As the mother of a large family...who has lost two babies to miscarriages...who cares for a special-needs child who wasn't expected to live...who is married to a retired Air Force officer who deployed to scary parts of the world...who has been and will be parenting teenagers for umpteen years...it's fair to say life hasn't always been rosy around here. Having been to the bottom of the pit of despair and back (and doing what it takes to never return), let me offer my ABCs of mental and emotional health. Maybe there will be some nuggets you can take away and implement today!
AWARENESS. I used to think I was at the mercy of whatever thoughts were swirling in my head. We can't control them, right? They just come at us, and we react accordingly, right? Wrong! We actually CAN and indeed MUST control our thoughts, and the first step to doing so is being aware of what exactly is going on inside our heads. 2 Corinthians 10:5 exhorts us to "take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." God wouldn't tell us to do something He knows we couldn't do! We have the power of the Holy Spirit, if we indeed "have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16b). Paul writes in Philippians 4:8 that "Whatever is true..." we are to "think on these things." It's so important to be aware of the lies we often find ourselves listening to as they run rampant in our brains! Awareness is the first step to bringing those thoughts under our control, which then allows us to control our emotions and behavior.
BOUNDARIES. As a recovering people-pleaser, boy, do I know the importance of this (now!). We may need to put boundaries up to keep certain people at a safe and healthy distance. (We may be called to love everyone, but we do not have to be everyone's best friend or put up with negative behaviors and influences.) Or perhaps we need boundaries around our inputs--what exactly are we allowing into our minds? Too much news? Scrolling social media? Online groups that quickly turn to gossip and negativity? Be careful what you allow into your life. A little may be okay, but that can quickly spiral into wasted hours and rising frustration or anxiety in reaction to what we are receiving from those inputs. Finally, boundaries around our time are important as well. I love my work, and I could easily spend all day and all evening doing it. Time blocking is not only helpful for working more efficiently but also for having healthy relationships--my family would not be happy if I didn't put boundaries around my time! I also have to be careful to protect the time that feeds my soul and ultimately allows me to be a better wife, mom, and person. I guard my morning Bible study time with my husband, for example, and make time for yoga and stretching to keep me healthy.
COUNSELING. Finally, let's admit that counseling is NOT a sign of weakness and that it IS all right to admit we need help. Counsel can come in many forms and in different levels. I turn first and foremost to the counsel I find in the Word of God. But at times I need a human to help me process things. A trusted friend or mentor can sometimes provide a level of counsel that is valuable and just what we need at the time. However, there is definitely a time when we need to go even further and make professional counseling a priority. Money invested in this form of support for our mental and emotional health is worth every penny. Whether it's marriage or family counseling or individual therapeutic counseling, I believe this is an area in which the Church (with a capital C) could do better. Too often we offer platitudes to people who are truly hurting and expect them to "just trust God" or "pray more" or "read your Bible." Those are all good, worthy pursuits, but there are times when the trauma and difficulties of life overwhelm a person, when physiological realities come to a head and create a deeper need than can be addressed in a quick sermon or study.
Which one of these ABCs speaks to you today?