Mental health concerns everyone, and is more than the absence of mental health problems, aka the likes of depression, schizophrenia etc. It underpins our health and well being and influences how we think and feel about ourselves and other people, how we interpret events, and our capacity to learn, communicate and form and sustain relationships. Mental health affects our ability to cope with and manage change, transition and life events such as the birth of a child, redundancy, retirement or bereavement.
Everyone has mental health needs, whether or not they have a mental health diagnosis.
Mental health needs are met in a variety of settings where daily life takes place – at home, at work, in schools, local communities, church and hospitals. Positive mental health depends on whether people feel respected, included and safe, or on the margins, afraid and excluded.
An example of mental health needs is having your presence validated, Like having someone else notice you or your work, or simply acknowledge that you exist. Imagine if everywhere you went, people talked over you, ignored your input, even walked into you without apologizing – not long afterwards that person would feel invisible and it would affect their mental health.
Like physical health, all of us need to take our mental well being seriously and take steps to protect it, whether or not we currently have a mental health problem. A variety of factors are known to influence our mental well being. These include genetic inheritance, childhood experiences, life events, individual ability to cope and levels of social support.
For example, some people are more prone to mental health issues because of the environment they grew up in, if they grew up constantly being abused, they would anticipate more abuse from others and may even accept the insults as their reality.
In recent days, as COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic and countries have taken urgent measures to stem the spread of infection, many people are left in despair and a lot of people’s mental health has begun to deteriorate.
Which is understandable, in many countries people are dying in large numbers. In the UK, 900 people died in one day from covid-19. That kind of statistic is enough to send fear and panic into any person, and cause a negative imbalance in their mental health.
People that are social butterflies, that rely heavily on social interactions who now suddenly have to stay at home, some even are completely alone…you can imagine the type of havoc the lockdown will wreak on them without intervention.
But we have hope! We have Jesus who is our hope of glory.
So today I’m going to briefly talk about how we can take care of our mental health in this period.
In four points I will share some tips on how we can care for our mental health:
1. Know your breaking point.
You see lots of posts on social media about how we should all come out of the lockdown as the “best versions of ourselves” and no doubt there is some truth to that, but you cannot base what you make of this time against someone else.
My advice to you today is to set realistic goals. Set goals that are within your reach and will make you better all round.
But also leave time out to relax! Identify how best you can relieve stress; it might simply be sleep, it might be playing games, it might be being still in God’s Presence – note that stress reliever and plan it into each day. Remember You can do all things through CHRIST that strengthens you, not through you that strengthens yourself. So let Christ help you make informed decisions on what your breaking point is and respect them.
2. Be open, honest, and real with yourself
When you don’t feel 100% like yourself, admit it. Have people you’re accountable to who you are honest with and can be a safe space for you to be real. Sometimes you just might wake up not in the mood to talk, find the best way to communicate that (so as to not hurt others unnecessarily ) and take your time away from others as needed.
If you’ve gone through something emotionally challenging, allow yourself to feel it through and pass out of it. Telling yourself “it doesn’t matter, it’s not a big deal” when in actual fact you are hurt, could do so much damage not only to you, but to the people closest to you as you allow a pot of unhandled emotional turmoil to brew within you, not knowing how you will react when it finally overflows. “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”.
In Galatians 6:2, we’re told to bear one another’s burdens. You’ll probably find that those closest to you need your support as much as you need theirs. In these social distancing times, you may find yourself missing human interactions, try to keep in touch with others via video calls, random selfies etc. we are social beings, we aren’t made to live as islands.
3. Eat right and exercise.
Something about having your diet and lifestyle right definitely does your mental health good, as it gives you a sense of control over your life, which is soothing. Studies show that a healthy diet and regular exercise can lessen the affects of depression, anxiety, insomnia and many other symptoms that affect our mental health.
1 Corinthians 6:19 & 20 asks a very important question: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” There are many ways to apply this particular verse; keeping our bodies healthy in order to maintain our mental health is certainly one of them.
4. Be in the Word and in prayer.
The crisis is urgent, and can make us feel powerless. But perhaps feeling small is the best reminder to pray. Prayer is how we actively practice believing, so simply, so confidently, that God has the whole world in his hands. It’s where we “let petitions and praises shape our worries into prayers, letting God know our concerns” (Phil. 4:6–7, The Message). Prayer is never the last resort of God’s people. It is our first point of action.
Prayer is our connection to God. When we are humbled, dependent on God, we find ourselves talking with God. It is in these moments we regularly see ourselves seeking Him. We must make a regular commitment of our faith to talk to God in the good times and bad, but we cannot ignore that we do seek prayer more consistently in pain and strife.
This is reflected in the Bible too. Jonah doesn’t pray when he is running from God because he is not with God. But when Jonah is trapped in the large fish? He’s on his knees praying (Jonah 2:2–9). David, when he was being hunted by Saul, would repeatedly go to God in prayer (Psalm 3). And Samuel, one of the greatest Old Testament prophets, came after Hannah was taunted by her husband’s other wife and she prayed for her child (1 Samuel 1:11).
”The Word is not only profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), but the Word is the very lifeblood of our being and is vital for our mental health. Being in the Word daily will strengthen your faith, give you hope and fill you with the joy of Lord which will feed your mental health positively.
As noted in the cover image, I taught this as part of an online class so there were a few questions which I think my readers could benefit from, have a read:
Question: what if there is pressure at home and no one seems to understand you, but it keeps mounting pressure. And you know that’s your breaking point, what do you do.
When you have pressures the first thing would be to identify the source. What exactly is causing you to feel pressured? Is it the person that is applying it, is it how you see yourself in respect to the issue of concern? Sometimes pressure is in the mind. Once you know the source, you can then deal with it accordingly. If it’s an internal perception of pressure, maybe the pressure to pass your exams well for example, you can dissect it into achievable goals, like saying today I am going to study this topic and master it. Is it the whole course? No. But will you feel better about the pressure if you actively work towards improving yourself in that regard, no matter how small? Most likely yes.
Of course, as stated earlier, prayer can not be underestimated. You should tell God frankly that you’re not coping well and ask him to lift your burden; “cast your burdens onto Jesus, for he cares for you”.
Question: what if you are in a situation, whereby your phone and laptop are dead, and there is no power supply to watch television or to charge up and all of a sudden you get depressed and feel that the world should come to an end and feels like you have been pushed to the wall.
What can someone do?
My response: Depression is a big one; 1 in 4 people have suffered from a form of depression in their lives, so this is an important question.
So with feelings of overwhelming sadness and no human being around or even accessible to you – my personal advice would be to take yourself out of the environment where the depression set in. If you were in your room, move to another room, preferably somewhere that’s brightly lit, if you can, just go outside. Change of environment helps to offset such feelings.
Take yourself to a happy place in your mind. It might be a pleasant memory, eating a food you like, or just something as simple as being in a large area and focus on something simple in that place. Be it the breeze, be it the music, whatever is in that happy place of yours, focus on it squarely such that you actually take yourself out of your physical location into where your mind is (takes practice but it can be done).
When you’re there, talk to God.
Question: I find myself always bitter and most times I snap at people whilst hurting their feelings. The deed would have be done before I later come back to my senses and ask for forgiveness from people affected.
My sister said its a mood swing but I know its something greater than that.
This is pushing people away from me because they get hurt over issues that are unrealistic that I tend to over hype because of my nature.
Please help a sister.
Asking for a friend.
My response: I love the honesty in this person’s question and I think he/she is already on their way to healing as they have identified the problem – bitterness.
Now why it’s there may be difficult to reach as it will require digging deep into one’s subconscious, but in layers it can be achieved.
Next time the bitterness is churning, the person should channel the energy elsewhere. Some people squeeze things, some exercise, let that energy be used for something good. Bitterness feeds off of the effect it causes others, as the person hurt their friends, they feel bad and more bitterness is the result – so let’s cut the circuit by channeling it out in a positive way.
If the person has someone that is their safe place, or a respected mentor, they can begin to unravel their thought processes to them. What goes through their mind when they are saying hurtful things or when they are making a fuss over unnecessary things? This sort of insight requires a human being to bounce the thoughts off, so it needs to be a trusted person.
As I always say, prayer is the key. Ask God for help genuinely, He is ever gracious.
Question: if someone’s mood just changes suddenly without knowing the cause and the person even begins to cry, what can the person do?
My response: This is a more common phenomenon than one would Imagine. The person should, in my advice, allow themselves to cry, just cry and not think “why am I crying”. Don’t feel the need to explain the cry, just let it out. It could be a release of pent up emotions that haven’t been dealt with as I mentioned earlier. After crying, many people feel relieved and it’s only then that they may feel ready to contemplate what may have caused it. And should then pray about it. But it’s important to let the cry out. If our Lord Jesus Christ wept (John 11:35) even when he knew he could raise Lazarus, there is definitely a purpose to tears.
I hope this stirs you up to pay more attention to your mental health, and I pray God gives you the strength you need in this period and beyond to maintain an optimal mental health status.