Tag Archives: anxiety

Battling Insomnia & Getting a Good Night’s Sleep.

Lately I’ve heard many people mention their inability to sleep at night. This is a

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

frustrating problem! Sleep is crucial to our physical and mental well-being, as well as our ability to fulfill our daily tasks. Insomnia isn’t normally something I struggle with, but unfortunately I’ve also had my recent bouts of it. There are a few key things that I’ve found helpful for myself, and I will share a few of those tips, as well as some others. Did you know that the journey to falling asleep more easily actually starts long before your head hits the pillow? Here are a few tips that may be useful in battling insomnia and falling asleep more easily:

 

Exercise regularly. There are actually studies which have found that exercise promotes falling asleep easier. Exercise may even help your Circadian rhythm to harmonize itself.

Write a to-do list for the next day. If you find yourself worried about all that has been left undone, write it down. That way you can relax a bit more while also not being stressed out about forgetting what you need to do the next day.

Limit your screen time before bed. It’s best to cut out screens a few hours before you go to bed. If you do find yourself needing to using screens, there are actually glasses you can wear which will help to block out some of the light and allow you to use screens without disrupting your body’s clock. There are also apps that you can download for your phone or computer, including Twilight, which will cut out some of the unnecessary brightness after a certain hour.

Make sure that light isn’t interfering with your ability to sleep. For those living in big cities, streetlights filtering in through the windows can make it very difficult to sleep. When there is light, your body has difficulty falling asleep because light normally means daytime! There is something called “blackout blinds” which are very effective in making a room dark and promoting better sleep. Make sure that any alarm clocks or other electronics aren’t shining where you can see them.

Watch your caffeine intake. Some people need to cut out caffeine after a certain hour of the day, or else they will have great difficulty falling asleep. You may need to limit caffeine throughout the day. Figure out your body’s unique makeup. For myself, I’ve had to cut out caffeine completely. I’m a huge tea-drinker, but after some terrible nights of not being able to fall asleep and feeling wired, I realized that it’s just not worth it. I stick to caffeine-free herbal teas now.

Drink a cup of chamomile tea before bed. I’ve definitely found this to be calming and helping me to wind down. There are many varieties of chamomile tea at the store. At one point I was drinking chamomile tea with lavender, which I really enjoyed. I think a cup of chamomile tea actually helps me to sleep more deeply and get a better night’s sleep as well.

Journal. If you are finding yourself going through a lot, this can be especially helpful. Journal is a relaxing and meditative practice. If you have a lot on your mind, journaling can help you to process this, and to possibly feel less stressed out.

Pray. I’ve written before about the Examen. This prayer is a great way to wind down and wrap up your day. The prayer consists of different parts, but basically you are processing your day before your Creator, including how you are feeling God’s presence, as well as ways that you can do better in life. Any way that you can connect with God at the end of the day can be relaxing and bring more contentment to your life in general.

Are you anxious? Everyone has troubles and challenges. If you are finding that anxiety is having effects on your life, including your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, please talk to a counselor. There is no shame in doing so! Not only will you find yourself better able to sleep as your anxiety improves, but you’ll also find yourself living a life of greater freedom in all areas!

I hope that you find some or all of these tips helpful! Happy sleeping!

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Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash
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Mental Health Series Pt. IV: Higher Education.

Certain cultures (especially parents within a culture) tend to place immense pressure on students regarding the issue of their education. From the time a child is young, it is drilled into them that they absolutely must succeed in school. The child pours

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themselves into their studies from the time they are very small. They graduate from high school and go on to college and obtain a degree. This is a tremendous accomplishment. But, oh, but you can’t stop at a Bachelor’s degree! You must go on for a Master’s! But everyone has a Master’s nowadays, right? It’s not sufficient. Go on for a PhD! Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit. The point is, a huge emphasis is placed on education nowadays. There are many beneficial aspects to this. As with anything, there are also downfalls. Education and knowledge are immensely valuable. Much progress can be made in a person’s life and within society due to education. Yet, sometimes societal or familial pressure in this area can be overwhelming.

This pressure can plant the idea within a person’s head that their worth is based upon their performance and academic achievements. This is a lie. One’s worth is not found in the level of education they attain or how well they perform academically. A person’s worth is found in their identity as a unique child of God, created by the Most High!

Here are a few tips to practice positive mental health as it relates to academia.

  • Evaluate why you are attending school or studying your subject. As with anything, check your motivations. Perhaps you are anxious or feeling down because you are not actually following your call and are simply pursuing what your parents pressured you into. Only you can figure this out, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, the body and mind are tired, and you just may even need to take a semester off. Don’t be afraid to make the decision to change direction or to take a break, if necessary. These decisions will be difficult to make now, but will pay off immensely in the long run.
  • Live a balanced life. Do not let yourself be consumed by your studies. We all need balance in our lives. As humans, there are multiple facets to each of us. The good news is, that taking time away from studying refreshes you and allows you to return to your studies more focused. Don’t lose who you are as you go about your academic program. One day you will graduate (it’s true!), and life will go on without school. Even while you are attending school, it’s important to take care of your physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health. I’ve found that having some sort of creative outlet is helpful as well. Even as a student, you are building habits that will carry into life after school.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure, or what appears to be failure. Despite your best efforts, you may not pass a test. A paper may come back with a less than stellar grade. Your thesis or dissertation may need extensive rewrites or even be rejected. Someone I know spent 5 painstaking years of his life for a PhD that never materialized. After this experience, he discovered great joy and a calling to teach non-native speakers of English. We are human, and the fact is that life sometimes involves failure. Sometimes failure actually becomes success, as we find a new path to follow with joy. It may simply be a learning experience that teaches you to go about studying in a different manner next time.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This may seem like a silly tip. Yet we forget sometimes or refuse to ask for help! We could go a lot further if we asked for help. Perhaps this means meeting with your professor or academic adviser. It could mean admitting to yourself that you need to utilize the tutoring center. It could also mean counseling if you are struggling immensely with stress in your life. Importantly, it definitely means praying and asking God for help on a consistent basis! Being a student is not an easy vocation!
  • Remember who you are and Whose you are. Your parents may be upset that you received less than A’s, or that you choose a different program than they planned for you since the cradle. There are numerous scenarios that can occur. Always lean on your Savior and remember that your value is found in His love. A bunch of letters after your name or publications in prestigious journals won’t go with you to the grave. Only our relationship with Christ will be eternal.

Depend on God to help you with your academics as you put forth your best effort! Remember who you are and Who created you! Live a balanced life, not forgetting other aspects of yourself.

(Note: A dear reader requested this topic. A very important and necessary topic, for sure! I hope that I provided something helpful for you in this post!)

Next up: finance and mental health!

Past posts from the series:

Mental Health Series Pt. 1: Relationships

Mental Health Series Pt. II: Counseling

Mental Health Series Pt. III: Faith

Mental Health Series Pt. III: Faith and Mental Health.

Faith can be a huge help when it comes to mental health struggles. In fact, it has been shown that faith can have a positive impact on mental health and on reducing anxious or depressive symptoms! Faith can also assist you in thinking positively, since faith gives us hope. We know that faith enriches our lives in so many ways and gives us hope for eternity as well.

Please be aware: there is a danger of “over-spiritualizing” mental health. There is a real biological component to many (if not most) struggles with mental health, including depression and anxiety. If someone tells you to simply pray it away, they are not looking at the whole picture. It’s true that faith in God can assist us in our struggles with mental health. In fact, forgetting the spiritual component of ourselves can be detrimental. But please realize there is more going on than a lack in prayer life and support that person as they seek whatever other help may be necessary for them.

Below are a few ways to find improved mental health with faith:

  • Soak yourself in the Word. Instead of letting negative thoughts take root, read God’s word. Do an internet search for the promises of God. There are many! Study His Word consistently. The Psalms are also a great place to take refuge in times of difficulty. There is a Psalm for all kinds of emotions and occasions.
  • Pray. Yes, it’s simple, but many people forget to do it! Instead of letting yourself fester in negative emotions, bring it God right away. Allow Him to carry your burden. Seek a close relationship with Him.
  • Recognize when your struggles are caused by sin, past or present. Confess your sin and learn to live in freedom from guilt and shame. Walk into the freedom and life that Jesus Christ offers. He doesn’t want us to live trapped in guilt about our past. He tells us to “go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
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    Photo by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash
  • Praise in every circumstance. Learn to thank God for your blessings instead of focusing on what you don’t have. This practice will not only keep you rooted in thankfulness to the Lord, it will help you to stay mindful of the great things in your life and remind you that you are truly blessed! Praise is a mindset changer.
  • Get in the practice of doing the Examen. This allows you to stay in gratitude. Gratitude has positive effects on mental health (similar to praise, above). The Examen also keeps you rooted in listening to the voice of God in your life and seeking His will for you. (Also: check out this journal, which I used a number of years ago. Though it’s not specifically an Examen journal, it more or less follows the same pattern.)
  • Read books that focus on God and His goodness. There are so many books out there, from this generation and from when the Church was in its earliest beginnings. Reading these inspirational books can help you delve into a deeper walk with God. I’ll leave a short reading list at the end of this post. Please leave any other suggestions you have. (Of course, I’m going to leave my motherly caution to be careful of what you read, as there are many false teachers out there and books with half-truths!)
  • Surround yourself with positive, faith-filled people. There’s nothing like being surrounded by people who truly live what they believe. This can do wonders when you yourself are struggling with faith. These people can give you encouragement in the tough times.
  • Seek (Christian) therapy. Struggles with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, etc. are affected by and can be exacerbated by our past  & present relationships and life situations. A therapist in the world can assist you. However, looking at life from a godly perspective takes into account the entire picture and remembers your relationship with your Creator and Savior. As always, I recommend Christian therapy if you are looking for truth-based and sound therapy. In my experience with Christian therapy, the therapist will ask questions about your relationship with God, about how God fits in with what you are feeling and experiencing, and also will feed you truths from His Word.

Faith has been crucial to many people struggling with their mental health. Faith gives us hope in our earthly future (Jeremiah 29:11) and in an eternal future! However, please don’t be afraid to seek help in the resources and people that God has given, when needed! Remember, He told us that “where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14).

(Short) Recommended Reading List

  • The Holy Bible
  • Josiah’s Fire by Tahni Cullen
  • To Heaven and Back by Mary Neal, MD
  • Left to Tell & Led by Faith by Imaculee Ilibagiza (note: Left to Tell takes place during the Rwandan genocide; not recommended for sensitive readers)
  • Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young (spot-on devotion for each day)
  • God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew
  • There is More by Randy Clark
  • Please leave other suggestions in the comments!

Next up: higher education and mental health!

Past posts from the series:

Mental Health Series Pt. 1: Relationships

Mental Health Series Pt. II: Counseling

Holding On To Hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Having hope isn’t always an easy task. It’s in the situations when we really need hope that it’s easiest to lose it! Hope is so necessary to live our best lives possible. Hope brings freedom. When we lose hope, we live in anxiety and fear. We lose our joy and our center. Hope lifts the shackles of worry off of us. Hope protects and preserves–when we lose hope, we lose faith in the thing we hoped for! If we are no longer hoping, we might miss it when what we hoped for comes along!

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Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

To the world, remaining in hope sometimes seems crazy. But, we serve an awesome God! He’s a way-maker, a miracle worker, a promise keeper…Jesus Christ came as a human being to earth, this painful, messy, confused place. Then He died and actually rose from the dead for you–for your eternal JOY! HOPE is what God offers!  

In finding your dream job, or a job…Have hope! Maybe there are still some stepping stones before you get there, so that you can do the BEST job possible! Or, maybe God will reveal something even greater to you along the way!

As far as meeting a suitable spouse…Have hope! Being hopeless isn’t going to attract the person you are waiting on! Have HOPE in God’s promises and goodness…Even if the timing is not what you wanted or what the world thought was reasonable!

In any situation…Have hope! You never know how the situation will turn around! In my life, I remember a time when I had been job searching for months…I had interview after interview…But no job offers (except retail). One day, out of the blue, I had an email from a supervisor at an organization where I had volunteered a few years back. They were starting a new program–and my qualifications literally fit perfectly with what they were looking for! Basically, it was my dream job due to the different elements of it. I got the job almost automatically! Believe me, I never would have expected that to happen! But GOD. Faith and hope sustained me throughout all those closed doors!

Find hope! It will add increase and strength to your life, as well as to the lives of those around you! An attitude of hope is, well, hopeful! If you’re struggling with finding hope…Pray for it! Believe me, it will be granted, sometimes in ways you never expected! I love all my readers and I pray that each of you has an outpouring of hope as you read, in whatever situation you need hope!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

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Photo by Den Heslop on Unsplash

 

 

Mind and Heart Power.

Today the second reading was from Philippians. If we followed St. Paul’s advice, we would have a lot more peace in our lives! We would learn to dwell on God instead of cluttering our lives with worry. Our minds would be so much more inspired and pure as well. Soak in this powerful passage and let’s start off the week in a great way!

“Brothers and sisters:

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:6-9

Mental Health Series Pt. II: Counseling.

Seeing a counselor can be a great way to move forward if you are struggling in some way. There is often a stigma about going to counseling, as if counseling is something only reserved for “crazy” people. The truth is, we all need help sometimes. Proverbs 11:14 evens tells us “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Think about it: would you make a huge life decision without talking to someone first? Do you talk to friends or elders when you need another perspective? 

A counselor is an objective, outside person. Counselors do work with people battling severe mental illnesses, but they also work with ordinary people trying to make their way through life. Counselors can help you dig deep inside of yourself to discover where lies and pain came in, and figure out how to put the broken pieces back together. They can walk with you as go through any kind of past or present trauma, grief, tragedy, or unexpected life situation. A solid counselor can help you pinpoint where certain behaviors or feelings are coming from (anger, overeating, excessive drinking, etc.) and move forward into more healthy ways of behaving and relating. They can help if you are struggling with depression or anxiety or map out a plan for healthy ways to manage stress.

When you meet with a counselor, you will set goals for yourself. Your counselor will check in with you occasionally about how you are doing on your goals and if there is any way he/she can assist you in meeting them. In this way, you could even think of your counselor as accountability partner as you seek stronger mental health and a better life!

About 80% of people who attend counseling have found benefits in doing so.

A few possible benefits you may find from counseling:

  • Increased insight about self and relationships
  • Stronger relationships
  • Increased confidence
  • Increased hope and positive outlook
  • Lessened feelings of anxiety

I want to tell you to be careful of whom you go to, if you are seeking counseling. There are people who have entered therapy and come out in bad shape due to faulty counseling or incompetent counselors. Also, I encourage Christian counseling! A Christian counselor will look at God’s word and the truth that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. They will not forget the spiritual component of you. Find a counselor you are comfortable with and who you feel actually listens to and hears you. The process is not always easy–it forces you to confront truths about yourself and your past (or present) that may not be pretty. Yet the goal is for healing and wholeness. Counseling holds benefits for many types of people! There is no shame in seeing a counselor if you are struggling with your thought patterns or difficult situations in life, past or present!

Have you gone to counseling and found benefits in dong so? Do you have any questions about counseling?

 Next up: faith and mental health!

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