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
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!)
An exciting possibility recently surfaced in my life, quite unexpectedly. Immediately I began to play out what might occur, when, and how all the other aspects of my life would be affected by this possibility. In my mind, I began to manipulate everything to work out nicely. Essentially, I began to try to take the reins and to plan out each detail.
Especially for those of us with leadership abilities and tendencies, it can be difficult to give over control of our lives. In fact, it can be difficult even to see when we are seeking control, since it is part of the very fabric of our nature. However, all this planning is in vain. You see, GOD is ultimately in control. Though it’s important to have a direction…It is all “God willing.” No amount of planning or manipulation on our part can accomplish what God has for us.
The good news is, I don’t need to plot out every aspect of my life! I can let go of stress and anxiety as I learn to simply trust.My Creator knew my path and all the beautiful twists and turns it would take before I was even in my mother’s womb! I could never have imagined the beautiful experiences I would have in my life, the connections I would meet that would shape my life, and how so many details would seamlessly meld together at a perfect time. As I look in awe over the numerous miracles in my life, I look forward to seeing how He will do it again!
Isn’t it amazing the miracles that happen….When we let God, be God!
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”~Ephesians 3:20-21
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.
Recognizewhen 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)
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. Struggleswitheatingdisorders, depression, anxiety, etc. areaffectedby and can be exacerbated byourpast& 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)
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'”~Isaiah 55:8-9
Do you ever just not understand the circumstances in your life? As humans, we need to admit that we don’t know much. Though humans have made progress and come up with advancements in many areas, there is still much unknown to the human mind.
It is difficult when we don’t understand the circumstances in our lives: when timing seems off, struggles, being faced with injustice, and more. There is peace when we realize that we don’t need to understand.We only need to trust.The passage above reminds us that the ways of the Lord are way above anything we can imagine. His thoughts are unfathomable to us. Someday we will better understand our lives, whether it be later in earthly life or during our eternal life. But for now, we need to seek and keep in mind our Creator.
The One Who created the heavens and the earth, and who knows every hair on our head, and every single moment of history? His ways are above our ways, and His thoughts at a much higher level than we could ever comprehend. I’m ready to trust Him and to not lean on my own understanding. How about you?
I can’t sing right now. One day I woke up with a sore throat. It was coming and going, and then one night I realized my voice was hoarse. I could barely talk. I don’t talk a lot anyway, but the most difficult part is that I cannot sing.
This has been a difficult trial for me. Singing is something I do every day & sometimes
quite often in the day. Mass on Sunday was especially difficult, as I look forward to the music every Sunday and praising Him in song with my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. It is comforting to be reminded of truths about the Lord in song. I did have a revelation through this experience: I don’t believe I ever thanked God for my ability to sing! And what a gift it is! Once my voice is back to normal, I am going to remember to thank my Creator often for the ability to sing! I will never take this gift for granted again.
As you go about your day and encounter trials, remember how much more numerous are the gifts in your lives. There are very well many gifts that you take for granted. The gift of LIFE, for one! There are also the gift of your senses, your talents, your personality strengths, and so much more. Have you thanked God for them?
Together journeying toward the Creator and becoming the creations we were meant to be.