Ice Royal Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil blend by Green Pasture. If I am active with lifting weights, I take glutamine and BCAA. I also like Green Superfood from Amazing Grass. If I am having a bad few days with not being able to digest my food or an autoimmune flare, I drink The System by Stacy to ensure I am getting enough nutrients and calories.
My chronic illness limits my ability to participate in heavy duty fitness regimens. Instead, I focus on NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) developed by the Mayo Clinic which I learned about in my wellness coach training. I try to be as active as possible through the day by sitting less and moving my body more with various daily life activities. When we think of our ancestors, they didn’t go to the gym but rather did labor throughout the day to stay physically active. The same principles apply to NEAT. I park the car farther away at the store, use the stairs, stand while on the phone, gardening, and overall just make an effort to do more purposeful tasks that require me to move my body. I also have a step tracker and have specific goals around how many steps I take each day. I love to be outdoors with nature. I take a walk every day. Walking outside in nature makes me feel alive and well! It is also a great time for me to reflect, pray, meditate, and find gratitude. When I am having a good day, I lift weights. I also love yoga! I do stretching and yoga poses in the morning to wake up my body and start the day in a positive way. If I find myself having an autoimmune flare or am feeling fatigue, I give myself permission to lie down and rest.
I have always been a fairly social person with a lot of friends. However, when I got sick, I lost a lot of my friends. Unfortunately, there is not enough awareness around chronic illness and many people did not understand or believe my health situation. I felt abandoned, lonely, and depressed at the time. Thankfully, God and my parents were my rock. That experience showed me many things about life and relationships. I would rather have a few really good friends than hundreds of “social” friends. The most important thing for me in any relationship is unconditional love. Other key elements I value in a healthy relationship include understanding, not judging, empathy, listening, trust, support, not expecting anything in return, patience, a common purpose, faith, communication, morals, being vulnerable, authentic, and the ability to have deep-seated conversations that have meaning.
I love a peaceful and quiet home. Chaos is not welcome in my home. I am home most of the time so it is incredibly important that my home be a place of serenity. This supports my wellness by keeping my mind and body peaceful and at ease. I create this vibe by living in a quiet peaceful neighborhood and promoting serenity in my home. I keep a very clean home free from clutter. I don’t like a lot of things, smells, or noises in my home.
Stress-Release and Centering Tools
My outlets to de-stress and ground myself include prayer, reading, church, music, journaling, going for walks, sunshine, healthy food, talking to my boyfriend or parents, and nature. If I feel the ANTS (Autonomic Negative Thoughts) coming into my mind, I kill them by replacing them with thoughts of gratitude and focusing on the good. Deep breathing and a good walk outside in the sunshine does wonders for my mood and spirit!
Writing, sharing about chronic illness, helping people get healthier, staying close to God… these things currently feed my soul. I am happiest when the sunshine hits my face on a beautiful day or when I hear a beautiful song that makes me dance. My boyfriend lights up my heart and being able to be there for my parents brings joy to my heart.
I am most excited about starting my coaching business so that I can empower others to improve their life and wellness. I am excited to share my health story of survival and triumph and shed more light on the complexities of chronic illness. My desire is to bring awareness to invisible chronic illness and to bring hope to others so that they know that no matter what difficult situation they are facing, there is hope and living well again is possible. Today, this is my purpose.