Tag Archives: friendship

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

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The Top 3 Lessons I Learned in 2017.

Our Creator is continually molding us, using our experiences and allowing others that can draw out our best self, if we let them. At the end of each year, I like to take time and look back on the year. This year was a year of numerous changes in every aspect of my life. Reflecting back on 2017, I see how much I’ve been able to learn and mature. Without all the complexity, and if I had stayed in my comfort zone, I wouldn’t have been pushed to growth. Most of all, without these changes, I would not have developed a closer relationship with my Savior. Without further ado, here are the top 3 lessons I learned in 2017.

1. Faith truly is believing in the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” There were certain decisions I made in faith, with wise consult, realizing God was leading me in a new direction. People thought I was crazy at times (even if they didn’t say it). In each situation, God came through. In fact, He came through in the nick of time in the last instance! Faith is not easy. I learned how uncomfortable it can be to live in the discomfort of now while not yet having the answer of how the situation would play out. But a life of faith brings us into a closer relationship with God. Walking by faith means sometimes taking the first step forward when you don’t know exactly where you’ll step next, or why you’re being asked to step that way! God is truly faithful.

2. Always surround yourself with positive people who truly want the best for you. When it comes down to it, the people you thought were in your corner…May not actually care about you as much as you thought. In difficult times, people will show their true character. Look at the character of those around you. Just as we are called to “test every spirit,” it’s important to examine the character of those influencing us. Negativity and criticism pull you down more than you can imagine. Unfortunately, I had to learn that the hard way. Going forward, I’m eager to spend time with the people who encourage me and build me up, and building new relationships of this sort. Positive relationships are life-giving and bring joy.

3. When I am weak, Christ is strong. I’m actually a little bit in awe when I look back on the year. A lot has happened in one year! Especially when it came to school, I sometimes wondered how I was going to finish strong. With Christ, we are overcomers. Leaning on Him, we can accomplish so much more than we ever thought possible! We can make it through situations that seem impossible. With Christ, I made it through difficult job changes, grueling semesters of school, and (by the end of the year) multiple moves. I’m going to keep leaning on Christ’s strength as life continues to change and require great persistence!

What lessons have you learned in 2017?

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Photo by Ryan Graybill on Unsplash

Mental Health Series Pt. I: Relationships.

For the sake of this series, we will define mental health as including: “emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.” (Definition taken from: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health/index.html)

We are all a part of one another and can’t exist except in relation to others. Our past, present, and future relationships all have (or will have) a profound effect on us, whether we realize it or not. Thus, we will start the series with relationships!

So, how do we work toward positive mental health in regard to our relationships?

  • Build a strong support community. It is so important to surround yourself with people who are positive and who build
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    Photo by Pablo Varela on Unsplash

    you up, helping you to grow in healthy ways. People who criticize or undermine you just aren’t worth your time. (If you are searching for community, pray! It will and can come to you in interesting ways! A solid church home is important as well.) Think about it this way: Are the people you spend time with helping you grow closer to the person God created you to be, or does your time with them leaving you feeling like an inferior version of yourself? (“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

  • Learn signs of abusive relationships and get out! (Here is a number you can call if you are in the USA and need help getting out of an abusive relationship.) These relationships are immensely harmful to your mental health/emotional state, and their impact is very negative. Find freedom and go back to the step above.
  • Recognize where your current sources of difficulty may have come from past relationships. If you grew up with a father who told you that you were useless–or a father who just didn’t seem to care–it’s going to affect you today. This goes for any kind of abuse, neglect, rejection, etc. Bring these to the Lord, and if needed, to a counselor (no shame!). All of us have these areas, even if we are not aware of them. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring these specific areas to light and to heal them.
  • If you are taking care of others, don’t forget to take care of you! Most of us are taking care of someone, whether it be as a parent, a teacher, or helping your grandparent or older parent. Self-care will go a long way for not only your mental health, but also for the relationship. An empty vessel cannot fill other vessels. If you forget to take care of yourself and keep pouring out on the other person, you may even grow to resent them.
  • Set boundaries. This goes along with the above point. Even Jesus set boundaries. Remember when He went away on the boat Himself? The crowds even tried to follow Him (Matthew 14:13). Boundaries are important in managing stress and doing only what you can. Again, you need to be filled up. Boundaries are important in building healthy relationships. A relationship is unhealthy if one person walks all over another or takes advantage. People need to be clear and honest about their boundaries with one another.
  • Forgive. The main person you are hurting by not forgiving is yourself. Not only that, you are harming your relationship with God! (If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done. (Matthew 6:14-15)) Forgiveness is seriously important. When you hold onto hate or anger, it can lead to bitterness and anger. These do not lead to positive mental health, and even affect our physical health negatively.
  • Last, but definitely not least, keep your relationship with God first! If you are truly seeking Him, it will keep you grounded. It doesn’t mean life will be perfect and that you won’t struggle with any type of mental health difficulty, such as depression or anxiety. Having God in your life will give you the grace and tools to fight whatever battles you face. I’ll touch on this more in the faith and mental health post.

Next up: counseling and mental health!

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Different, Yet Beautiful.

For the past two years, I spent Independence Day watching fireworks on the rooftop of my apartment building.

 

I loved being a a part of the city life, of having access to so many events at my fingertips. It was a total gift to be able to invite friends over for the 4th of July and walk up a

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Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

few flights of stairs to the rooftop. We could stand on the rooftop and see downtown, and watch numerous firework displays from over the lake. Now, I am in the suburbs. I definitely do not have my own apartment, but live in someone else’s home. They have graciously opened up their space to me and my (very unique) cat for a low price.

This Independence Day, my no-longer roommate drove us twenty minutes away, to another suburb’s fireworks display. By God’s provision, we found a parking spot. We followed many families of  energetic young children to the fireworks watching location, chatting about our still-single state of life and the general complexities that we never imagined would still be the reality at our respective ages.

We staked out a spot and laid out a blanket. The sun continued its setting. Music played over loudspeakers, and we continued to talk. Finally, the music stopped. All the lights turned off. There was a collective gasp in the crowd. Complete darkness covered the area as we waited for the fireworks that celebrate the freedoms and independence we are offered in the United States of America.

My life has turned out vastly different than I ever imagined. This is especially in relation to being 28, where I find myself now. As I contentedly watched the magnificent fireworks display, one of my best friends beside me, what echoed in my heart was “different, yet beautiful.”

Watching the fireworks in a well-removed location from city life, and surrounded by families, is vastly different than watching them in the city. Yet, it was beautiful.

Living in the house of married couple friends is much different than living in a house with my own husband, as I always assumed would be the case by this age. Yet it is beautiful as I benefit from the hospitality of my friends and learn more about the beauty and struggles of marriage.

Making friends with other single women my age and older, yet still trying to figure out men and how anyone finally makes it through all the steps to the altar is different than I ever expected would be the case by now. It’s different than having “couple friends” and arranging play dates, yet it is the most beautiful blessing to have these sisters to share this unique journey with.fireworks-for-blog.jpg

 

Life sure is different than I ever expected it would be at this point in my life. Still, grace and blessings abound, different blessings than I expected. Each day I find blessings and strength, treasures to hold onto. Our Father is a good, good Father.

Life is different, yet it is immensely beautiful.

Kindness Heals.

All I can say is that this has been a rough week. Sunday I sat in the car shop for 6 hours after church and paid over $300, a very unanticipated expense. Another unexpected event happened that evening that knocked me off balance and involved a dear friend. Not to mention I am perpetually feeling [very] stretched with my new schedule of working full-time and being a student, as well as  trying to do all the basic things that life requires. It was a week where many things just seemed to go wrong from the start.

However, I thank Jesus that He extended His love through others. Many blessings were present in the midst of the setbacks of the week.

On Valentine’s Day, my roommate gifted my single self with a card & a few items to pamper myself with.

One night, I had a child care job taking care of a delightful and very intelligent 4-year old.

Today, I called in sick to work. Most of the day was spent in bed. This evening, a friend was unexpectedly in the area, a friend I hadn’t seen in months. My friend bought me a bowl of pho. It was so healing to talk over good food with a friend about what had been going on in my life and hear about the very exciting events recently happening in his life.

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The pho was nourishment for my tired body. The kindness was healing for my bruised heart.

Don’t underestimate the power of kindness! The Lord can work through your actions to bring much healing.

Single Sundays-The Gift of Community.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”~Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

There is no question about it: every human being needs other human beings. As a single person, this is especially true. We are each a part of the Body. Yet we need the other parts of the Body to function well and fully. We can fulfill our purpose best when we are working alongside the other parts of the Body. As a spouse and a parent in the future, you will still need community outside of your spouse.

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Community is practice for marriage. That may sound silly, but in a way, it is. The people in our lives teach us to love. We learn to anticipate the needs of others. Our relationships reveal the areas we need to grow, and our strengths. We learn to forgive, both ourselves and others. These are such important qualities for marriage. I think sometimes as singles, we forget that who we are now will carry over into marriage. Getting married won’t magically change you into a more loving person. The way you are in relationships now is creating habits and norms.

A solid community will also be imperative when you begin courting. Your community can observe that person and give you feedback. Having married couples as part of your circle is a great idea. You can observe their marriage and find qualities you desire in your future marriage. They can give you advice. Who knows-they might even know another single person who would be suitable for you! As you court and begin marriage, they might be willing to serve as a mentor couple.

We need a solid faith community, people on the same road that we are. If your people are not on the same path, your friendships will not be as fulfilling as they could be. They will be empty, lacking the Living Water. People who share your faith will pray for you, giving you unseen strength. Good relationships help us to become the people we were created to be.  Positive relationships provide us encouragement, love, and understanding, qualities we need no matter what state of life we may find ourselves in. I remember a break-up I went through. I felt so weak. A solid faith community was so healing. They were a pillar of support during that difficult time, and I know the healing process would have been so much more difficult were it not for their love. There is strength in community. 

Even as a married person, you will still need community. The community you are building now will hopefully build a foundation that you can even take into your marriage and the rest of your life. They can be a blessing to your spouse and children as well as yourself! We cannot do this journey alone. As a single person now, you need supportive people in your life! Let’s be real: singleness is not easy!

With Jesus and a solid community at our side, we can stand firm and know we are not alone.

What benefits have you found in community? How are you working to build community as a single person?

Your Circle in 2017.

Who are you surrounding yourself with?

Is your current company assisting you in moving in a positive direction in your life? Or does their company allow you to stay stagnant–or even pull you down?

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”~Proverbs 13:20

I live with someone who has already achieved many of the goals I am working toward. I am

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amazed to see how this relationship has pulled me up and motivated me as I press on toward my goals. Our conversations feed me and give me fuel to keep pressing on. With some people, I feel drained. Our interactions leave me tired and without motivation to become a better me. I can compare it to setting out on a journey. If you don’t pack sufficient nourishment, you will easily tire. You will be unable to press onward until you have the good foods and hydration your body needs. On our journey to become “the best version of ourselves,” we need the nourishment of encouraging company, headed in the same direction. We need people who will keep coaching us to press onward. We need people who love us right where we are, but know that we can keep doing better–and help us to do so.

  • Are you around people who love Jesus Christ, or at least have the desire to do so?
  • Do the people you spend time with leave you feeling energized and inspired, or drain your energy?
  • Do the people you spend time with help you to become a better person, or do you feel like a lesser version of yourself after your time with them?

Don’t underestimate the power of your company. They will be your blessing or your downfall.

I pray that in 2017, you will be surrounded by a circle of inspiring people, people who will energize you and motivate you to grow deeper in your relationship with Jesus and move into positive directions in your life!